Elkhart Lake, Wi is a lovely destination for a weekend getaway. Perfect for families, spa enthusiasts, discerning foodies, or racing aficionados, here’s the definitive guide for a weekend getaway: where to stay, where to eat, and what to do in Elkhart Lake!
I experienced Elkhart Lake, Wi as part of a press trip for travel writers. All opinions are my own.
Definitive Guide to a Weekend Getaway in Elkhart Lake, WI
- Definitive Guide to a Weekend Getaway in Elkhart Lake, WI
- Where is Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin?
- What to do in the Elkhart Lake Wi Area
- Best Elkhart Lake Restaurants
- Where to Stay in Elkhart Lake, Wi
- If you liked this post on Elkhart Lake, Wi, you might like these other Wisconsin Vacation Destinations as well.
The more I visit Wisconsin, the more I enjoy the state. It’s full of everything I like: fun outdoor activities, fascinating history, and some of the best food in the Midwest. I have not visited a town in Wisconsin that I didn’t enjoy, but Elkhart Lake ranks right up there as one of my favorites, probably tied with Door County.
Visiting Elkhart Lake is a little bit like stepping back in time. At first glance, it’s a sleepy little village nestled along a lovely lake. But take a deeper dive into Elkhart Lake, and you’ll realize it’s anything but sleepy. There are so many fun things to do in Elkhart Lake, you will go once and find yourself returning again and again.
Where is Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin?
Located in Sheboygan County about an hour north of Milwaukee, Elkhart Lake is home to one of the deepest and clearest lakes in Wisconsin in an area known as the Kettle Moraine. Home to just under 1,000 year-round residents, the population swells in the summer when tourists flock to enjoy the lake, road racing, and the beautiful rolling landscape of the Kettle Moraine.
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin is a short drive from many midwestern cities making it the ideal location for quick weekend getaways or longer summer vacations. Prime summer season kicks off on Memorial Day weekend and goes through Labor Day, but there are fun things to do in Elkhart Lake year round.
Driving times to Elkhart Lake are:
- 4 hours from the Quad Cities
- 23 minutes from Sheboyan
- 1 hour from Milwaukee or Green Bay
- 2 hours from Madison
- 2 ½ hours from Chicago
- 3 ½ hours from La Crosse
- 5 hours from Minneapolis
Brief History of Elkhart Lake, Wi
Elkhart Lake got its name from the first settlers to the area, the Potawotami Indians. This Native American tribe believed that the spring-fed lake had healing properties that would rejuvenate, restore, and make a person young again. They also thought the lake was shaped like an elk heart and named it The Great Elk Heart Lake.
The Village of Elkhart Lake became a popular destination in 1873 when the Milwaukee and Northern Railroad linked it to Chicago, Milwaukee, and Green Bay. Drawn by the same healing properties the Native Americans enjoyed, many city dwellers came via train to escape hot, sticky, summer city life.
Osthoff Resort, the first resort in the area, was built by Otto and Paulina Osthoff in 1886. Over the years, it has been demolished and rebuilt, changed owners and services, but its emphasis on the lake’s healing and wellness properties is evident thanks to the world-class Aspira Spa located in the main hotel building.
In the 1950, a famous road race began in Elkhart Lake that raced right through the center of town. In 1950, 5000 spectators witnessed this race. And then in 1951, 50,000 people came to watch; and in 1952, 100,000 people were in Elkhart Lake to witness this racing spectacle.
After the 1952 race, it was deemed unsafe by the Wisconsin legislature and shut down. In 1954, Road America incorporated and built a world premier racing track just outside town so the racing tradition could continue in Elkhart Lake.
Today, there are three main resorts in Elkhart Lake. They’re all a little bit different, but they all impart a nostalgic feel, and remind me of the resorts in Dirty Dancing or Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Although the train doesn’t bring visitors to Elkhart Lake any longer, Elkhart Lake remains a popular retreat for people seeking peace, pampering, and also a bit of racing! Families vacation in the area year after year and their reasons for choosing to spend their time in Elkhart Lake are clear.
What to do in the Elkhart Lake Wi Area
There’s so much to do in Elkhart Lake, you won’t be able to accomplish everything in one short weekend. Pick your favorites from this list of things to do in the Elkhart Lake area and make sure you return to experience everything on the list!
What initially inspired me to visit Elkhart Lake was the promise of a spa service at the Aspira Spa. Located inside the Osthoff Resort, the Aspira Spa is a wonderful place to unwind and indulge in world-class pampering!
I was treated to an 80 minute Cedars Massage Experience, but I spent an entire afternoon relaxing in Aspira Spa’s meditation sanctuary, sauna, and hot tub. It was an amazing afternoon- much needed relaxing after a really busy spring.
I highly recommend indulging with a spa service while you’re in Elkhart Lake.
Water Activities on Elkhart Lake
Of course one of the biggest draws to Elkhart Lake is the lake and there are lots of ways to enjoy it! Fishing, kayaking, water bikes, sunset cruise, swimming, and simply relaxing on one of the resorts’ sand beaches! Definitely factor in some water time on Elkhart Lake!
You can rent all kinds of water craft from most of the resorts.
Hiking the Ice Age National Scenic Trail
Administered by the National Park Service and maintained by the Ice Age Trail Alliance and the Wisconsin DNR, this 1,200 mile scenic trail winds through 30 Wisconsin counties – from Saint Croix in northwest Wisconsin, down through Madison and Janesville and back up through Green Bay until it reaches the Eastern Terminus in Potawatomi State Park.
More than one million people visit the Ice Age National Scenic Trail each year because there are so many fun things to do including:
- Camping opportunities, including a group camp and a horse camp
- Hiking a portion or the entire trail
- Joining a Trail Trekkers group and to hike each Wednesday evening
- Snowmobiling in the winter
- Volunteering to help maintain this beautiful trail
Find out more information about the Ice Age National Scenic Trail here.
I don’t consider myself a racing enthusiast, but I really enjoyed Road America, one of the fastest permanent racing tracks in the world. It’s more than a world-class race track, it’s also home to disc golf, UTV paths, go-karting, camping, bike paths, mini cabins for rent, the 4 miles of fitness program, driver skills classes, and more.
There are 9 public race weekends, and the Grand Prix at Road America, an indy-car series race, is held here every year. Hailed as the National Park of Speed, Road America is a brilliant racing road circuit you’ll definitely want to visit.
Learn more about all the fun things you can do at Road America!
If you like historic cars and motorcycles, you’ll definitely want to stop in at the Throttlestop Museum. In addition to housing over 200 vintage and historic vehicles including racing cars, luxury cars, muscle cars, and historic motorcycles, the Throttlestop Museum also restores cars and sells them on consignment – something to consider if that’s your jam!
Learn more about this fun car and motorcycle museum, the perfect stop or a hot or rainy day.
Vintage Elkhart Lake is a fun place to stop in for happy hour wine tasting or an afternoon wine flight. In addition to enjoying wine from a fun wine dispenser, you can also stock up on all sorts of local snacks, cheese, brews, and hand selected wines by owner operator sommelier Jaclyn Stuart.
100 E Rhine Street | (920) 876-4846
Shopping & Art
The nice thing about Elkhart Lake is that it’s so walkable! You can park your car when you check in to your resort and then walk or bike almost anywhere you want to go in the downtown area. You’ll definitely want to check out the local shops in downtown Elkhart Lake.
They’re all unique, independently owned, and have a nice selection of art, souvenirs, clothing, food, and locally made treasures. A few of the shops I enjoyed visiting on my trip to Elkhart Lake include:
- Elkhart Lake Outfitters
- Two Fish Gallery
- Nordic Accents
- Boutique at The Shore Club
- Small Town Big Family or STBF Shop
- The Paddock Shop at Road America
If bonfires are your cup of tea, you can absolutely enjoy them at Elkhart Lake! We had a really nice fire at the Osthoff Resort, complete with wine and s’mores. It was a really lovely evening.
Guided Fishing Trips
I’m not a huge fishing fan, but I know lots of people are! If you’d like to take a guided fishing trip, you know it’s possible! Contact knowledgeable guide Jay Brickner who will take you to all the best spots and help you catch the fish that live in Elkhart Lake. Best of all, you can fish at Elkhart Lake year-found, even in the winter!
- northern pike
- yellow perch
- large and smallmouth bass
Jay Guide Service | 920.912.4452
Quit Qui Oc Golf Course
If you enjoy golfing, you’ll want to head out to Quit Qui Oc Golf Course, open for golf since 1923, for a round of golf. Located just outside town, Quit Qui Oc offers 27 holes of golf, a pro shop, golf leagues, PGA & LPGA golf classes, and a really good restaurant too.
If you’re wondering what the heck this name means, it’s a mix of Menomenee Indian and French and it means “land along the crooked river” and it’s located in a really beautiful spot.
Request tee time online or call for reservations | (920) 876-2833
Henning’s Wisconsin Cheese
No visit to Wisconsin is complete until you have tasted awkward winning Wisconsin cheese. Can you really call yourself a cheese fan if you’ve never experienced the squeak of a fresh cheese curd?
You’ll enjoy learning all about cheese making at this fourth generation, family owned cheese factory, just outside Elkhart Lake in the town of Kiel. They’ve been making award winning cheese since 1914.
20201 Point Creek Road, Kiel | 920.894.3032
Best Elkhart Lake Restaurants
You will not be disappointed by the restaurants in Elkhart Lake – unless you’re looking for chain restaurants or fast food. There aren’t currently any fast food chain options as the local Elkhart Lake Subway closed recently.
Don’t worry though – you’ll find plenty of delicious options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Entertaining pubs, private dining rooms, outdoor seating areas, and beachfront eateries will satisfy all of your food cravings.
Here’s a list of what we consider to be the best Elkhart Lake restaurants! You won’t regret trying any of them and I highly recommend that you wear stretchy pants and try them all.
We ate a lot of fabulous food in Elkhart Lake, but the Paddock Club was one of my favorites – and we got to try a lot of different menu options. Named after a Prohibition Era gambling club, this delicious restaurant focuses on local and seasonal, and has new menu options every week.
My favorites were the Lavender Collins, the Grilled Broccoli, and the Grilled Hanger Steak with fresh french fries. Reservations are highly recommended so make one so you don’t miss out!
61 S Lake Street | 920.876.3288
Another restaurant with a fun history, the Shore Club’s Cottonwood Social used to be a speakeasy! We tried a little bit of everything at this restaurant and really enjoyed the views of the lake and the cottonwood trees.
My favorites were the Mellow Melon cocktail, Truffle Portobello Penne Pasta, and anything they serve for brunch. You also can’t go wrong with their pizza! Another restaurant not to miss in Elkhart Lake.
283 Victorian Village Drive | 920.876.3323
Concourse Restaurant & Lounge
Located inside the Osthoff Resort, the Concourse Restaurant offers casual dining and a family friendly atmosphere!. Grab a drink to take down to the lake or enjoy a nice meal in the dining room or on the outside on the patio.
My favorite menu items include the Concourse Mule, the Tuna Poke Nachos, and the Seared Scallops.
Lake and S East Street | 920.876.5840
Another restaurant located in the Osthoff Resort, Otto’s also has great selections for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We had breakfast here one morning and I really enjoyed the Avocado Toast – what a delicious, light way to start the day. Otto’s also has a Friday Fish Fry and Sunday Breakfast Buffet worth checking out, plus room service for resort guests and take-out too!
101 Osthoff Ave | 920.876.5857
Siebkens Stop-Inn Tavern
This vintage bar at the Siebkens historic resort is known as the “best bar on the racing circuit.” Renown for their burgers and decor, you can’t go wrong with any of their sandwiches or draft Wisconsin craft beers.
284 S Lake Street | 920.876.2600
Lake Street Cafe
How can you go wrong at a restaurant where everything is made from scratch and a wine list recognized by the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence? We didn’t get to eat a meal here (but I did meet the owner!) and I hear their signature dishes are Tenderloin Shiraz and Seared Ahi Tuna, so you need to go try them and let me know how they are!
The owner of the Lake Street Cafe is also opening a new restaurant venue in 2022 – Amasa Bakery and Eatery. Be on the lookout for that, because we got a preview of the Mexican inspired street food it will serve and it was phenomenal!
21 S Lake Street | 920.876.2142
Gessert’s Ice Cream & Confectionery
Serving ice cream since the 1920s, your kids will thank you for stopping in for a visit at this old-fashioned ice cream parlor for an ice-cream soda, a phosphate soda, or a simple scoop of one of their 20 flavors of premium ice-cream! Ice cream flavors change daily so you might need to stop in more than once.
99 S Lake Street | 920.781.5053
SwitchGear Brewing Company
Like local brews? You must stop in a SwitchGear Brewing Company! Located in the Feedmill Shops building, this cute brewery makes brews with names like Snub Nosed Monkey, Pontoon Pounder, and It’s a Lake T’ang. They’ve been brewing since 2017 with no signs of slowing down!
44D Gottfried Street | 920.781.5120
Quit Qui Oc Restaurant
Elkhart Lake’s unofficial supper club – the Quit Qui Oc Restaurant found at its namesake golf course serves a very popular Friday Fish Fry that the locals rave about. Serving homemade salads, sandwiches, and soups – the portions are big and food is delicious!
I recommend trying the Fried Green Beans and the Fiesta Chicken Salad! Reservations are recommended, especially for the Friday Night Fish Fry.
500 Quit Qui Oc Lane | 920.876.2833
Where to Stay in Elkhart Lake, Wi
The Shore Club
Part of the Ascend Hotel Collection by Choice Hotels, The Shore Club is a recently renovated boutique historic hotel under new ownership. I stayed here during my time in Elkhart Lake, Wi and really appreciated all the lovely touches and the comfortable rooms this fun resort offers. The new owners are a vibrant family dedicated to giving you an unforgettable experience at the lake.
What you will love about the Shore Club
- The only dog friendly resort in Elkhart Lake
- Indoor & outdoor pools
- Family friendly arcade & workout room
- Famous Waterfront Tiki Bar
- Historic Theater with live performances, karaoke, and more
- Campfire / picnic area
- Lovely beachfront on the lake
- Bicycle rentals and a fun boutique
- Giant chess on the lawn
Reserve a room at The Shore Club Wisconsin!
Elkhart Lake’s only AAA Four Diamond premier vacation destination, the Osthoff Resort offers over 200 suites, a cooking school, indoor and outdoor pools, Aspira Spa, Otto’s Restaurant, the Elk Room, Concourse Restaurant & Lounge, water sports, and outdoor dining as well, The Osthoff is one of the best places in Elkhart Lake a relaxing and rejuvenating getaway.
Fun things to do at the Osthoff Resort include:
- A turn on the lake in the Dragon or Swan Paddle Boat
- Private pontoon excursion on the lake
- Lakeside bonfire
- Enjoy a martini on the deck of the Elk Room
- Healing massage at the Aspira Spa
- Live music
- Kid’s Club Activity Program
Reserve a suite at the Osthoff Resort.
The oldest continuously operating hotel in Elkhart Lake, Seibkens Resort is one of about ten historic resort complexes remaining in Wisconsin. It’s located between Osthoff Resort and the Shore Club Wisconsin and features condos for family gatherings as well as two historic hotel buildings. Siebkens also offers four different dining options, outdoor pool, and a private sandy beach!
Reserve your vacation suite at Siebkens Resort!
I hope you’re inspired to visit Elkhart Lake, Wi soon! I firmly believe it’s a hidden gem in the United States. Head here to learn even more about this unique Midwest vacation destination.