By Judith Kirkwood
Special to TravelWisconsin.com
Sheboygan’s Blue Harbor Resort has something most waterparks don’t. Actually, two things: Lake Michigan and the Sheboygan River. These real shorelines—the lakefront at the resort, and the river close by—helped make a recent multi-generational family visit there a hit. You can stand under a pirate ship that tips a thousand gallons of water over your head for only so long before you want a change of scenery.
The resort is reminiscent of California's Hotel del Coronado, with white clapboard-like siding and conical red roofs. Our extended family stayed in a two-story, four-bedroom villa next to the main resort—a civilized option for a birthday party weekend with my son, his wife, my granddaughters and assorted friends. We couldn’t have survived without the sleeper sofa, since my husband snores and the baby didn’t sleep at night. And having a kitchen meant we didn’t have to feed five kids in a restaurant for every meal.
While some of us napped, others walked the shore, watching gulls swoop for bread crusts and leading the older children on a treasure hunt involving coins in the sand that "might" have washed up on shore from a shipwreck. My daughter-in-law and I did some shopping along the nearby riverfront, in a quaint village of shops modeled after fishing shanties. I even fit in a massage at the resort's Reflections Spa—a reward for hurtling down waterslides with the older girls and dodging fountains of spray and geysers in the baby pool.
We checked out the amazing new Breaker Bay Waterpark andf then took turns on family meal duty so some of us could visit the resort's Latitude Restaurant and On the Rocks Bar.
Before Blue Harbor opened in 2004, the area was dominated by Kohler’s pricey, decidedly adult American Club. Vacationers often got no closer to Sheboygan and its shoreline than Whistling Straits golf course. Sheboygan's new waterfront initiative, celebrating its maritime heritage, will entice more visitors to attractions like the first-rate John Michael Kohler Arts Center. A pedestrian bridge connecting the riverfront, downtown, and South Pier districts is in the works, along with a cruise ship terminal and boardwalk arcade with a Ferris wheel.
But that’s years down the road. For now, the kids were perfectly content with a schedule of activities through the resort’s Kid's Club, including a coloring contest, bingo, beaded bracelet making, board games and storytime with milk and cookies.
Blue Harbor recently introduced spa services for tweens, too. Too soon, my eight-year-old granddaughter could be celebrating her birthday with an ice cream bath fizz, shower sherbet scrub or sundae-topping foot mask. In the meantime, we'll have a new granddaughter on board for our next visit, which means another weekend of fighting for the sleeper sofa—and a lot of fun.
If You Go
The resort’s 182 guest suites include the Kidaquarium and Boathouse suites with themed bunkbed sleeping areas for kids; some suites have a jacuzzi and fireplace, sofa sleepers and lofts. The presidential suite offers three private bedrooms, a two-story living area with two sofa sleepers and a large plasma TV. For family groups like ours, the privately owned two- and four-bedroom villas give great value.
Prices change regularly, so call the resort or visit its website for the best rates.