During our time back in the U.S. while we were awaiting our Spanish visas, we decided to get away for a weekend and head to the famed Midwestern destination of Door County, Wisconsin.
From various discussions with Americans and Europeans alike, it appears that not very many folks outside of the Midwest are familiar with Door County. That’s a shame, really…or maybe not, considering how packed it can get during the summer.
So, here’s where it is, the little pinky finger that sticks out of the state of Wisconsin.
It’s surrounded by water on all but one side, and full of woodlands, which would have you think you were in coastal Maine or something if you didn’t know better.
We just wanted a few days to relax and do, well, not much, and Door County in the off-season fit the bill.
It was already cold as winter comes earlier in these parts, so we bundled up and drove several hours north from the Chicago area, ready for that relaxation.
A lot of properties were shut down for the season, but we managed to find a pet-friendly establishment with the fine folks at the Country House Resort.
We had initially called another place, but the lady on the other end of the line was such a jerk that we called these guys instead. And they were surely a real treat. Not to mention the view from our patio.
Must’ve been karma or destiny or something. Darcy and the gang were a delight and we enjoyed our time shooting the nonsense with them at the front counter and getting some local recommendations of places to check out and restaurants in which to feast.
They also made Louis feel like a king, with a doggie gift basket and bowls nearly big enough for him to sleep in.
A lot of our time was spent driving around the mostly empty country roads, taking in the scenery and walking around the parks. This included viewing endless coastline, climbing old fire towers, visiting lighthouses, creeping through cemeteries, and plenty more.
We did our fair share of visiting shops and cafes as well, as we’re wont to do, and obviously had to make our way to a brewery and a winery while we were in the region. First, creepy Christmas Claus.
On the brewery side, we opted for a newer, family-run establishment as some of the other ones in the area came anything but recommended.
Door County Brewing Co. was a real treat, and we sampled plenty of their well-crafted delights while talking to the guys about how they got where they are, and where they’re going looking forward.
For the winery, we didn’t want any of the sweet wines made from alternative fruits that are popular up here (cherry and strawberry and the like). We wanted proper reds made from grapes.
For that, we went to Stone’s Throw Winery in the middle of the peninsula.
Their tapas bar was unfortunately closed while we were there, but that didn’t stop us from running through all sorts of reds they had available, and taking home plenty for family and friends.
Food-wise, we had to hit Al Johnson’s, a famous Swedish breakfast spot down the road from us in the town of Sister Bay.
They’re famous for having goats on the roof (what?), but it was a bit cold for that this time of year.
Plenty of delicious breakfast treats entered our bellies, nonetheless.
We also had great pub food at Husby’s in the same town…
…and, at the suggestion of the staff from the hotel – among many others we ran into around town – we headed to the fish fry at Sister Bay Bowl, which has been doing its thing since 1964.
After getting our fill, we threw down on the bowling lanes and did our best not to embarrass ourselves too badly.
And, when we went to go pay our bill, the bartender said it was covered and wouldn’t tell us who paid for it. We were obviously confused at the mystery benefactor, but looked across the bar and saw one of the hotel managers there.
It was her! She told us, that, if we were willing to accept her recommendations, then the least she could do was treat us to some bowling. How. Freaking. Nice. Thanks so much!
Back at it, the main coffee shop in town was closed for good, it seemed, but up the road in Ellison Bay, we found Brew Coffeehouse.
Good drinks, friendly staff, and way too many delicious-looking cakes and pastries that we couldn’t resist.
Another delight was stumbling across this Polish-themed soup shack called Czarnuszka in the village of Ephraim.
We were looking for a coffee shop called Leroy’s Water Street Coffee, a couple doors down, which was closed that day, because “the guy just doesn’t show up sometimes.” Okay!
Leaving the coffee shop for another time, we sat down for a bowl of soup. Why not?
I have no idea what the brains were behind this Polish theme, but the guy at the restaurant has a Polish girlfriend, although we didn’t find out if that relationship happened before or after the restaurant. Either way, it was quite good!
We did make it back to Leroy’s the next day, though. Because of course we did. Because coffee.
Thankfully, they were open the next time we came through. Phew!
One other spot we ate at was Alexander’s, but the lighting was all romantic-evening-time-can’t-see-anything, so all of our pictures came out horribly. The good news is that the food was excellent, and the staff was a joy to talk to (and good at their jobs, of course).
Beyond food and drink and roaming around the gorgeous scenery, we also headed over to a house to see if an old family friend of Ang’s still lived there.
Her family had a house in Door County back in the day, and she didn’t seem to have much trouble finding the friend’s residence. We knocked, and what do you know, she still lives there.
We also went over to where their old house was to check it out and take some pictures. A bit of reliving some childhood memories for Ang.
Overall, we had a blast in Door County. While we froze our butts off and it actually snowed while we were there (gross)…
…it was the perfect mix of relaxation and exploration. The kind of laid-back, do-what-you-will-as-long-as-it’s-not-too-much adventure that we greatly appreciate.
I’d love to see this area when the weather is warmer, but there’s a bit of a wrench in that dream as the warm weather brings madness to the peninsula. Ah well, a guy can dream.
If you’re headed to the Midwest and didn’t know about Door County, we highly recommend it for at least a few days of good times. If you’re from around these parts, you already know how great it can be.
Thanks to all the locals who were so nice to us during our little invasion. The recommendations and the hospitality are all greatly appreciated. Until next time!
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Have you ever been to Door County? If so, what’d you think? If not, what say ye? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!