Going All American
Looking for a winter getaway to warm the heart and enrich the soul? Destination Kohler, located about 90 minutes north of Milwaukee, combines Midwest charm with a 5-star resort's elegance. From a Pop-Up Winter Wonderland to unique hydrotherapy spa experiences, Destination Kohler is a great option for those seeking to escape the winter blahs.
The American Club
Kohler, Wisconsin, is the headquarters of Kohler Co., the manufacturing company best known for bath fixtures. The American Club began as a housing project for Kohler's immigrant labor force. Walter J. Kohler believed that "A worker deserves not only wages, but roses as well," and set out to build a dormitory that would include a pub, bowling alley, and barbershop, according to The American Club website.
The village incorporated in 1912 and Kohler turned to the architectural firm of Olmstead Brothers to design the community, said Travis Gross, Executive Director of the Sheboygan County Historical Society. The Olmsteads were known for landscape architecture and the use of open spaces—their father, Frederick Law Olmstead, designed Central Park in New York City.
"It was a community that was all designed and planned to be this quaint, little garden community," Gross said. "And it still holds true today."
In 1981, the Tudor-style American Club transformed into a 5-star resort destination. Today, The American Club provides a classy, upscale experience with a friendly Midwestern vibe. It offers elegant, themed rooms that embrace Americana, such as the Mark Twain Suite, and several quality restaurants.
Kohler offers plenty of fun all-season activities including The Shops at Woodlake. This planned commercial area offers a variety of unique locales such as the Craverie Chocolatier Café, which offers tasty chocolates and signature pastries.
Gross said that although Kohler has grown a bit since 1912, the original vision, feel, and commitment to open space is the same. "Each of those specific areas matches and flows. The planning of the community has remained," he said.
Kohler Waters Spa
In the summer, one of the biggest draws of The American Club is its championship quality golf courses—Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run. The club has hosted three PGA Championships in the past, however, that doesn't mean that the American Club is not a great winter destination. The award-winning Kohler Waters Spa is a year-round attraction and provides a relaxing respite.
Guests at The American Club take a short walk to the spa or hop on a quick shuttle ride. Inside guests have a wide variety of service options from traditional facials and massages to unique hydrotherapy treatments, such as the Cascading Waterfall Massage, which incorporates a Swedish massage with warm rain.
The spa is the epitome of pampering. The men's and women's locker rooms include steam, sauna, and— for the brave—a cool plunge. While waiting for your spa appointment, you can take a dip in the 30-foot relaxation pool with an 8-foot waterfall. The spa experience at Kohler is more than enough to rejuvenate anyone who has grown tiresome of cold temperatures and gray skies.
Pop-Up Winter Wonderland
The Kohler Pop-Up Winter Wonderland offers guests a variety of activities including Bavarian and Olympic curling, ice skating, or you can venture out for some fat-tire snow biking. Depending on the snowfall, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are available. A warming barn provides a cozy escape from the elements complete with seasonal offerings of warm hot chocolate and marshmallows.
Gross said that during the holidays, the village has several events to celebrate the season and is a sight to behold: "They must have thousands of lights they put up. It's really something to see.”
Among the seasonal events is the annual Gingerbread Festival held during December at the Walderhaus, Gross said.
Other fall and winter activities include pheasant and partridge hunting, available at River Wildlife, the resort's 500-acre nature preserve. Hunting trips come with an expert guide and hunting dog, allowing guests to explore three hunting fields situated along the Sheboygan River and snow-covered forest.
A Unique Experience
Kohler is a planned company town that has become a unique tourist destination. The attention to detail in Kohler's planning comes through, whether you are looking at the architecture of the residential homes or the beauty of The American Club. "The history of Kohler is something special; there are not many communities like this in the U.S.," Gross said.
Brian Slupski is a writer living in Chicago, Illinois.