The holidays are long gone, a new year has begun and…you’re ready to get out of town already. Whether you’re craving a couples’ retreat, a family road trip or a restorative girls’ (or gents’) weekend, these four destinations deliver with just the right blend of rest, relaxation and winter fun.
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
During the summer, this cute-as-can-be village in eastern Wisconsin fills with beach-goers and spectators visiting nearby racetrack Road America. In the winter months, it’s a tranquil, snow-covered retreat with a handful of lovingly run indie restaurants and shops to explore.
Distance: 162 miles, about a three-hour drive north on I-94 past Milwaukee.
Stay at: The Osthoff Resort (101 Osthoff Avenue, 885.671.6870, osthoff.com). Once the site of a hotel and casino during the early 1900s and theater camp in the 1950s, what is now the current Osthoff was rebuilt and reopened in 1995, with the most recent additions—including Aspira Spa and restaurant Lola’s on the Lake—in 2005. One-bedroom suites have fireplaces, jetted tubs and rustic-chic finishes, and rates run $185–$225 in February and March.
Outdoor to dos: Rent snowshoes at Quit Qui Oc Golf Course (500 Quit Qui Oc Lane, 920.876.2833, quitquioc.com) and traverse its six miles of trails. Bring your own skates and skis to glide on the Osthoff’s pond or cross-country ski in Kettle Moraine State Forest.
Indoor to dos: Treat yourself in more ways than one without leaving the Osthoff: Sign up for a French cooking class at L’ecole de la Maison (cookingschoolatosthoff buy cialis online without prescription.com) or book a facial or chromatherapy soak at Aspira Spa (aspiraspa.com), where you can linger in the candlelit meditation room after your service.
Dining: Stop for homemade sandwiches for breakfast or lunch at Off the Rail (44 Gottfried Street, 920.876.3655, offtherailelkhartlake.com) and inventive seasonal fare and luscious desserts (don’t miss the panna cotta) at Paddock Club (61 South Lake Street, 920.876.3288, paddockclubelkhartlake.com). Vino fans will appreciate the Wine Spectator–lauded list at Lake Street Cafe (21 South Lake Street, 920.876.2142, lakestreetcafe.com), which splits its space between a more casual bar and a white-tablecloth dining room.
Shopping: Discover eye-catching imports at Nordic Accents (81 South Lake Street, 920.876.2520), stylish housewares and giftable goodies at Gina’s Fine Gifts & Framing (44 Gottfried Street, 920.876.2874, ginasgiftsandframing.com) and hand-crafted sculpture and artwork at Two Fish Gallery (244 East Rhine Street, 920.876.3192, twofishgallery.net). There’s no grocery in downtown Elkhart, but Vintage (100 East Rhine Street, 920.876.4846, vintageelkhartlake.com) sells wine, craft beer and gourmet snacks.
Traverse City, Michigan
At the base of Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula (if you’re using the ever-popular mitten analogy, it’s near the pinkie), Traverse City is known for its tart cherry crops and stunning views of Grand Traverse Bay. Plentiful snow-covered hills make it a winter playground for skiers and snowboarders.
Distance: 342 miles, about a five-hour drive along the lakeshore. This part of Michigan is in the Eastern Time Zone, so account for an hour lost on the trip there and an hour gained on the way home.
Stay at: Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, a quick ten miles from downtown Traverse in nearby Acme (100 Grand Traverse Village Boulevard, 231.534.6000, grandtraverseresort.com). Choose from rooms in the contemporary, recently renovated tower ($205–$225) with views of the bay or golf course, or cozy rooms in the six-story main hotel ($155–$175).
- Pointes North (pointesnorth.com)
- Crystal Mountain (crystalmountain.com)
- Park Place Hotel (park-place-hotel.com)
Outdoor to dos: Who says you can’t golf during the winter? Grand Traverse’s golf academy rolls up its garage doors so you can golf onto the green from heated tees. You can also rent cross-country skis, snowshoes and ice skates to use right on property. For downhill skiing or tubing, hop on Grand Traverse’s shuttle to Mt. Holiday Ski & Recreation Area (mt-holiday.com).
Indoor to dos: Grand Traverse’s VIP Spa & Wine Weekend packages pair a tour and tasting at a local winery (either Bonobo Winery, February 3–5; or Rove Estate, March 10–12) with a pampering treatment (maybe a stress-relief wrap or a cherry-infused massage?) at the resort spa. Weekend rates for two run $650–$728, including breakfast. For kiddos, there’s also an indoor water playground with pools and a waterslide.
Dining: During Sunday brunch, Grand Traverse’s sixteenth-floor restaurant Aerie (231.534.6800) offers panoramic bay views. In downtown Traverse City, warm up at cozy noodle shop Gaijin (136 East Front Street, 231.421.5466, gaijintc.com), fill up on inventive Asian fare at Red Ginger (237 East Front Street, 231.944.1733, eatatginger.com) or try Warehouse District newbie Alliance (144 Hall Street, 231.642.5545, foodforalliance.com).
Shopping: Browse kitchenware and gourmet treats at Peppercorn (226 East Front Street, 231.941.4146, peppercorntc.com), hip threads for ladies and gents at Ella’s (209 East Front Street, 231.947.9401, swingbyellas.com) and creative playthings at Toy Harbor (221 East Front Street, 231.946.1131). Fans of natural stone jewelry with a modern edge should not miss Becky Thatcher Designs (234 East Front Street, 231.947.5088, beckythatcherdesigns.com).
Nestled in the very northwestern corner of the state, Galena charms visitors with historic buildings, darling B&Bs and the cutest little Main Street you ever did see. It’s a road-trip destination year-round, but special events in February and March make a wintertime stay worth your while.
Distance: 155 miles, about a three-hour trip west via I-88.
Stay at: Goldmoor Inn (9001 West Sand Hill Road, 815.777.3925, goldmoor.com). With its towering turret and hillside perch, this intimate private estate-turned-inn feels like a European manor. In addition to the inn’s thirteen rooms, there are two log cabins and three cottages; all have whirlpools and fireplaces and many have views of the Mississippi River. Rates ($285–$345 per night) include breakfast in your room or at the inn’s restaurant.
- Chestnut Mountain Resort (chestnutmtn.com)
- Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa (eagleridge.com)
- Avery Guest House (averybedandbreakfast.com)
Outdoor to dos: During President’s Day weekend (February 17–20), the annual Winter Carnival at Eagle Ridge features plenty of wintry action, including bonfires, snow painting, pony rides, hot air balloons and live music. Ski or snowboard at Chestnut Mountain or take a twilight snowshoe hike with Fever River Outfitters (feverriveroutfitters.com).
Indoor to dos: Wine Lovers Weekend, March 24–25, features a tasting and auctions at the Galena Convention Center, plus more boozy events around town. Or book a couple’s massage with aromatherapy or hot stones at the Goldmoor’s spa.
Dining: At the Goldmoor’s in-house restaurant, foodies who want an inside look at new executive chef Ryan Mead’s menu should book the Chef’s Table, located right in the kitchen. In downtown Galena, hit up Galena Brewing Company (227 North Main Street, 815.776.9919, galenabrewery.com) for house-made drafts, Durty Gurt’s (235 North Main Street, 815.776.9990, durtygurtsburgerjoynt.com) for massive burgers and Fried Green Tomatoes (213 North Main Street, 815.777.3938, friedgreen.com) for hearty Italian.
Shopping: Swing in Galena Canning Company (106 South Main Street, 815.777.2882, galenacanning.com) to feast your eyes on sauces, dressings and jams; browse Maggie Black (116 South Main Street, 815.599.1724, maggieblackhome.com) for funky finds for your home and Galena Metal Artworks (228 North Main Street, 815.777.2771, galenametalartworks.com) for sculpture of all sorts.
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
This resort town in southeastern Wisconsin has been a popular escape for Chicago-area residents for decades, whether for summer fun or to see the fall colors. In the wintertime, there’s all manner of snow sports to tempt travelers.
Distance: 80 miles, about a two-hour drive just over the Wisconsin border.
Stay at: The Ridge (W4240 WI-50, 800.225.5558, ridgelakegeneva.com). After a major renovation last year, the former Geneva Ridge hotel now has a contemporary lobby, a new restaurant and a sleek wine and coffee bar. The resort is located in between Lake Como and Lake Geneva (a seven-minute drive from downtown) and rates run $89–$129.
- Grand Geneva Resort & Spa (grandgeneva.com)
- The Abbey (theabbeyresort.com)
- The Baker House (historichotelsoflakegeneva.com)
Outdoor to dos: Book the Winter Wonderland package and enjoy ice skating and s’mores-making at The Ridge’s rink. For adventurous types, The Ridge guests score discounts on ski lift tickets at nearby Alpine Valley (alpinevalleyresort.com) and snowy ziplining at Lake Geneva Canopy Tours (lakegenevacanopytours.com).
Indoor to dos: Tristan Crist Magic Theatre (lakegenevamagic.com) produces a Vegas-style magic show for all ages in an intimate, fifty-one-seat space. Studio Winery (studiowinery.com), a winery-music venue-art gallery hybrid, is also worth a stop.
Dining: The Ridge’s new mid-century modern restaurant, Crafted Americana (craftedamericana.com), serves comforting, seasonal fare. You also can hop a shuttle that will take you to Hunt Club Steakhouse (555 Hunt Club Court, 262.245.7200, huntclubsteakhouse.com), a lively restaurant in a former farmhouse on the grounds of Geneva National Golf Club. For breakfast, Simple (525 North Broad Street, 262.248.3556, simplelakegeneva.com) serves killer breakfast sandwiches and creative omelets.
Shopping: Browse labyrinthine rooms of eclectic treasures at Cornerstone Shop & Gallery (214 Broad Street, 262.248.6988, cornerstoneshoppe.com), preppy threads at the nautically minded shop The Sailor’s Wife (270 Broad Street, 262.203.5934) and quirky finds of all kinds at Delaney Street Market (905 North Main Street, 262.248.8008, delaneystreet.com).