Summer's End Might Be Nearing, but the Fun at Elkhart Lake is Just Gearing Up
Back-to-school time has returned, bringing an unofficial end to summer. But at Elkhart Lake in Wisconsin, the fun times are far from over.
There's plenty of weekend family fun to be had at Elkhart Lake, with fantastic fall events lined up at this Midwest destination in the heart of Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine State Forest, that's home to the Road America racetrack. Elkhart Lake is both breathtaking and easy to reach — only an hour's drive from Milwaukee and two-and-a-half hours from Chicago.
The resort destination has a rich history; once upon a time, races were held along the village roads, and the public road race circuits from the 1950s are a preserved today as a National Place to tour, whether in your own car or on foot or bike. Actual races are now held at Road America, where you can also take racing lessons in cars or motorcycles, and test your skills on the high-powered go-kart track. Many of the hotels and bed-and-breakfast inns are historic, once home to fashionable travelers enjoying the prosperity of the Gilded Age of the late 1800s and early 20th century. Once the railroad came to Elkhart Lake, so did the business barons and their families who poured into the region as a waterside country holiday destination.
In fact, although relatively small, the lake itself is a major draw. The original inhabitants, the Potawatomi Indians, believed the waters to have curative and rejuvenating powers; and today Elkhart Lake is one of the cleanest lakes in Wisconsin, as well as the fourth deepest. Water sports are popular, from swimming and boating to recreational rentals such as kayaks and pontoon cruises; and the Marsh Park and wildlife area is a recreational haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The vast park attracts hunters, fishermen, and wildlife/nature observers; most of the park remains a wilderness, but a 30 acre section of the park is developed and is open year around. Campsites, a party/meeting facility, a boat launch, fishing piers, playground and picnic areas are all available and perfect for a day of family fun.
For a relaxing or adventurous getaway, check out what is coming up at Elkhart Lake to create your perfect itinerary:
Road America Races
This Friday, August 31, you can drive the world-renowned four mile Road America racetrack in your own vehicle under closed circuit conditions, for only $20 per vehicle. The weekend of September 7-9 will see the VSCDA Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival, where gorgeous vintage cars showcase racing history against the beautiful fall colors at the National Park of Speed. September 20-23 marks the end of an exciting SCCA club racing season, with the SCCA National Championship Runoffs. Over 600 drivers participate making it the country's largest amateur championship.
Dining and Shopping
Fast becoming a culinary destination, you will be pleased with Elkhart Lake’s fine restaurants, exceptional chefs and expansive wine lists. The resorts themselves offer incredible dining experiences; check out Lola's on the Lake at The Ostoff Resort, with its eclectic menu created by an award-winning culinary team. There is also an extensive wine list, and many of the ingredients come from The Ostoff's own organic garden.
"We really started to evolve how we feel about food, and how we feed our guests," says Lola Roeh, General Manager of The Ostoff (and namesake for the restaurant). "We're taking sustainability very seriously; but that's the way it used to be for this area. The farms around here produced most all the food for the community and the resorts, and that's what we are trying to embrace today."
Other top Elkhart Lake restaurants to try are the Back Porch Bistro at Victorian Village Resort, Lake Street Cafe with its California bistro-style creations, and the Paddock Club, which combines seasonal ingredients with European culinary traditions and is a recipient of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence. When the shopping urge strikes, the charming village at Elkhart Lake is full of art galleries and studios, antique and vintage shops, and gift boutiques.
L’ecole de la Maison, the cooking school at The Osthoff Resort, holds a cooking class every Friday and Saturday. You’ll find classes from European Brunch to Provencal Cuisine – and everything in between! Each class provides a unique, hands-on experience with Chef Scott Baker, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. Baker's cooking experience started early, when he would open up a few cookbooks to see what everyone else was doing with a dish — and then he would get creative to make it his own.
"Like writing music, once you know all the chords you can make your own song," Baker says. He adds that the most vital aspect to becoming a good cook is to know food on a deep, personal level. "You have to eat well, and eat often."
Connect with History
The last weekend of September history buffs can catch the 22nd Annual Civil War Weekend. Two full days of Civil War drama unfold in the largest Civil War re-enactment and encampment in Wisconsin. This year will commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. A full schedule of activities extends from 9 am to 5 pm both days, with two authentic battles re-enacted each day. The event is held at the Wade House Historic Site, which is also the location for many other events including hearthside dinners, earth-to-table demonstrations and an autumn celebration.
Through Labor Day weekend, the Barefoot Tiki Bar at Victorian Village Resort and The Osthoff Resort’s Lake Deck offer live music lakeside. The Victorian Village Resort Theater also puts on a live musical revue every Wednesday and Thursday evening. In October The Osthoff Resort will hose the Harvest Moon Ball, a spectacular weekend of dancing, music and fine dining dedicated to the legendary sounds of the Big Band era.
Farmers & Artisan Markets
Every Saturday morning from June through mid-October, the popular and ever-growing Elkhart Lake Farmers & Artisans Market is held in the village square next to the Historic Railroad Depot.
Relax at the Spa
The Aspira Spa at The Ostoff Resort is quite literally a world within itself. It offers not only amazing spa treatments but also yoga and meditation classes, along with a beautiful meditation room. Private spa suites, including a Turkish hammam room, are designed to complement nature, taking in the tranquility, beauty and energy of the lake. Packages and a la carte services are available, and it's easy to get lost in body and spirit here.
For more information about Elkhart Lake, visit the visitors information website.
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Shelley SealeShelley Seale is a freelance writer and author based out of Austin, Texas, but can often be found traipsing all over the world. Shelley has written for National Geographic, USA Today, CNN, AOL, Globe Pequot Press, Outdoors NW, The Seattle Times and Andrew Harper Traveler, among others. She is also the author or a contributing author of six books. Her mantra is "travel with a purpose."
Located: Austin USA
Likes: cultural, immersion, sustainable, learning, experiential, voluntourism