Imagine dipping your toes—then your entire body—into a gorgeously clear, vibrantly blue, naturally spring-fed lake and feeling all your worries from the past year slowly drift away with the gentle currents.
You definitely won’t find anything remotely comparable in Dallas. Or anywhere in Texas for that matter.
But it’s the promise of time well spent in one of the most beautiful natural bodies of water that will lure you to Wisconsin’s Elkhart Lake this summer. Or heck, on the first flight out tomorrow if you’re as ready to get back to traveling as we are.
We first visited Elkhart Lake a few months before COVID-19 changed everything for vacationers around the globe, so we decided to hold our coverage until it a vaccine became available and travel began to make a safe comeback.
A trip to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin makes for a perfect escape from the extreme Texas heat, whether you choose to make it a destination on a leisurely road trip northward or you prefer to fly into Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, where both our hometown airlines (American and Southwest) offer nonstop flights. From there it’s only a little over an hour by car with scenic vistas the entire route.
We can pretty much guarantee you’ll become an Elkaholic like us, too. (That’s us pictured above in one of our favorite souvenirs of the trip from
Based on our visit with other members of the travel media, we proudly offer our recommendations for where to stay, eat and play once you get to the shores of Elkhart Lake.
Siebkens Resort has been welcoming guests to its charming hotel (and new rental condominiums) since 1916 and it’s bursting with charm and less than a five-minute walk from their private beach. Accommodations range from standard-size hotel rooms to multi-room condos with full kitchens to spread out and truly create a home away from home. The on-site dining room features fantastic food and old-world charm, while the Stop-Inn Tavern and Sandwich Bar (GET A SANDWICH!) may be one of our favorite bars anywhere. (Also, while you’re here, make sure to try one of the state’s famous Wisconsin Old Fashioneds made with brandy instead of whiskey).
Right across the street, luxury awaits at The Osthoff Resort with spacious rooms, impeccably manicured grounds, a spectacularly appointed full-service spa and a vibrant lakefront scene filled with entertainment and recreation options. Rather than posting a simple photo, we uploaded a quick 45-second video that shows you the glory of the Osthoff in summer (above), its proximity to Elkhart Lake and the lush green surroundings.
Apologies in advance if you’re lactose intolerant because as you know, Wisconsin’s famous for its cheese. Never (and we mean never) skip the opportunity to order anything with cheese curds at a local restaurant. And make sure to visit Henning’s Wisconsin Cheese, a quaint shop in nearby Kiel where you can feast your eyes on massive wheels of cheddar up to 12,000 pounds apiece. (Can you imagine the size tortilla chip you’d need to make nachos?)
Elsewhere, the food scene in Elkhart Lake ranges from simple comfort food to incredibly creative, fine-dining quality cuisine at a variety of restaurants that are all nearby in the easily walkable town. For a quick bite—and maybe 18 holes of golf—check out Quit Qui Oc Golf Course Clubhouse Restaurant, a worthy dining destination whether you’re playing or not. Another casual spot to grab a sandwich and a drink, Route 67 Saloon will definitely do the trick (try the brisket shawarma or the locally made Johnsonville Brat on a bun).
For some delightful chef-driven dishes, checkout dinner at Paddock Club where handmade pastas, fresh fish and innovative daily specials keep smiles on everyone’s faces throughout the meal. Double that smile for those eating the rosemary lemon roasted chicken. A few doors down, Lake Street Café can be a quick spot to grab a pizza or something more composed, such as seared scallops with coconut green curry soba noodles (and the state’s third-largest wine list for perfect pairings no matter what you order).
And the recently rebranded Concourse Restaurant & Lounge at the Osthoff Resort serves three meals daily, all with gorgeous lake views (especially from the patio). The Friday Night Fish Fry always promises a good time.
Located inside the historic town feed mill, SwitchGear Brewing Company crafts a variety of excellent beers for every palate. Our go-to (on more than one occasion) was the Resorter Red, a deep amber beer with a decent kick at 5.5% ABV. In addition to the beer, you simply cannot leave without a tub of their incredibly addictive pub cheese (another perfect souvenir).
Otherwise, you can find a friendly crowd and cheap drinks all throughout town, so be adventurous and pub crawl one night to find your own local hangout.
In the early 1950s, the village of Elkhart Lake became famous for its open-road racing and you’ll see signs throughout the town marking famous spots along the route where drivers achieved victory or (literally) crashed and burned. The road racing no longer takes place for safety reasons, but the destination remains dedicated to fast cars and the smell of burning rubber. You can visit Road America to watch an actual professional race, or spend an afternoon challenging your friends on go-karts or exploring the rugged 640 tree-lined acres on an ATV.
Of course, a day getting massages and soaking up some fresh air from a jacuzzi will always be more our speed than racing around a track. (.25mph vs. 100mph to be exact). So it’s an exciting thing to have a world-class pampering party at Aspira Spa, also inside Osthoff Resort. The indoor space embraces elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water with a heavy influence from Native Americans, who considered the waters of Elkhart Lake sacred.
Another favorite vacation pastime of ours, hiking in the wild, can be found here among some thrilling scenery. The Ice Age National Scenic Trail meanders for miles (1,200 to be exact) through all types of terrain, from public to private. Absolutely consider blocking off a morning or afternoon for a leisurely (and sometimes challenging) hike in a place carved out 15,000 years ago waiting for your visit.
And make sure to consider taking home some original artwork and handcrafts from the local artists at Two Fish Gallery, one of our favorite shops in town. Well, next to Vintage Elkhart Lake, a well-rounded wine shop with tastings (at least we hope they return soon after COVID dies down). And if you want your very own Elkaholic shirt like ours, make a stop at Elkhart Lake Outfitters.
To explore everything you can possibly do in the village of Elkhart Lake and nearby towns, visit elkhartlake.com