First Night Dining Spots for Your Wisconsin Vacation

By Sharyn Alden
Special to

If Wisconsin’s woods and waters could talk, the stories they’d tell would be ones of families. Stories of kids, grandkids, parents and grandparents excited to be vacationing together, and ready for a weekend of family fun.

Every year, families return to Wisconsin to revisit their favorite summer traditions; and if you’ve yet to create your own, now’s the perfect time to start. Gather your family, hop in the car, and get ready for a trip full of laughter, play, and relaxation.

On your first night, kick off your vacation with dinner from one of these local favorites – and see how they’ve become those places that keep visitors coming back year after year.

Timber Bay ResortHayward

As soon as you reach your cabin and savor the fresh scent of pine forests surrounding Timber Bay Resort, you’ll be under the Northwoods’ spell. A few yards from the main lodge you can swim in cool, clear waters and row, sail, paddle or motor away to your heart’s content. This is northern Wisconsin, after all - a perfect family playground.

So what are you going to do on your first night? Start with freshly- made pizza or sandwiches from the lodge’s kitchen or head to the picnic area and do your own grilling.

As the night sky dims and the sky becomes a canopy of twinkling constellations, stage a stargazer’s contest. Orion is one of the brightest and best known constellations in the night sky, and even more outstanding in northern Wisconsin. See if you can find it.

Maiden Lake Supper Club – Mountain  

As soon as they unpack, visitors to the Lakewood area often head straight to Maiden Lake Supper Club for a dining experience that’s uniquely Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is well known for supper clubs, and each has its own specialties. Travelers in the northeastern part of the state are drawn to the Maiden Lake Supper Club for its signature brand of charm accented with the warm coziness of a rustic bar and fireplace with waterside dining views.

Specialty dishes include gorgonzola tenderloin, prime rib and lamb, and the catch of the day. If you’ve never tried hand-breaded walleye, this is the place to start a new family dining tradition, Wisconsin style. It wouldn’t be a good old- fashioned supper club if there wasn’t a Friday night fish fry. Hungry diners here can order broiled, battered or breaded varieties.

Pioneer Store - Ellison Bay

Generations of families have made the Pioneer Store a beloved tradition. It is a mandatory first-stop for many vacationers when they arrive in northern Door County.

You’ll see family members of all ages meandering the narrow aisles, enjoying what back home would be called a “chore.” Glance to your left as you walk in, and find a small ice cream freezer is tucked near the long wooden counter. This is an especially busy spot in the summer!

At the back of the store you’ll see shoppers peering into the fresh deli case. Pioneer Store owner, Carol Newman and her family make classic take-outs like Swedish potato salad and broccoli and bacon sides fresh every day – the perfect additions to your vacation meal.

Whether you return a year or a decade after your last visit, and chances are it will look and feel the same. That strong sense of familiarity builds loyal fans across the ages.

Great Dane Pub Brewing Company - Madison

In the heart of Madison, the Great Dane was the city’s first brewery when it opened in 1994. The iconic Victorian brick structure, built in the 1850’s, has been renovated over the years but maintains its classic roots. Look for an elegant mahogany bar, restored brickwork, and a Rathskellar room with old stone walls.

Walking in the front door you won’t immediately see the hidden gardens. For a special treat on a lovely summer day, ask for a table outdoors. An abundance of flowering plants and ivies punctuate the lush dining area.

Now it’s time to try some traditional Wisconsin fare. Order some cheese curds, a brat and bacon pretzel burger, or a house-brewed beer and you’ll be dining like a “sconnie” in no time.

For ideas and inspiration for your next family getaway, check out these Trip Ideas!

This entry was posted in Restaurants