Local Secrets: Where to Go in Southeast Wisconsin

By Jeniece Smith
Managing Editor

Looking to add some “extra” to the “ordinary” in your getaway? Venture beyond the expected to find these brag-worthy local secrets in southeastern Wisconsin, from a farmhouse-turned-supper-club to an old firehouse where you can pillow your head to one of the last unspoiled stretches of Lake Michigan shoreline.


Lauderdale LandingElkhorn

One of the only restaurants on the 800-acre Lauderdale Lakes chain, Lauderdale Landing offers a dock for boaters and a deck with unbeatable water views.

Half-price pizzas and 50-cent wings are a couple of the weekly offerings, along with a Friday fish fry and daily entrée specials. Stop by for a sandwich or cold drink after a hike in the nearby Kettle Moraine State Forest.

Club ParagonGreenfield

Searching for the Milwaukee sports bar where the locals go? Look no further than this “log cabin in the heart of the city,” as Club Paragon’s website puts it. In addition to happy hours and weekly promotions galore, you’ll score gameday discounts on food and drinks as you watch the Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Brewers on the club's numerous TVs. 

Casual Joe’sWhitewater

Try some incredible barbecue in the unassuming location of a converted garage with a few tables four blocks from Whitewater’s Main Street. The owner is a UW-Whitewater alumnus who came back to fill a void on the local restaurant scene, and the eatery now serves a lot of hungry students lunch to late-night munchies less than a mile from campus.

All of the meat is smoked fresh in-house, and Casual Joe’s website describes the menu as “the definition of comfort food.”

5 O’Clock ClubPewaukee

Once a farmhouse and family lake retreat, the 5 O’Clock supper club is tucked away on its own dead-end road in a quiet neighborhood along Pewaukee Lake. In addition to a daily fish fry, the restaurant offers steaks, seafood, chicken and pork as entrees, along with salads and sandwiches. Choose from three dining rooms filled with rustic charm, two of which have fireplaces, or sit on the elevated deck for views over the water.

Places to Stay

Eagle Centre House Bed & BreakfastEagle

An immaculate replica of the 1846 Greek Revival stagecoach inn that today operates as a museum in nearby Delafield, Eagle Centre offers a “romantic journey into the past” according to the website, from the B&B’s period-inspired sign to the numerous antiques throughout the massive home down to the 1850s china on which breakfast is served.

The surrounding units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest and other parcels of natural land add to the historic feel of this property just south of Eagle, and the home is across the road from Old World Wisconsin, should you want to continue immersing yourself in yesteryear.

The Nautical Inn of Lake GenevaLake Geneva

Combined, these two vacation homes on adjoining lots can accommodate more than 30 guests! You’ll be just a few blocks off Main Street and the public beach on Geneva Lake. The six-bedroom and five-bedroom homes, decorated in a playful seafaring theme, are dog-friendly and perfect for large families.

Merry Yacht InnKenosha 

A favorite for charter fishermen, this five-room summer inn just off the Lake Michigan shoreline is equal parts economical and eclectic – the setting is a historic refurbished firehouse with grounds that have since been converted into a pocket park. Keep your trip affordable with a meal at the reasonably priced Frank’s Diner down the road.


City of FestivalsMilwaukee

There’s a fest for every weekend of the summer, an annual state fair and plenty more lively happenings throughout the year in Milwaukee, aptly dubbed the “City of Festivals.” Many of the fests are held downtown along the Lake Michigan shoreline at the Henry W. Maier Festival Park.

A few annual highlights include the world’s largest music festival (Summerfest) and Wisconsin’s premier LGBT pride event (PrideFest). A rainbow of additional heritage festivals celebrate the city’s Polish, German, French, Italian, Irish and Mexican roots.

Lion’s Den GorgeGrafton

Untouched Lake Michigan shoreline is a rarity, especially in this suburban area near Milwaukee, but this hidden gem offers more than 70 pristine acres of bluffs and wetlands along the lakefront.

This Ozaukee County park boasts an extensive network of boardwalks and trails with dizzying views over the water and the highlight of a staircase descending to the beach through the coastal gorge that gave Lion’s Den its name. Go ahead and dip your toes into Lake Michigan!

The Elegant FarmerMukwonago

Four words: pie in a bag. Gourmet magazine, Food Network and the Wall Street Journal have heralded the Elegant Farmer’s Apple Pie Baked in a Paper Bag as the best in America.

You can buy a pie online, or better yet, go visit this farm kitchen bakery, market and deli for yourself!


Looking for more to do in the area? Check out these seven man-made wonders of southeast Wisconsin!