17 Ways to Experience a True Winter Wonderland in Door County, Wisconsin

No Comments

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

Wondering what to do in Door County in winter? You will love this list of active winter activities, what to eat, and where to stay! Door County, Wisconsin is magical in any season, but it is truly spectacular in the winter.

door county in winter

Thank you to Destination Door County for sponsoring my trip to experience this beautiful winter wonderland!

I loved Door County so much, we returned with the family in the summer. I think Door County would be a great Midwest Spring Break Destination or fall getaway too – perfect place to visit in every season.

winter wonderland door county

There are so many ways to experience a true winter wonderland in Door County through its enchanting winter festivals and activities, winter hiking on miles of trails, ice fishing, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, bonfires, and hot chocolate –  what better place to view spectacular frozen lakes and ice shoves than Door County!

Door County has become a very popular tourist destination and is quite crowded during the summer months. Heading to the area in the winter lends an entirely different feel from the busy summer.

It’s quiet. Calm. And oh so beautiful. If you’re looking for a magical place to experience a true winter wonderland, I highly recommend spending a few days in this quaint peninsula in Eastern Wisconsin. 

Need to Know Door County Wisconsin Facts

If you’ve never been to Door County before, you will need to know these facts about the area before arriving!

  • Door County is made up of many different communities, most of them quite small: one city, several towns, and four different villages. The total population of Door County is only around 30,000 people (without tourists).
  • Door County is small – only 70 miles long and 18 miles wide at its widest point. 
  • A total of 35 islands surround Door County, including Washington Island and Rock Island which are accessible by public ferries. The other islands are only accessible via private boats or airplanes.
  • The largest city and county seat, Sturgeon Bay, is also its most southern city. It’s one of the only places in Door County where you’ll find chain restaurants like McDonald’s. Need a Target? You’ll only find that in Sturgeon Bay as well.
  • Settled by Swedish immigrants in the mid-1800s, Door County is reminiscent of the picturesque Scandinavian countryside, and is also the oldest county in Wisconsin. 
  • Door County is an agricultural area, famous for Door County cherries, apple orchards, lavender farms, and surprisingly grapes!
  • Tourists flock to Door County to experience the 300 miles of beautiful, rugged shoreline, 11 lighthouses, and five Wisconsin state parks! It’s also home to famous goats on the roof – though you might not see them out in the winter. 

Where is Door County Wisconsin?

Door County is a peninsula on the east side of Wisconsin. If you need to brush up on your geography terms, that means it’s surrounded by water on three sides – the Green Bay on the west and Lake Michigan on the east. 

Door County is about 4 ½ hours from Chicago, 3 hours from Milwaukee, and about 6 hours from my home in Eastern Iowa. 

It is accessible via airports in Green Bay or Appleton but lacks public transportation. Given that its towns are spread out, a car is a must when traveling to Door County.

winter wonderland door county in winter

How did Door County get its name?

The Potawatomi and Winnebago Native American tribes were some of the first people to inhabit Door County. They called the area of Door County between the northern tip of the peninsula and Washington island “Door of Death” because many people were killed trying to navigate the dangerous water there.

When French trappers moved into the area next, they translated the name and called the area “Ports de Morts” or Death’s Door in English.

Death’s Door was a sadly accurate description of the area. In addition to the many Native Americans who were killed in this water, over 200 boats have been lost to shipwrecks there too. In fact, lots of people travel to Door County to see shipwrecks – still well preserved at the bottom of these frigid waters!

You can read more about the history of the name here.

frozen door county

What is Door County, Wisconsin weather in the winter?

I’m not going to lie, it’s cold in Door County in the winter. The coldest month is January with an average temperature below freezing, at only 19 F. February is supposed to be a little bit warmer, but it was brutally cold when I visited during February – with highs in the single digits and wind chills that were just mean. 

Remember, though, there’s no such thing as bad weather – only inappropriate clothing. So, pack your winter gear including warm layers, hats, mittens, scarves, and snow suits and get outside in Door County during the peaceful, quiet winter season.

sturgeon bay door county in winter

Experience Door County “Fri-lufts-liv”

People flock to Door County to play in the water, fish, and enjoy the outdoors in all weather. In the 1850’s Norwegian playwright and poet, Henrik Ibsen, popularized the term “friluftsliv.” I can’t begin to pronounce it, but I can tell you that it means to feel refreshed, energized, and at peace while immersing yourself in nature.

Picture limestone cliffs blanketed by fresh snow, rocky shorelines covered with the most gorgeous all-natural ice shove sculptures, glimmering ice balls lapping at the shore, and crunching footprints on snow-covered paths. All these winter scenes and more await you in Door County. It is truly a winter wonderland just waiting to be explored.

Now that you are inspired to experience winter activities in Door County, here’s a list of family friendly activities to get your family outside in the winter so you can experience “friluftsliv.” 

Our Favorite Winter Activities in Door County

fire and ice door county
Ice sculpture from Fire & Ice Festival 2022

Sturgeon Bay’s Fire & Ice Festival

Once in year in February, Door County artists and residents com together to celebrate fire and ice! Watch as artists turn ice and snow blocks into beautiful sculptures in Sturgeon Bay, go on a candlelit ski / hike at Crossroads Nature Center, attend the annual Fire & Ice Gala, and watch the Winter on the Water fireworks show!

Learn more about Fire & Ice at Travel Wisconsin.

Winter Hiking at one of Five Wisconsin State Parks

Did you know Door County is home to FIVE Wisconsin state parks? Yes! If you’re on a mission to visit all of the Wisconsin state parks, you can check five off with one visit to Door County.

  • Potowatomi State Park
  • Whitefish Dunes State Park
  • Peninsula State Park
  • Newport State Park
  • Rock Island State Park

If you’re wondering what you can do at these Wisconsin state parks in the winter, there are many options including walking on a frozen beach, hiking, biking, snowshoeing, ice fishing, Nordic skiing, catch a beautiful winter sunrise or sunset, and so much more!

Learn more about the Wisconsin state parks in Door County here.

maritime museum door county

Door County Maritime Museum & Lighthouse Preservation Society

To really appreciate Door County, take some time to learn about its unique history with a visit to the Door County Maritime Museum. This interactive museum will provide entertainment for all the family while you learn how Door Count was settled, its fascinating shipwreck history, its role in American ship building, and more. 

Door County Maritime Museum is made up of three different museums and is located in Sturgeon Bay and provides a stunning view of the area from the top of the Maritime Lighthouse Tower.

 Door County Maritime Museum | 120 N Madison Avenue Sturgeon Bay | 920.743.5958

Big Creek Learning Center door county

Crossroads at Big Creek Learning Center & Nature Preserve

Crossroads at Big Creek is 200 acre nature preserve undergoing an ecological restoration. It is independent and donor supported with a mission to educate as well as preserve. With more than 7 miles of trails, Crossroads is open year round and is a great place to hike, snowshoe, cross-country ski – weather dependent. Bikes and pets are also welcome.

They also have candle-lit hikes, bonfires in the snow, and more!

Crossroads Nature Preserve | 2041 Michigan St, Sturgeon Bay | 920.746.5895

kayak bike fat bike tour door county

Door County Kayak Guide E-Bike Tour

You won’t regret driving out to Door County Kayak Tours in Jacksonport for a guided e-bike tour. Take on fat snow tires and electric powered bikes for an easy pedal out to Cave Point in Whitefish Dunes State Park. 

The scenes you experience once you arrive at your destination are simply stunning! You will love the icicle displays created entirely by nature and being outside in the fresh air. Make sure to pack hand and toe warmers, sunglasses, and wear lots of layers! This ride can get quite chilly.

Door County Kayak Tours | 329 Highway 57, Jacksonsport | 920.868.1400

Ice Fishing with JJs Guide Service

Spend the day  (7 am – 4 pm) on the frozen lake in a once in a lifetime opportunity! JJs Guide Service will drive you out on the lake in a Polaris Ranger Crew and provide everything you need for a successful ice fishing experience: bait, tackle, rods, a heated 8’x12’ icehouse, hot lunch too, and helpful guides to make sure your day is fun and a success! 

After catching your limit, have your fish processed by a professional fish cleaner for $2.50 a fish! They’ll clean each fish, package them, even store them until your trip is over and ship them if you’d like.

ice fishing door county

The feeling when you drive out onto the frozen green bay is like no other. Highly recommend giving ice fishing a shot!

 JJs Guide Service | 920.493.2953

open door bird sanctuary in winter
Radar the Barred Owl at Open Door Bird Sanctuary

Open Door Bird Sanctuary

Open Door Bird Sanctuary is 34-acre home to unreleasable birds of prey and also features hiking trails through three different types of habitats. This is a 100% volunteer driven organization that gives previously injured birds homes after they’ve been rehabilitated. 

Open Door Bird Sanctuary is open seasonally, but private tours are an option year round! If you’d like to get a close-up look at the amazing birds of prey that call this sanctuary home, you’ll really enjoy this stop in Door County.

Open Door Bird Sanctuary | 4114 CTH-I, Sturgeon Bay | 920.493.2473

hiking at the ridges sanctuary in winter

Explore The Ridges Sanctuary & Cook-Albert Fuller Nature Center

Wisconsin’s oldest non-profit nature preserve is a stunning 1,600 acre park named for “its distinctive topography…formed by the movement of Lake Michigan over the past 1100 years.” 

Full of trails, a lighthouse, historic buildings, learning opportunities, the accessible Hidden Brook Boardwalk hiking path, and beautiful views of Lake Michigan, The Ridges Sanctuary is a fun place to spend a morning or afternoon. 

The Ridges Sanctuary is a fascinating place to learn how Door County was formed and the challenges it’s facing as our climate changes.

The Ridges Sanctuary | 8166 State Hwy 57, Baileys Harbor | 920.839.2802

44 door county winery

Wine Tasting at Door 44 Winery

One very interesting fact about Door County is that it is located on the 44th parallel, just like other world-renown wineries in Bordeaux and Tuscany. I was very interested to taste their wine and learn the story of this winery.

If you’re looking for a warm activity for a cold day, stop in and do a little wine tasting at Door 44! You will sample delicious, award winning wines and have a great time.

Door 44 Winery | 5464 County Rd, Sturgeon Bay | 888.932.0044

door county glass blowing

If you’re in town on a Saturday and looking for something warm to do, pop in at the Popelka-Trenchard Gallery and watch a glass blowing demonstration. Watching these talented artists create their glass sculptures is really interesting! Double check that the demonstration will occur, but most Saturdays between 12 – 1 pm, you can stop in for demo.

Popelka-Trenchard Fine Art Gallery | 64 S. 2nd Avenue, Sturgeon Bay | 920-743-7287

Best Restaurants in Door County

renards cheese door county

The Melt Bistro – Renard’s Artisan Cheese

Treat yourself to lunch at the Melt Bistro and enjoy fried cheese curds, fresh cheese curds, and all sorts of other artisan cheeses made by one of only 75 master cheese makers in the entire US! 

This family owned and operated business started in 1961 and is now on its third generation of Wisconsin cheese makers! I recommend the fried cheese curds and the Curd Panzanella Salad topped with homemade Cherry Chicken Salad!

Melt Bistro | 2189 County Road DK, Sturgeon Bay | 920.825.7272

sony's pizza

Sonny’s Italian Kitchen & Pizzeria

Across the street from the Maritime museum in Sturgeon Bay is  Sonny’s Italian Kitchen & Pizzeria. Relax at this waterfront restaurant and enjoy Chicago-style pizza, pasta, and delicious desserts. 

Don’t forget to head downstairs to the bar for a Wisconsin craft beer too!

Sonny’s Pizzeria | 129 N Madison Ave, Sturgeon Bay | 920.743.2300

cherry pie sister bay bowl

Dinner & Bowling at Sister Bay Bowl & Supper Club

Experience a Wisconsin Supper Club with dinner and bowling in Sister Bay. Broiled chicken, prime rib, pork chops, and steak are all supper club classics – and you won’t be disappointed with any choice at the family owned Sister Bay Bowl & Supper Club

After dinner, pop in at the attached six lane bowling alley and bowl a game! You’ll get to sneak in a math lesson too! At this quaint old-fashioned bowling alley, you add your own scores! Who said you can’t learn on vacation?

Sister Bay Bowl & Supper Club | 10640 N Bay Shore Drive, Sister Bay | 920.854.2841

door county coffee flight

Door County Coffee & Tea

If you’re looking for a great breakfast spot, try Door County Coffee & Tea. I recommend the Ultimate Breakfast Burrito and the Hashbrown Potato Bake. 

While you’re there, take a stroll through their gift shop and grab a few Door County souvenirs to take home!

Door County Coffee & Tea | 5773 Highway 42, Sturgeon Bay | 920.743.8930

white gull inn door county

Historic White Gull Inn

If you want an iconic Door County dining experience, head to the historic White Gull Inn in Fish Creek. The White Gull Inn is also a historic Bed and Breakfast and has been serving visitors since 1896. It’s a must visit restaurant or lodging option during your Door County getaway. If you’re there on a night they do a fish boil, I definitely recommend that you try it!

The White Gull Inn | 4225 Main Street, Fish Creek | 920.868.3517

cherry mule door county
Door County Cherry Mule at Husby’s – delicious!!

Husby’s Food & Spirits

Located across the street from Sister Bowl, you’ll find Husby’s. This is a great place to stop in for a drink and some appetizers on a cold afternoon or the best burger in Door County (voted by Door County Magazine!). Watch a game, take in some live music – you can’t go wrong at this iconic Door County pub!

Husby’s | 10641 N Bay Shore Drive, Sister Bay | 920.854.2624

scaturo's cafe door county

Scaturo’s Baking Co Cafe

Serving up delicious baked goods, breakfast dishes, homemade pizza and more, Scaturo’s in Sturgeon Bay is great local spot to grab a quick bit to eat. They also provide complete family meals to-go at a great price that you can eat at your vacation rental!

 Scaturo’s | 19 Green Bay Road, Sturgeon Bay | 920.746.8727

Where to Stay in Door County

Wondering where to stay in Door County? We have a few options depending on your needs. Are you heading to Door County with your family? On a girlfriend getaway? Or maybe a romantic weekend getaway with your favorite person? Here are four options to consider when wondering where to stay in Door County.

landing resort door county

Family Friendly Lodging in Door County at the Landing Resort

If you’re looking for family-friendly hotels in Door County, we recommend The Landing Resort, tucked into a beautiful wooded area in Egg Harbor. This hotel features many different sized suites that can accommodate from two to eight people, indoor and outdoor pools, hiking trails, and a stocked game cupboard. Each suite has a fully equipped kitchenette or kitchen so you can make your own food if you’d like!

The Landing Resort | 7741 State Highway 42 Egg Harbor |  920.868.3282

Another great family friendly lodging option is an Airbnb. We stayed at this lovely home in the summer months and thoroughly enjoyed the host’s attention to all the details. Highly recommend staying at this private home with comfortable beds and luxurious linens, plus a fully equipped kitchen, outdoor fire pit and so much more!

Romantic Lodging in Door County at the Dorr Hotel

If you’re heading to Door County for a romantic getaway, consider the Dorr Hotel. This new hotel is modern, close to the Door County Supper and Bowl and the goats on the roof! Rooms are beautifully equipped with down comforters and so much more. For a modern, Nordic experience in a fantastic location, the Dorr is your place!

  The Dorr Hotel | 2329 Mill Rd Sister Bay | 844.944.0354

door county bungalow vrbo

Family Friendly Vacation Rental – Door County Bungalow

If you have a large family like I do, you might want to consider a vacation rental home. We stayed at the lovely Door County Bungalow on our family summer vacation and absolutely loved it! It had comfortable beds for all six of us, a nice deck, fire pit, and well appointed living spaces all in a convenient central location of Hwy 42 between Egg Harbor and Fish Creek.

Find the perfect Door County VRBO here!

If you liked this post on Door County, you might like these posts too:

14+ Winter Activities to do in Heber Valley, Utah This Year

3 Day Teen Approved Itinerary – Orange Beach & Gulf Shores (Family Activities)

Eat Your Way Through Kansas City, KS at these 7 Delicious Restaurants

What’s it’s Like to Ride the Amtrak Empire Builder Train from Saint Paul to Whitefish, Montana

Ready to travel? Use these helpful links to book your stay!

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

You May Also Like:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *