Seven easy Wisconsin weekend trips

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Peninsula State Park: Eagle Bluff Lighthouse | photo courtesy of Door County Visitor Bureau

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Northern Illinois residents know to take advantage of the few short months of sunny and warm respite after a particularly harsh Midwestern winter. Look along the Lake Michigan lakefront, where a quick day trip or short weekend can be enjoyed to its full extent with our neighbor to the north — Wisconsin.

Door County (www.doorcounty.com)
The 300 miles of shoreline on this Midwestern peninsula makes Door County a prime location for water recreation and sightseeing. Take a drive along the Door County Coastal Byway, a 66-mile circular course along highways 42 and 57, to take in the region’s geography in a scenic drive around the perimeter. Jon Jarosh, director of communications and PR for the Door County Visitor Bureau, said he recommends this route to visitors the most, as it provides great views of the peninsula’s varying landscape.

Elkhart Lake (www.elkhartlake.com)

This historic town once hosted open-road sports-car races between 1950 and 1952. Today, these circuits have been restored and designated. Use the 14 historical markers so you can trace the course yourself. Furthermore, what’s a visit to Wisconsin without the cheese? Henning’s Cheese Company is a fourth-generation cheese company in the neighboring town of Kiel. The on-site cheese store and museum is open six days a week to share cheese making from cow to table and offer samples of cheese and ice cream.

House on the Rock (www.thehouseontherock.com)

At once intriguing, eccentric and visually astounding, the House on the Rock in Spring Green is a must-see for young and old alike. Built in the 1940s, the house contains 14 rooms of collectibles in staggering amounts and variety such as dolls houses, musical instruments and suites of armor. The most recent room of the house, the Infinity Room, extends 218 feet over a scenic forest valley for a truly breathtaking view. The house also holds the world’s largest carousel that stands at 35 feet tall and 80 feet wide.

John Michael Kohler Arts Center (www.jmkac.org)

A new exhibit, Hiding Places: Memory in the Arts opens on June 5 and will present works in four categories: From Memory, Holding Memory, Forget Memory and Shared Memory. According to Mary Jo McBrearty, the museum’s chief development officer, Hiding Places is the most comprehensive initiative the museum has undertaken in its 43 years of operation. The annual Art Armada cardboard boat races, sponsored by the museum, also incorporate memory. This year’s theme is Remember When. Come watch the race on the Fourth of July in Sheboygan, or create your own seaworthy masterpiece and register by June 28.

Lakefront Brewery (www.lakefrontbrewery.com)

Here, visitors can tour the brew house and enjoy a sample in the beer garden that looks out onto Lake Michigan. Lakefront Brewery enjoys some notoriety in the beer community having achieved a few firsts: first to bottle fruit beer since Prohibition, first organic beer labeled in the United States, and first to sell brewery tour tickets online. Tripadvisor.com named Lakefront the No. 4 Top Brewery Tour in America in 2010, and Russ Klisch, Lakefront Brewery president, offered an explanation as to perhaps why. “I always find that the attention spans of our visitors is directly proportionate to how much beer is in their glass,” Klisch said.

Port Washington (www.portwashingtontourism.com)

Also known as the City of Seven Hills, Port Washington provides another glimpse of Wisconsin’s varied geography and how a community made it work for them. To prevent trekking around the hills, Kathy Tank, Port Washington Tourism Council executive president, explained that residents constructed stairways up the hillsides to get around. Visit the city’s new tourism website, visitportwashington.com, for maps of walking tours that include these, and other local attractions in this historic waterfront town.

Village of Kohler (www.kohlervillage.org)

The family of the eponymous kitchen and bath fixtures company developed the garden community of Kohler in 1912. The town’s American Club Resort offers a host of getaway packages for adults and kids alike, all viewable on its website www.americanclubresort.com. These packages conveniently group services including hotel accommodations, spa services, meals, golf, yoga, and even Kohler Kidz amenities for the young ones, it’s almost as if they’re custom-designed for your stay.

Wisconsin Dells (www.wisdells.com)

The Wisconsin Dells has been a destination for more than 150 years thanks to its unique glacier-carved geography that includes Stand Rock. The community, spanning just 19.5 square miles, is more recently recognized as the water park capital of the world. It has become a tourism hot spot for central Wisconsin. The area’s 20 indoor water parks are a great way to catch a wave even on those unpredictable cloudy days. With more than 8,000 hotel rooms, 18 campgrounds, golf resort and even classic supper clubs, there are attractions suitable for both family and adult outings.