holidays have a natural hustle and bustle to them that charms children
and puts everyone in a good mood. But if the thought of the upcoming
holidays feels more like a hassle, maybe it’s time to rethink your
Consider packing up the car and heading out to one of these great
locations for a new twist on the family get-together. Not only will
the change of pace bring new excitement and anticipation to the event
— not to mention a new venue — it also leaves the execution to the
And that’s a relaxing thought anyone can appreciate.
While most of us think of the peninsula as a summertime
destination, it is equally enjoyable during the holiday season. In
winter, Door County shifts gears and becomes quieter and slower,
offering a sense of solitude.
Yet, no member of the family is likely to be bored. Many of the
stores, restaurants — and of course, the spas — remain open
year-round, and there’s ample shopping opportunities for last-minute
gifts … or simply to indulge yourself.
The Door County trolley runs through the holiday season and its
five-hour Winter Wonderland tour includes stops at two award-winning
wineries and concludes with a fireside lunch at the White Gull Inn.
Lautenbach’s Orchard in Fish Creek offers sleigh rides with narrated
tours for groups up to 18 on an old-fashioned cutter sled.
This month, Door County’s many galleries and fine arts venues are
featuring a number of excellent exhibits. Right now, the Door County
Maritime Museum has an excellent exhibit on pirates, and not just the
kind once found on the Great Lakes. If your family is more on the
creative side, one of the peninsula’s top tourist destinations —
Fish Creek’s Hands On Art Studio — is open during the holidays.
Finally, before leaving, make sure to spend some time outdoors. If
there’s snow cover, bundle up the family and head to Hill 17 in
Peninsula State Park. Feeling more adventurous? Winter ski and
snowshoe rentals are available from businesses in Sister Bay, Sturgeon
Bay and Fish Creek.
Get going to Door County: Plan your trip, get details and
Web links to many local businesses at www.doorcounty.com.
Get together: Many Door County lodging facilities offer
quiet season discounts from November through April.
Don’t miss: A traditional Door County fish boil. The White
Gull Inn in Fish Creek offers Friday night fish boils during the
winter; the Square Rigger Gallery in Jacksonport offers fish boils on
While Kohler has long been synonymous with the company that bears
its name, the village itself holds its own as a top destination in the
Midwest. It’s the home of the American Club — the Midwest’s only
AAA Five Diamond resort hotel — as well as the Inn on Woodlake,
conveniently located at the Shops of Woodlake.
Kohler also offers a variety of dining options to appeal to any
family and most are within walking distance of each other. Family
brunch might just become a holiday tradition when you book a
reservation in The Wisconsin Room this year. Likewise, the kids (as
well as the grown-up kids) in the family will want to stop at the
Greenhouse for homemade ice cream or another sweet treat.
On the resort side, a number of activities are available for
guests. The Sports Core is open year-round and both skiing and
snowshoeing are offered on trails around the sports complex as well as
in River Wildlife, a 500-acre wilderness preserve and private
recreational club. Guests are also offered shooting sport privileges
at River Wildlife.
For those family members seeking a little more pampering, the
Kohler Waters Spa offers a full menu of services to guests. Conde Nast
Traveler magazine’s Readers’ Survey ranked Kohler Waters Spa #1
for Treatments & Services among Resort Spas.
Get going to Kohler: Plan your entire reunion, book
activities and create an itinerary at www.destinationkohler.com.
Get together: The American Club offers special holiday rates
and amenities through the holidays.
Don’t miss: The three-level showcase of Kohler products at
the Kohler Design Center. Admission is free.
This city knows how to do it up right for the holidays.
This year, Chicago begins the celebration with its 93rd consecutive
tree lighting in November, which also coincides with the opening of
its annual German Christkindlmarket, a traditional-yet-temporary
German market in Daley Plaza. Most of the stores on the Miracle Mile
— particularly Macy’s — dress up their windows for the season as
As in any season, there are a tremendous number of things to do in
Chicago. Most of the city’s museum and cultural attractions are open
every day in December, with the exception of Christmas Day.
On the way down, or the way back, make sure to stop in at the
Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe for the annual Wonderland Express.
Inside, this popular holiday exhibit features garden-sized trains
winding their way past more than 80 miniature versions of notable
Chicago landmarks. Outdoors, the gardens have been dressed up as well.
The Chicago Botanic Garden also hosts weekend family drop-in
activities, Breakfasts and Suppers with Santa and a Hanukkah dinner.
Chicago is the convention capitol of the world, which also makes it
a great place to host a family reunion for the holidays. Stay in one
hotel or spread yourself among the many boutique hotels downtown;
either way, you’re sure to enjoy your time in the city.
Get going to Chicago: Visit www.choosechicago.com for
information on lodging, activities and cultural events.
Get together: Lodging packages and getaway ideas can be
found at www.enjoyillinois.com.
Don’t miss: It’s an easy split: Send the boys to LEGO
Land and the girls to American Girl Place.
The final contender for a family reunion during the holidays is
Madison, a four-season city if there ever was one. Indoors this season
you’ll find a variety of live performances at Madison’s Ovation
Center and the Dane County Farmer’s Market, which moves into Monona
Terrace November-April. If anything, visiting the Saturday morning
farmer’s market is a good excuse to wander around and marvel at this
Frank Lloyd Wright-designed architectural gem.
The Olbrich Botanical Gardens is also hosting the annual Olbrich’s
Holiday Express throughout the month of December. This treasured event
combines miniature landscapes, 500 poinsettias and the large-scale
trains of the Wisconsin Garden Railway Society. The Gardens also host
a series of holiday concerts throughout the season.
Of course, you’ll have to put the family up somewhere. Eschew the
beltline and stay down by State Street, with its funky mix of shops
and restaurants. For hotel fans, consider the elegance of the Madison
Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club or the perennial hip Edgewater,
Madison’s only hotel on Lake Mendota.
Get going to Madison: Information about events, dining,
lodging and activities throughout Dane County can be found at
Get together: Many Madison area lodging facilities offer
packages; the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau also
offers VisitorPass Discount Cards for a nominal fee.
Don’t miss: The wide variety of free outdoor activities,
from hikes to a stroll through the free Henry Vilas Zoo.