Last updated: 07:00 AM ET, Fri March 11 2016

Sheboygan County: Wisconsin’s Heartland Getaway

Destination & Tourism | Violet Baron | March 11, 2016

Sheboygan County: Wisconsin’s Heartland Getaway

PHOTO: Kohler Design Center. (photos by Violet Baron)

The idea of a luxury vacation often calls to mind long journeys abroad — or at least to the far reaches of the United States, where hotspots like Hawaii, New York, Los Angeles and Miami beckon. But savvy travelers need only look toward the American heartland for a dreamy getaway, complete with five-star hotels, five-diamond spas, and enough history and charm to rival a European jaunt.

Leave your passport at home and see America’s Dairyland in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin.

The Osthoff Resort—Elkhart Lake, WI

This five-star resort sits in a small town named for its postcard-worthy glacial lake to the south. Elkhart Lake has seen some new business in recent years, with buzzed-about shops like Vintage Elkhart Lake, stocking local wines and run by a young sommelier, sharing space with older favorites like Lake Street Cafe restaurant.

Known for NASCAR’s Road America, the longest natural racing track in North America (born in the town and now located southeast), the locale plays host to thousands of racing aficionados each summer.

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Consistently awarded four diamonds by AAA, The Osthoff Resort trades quaintness for grandeur, offering one-, two- and three-bedroom suites designed with a Midwestern sense of space and a fully stocked kitchenette; a 10,000 square-foot conference center with banquet space for up to 840 people; and hallways decorated with vintage photos showing the property’s transition from a summer camp for the arts in the 1950s to a condominium resort in the late ‘90s.

Aspira Spa is perhaps the trademark amenity, with special treatments like a hammam, Vichy shower and chromatherapy. The Cedars Massage, a signature treatment, is a particular gem. Fresh local cedar plays a part in ritualistic massages for aromatherapy and relaxation. Masseuse Mindy Jacquat said this treatment utilizes techniques from Native American traditions to provide a unique local offering.

The American Club—Kohler, WI

PHOTO: Accommodations at the American Club.

The small town of Kohler prides itself on its signature line, the Kohler plumbing products that helped America toward a more sanitary and reliable indoor toilette.

The company was co-founded by John Michael Kohler and Charles Silberzahn in 1873, and his son Walter J. Kohler later inherited the company and built up the land as a factory town to enrich the lives of the mostly immigrant men employed by the company.

With this legacy of corporate responsibility and a history of Kohler ownership and civic leadership, the name “Mr. Kohler” still calls up a reverent gaze in many who live there, despite repeated labor strikes.

The American Club has its own part in that origin story. Opened as a boarding hotel for the throngs of immigrant males who arrived in Wisconsin at the turn of the century to seek better lives through factory labor, the Club retains an image of hard-working Americana though it is now an AAA five-diamond resort.

Rooms and suites ranging from 263-787 square feet feature Kohler fixtures, including top-of-the line work like sculpted glass sinks. Dining options include regional fare in an elegant setting at The Wisconsin Room, once the dining hall for Kohler factory workers, and bar food at The Horse & Plow tavern.

The American Club’s spa complex, Kohler Waters Spa, plays with the idea of flowing water for which the town is known. The spa features 21 treatment rooms, a Vichy shower room, a pool with waterfall, separate men’s and women’s lounges and a co-ed rooftop lounge.

A number of massages and treatments are on offer for men, women, and couples, as well as restorative procedures like Craniosacral Therapy for mind-body recovery. Treatments like the aromatherapy Woodsman Massage and Golfer’s Foot Renewal mud treatment are designed specifically for males, while women may book makeup and hair appointments. A 20 percent gratuity is added to all service fees at check-in; this can be adjusted, but no further gratuity is expected.

Blue Harbor Resort—Sheboygan, WI

PHOTO: Accommodations at Blue Harbor Resort.

It’s easy to momentarily forget that the beachy shores before you at Sheboygan’s Blue Harbor Resort are not the ocean itself, but rather the beginnings of Lake Michigan. An hour’s drive from Green Bay, MI and two hours from Chicago, the hotel advances this beachy vibe with soft blue and yellow accents in guestrooms, and a balcony facing the shore. The grand lobby leads to 180 guest rooms and 64 villas, which accommodate up to 14 people in separate rooms and floors.

The property’s Reflections Spa offers a Vichy shower; hair, skin and nail treatments; and bridal preparations. Two- to four-hour spa packages emphasize rejuvenation and stress relief. The resort hosts the Wisconsin Conference Venue, a 16,800 square-foot meeting center with an indoor waterpark and a number of restaurants and stores.

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The city of Sheboygan, meanwhile, boasts a vibrant arts scene with the nonprofit John Michael Kohler Arts Center at its nexus. Internationally prominent visual artists, dancers and musicians appear regularly at this center for the arts, and up-and-coming stars make their debuts. In the summer of 2015, Jamaican artist Ebony Patterson debuted her provocative show “Dead Treez,” now a solo show in New York.

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