The time of your life in Elkhart Lake

What if “Dirty Dancing” was set in Wisconsin in 2022?
Elkhart Lake
Courtesy of Elkhart Lake Tourism
Elkhart Lake

What if “Dirty Dancing” was set in Wisconsin in 2022? If it was, The Osthoff Resort, a destination with Old World charm that first opened as a hotel in Elkhart Lake in 1886, would seem like a fitting backdrop.

Since we’re changing the script, let’s say Frances Houseman, aka “Baby,” is 30 years old in our version of the story. Dramatic moments and tense scenes are traded for down-to-earth activities and Midwestern niceness in this Wisconsin-based tale.

Baby, who now minds being called “Baby,” is looking forward to a mini family reunion with her sister, who is pregnant with her second, and their parents, who are weeks into their well-earned retirement. They trade formal attire for flannel shirts, because it’s “Flannel Friday” at SwitchGear Brewing Co. Her dad orders a flight of beers and they munch on jalapeño-flavored popcorn. Then the four head to Quit Qui Oc Golf Club & Restaurant for Friday fish fry. They’re seated in the corner, but that’s OK in this case, because the dining room is cozy and there’s not a bad seat in the house.

The next day, Dad meets up with some old college buddies in nearby Sheboygan for a round of golf at Whistling Straits Golf Course and a beer at 3 Sheeps Brewing Co. On the way back, he might stop at Road America, a historic motorsport course in Plymouth. Frances’ sister, Lisa, spends the day at Aspira Spa at The Osthoff to relax. Frances and her mom pick up a quick breakfast of bagel sandwiches at Off the Rail — a cafe in a former railroad depot — to fuel up ahead of a day of shopping. They browse the shelves at Gina’s Fine Gifts and Framing, Elkhart Lake Outfitters, Nordic Accents – Scandinavian Imports and Two Fish Gallery.

Their last stop is Vintage Elkhart Lake, a wine, spirits, beer and food shop, to pick up a few bottles of wine and charcuterie supplies, because any good Wisconsinite always has a nice selection of cheese and meat on hand. The four reunite that evening at Paddock Club for New American fare. The night ends at The Elk Room at the resort, where live music fills the grand living room with a crackling fireplace on one side, an upscale bar on the other, and a long bay of windows and doors offering a scenic view of The Osthoff grounds in between. This is where the dancing starts in our story — the visitors Frances and her mom ran into at lunch at Lake Street Café end their night the same way, and they turn the middle of the room into a dance floor.

Sunday is a lake day. There’s so much to do in and around Elkhart Lake — like hiking the Ice Age Trail or Kettle Moraine State Forest, horseback riding at Camp Anokijig or renting a bicycle at The Shore Club — but the Houseman family is looking for a leisurely end to their family retreat. Elkhart Lake, formed by retreating glaciers, has a natural sand bottom, which makes beach time even more pleasant. The Osthoff allows guests to try any water sport imaginable, including kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding and aqua cycling. The family enjoys an evening pontoon cruise as the sun goes down on a picturesque weekend getaway. They leave unspoken their shared feeling — they had the time of their lives on this casual, go-at-your-own-pace trip.

Find more Midwest travel ideas here.

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