Disclaimer: This press trip post was sponsored by Elkhart Lake Tourism. All opinions and photos are mine.
Where can you enjoy clear, turquoise water, resort amenities, and destination dining and shopping? Wisconsin, of course. At Elkhart Lake, resort-goers can access unlimited activities at resorts within walking distance of the beautiful water and cedar trees.
Whether you’re in the mood for on-the-water adventures or laid-back moments from a lounge chair, you’ve found the right place.
Choose a Lakeside Resort
Deciding to vacation at Elkhart Lake is easy, but choosing which lakeside resort you prefer for accommodations is a tough decision because each one is incredible. Often compared to an outdoor scene from the movie Dirty Dancing, the picturesque views from Elkhart Lake are a feast for the eyes.
During my visit, fall colors peeked out amongst the treelined shore, making an evening pontoon ride unforgettable.
Elkhart Lake was once home to various hotels during its first 100 years. Now, tourists can choose from The Shore Club, Siebken’s Resort, and Osthoff Resort.
The Shore Club
My stay at The Shore Club, Ascend Hotel Collection (276 Victorian Village) was nothing less than fantastic. The boutique-style, pet-friendly hotel is under new ownership and includes 28 renovated one and two-bedrooms, each with a spacious patio and forest view.
Open weave light fixtures, white-washed wood floors, and a neutral color palette added a Boho yet modern aesthetic to my room.
Three hundred thread count sheets and plush duvet bedding made for a comfortable sleep.
In-room amenities were definite bonuses, including a refrigerator/freezer, 45″ flatscreen TV, wet bar with coffee maker, and expansive subway-tiled shower with a spa-like shower head. They anticipate guests’ needs by providing nourishing bath products, Starbucks coffee, and free Wi-Fi.
The Shore Club appeals to vacationers who seek a comfortable resort setting with on-site recreational options. A quaint lounge is a go-to space when enjoying complimentary grab-n-go breakfast items or coffee.
Every guest’s stay includes a massive arcade, indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a life-sized chess game, and a private beach with access to their world-famous Tiki Bar & Lounge.
While walking the property, I discovered multiple seating areas under a canopy of towering trees with colorful hydrangeas growing nearby. A campfire comes stocked with wood for an evening s’mores session.
The Shore Club provides rentable bikes if you like cruising between resorts or surrounding neighborhoods. If you need to reserve water sports equipment, ask about kayaks.
Accessing crystal-clear Elkhart Lake is as easy as walking across the street to a sandy beach where lounge chairs and beach drinks await you. At the Tiki Bar & Lounge, patrons can order from a margaritas, mai tais, mules, and mojitos menu.
I recommend ordering the Elkhart Blue, a shaken cocktail of lemon rum, orange bitters, curaçao, and pineapple juice. The color matches the ocean-like color of the lake. It went down smoothly and was all too easy to drink.
The waterfront bar is an active music venue from May to September, Thursday to Sunday, serving drinks, local beers, and pub grub overlooking 600 feet of sandy beach.
A century-old theatre on the property hosts lively on-stage performances during peak season.
The resort’s speakeasy lounge, The Social, is a modernized basement bar open from April to December. Entering the bar, guests will appreciate its Prohibition historical references and low-lit design.
I couldn’t resist sipping a cocktail from an oversized leather chair before a crackling fireplace.
Click here to view guest room pricing and reserve your accommodations.
PRO TIP: The Shore Club is an Ascend Hotel Collection by Choice Hotels, so use your Choice Privileges® Reward points when booking your stay.
The Osthoff Resort
The Osthoff Resort (101 Osthoff Ave.) is the largest of the three waterfront properties. A family-friendly property with a long list of amenities, the staff goes out of their way to accommodate guests.
Also a popular wedding and conference venue, the hotel is massive. It hosts over 300 conferences a year.
If you’re traveling with children ages 4-10 years old, they’ll appreciate complimentary access to Kids Club from Monday-Saturday starting in late May through early September. Your kiddos have access to watch movies outdoors, paddle board, decorate cookies, and more.
For younger couples or retirees in search of kid-free spaces to unwind, the Osthoff Resorts caters to you as well. Play a round of 18 holes of golf, get a couple’s massage at Aspira Spa, or sign up for a cocktail class or attend a seasonal dining event.
While I didn’t stay overnight at the resort, I did tour it and can vouch for its luxury. From the imported Irish wool carpet to the high-end dining options, The Osthoff Resort impresses.
Click here to view guest room pricing and reserve your accommodations.
PRO TIP: Ask staff about the resorts early history as a one-item gambler’s paradise (Al Capone showed up!), and later as a gathering place for kids participating in Harand Theatre Camp (Jeremy Piven participated!).
Luxury meets comfort at Siebkens Resort (284 S. Lake St.) at the mid-19th century designed property. Owned and operated by a local couple, Siebkens Resort prides itself on delivering beyond-your-expectations service.
Since 1916 when Herman and Laura Siebken opened its doors, the property has maintained its old world hospitality (aka Gemütlichkeit) while catering to today’s modern traveler.
Rentable condos and hotel rooms are coveted by returning guests, so it’s advisable to reserve your room before peak season. Each guest has access to a private beach and pier, outdoor pool and spa, the Stop-Inn Tavern & Saloon, P.A.M.’s Restaurant, Siebken’s Pub, and Sissy’s (seasonal).
While I wasn’t an overnight guest at Siebkens Resort, I dined at its restaurant and toured the property. It’s a remarkable place.
Click here to view guest room pricing and reserve your accommodations.
PRO TIP: Ask the bartender at P.A.M’s “secret” cocktail lounge, aka Siebkens Pub, for a glance at his handwritten recipe book.
Enjoy Leisure Time on the Lake
Sunrises and sunsets somehow look more breathtaking when seen from Elkhart Lake. Whether you’re enjoying a pontoon cruise or gliding on the water using a paddle board, the spring-fed water invites every kind of lakeside lover to cast away their stress and relax.
At 120 feet deep, the 292 acre lake is legendary. Early settlers, the Potawatomi Indians, thought the water had healing, restorative powers.
PRO TIP: Elkhart Lake Watersports at The Shore Club rents pontoon boats, hydrobikes, canoes, paddle boats.
Go Off-Roading at Road America
Elkhart Lake’s road racing history dates back to the 1950s when the Village hosting high-speed open road races. Drivers whipped around corners through town and via county roads to complete the 6.5-mile race each year for three years.
Considered too dangerous to continue after a tragedy at another highway road race, Watkins Glen in New York, the races at Elkhart Lake ended. At least, for awhile.
In the mid 1950s, Clif Tufte organized a group and built a permanent racecourse, Road America (N7390 Hwy 67), resembling the the same design as the original road course.
Today, the 640-acre grounds consist of a race track, campgrounds, racing school, and entertainment facilities welcome spectators hang out on race weekends.
If you want to get behind the wheel rather than watch a race at the track, the two-hour Off-Road Driving Experience is the answer. Our group drove side-by-side UTVs on a muddy, rocky terrain twisting through forested areas and over steep hills.
As a passenger, I laughed until my sides hurt. It was a thrilling, fun adventure and the ideal way to see fall foliage in the area.
Our group lunch, provided by Road America’s VIP Suite Catering, was more than you’d expect from a raceway’s menu. Forget hotdogs and hamburgers. The staff out-did itself by serving a self-serve buffet, which included flavorful mahi mahi with seasonal vegetables.
PRO TIP: Road America is open outside of racing season offering karting, driving schools, disc golf, and group adventure programs. Don’t forget to buy a souvenir at Paddock Shop.
Take a Cooking Class at L’Ecole De La Maison
If you’re like me and appreciate new experiences when you travel, consider taking a gourmet cooking class from Chef Rodney Schulz at L’Ecole De La Maison at The Osthoff Resort. Once the executive chef at the resort, he specializes in pastries and teaching cooking classes.
During the Italian cooking class, I worked with a small group to prepare three recipes: Risotto with Asparagus, Chicken Marsala, and Strawberry Cannoli.
Chef Rodney equipped each prep station in advance so we could use the two-hour class to learn how to prep and cook food. He was patient and kind answering questions from students. And the meal? Scrumptious, and oh so fancy.
Sip Vino at Vintage Wine Shop & Fine Foods
What if I told you that sipping the region’s best wines is as easy as inserting a pre-loaded card into a Wine-o-Matic and pushing a button?
At Vintage Wine Shop & Fine Foods (100 E. Rhine St.), vino enthusiasts can chat with the owner, a sommelier, while learning about their wine of choice for a selection of 16 bottles.
My $15 pre-loaded card easily provided several 1 oz to 3 oz pours during a one-hour tasting session. I appreciated the tasting notes between bites of chocolates or truffle crackers while lounging on a comfy couch.
PRO TIP: The retail section of the store is a gourmet foodie’s heaven.
Dine Out at Restaurants & Pubs
Amasa at Lake Street Cafe
When some of the best authentic Mexican food you’ve eaten is in Wisconsin, you don’t question it.
Amasa (21 S. Lake St.), operated by Regina (chef) and Karen (internationally trained baker), is located behind Lake Street Café.The menu on the day of our group’s visit included fresh guacamole with ribeye, a savory beef birria taco with dipping broth, apple arugula salad tossed with chipotle vinaigrette salad, roasted potatoes, and tres leches French toast.
The food truck sits underneath a colorful canopy of Mexican party banners and adjacent to a vibrant mural painted by Georgina Gutiérrez.
PRO TIP: You can order from Amasa’s menu inside Lake Street Cafe during the winter months. Lake Street Cafe serves California bistro-style fare in two dining rooms. Sip a Wisconsin beer or cocktail in a pub atmosphere, or choose a more upscale setting with linens and candles in the main dining room.
The Social (283 Victorian Village Dr.), a speakeasy lounge is part of The Shore Club and open to the public. The Prohibition-style underground restaurant and bar serves patrons elevated pub grub and handcrafted cocktails.
The place is abuzz with visitors and regulars from April through December.
Whether you’re in the mood for a cocktail by the fireplace while listening to music or conversation on the patio with friends, The Social’s stylish design and attentive service make the experience worthwhile.
The executive chef served our group a family-style meal of appetizers and Cesar salad while each of us choose a dinner entree.
I heard rave reviews about the restaurant’s bacon cheeseburger, which met my expeditions. At dessert, we shared a hefty slice of fried cheesecake reminiscent of Midwest state fair fare.
PRO TIP: Ask about the bar’s selection of Wisconsin speciality cocktails and craft beers. Preview the food menu.
Are you interested in a high-end dining experience that serves thoughtfully prepared cuisine? I know the place.
I felt as spoiled during a multi-course, three-hour meal at P.A.M’s (284 S. Lake St.), an upscale restaurant and cocktail bar at the Seibkens Resort.
The newest owners of the resort make sure that every ingredient, every plating, and every menu choice delivers the best dining experience and the kitchen staff make it happen. During a dining experience, the waitstaff caters to anticipates your every need.
While a seven course meal is an exceptional dining experience at P.A.M.’s, it purpose was to showcase some of the chef’s best dishes. The first course consisted of house-catered Henninging’s fried Wisconsin cheese curds followed by Caprese Di Manzo prepared with beef tenderloin.
A small bowl of Tomato Bisque made with roasted San Marzano tomatoes, Wisconsin cream, and balsamic reduction made the second course worthwhile. Followed by the famous P.A.M.’s Salad consisting of leafy greens, roasted squash, goat cheese, onion, and Marcona almonds, the second course’s salad was perfectly tossed with Siebkens Dressing.
For the dinner course, guests chose between three specialty entrees. My choice? Prime Rib presented with roasted broccolini on a bed of au jus and creamy horseradish. My tastebuds danced with each bite.
I couldn’t eat another bite when the final course, a plate of brownie bites, arrived. The meal was as memorable as it was delightful.
PRO TIP: Inquire about the Night Feature on the dinner menu Friday-Sunday during peak season hours May through September. Reservations are encouraged. The cocktail bar opens at 5pm.
If a dive bar with history is more your speed, visit the Stop-Inn Tavern (284 S. Lake St.) open April through October. Considered the best bar on the racing circuit, every inch of the interior space is covered in racing brand stickers, flags, and merchandise.
The tavern’s menu serves food Thursday-Sunday (hours vary) and the bar is open late. But you won’t find standard bar food at the Stop-Inn Tavern.
Menu items like Smoked Salmon Salad, Tacos de Hongo, and the infamous Siebkens Sandwich made with deli meat piled high with all the fixing on freshly baked sliced bread keep guests returning.
PRO TIP: Take time to view the framed photographs on the wall. You may recognize a racing circuit celebrity staring back at you.
Concourse Restaurant and Lounge
Another fantastic option for dining at Elkhart Lake is Concourse Restaurant and Lounge (101 Osthotff Ave.) at The Osthoff Resort. It’s know for a delectable menu of appetizers and main courses paired with wine and cocktails.
At Otto’s, the restaurant’s indoor bar, we sampled savory meatballs, fried shrimp, hummus, and artichoke dip with with homemade pita chips and crudités.
With windows facing Elkhart Lake, our group savored lobster bisque, Caesar salad, and dinner entreés from a nice-looking dining room.
For dinner, I chose a perfectly seared 12 0z. ribeye plated on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes served with seasonal vegetables. The meal and the dinner service were impeccable.
PRO TIP: If you love California wine, the bar’s selections will impress you.
Indulge in a Spa Treatment
What spa treatment would you like right now? Tranquility meets relaxation at Aspira Spa at The Osthoff Resort (101 Osthoff Avenue).
They offer a wide range of body treatments and facials, and their newest Salt Therapy Room is considered one of the best in the country.
The Himalayan Hot Stone Massage helped my upper back and tight shoulders to release tension, and a 45-minute lounge session inside the Salt Therapy Room relieved nasal congestion and strengthened my immune system.
Afterward, I reclined with eyes closed and listened to the sound of a whirlpool in a lounge.
Located near crystal-clear Elkhart Lake with views of cedar trees, the award-winning spa provides a serene setting to turn off the world’s chaos and unwind.
PRO TIP: If you go, plan for an entire spa day. The staff will spoil you with dining selections from a healthy lunch menu in the Spa Café.
Take a Historic Tour: Road Race Circuits
The town’s history as a road racing circuit is worth investigating during a historic tour of Elkhart Lake. During the early 1950s, up to 5,000 spectators attended the races to watch drivers take death-defying turns around town.
Use this link to map follow the route by car to imagine how each driver made the 6.5-mile circuit. Historic signs mark the route in town.
Go on a Shopping Spree
Elkhart Lake Outfitters
People who love exploring the outdoors will appreciate Elkhart Lake Outfitters (448 Gottfried St.). Gina, the owner, knew at an early age she enjoyed working behind the counter at her family’s shop, and today she’s realized her dream of owning a store that supplies people with active lifestyles.
And you’ll find more than puffy jackets and flannel shirts for sale. Elkhart Lake Outfitters stocks everything from cookbooks and candles to bath salts and souvenirs.
PRO TIP: Plan to spend at least 30 minutes pursuing the shelves and racks.
Two Fish Gallery
When you arrive at Two Fish Gallery (244 E. Rhine St.), you may think you’ve arrive at a botanical garden. And you have, but it’s also a pottery retail shop that sells imported Fair Trade gifts, fine art, and jewelry.
Operated by a husband and wife duo, the property showcases each of their life-long talents.
I encourage you to tour the sculpture garden (say hello to their pet bunny!) before shopping the first-floor gift shop. Many of the sculptures outdoors are for sale and Pat’s clay creations are available for purchase inside gallery.
PRO TIP: The gallery is open September – November on Friday and Saturdays and by appointment.
The Paddock Shop at Road America
Race fans feel right at home shopping at The Paddock Shop (N7392 Hwy 67) at Road America. Open May through October, the massive store stocks clothing, souvenirs, wall art, and small-scale gift items. If you’re a car or motorcycle racing enthusiast, it’s a must-stop while at the track.
Aspira Spa Boutique
We’re all guilty of not putting ourselves first sometimes. At Aspira Spa Boutique, luxurious spa products ranging from bath bombs and soaps to tea sets and essential oils are the ticket to rejuvenation.
The boutique also sells the Aspira Spa Signature Product Line. If you love the body and facial products used in a spa treatment, purchase them to take home with you.
Gifts of Grace
A faith-based business, Gifts of Grace (111 E. Rhine St.) is the newest retail store in the village catering to shoppers who are hoping to find home decor, gifts, apparel, and accessories.
Plush blankets? Handcrafted leather goods? Candles? You’ll find it all and more for sale at the petite store.
The Shore Club Boutique
Ladies in search of in-season apparel and accessories will find it at The Shore Club Boutique. The quaint shop is located adjacent to the lobby of the resort.
The boutique’s fashion-foward products are handpicked by the owner.
Visit Henning’s Cheese Store, Factory & Museum
When in Wisconsin…cheese! At Henning’s (20201 Point Creek Rd), a 20-minute drive from Elkhart Lake, you have your pick of more cheese than you can imagine.
The fourth-generation family business has been making award-winning cheese since the early 1900s. For a girl who is known for her love of cheese, I was in heaven.
Not only is the operation led by a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker, Kerry Henning, but their cheddar and colby have won dozens of awards. Take a self-guide tour of their one-room museum, watch a historical video, and try cheese samples in the retail store.
PRO TIP: Pack a small cooler bag. I highly recommend purchasing a block of the 10-year aged cheddar cheese.
A first-time visitor to Wisconsin, I can’t tell you how glad I am to have visited Elkhart Lake. The resort community is a place where you can forget your problems, relax on lake time, and if you want, try a new experience.
Visit Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. You’ll be better for it.