Getting Hygge With It
Lean into Winter Culture in Door County Wisconsin with this Itinerary
It’s the tail-end of winter depending on where you live. It’s gray and cold and the winter holidays and celebrations are over. In Nordic cultures, rather than despondently awaiting the return of spring, they revel in the stillness. There’s even a word for it—hygge—which means a mood of coziness and contentment.
In Door County, Wisconsin — which has a huge Nordic population — there are no doldrums of winter, only snug serenity.
If you’re from the Midwest you might take various weekend escapes to Door County, but to many in other areas of the U.S., it remains an under-the-radar gem. It’s a precious peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan with 70 miles of quaint beach towns to discover. While Door County is a perfect spot for swimming, hiking, and warm-weather activities, a new wave of winter tourism is gaining popularity and visitors are enjoying the hygge culture. Read on to plan a relaxing trip to this humble region.
Winetraveler Tip: Considering traveling to Door County? Your best bet is to first fly into one of the three near-by international airports. Austin Straubel Airport (Green Bay) is closest airport to the region, followed by Appleton Airport and then Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport. We recommend renting a car and then driving once you arrive. Each of the aforementioned airports have car rental centers. You can get updates on flight deals as they arise here.
Where To Stay in Door County, WI
The Blacksmith Inn is a delightful inn overlooking Lake Michigan. The attention to detail is perfection across the board. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the inn is a rendition of August Zahn’s blacksmith shop in Germany. The stove-wood walls and rustic beams are enchantingly old-time-esque, while modern luxuries such as in-room whirlpools and electric fireplaces add hints of luxuriousness. Homemade soaking grains are left by the tub with a soft robe hanging beside it. An array of snacks and drinks are free for the taking downstairs in the main area and in the morning freshly-baked goods and Door County Coffee is available.
Restaurants To Try
You are in Wisconsin, so recognize that cheese is life. Renard’s Cheese is an absolute must. The selection of local cheese, meats and other delicacies is massive but the staff will guide you through with daily tastings to navigate your preferences. There is also a lunch counter to order up Renard’s famous cheese curds and an array of sandwiches.
Heirloom Cafe & Provisions is your go-to for a more health-conscious meal. Fresh, local ingredients make up the seasonal breakfast and lunch menus. Wine and local beers can be enjoyed in the rustic and comfy pillowed booths.
What is cozier than freshly-baked bread? MacReady Artisan Bread Company uses grains from Meuer Farm in Chilton, WI. to make their delicious breads. It’s not just a take-out bakery—sit down and have a wholesome lunch. The Classic Braunschweiger Sandwich (thickly sliced liver sausage, raw onion, and grain mustard) is a must-try.
Don’t miss an authentic Scandinavian fish boil at The White Gull Inn. Dinner and a show! Fresh Lake Michigan whitefish caught by local fishermen is cooked outside over an open fire. Expect a lot of theatrics as the flames shoot up like fireworks around the cauldron. The fish is served with red potatoes, coleslaw, and homemade bread. Door County is home to over 2,500 acres of cherry orchards and the region is known for its Montmorency cherries, so cherry pie is the obvious dessert of choice.
Sister Bay Bowl is a classic Midwestern supper club. You feel like you stepped into a time capsule upon entering. Grab a cocktail at the bar that overlooks the old school bowling lanes before being seated for dinner. Classic supper club dishes such as prime rib, lake perch, and T-bone steaks will fuel you before hitting the lanes.
Pretend you are in Sweden at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant & Butik. Straight away you will feel transported before stepping through the door when you notice a bunch of goats hanging out on the restaurant’s sod roof. Inside is a shop with Swedish crafts, housewares and culinary goodies. The restaurant serves authentic Swedish dishes and a rotating menu of craft and European beers both inside and at the outside Stabbur (beer garden).
Where To Grab a Drink
Since 1993, Door County Coffee & Tea has been roasting specialty class 1, Arabica coffee beans to be enjoyed in the little cafe adjacent to the roastery, as well as 30 states nationwide. If dining in, settle in with a strata and a cuppa and relax with the friendly staff.
One Barrel Brewing boasts an open space where guests can grab a board game or sidle up to the bar. The beers rotate according to season and availability (with some mainstays). Try the cherry Kolsch–made with local cherries–if it’s available.
Speaking of cherries, Lautenbach’s Orchard Country is cherry central. At the bar, they serve an array of fruit wines and ciders made from fruit grown on-site and sourced from other orchards in Wisconsin. The dry, tart cherry wine is not only delicious, but it’s also anti-inflammatory! The store is filled with local comestibles and kitchen goods to take home. Outside there is a game called Pit Spit in which guests take turns spitting the cherry pits down the track and whoever gets it furthest wins. All while a horse-pulled carriage trots up and down the lane of orchards for visitors to ride in.
Door 44 Winery (Parallel 44) is situated on 44° north latitude, the same latitude as Bordeaux, France and Tuscany, Italy, and there are similarities to their growing seasons. Not trying to emulate these regions and instead leave their own mark, it grows and sources cool-climate grapes to show an expression of truly Wisconsin wine. Sip inside or outside around a firepit. Make sure to try the Bubbler, a sparkling wine made with Frontenac Gris and La Crescent and named for what Midwesterners call water fountains.
Things To Do in Door County
Take in a glassblowing demonstration at Popelka Trenchard Glass Fine Art Gallery & Studio led by internationally-known artists, Jeremy Popelka and Stephanie Trenchard. Afterward, stroll through the gallery to see some of their finished products that are up for sale.
Hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski in some of the many outrageously beautiful natural landscapes. Whitefish Dunes State Park offers trails for all different sorts of activities, as does Peninsula State Park. They both offer many overlooks of the sandy dunes against the frozen water. Cave Point is a nature photographer’s dream, offering stunning views of craggy rock, lined with ice formations that seem to drip into the aquamarine waters of Lake Michigan.
Plum Bottom Gallery is not only a one-stop-shop for numerous local artists of all different mediums, but visitors can also watch owner and artists, Chad Luberger in action behind the pottery wheel or his wife, Angela Olsen Luberger crafting jewelry.
Take in some shopping in the bustling districts of Fish Creek and Sister Bay. Some standout stores in Fish Creek are Fred & Co. Clothing Store, Fun Stuff and Alpaca to Apparel. In Sister Bay, make sure to stop into Pipka’s Cottage, Kind Goods, and Spot & Space.