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November 28, 2022

Where Every Family Matters

The famous Cana Island lighthouse located next to lake Michigan in Door County Wisconsin.

The Greatest Vacation Spot You’ve Never Heard Of

Take a family adventure to Door County, Wisconsin — a beautiful gem resting on the easternmost side of the state.

OK, so maybe you’ve heard of it. If my wife hadn’t been from Wisconsin, there’s a good chance I never would have, but I’m glad that’s not the case. In our Middle Tennessee bubble, we’ve got our headliners we flock to each summer: Destin/30A, Orlando,The Smokies, Hilton Head … the list goes on. Door County, Wisconsin needs to be added to that list. 

I was lucky enough to take a three-day extravaganza to Door County (DC) last summer and I am convinced after being there that there’s nothing I can write that will truly serve Door County justice.

Cultural Traditions

First, there are no big high-rise condominiums and there’s not even one chain restaurant north of the county’s southernmost and largest town, Sturgeon Bay. Everything is locally run and locally owned. Door County moves at its own pace and invites everyone there to do the same. Just as well, DC also invites all to take part in historic cultural traditions, like their famous Door County Fish Boils. These are a must-do! 

The act of fish boiling is a part of settler history in Door County.

Secondly:  Yes, it’s a county, but it’s unlike any county you’ve ever been to. Its geographic location between the massive Lake Michigan on the west and (the) Green Bay on the east gives it the feel of a European summer beach haven (some people have referred to DC as the Cape Cod of the midwest). These waters help to create some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises you’ve ever seen. During the dog days of summer when the weather is 90+ and humid in Middle Tennessee, the weather in DC is low 70’s to low 80’s and … not humid. The county is big – but not overwhelmingly so. There are more than 10 distinct villages in DC – each one unique in its own way and offering a different Door County experience from the next. 

A sailboat in Door County.

What to Expect

Door County’s timelessness is picturesque with endless historic farms, homes, barns and cute spots like Anderson Dock. 

Expect to be amazed by the sights, sounds and the abundance of green and multicolored farmland. You’ll be wondering — just as I was — how you never heard of this wonderful place. 

Things to Do

On top of the pleasant sights and scenes, you and your family can do a multitude of activities: zipline at Rowley’s Bay Resort; do a guided scenic kayak tour with Door County Kayak Tours; take a scenic cruise or charter with Shoreline (my personal favorite experience); enjoy breathtaking hikes in Peninsula State Park; relax on family beaches like Nicolet Beach in Peninsula State Park and literally SO. MUCH. MORE. There are also soothing spas and great shopping options, too! 

 

The sun rise over Lake Michigan silhouetting wild grasses on the shore of Door County, Wisconsin’s Cana Island.

Time to Eat

Door County offers no shortage of delicious and entertaining food options for the family. Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor in Ephraim has been offering classic burgers and the most gargantuan ice cream sundaes to families since 1906! Grandma’s Swedish Bakery has been making the same delicious pastries for more than 50 years. Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik is the only US restaurant with a patent that allows goats (yes, goats) to graze the grass on its roof while you eat in or outside. PC Junction offers great food and is a homerun for the kids as all orders are served via train – yes train!

Adults will appreciate One Barrel Brewing or Alexander’s of Door County for more of a romantic sunset dinner. 

 

Wilson’s Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor is a favorite staple of Door County.

All in All:

DC is complete with 53 public swimming beaches on 300 miles of shoreline, 11 historic lighthouses, five state parks, more than seven local wineries and breweries, 11 golf courses, 2,500 acres of cherry orchards, more than 100 art galleries/museums/music venues, more than 50 family owned hotels and some of the greatest bakeries in the USA like Scaturo’s in Sturgeon Bay.  

DC provides a beautiful space to relax, enjoy the people and escape the go-go-go mentality of everyday life. Upon arrival, you’ll quickly find that there are endless opportunities for both yourself and your family as well as an invitation to just … be. 

Getting There & Staying There

• Fly into Green Bay (GRB), rent a car and drive an hour to DC

• Fly into Milwaukee (MKE), rent a car and drive two-and-a-half hours to DC

• Fly into Chicago (ORD or MDW), rent a car and drive three-and-a-half hours to DC

• A Road trip from Nashville can be done in around 13 hours

 

Gordon Lodge, located in Door County, is a resort that lets you experience the beauty of forest and lake. The lodge opens for the season on May 6, 2022.

There are countless places to stay in Door County, ranging from rental homes to hotels to camping sites. For more information, visit Destination Door County (doorcounty.com) to help you plan your great family adventuring. 

 

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About the Author

Noah Garrison Day

Noah Garrison Day is an avid outdoorsman, freelance writer, and a graduate of Sewanee, The University of the South. He lives with his wife in Nashville.