5 winter Wisconsin getaways

Take time to embrace Wisconsin's natural beauty
family ice skating in front of the Osthoff
The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake (Courtesy of The Osthoff Resort)

Don’t let the cold stop you from embracing the natural beauty Wisconsin has to offer against the picturesque wintertime backdrop. Enjoy a weekend getaway, a weeklong vacation or a casual day trip to break the monotony of the workweek. All within driving distance from Madison, the incredible geographic diversity of Wisconsin will be on full display. There are activities for the natural-born explorer, as well as for those who just want to kick back and relax around a fire. Bring the whole family, or embark on a romantic getaway.

Lake Geneva

illuminated pieces of ice as part of the Lake Geneva ice castles

Ice Castles in Lake Geneva (courtesy of Visit Lake Geneva)

The famous Ice Castles are back at a new location at the Geneva National Resort and Club. An unforgettable interactive experience transports you into your wildest imagination. Massive LED sculptures are sure to amaze people of all ages. Explore tunnels, thrones, slides and fountains made of hundreds of thousands of icicles hand-placed by professional artists. Lake Geneva joins only five other cities who host the exhibition. Tickets are timed-entry based and fluctuate based on time of the week.

people walking around the ice castles

Courtesy of Visit Lake Geneva

Plan an overnight stay at the Ridge Hotel to enjoy the castles at night, when the castles are the most beautiful. Gaze out across Lake Como for an incredible view of the Ice Castles while enjoying a specialty crafted drink at the Ice Box. The Ridge Hotel promises its own mystical frozen adventure in a way only a Wisconsin establishment could. Feel like an Olympian at the outdoor curling rink or treat yourself by renting out a private snow globe with your significant other. The Ice Box also has an ice bar, campfires with s’mores, an ice throne, and a biergarten serving brats, Bavarian pretzels and boots of beer.

Elkhart Lake

parents with two little kids walking in Elkhard

Photo courtesy of Elkhart Lake

While Elkhart Lake is thought of a spot to visit in the summer for the lake activities and Road America — one of the fastest racing tracks in the world — the area provides a great weekend getaway away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Take a stroll in the village’s for some retail therapy indulging in a vintage wine and fine food store or grab a delicious sammie from Off The Rails, a cafe in Elkhart’s original railroad depot. If you’re looking for some exercise after dining at the acclaimed Paddock Club or Lake Street Cafe, head down to the Quit Qui Oc Golf Course for snowshoeing. Explore the wide array of natural trails that make Lake Elkhart one of the hidden gems of Wisconsin. For those seeking adventure, make the short trip from the city center to the Siberian Outpost to learn about and experience dog sledding.

 

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If you’re planning on staying in Elkhart Lake for more than a day, The Osthoff Resort has everything you’ll need for a night’s stay or weekend holiday. For the adults needing to relax after a long day with the kids, the resort’s spa, which was ranked No. 3 in the Top 100 Spas of 2019 by Spas of America, provides a number of unique soothing treatments as well as traditional massages. The resort has a number of dining options from the casual Otto’s Restaurant to the more upscale Lola’s On the Lake. Once you’re rested, journey just outside the resort to the reflection pond for ice skating.

Wisconsin Dells

little girl sitting on top of mom in a watertube on a lazy rivver

Wilderness Resort (Courtesy of Wisconsin Dells)

The Wisconsin Dells is the great destination to kick the winter blues because you can recreate the summer vibe at some of the best indoor waterparks the nation has to offer. Waterpark season kicks off at the start of February with the opening of the Wilderness Resort. With four different indoor waterpark options, you’ll have more than enough slides and lazy rivers to explore. To kick off the new year, Wilderness Resort is adding a laser tag arena, escape room and full-service food court.

group of women drinking wine in a hot tub

Courtesy of Sundara Inn & Spa

Seeking a relaxing, romantic getaway? Look no further than the Sundara Inn & Spa. Ranked No. 5 by Conde Nast for best resorts in the Midwest, Sundara combines wellness classes with extensive spa treatments. The year-round indoor and outdoor heated pools provide a full spa experience. The in-house restaurant Nava will be sure to satisfy any of your food cravings.

Apostle Islands

 

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The Apostle Islands may be one of the more underrated winter getaways Wisconsin has to offer. While it is a premier summer destination, it comes to life in the winter. The mainland ice caves offer breathtaking views of frozen waterfalls. Take a walk over frozen Lake Superior to view the fairy tale-like spectacle. (Note: The ice caves are not accessible as of publication.)

 

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For more experienced hikers, journey down the Lakeshore Trail for breathtaking views of the ice caves. Make sure to bring extra layers and snacks for up to a 4.5-mile hike. If you’re seeking a more relaxed excursion, head to Bayfield County for an array of Nordic trails that are perfect for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Make sure to stay active on the trail websites, since weather can often impact the accessibility of the trails.

Door County

two people catching fish in door county with a lighthouse in the background

Courtesy of Door County Visitor Bureau

Door County is packed with winter activities. Go out on Lake Michigan for a day of ice fishing. If you’re new to the sport, take a guided fishing trip with Late-Eyes, which helps with equipment and staying warm in the winter cold. For something more fast-paced, rent some cross-country skis to explore some of the massive state parks in Door County, such as Peninsula State Park. Rent skis from Bay Shore Outfitters or Nor Door Sport & Cyclery. Snowshoeing is another popular winter hobby that is perfect for seeing the natural beauty Dane County has to offer.

people enjoying beer at door county brewing co

Door County Brewing Co. Taproom and Music Hall (Courtesy of Door County Visitor Bureau)

If the weather isn’t cooperating, Dane County has a variety of indoor activities from exquisite tasting rooms to acclaimed theatres. Visit some of the state’s top-notch breweries like Door County Brewery, Hacienda Beer Co. or Madison’s own One Barrel Brewing Co., which has a taproom in Egg Harbor. If beer is not your thing, head to Island Orchard Cider for cider, Door County Distillery for spirits or one of the nine wineries in the area. For live entertainment, Third Avenue Playhouse and the Door Community Auditorium have year-round live shows for the whole family.

For the Skiers

individuals riding a ski lift

Courtesy of Cascade Mountain

No need to go all the way to Colorado or Utah this winter with the wide variety of ski options Wisconsin has to offer. Less than an hour from Madison is Cascade Mountain. With 47 trails, four terrain parks, and a chute for snow tubing, the Portage gem has something for all ski levels. After a long day at the mountain, take a drive into downtown Portage to dine at some of the city’s iconic eateries like Suzy’s Steak and Seafood House or Corner Pocket. If you’re not a skiing fanatic, look no further than Sunburst Winter Sports Park in Kewaskum — the world’s largest tubing park. With over 45 different tubing lanes, the outing is great for big groups. Relax after a long day of skiing or tubing at the Yurt or Tubing Barn, which have catering and bar services available.

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