Away for the Holidays: 6 Wisconsin Trips

By Mary Bergin

Maybe the best gift to seek this holiday season is an opportunity to temporarily escape the stress, fatigue, isolation or uncertainties of daily living.

Does the perfect getaway involve just you? Your spouse? Your best friends? Your children? Three or more generations?

Consider the abundance of options Wisconsin has to offer.

Canoe Bay Resort – Chetek

Look for one of Wisconsin’s most romantic and private settings on 280 remote acres of Rusk County. That’s where Dan and Lisa Dobrowolski opened Canoe Bay Resort in 1993. Now the former church camp is the Midwest’s only Relais and Chateaux property, a global standard for unique character and high quality.

Hike or snowshoe along wooded trails. Sip hot chocolate while perusing the vast, contemporary book selection in the resort library. Retreat to your spa cottage and its whirlpool, Finnish sauna, steam room and fireplace.

Many accommodations overlook unblemished Lake Wahdoon. You’re in the Northwoods but will want to get dolled up – as in suits and sparkles – for dinner, especially the four-course New Year’s Eve gourmet meal. Think Champagne, but not noisemakers.

The resort is closed on Christmas Day.

Four Seasons Resort – Pembine 

Snowmobile lovers who look for a roomy nest won’t be disappointed on little Miscauno Island in Marinette County, where the all-suite Four Seasons Resort, built in 1905, stretches over 100 acres. The Menominee and Miscauno rivers surround the resort and its 9-hole golf course; that means easy outlets for ice fishing, skating and cross-country skiing.

Get to the resort (not associated with the high-end Four Seasons hotels) by crossing a one-lane bridge. Just west are 500 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. Head the other way and you’re in Michigan.

When it’s time to unwind, visit Boundary Waters Sports Bar and Grill for pizza and a microbrew. Or devour a Delmonico with twice-baked spuds at Four Seasons Steakhouse.

Don’t leave before checking out the area’s gangster history. Years ago, Al Capone and his buddies loved it here, too.

The Grand Geneva Resort and Spa – Lake Geneva

The Grand Geneva Resort and Spa, Hugh Hefner’s former Playboy Club (from 1968-82,) touts multiple personalities that are especially attractive to active travelers, with or without children.

Count fitness classes, nature walks, geocaching adventures, rock wall climbing, horseback riding, indoor tennis/swimming/mini golf, biking, skiing and snowboarding among the oodles of options. When ready to relax, activity coordinators offer family-appropriate movies, poolside bingo and wine tastings.

Snow sculpting in early December adds festive statues of Santa, a snow sleigh and Bruce the Moose (the resort’s Timber Ridge lodge/waterpark mascot) to the 1,300-acre campus. More than 1 million lights further enhance the merry mood for the seasonal “Christmas in the Country” celebration.

Go Italian with handmade Sicilian pasta and imported mozzarella at Ristorante Brissago. Indulge in the Friday night seafood buffet at the casual Grand Café. Or order a one-pound cut of beef, pork or lamb at Geneva ChopHouse.

Heidel House – Green Lake

Since 1945, Heidel House has thrived as a picturesque getaway for lovers of water and small-town charms.  Heidel House rests on the shores of the state’s deepest lake, and in the winter, the resort’s 20 acres are a quiet and classy buffer from the bustle of urban life.

Grey Rock Restaurant, the former mansion home of a Civil War hero, rates among the state’s best fine dining experiences. Among the signature entrees: Filet Oscar (crab, asparagus and béarnaise atop tenderloin medallions) and Parmesan Chicken Paillarde (with pesto béchamel, broccoli and tomato orzo).

An indoor labyrinth, lounging areas and healthful lunches at Evensong Spa, open since 2006, are good reasons to linger after a massage or pedicure. Best seasonal indulgence: the Warm Apple Cinnamon Pedicure, which begins with an apple cider foot soaking.

Justin Trails Resort – Sparta

A mere $5 per person buys one-day access to 200 acres of hiking, disc golfing, snowtubing and skiing at Justin Trails Resort – but why head home at the end of the day?

Plush accommodations at the former dairy farm pamper and cater to couples and families, especially those who don’t want to leave their dog or horse at home. Animal lovers who arrive without a four-legged friend get acquainted with the resident llamas, barn cats and dogs.

Guests can take the Justin’s two Siberian huskies, Heidi and George, for a walk around the resort and children can enjoy a dogsled ride by the pair of lovable dogs.

The setting is Wisconsin’s Driftless Area, where hills swoop dramatically and wildlife roam freely. Overnight guests begin the day with a hot breakfast that also includes fresh muffins or scones, yogurt, fruit and Donna’s granola.

Kalahari Resort – Wisconsin Dells

Wisconsin Dells has no shortage of indoor waterparks, but Kalahari Resort's African décor neatly whisks guests into another world. A trip here gives you both a beach-like vacation and an exotic setting in exchange for a tank of gasoline.

Families soak up the water rides – lazy river floating to uphill roller coastering – but what happens when you need a landlubber break? Rent a cabana, with a flat-screen television, a private lounging area and – if you want – a refrigerator stocked with beverages.

Other options: a 15-screen movie theater and indoor theme park with a six-story-tall Ferris wheel, a ropes course, laser tag, climbing walls, arcade and go-cart track.

The resort also presents a stunning number of dining choices, making this truly a full-service entertainment destination.


Looking for more holiday getaways? Check out these classic cabins and small-town couples' escapes!

This entry was posted in Places to Stay Resorts & Lodges