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Wisconsin Parent

Taking your Family to the Osthoff Resort

Nov 03, 2014 08:15AM ● By Julie Henning
I used to think the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake,Wisconsin was a place reserved for people employed in Upper Management or "dual income, no kids" couples retreats. Now having stayed at the property twice in two years, here's why I have shifted that paradigm.

To begin, the town of Elkhart Lake is about as "Small Town Wisconsin" as it gets. I have started telling people Lake Street is like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting; with the original train depot that used to bring weekenders up from Chicago and a grainery that has been cleverly converted into a gift shop and independent restaurant.


Being the type of person who would rather spend the afternoon hiking through the Kettle Moraines than waiting in line to meet Disney Princesses, I feel immediately connected to nature in this part of the state. In fact, the Ojibwa, Potawatomi, and Menomonee tribes considered the waters of Elkhart Lake to have sacred and medicinal qualities. You'll still find cedar trees and elderberry berries thriving around the shoreline. Today you'll find a public swimming beach at Fireman's Park (note: there's a small admission fee).


Elkhart Lake hasn't always been sleepy. In fact, automobile street racing was a major attraction here in the 1950s and you may notice Elkhart Road Race memorabilia in the local pubs and on historic plaques and road signs along County Roads J, P, and A. Located on the outskirts of town, Road America is one of the world's fastest permanent road racing tracks. Next summer we're going to drive up and take a Sunset Cruise around the track.  Families with younger kids will also love the adorable wooden playground at Village Park on the corner of North Lake and E. Rhine.


Constructed in the mid-1990's, today's Osthoff Resort has 245 rooms, all of which have a balcony (guestroom suites with a gas fireplace and a balcony). The North Wing is the most recent addition to the property (added five years ago). To put the size of the complex in perspective, consider this fun fact: room service orders placed at Lola's on the Lake travel an average of seven minutes to reach the opposite side of the building. The second floor on one side is the first floor on the other and this is a bit disorienting.


More like a home-away-from-home than a hotel room, my favorite part of the suite is a fully stocked kitchen with dishes, utensils, pots and pans, range, dishwasher, and microwave. Also worth mentioning is that many of the suites include a washer and dryer, an amenity I would gladly pay for if it meant doing laundry on my own time instead of killing two hours at a laundromat.


And while you can have a lovely meal at one of the two restaurants on the property, you can also bring your own cereal and spaghetti and eat in as a family. Or, make a picnic lunch and take it down to the lake if the weather is nice. Eating out is always our biggest out-of-pocket vacation expense and it seems like everyone has overdosed on chicken nuggets by the end of the trip. I find it's nice to have a balance between cooking your own food and having someone else do it for you. Plus, if you are sharing a suite with friends or relatives, this will benefit everyone in the group. (I didn't see a grocery store in Elkhart Lake, so you may want to make a stop en route.)


A "runner up " to the fully-stocked kitchen is the oversized jet tubs in the bathrooms. Sourcing the plumbing fixtures from the Kohler Company located in the nearby town of Kohler, kids always remember a really cool bathroom and they won't fight taking a bath in your Osthoff suite. By the way, if you're looking for something to do on a rainy day, the Kohler Design Center is like an IKEA showroom with only bathroom products (just keep an eye on your kids when you wander down the bidet isle—the buttons really work). We also LOVE Bookworm Gardens in Sheboygan; just trust me on this one.


Beyond swimming and recreational boating (just stumble down to the shoreline), the resort's Pleasure's Program features seasonal activities like fishing from the pier, bonfires on the beach, and arts and crafts. If you thought ahead and packed your rollerblades, running shoes, or bicycles, consider a 4.43 mile loop around the lake on the historic Lake Street Walkway.


The Osthoff Resort has both an indoor and an outdoor swimming pool as well as an arcade/game room—with the indoor swimming pool and arcade room located on the lower level near the activities center. A popular place for weddings and corporate gatherings, local contractors have been busy expanding the property's total space, including a new 10,000 square foot Grand Libelle Ballroom that will accomodate 850 people for a meal and 1200 people in theater style seating.


Also on site is the L'ecole de la Maison French style cooking school and the highly acclaimed Aspira Spa (stories on these accommodations coming soon)—both are excellent reasons to schedule a first-class girlfriends getaway weekend.


And, last but not least, the Osthoff Resort has several Children’s Holiday Workshops and Holiday Hayrides scheduled for December 6, 13 and 20, 2014. Children will enjoy making their own Christmas ornament, decorating Christmas cookies, being read a traditional Christmas story by Mrs. Claus, and singing Christmas carols while taking a horse-drawn haywagon ride through the village. The workshops are $12/child (ages 4-10) and I think a handmade ornament makes a fabulous trip souvenir.

carriage ride at osthoff

The festivities are part of a seventeen-year tradition of bringing holiday magic to Eklhart Lake through the Old World Christmas Market, a ten day event reminiscent of the centuries-old Christkindlesmarkt of Nüremberg, Germany that features over 70 booths with international and regional artisans displaying their specialty gift ware.

Read more about the 2014 Old World Christmas Market here:

And to save a few dollars, check out the Winter Packages, some of which offer an in-room food credit and admission to the 2014 Old World Christmas Market:

 The Osthoff Resort, in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, is a premier AAA Four Diamond resort located on 500 ft of recreational lakefront. Offering a casual atmosphere within its elegant surroundings, The Osthoff Resort provides a romantic getaway for couples, while year-round indoor and outdoor activities, provide a family with many opportunities to enjoy spending time together. Our conference center offers spacious and well-appointed ballrooms and meeting rooms to assist in the productivity of retreats and conferences for our group guests. A host of seasonal getaway packages are available providing guests varying options for a holiday vacation. Whether spring, summer, fall or winter – The Osthoff Resort is Your Place on the Lake.™

My trip was sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism and The Osthoff Resort. All opinions are my own.