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May 2013  |  By Andrea Guthmann  |  Comments

Wisconsin Weekend: Summer by the Lake

Are you vowing to savor every minute of warm weather this year?

While you can’t put everything on hold, you can live life at a slower pace for at least a few days while vacationing at one of the Midwest’s classic lake resorts. Here are a few close to home:

Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

Generations of Midwesterners have enjoyed the crystal-clear waters of this town just 2 1/2 hours from the North Shore. Although Elkhart Lake is known for its simple pleasures, you’ll find there’s a plush, even racy side. It’s home to Road America, a NASCAR racetrack hosting races, vintage car events, and even specialized driving schools.

Rent your own boat and waterski or hit the trails at nearby Kettle Moraine State Park. Keep in mind Elkhart Lake does not allow motorized boats on Sundays—consider it your day of rest.

Stay at the charming Victorian Village with its manicured gardens, lakefront bar and throwback staff musical (think "Dirty Dancing") or park yourself at Siebkens, home base for the racing crowd. Things really get revved up on Wednesday nights with live music and dancing at Siebkens’ Stop-Inn Tavern.

Elkhart Lake’s grand dame, The Osthoff Resort, is far from a rustic retreat. Conde Nast Traveler readers just awarded its Aspira Spa third place in the nation—not bad for a hotel in rural Wisconsin! The Osthoff is also home to the simply magnifique French culinary school, L’ecole de la Maison

wisconsin-weekend-osthoff

Green Lake, Wisconsin

Just over an hour west of Elkhart Lake is the Heidel House Resort on Wisconsin’s deepest inland water, Green Lake. When you want a break from the lake, cross the street to play golf, get a massage at the resort’s Evensong Spa or enjoy a show at Green Lake’s historic opera house. You should also take a cruise on Escapade, the resort’s 60 ft. catamaran-style yacht. Two tennis courts with complimentary rackets along with on-site bike and powerboat rentals means there’s plenty to keep every age busy.

Minocqua, Wisconsin

Looking for an old-fashioned lakefront getaway? Minocqua’s small-town hospitality fits the bill. This land of fudge shops and screen-door cottages is all about the pleasures of summer—swimming in the lake, a nightly ice cream cone, and of course, the not-to-be-missed Min-Aqua Bats, who’ve been putting on a first-rate waterski show since 1950. Catch the free show on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday nights throughout the summer. 

The Beacons of Minocqua is bucolic, yet with 81 units, bustling with activity. There’s volleyball, horseshoes and kids swimming in the lake or outdoor pool. Evenings bring s’mores around a campfire and movies under the stars.  

wisconsin-weekend-Boat-House

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Closest to home is the charming, yet upscale, Lake Geneva. Just over an hour from the North Shore, it’s described as the “Newport of the Midwest” for its opulent lakefront mansions. You can get a glimpse into the lifestyle while walking the Geneva Lake Shore Path, a 21-mile walkway encircling the lake, bringing you right up to estates owned by the Wrigleys and Rockefellers.

The Abbey Resort (pictured top right) is along the walking path and is the only lodging directly on the shores of Lake Geneva. There’s a newly renovated spa, sailing school, paddleboards, indoor-outdoor pools and an arcade.

Twelve miles north of Lake Geneva on Delavan Lake is the classic Lake Lawn Resort, recently reopened under new ownership after a multi-million dollar renovation. Kendra Williams, senior travel editor at Midwest Living magazine, describes it as “absolutely beautiful.” Lake Lawn has a tiered lodging system, so you can get something simple or more extravagant, depending on your family’s size and preference.

wisconsin-weekend-lake-lawn-resort

Williams spends a week at a lake with her family every summer. “No matter what lake we find ourselves on, what we appreciate most is the time outdoors with each other, away from TV and phones and email," she says. "We watch the skies turn pinkish-purple after sunset, make s’mores, listen to bullfrogs and birds and just feel thankful we had this quiet time by the water.”

As you start making your summer plans, leave time to dive into one of the season’s greatest pleasures, a vacation at the lake.

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