by Tom Flynn
Put aside the fact they are rabid Packer’s fans, and the people of Door County, Wisconsin seem like pretty good folks. They love spending time on outdoor adventures: golf, hiking, boating, fishing and sight seeing. Tending to apple, pear and cherry orchards help some of them make a living while others milk cows or make cheese. The rest seem bent on helping you enjoy Door County through a variety of hospitality, food, shopping and tourism endeavors. These hearty Midwesterners stand by to host!
Door County resides on a peninsula reaching into Lake Michigan. The full force of the lake can be felt on its eastern shore; the protected water on the western side of Door Peninsula is Green Bay, hence the reason they love their Packers. Winter, the quiet season, can be brutal. Dress really warm; activities include ice fishing, snow shoeing and photographing snow-draped cedars (Magnificent!). However, snows melt away in March, most shops are open by April and Cherry trees are blooming in May. With the warm weather come the tourists. From near and far, they flock to Door County to enjoy the warm weather activities and the natural beauty.
Life is not just a bowl of cherries. Its cherry pie, cherry cobbler, cherry ice cream, cherry tarts, cherry sausage, cherry salsa, cherry wine, cherry soda, cherry jam and anything else you can make with cherries. Cherry orchards are everywhere in Door County; virtually every business finds ways to utilize the local crop. Country Ovens dries cherries, coats them in chocolate and ships them all over as Cherry De-Lite. Galileo’s Italian eatery reduces them with cabernet and serves the sauce over their scrumptious bacon wrapped pork tenderloin. Savory Spoon cooking school holds classes on baking cherry pies, Fred and Fuzzy’s Waterfront Grill serves tall, tart cherry margaritas, Orchard Country Winery and Market hosts cherry pit spit contests and shops all over the county highlight the cherry in their crafts and products.
During summer months you can tour all day and never get board. Pull into any orchard you see and they are bound to offer tours on planting, harvesting or transforming their crop into wines, pies and other finished products. Orchard Country Winery and Market lets you taste the wines and sample the delicacies. Enjoy a baked egg breakfast at Door County Coffee and Tea Company and go behind the scenes to watch them roast and package their premier coffees. Door County Trolley leads prepackaged tours complete with entertaining guides. Scenic overlooks, lighthouse, culinary, ghost and wine tours are some of the packages they have designed. Keep an eye on the fields as you ride their bright red trolleys around the county. You’ll see plenty of wild turkey and deer!
Outdoor adventures abound. Fishermen can load up on small mouth bass and northern pike in the lakes and bays. Golfers have 11 courses to choose from. Alpine Resort and Golf offers 36 holes; many weave in and out of the bluffs above Green Bay. Their Blue Course number nine hole was rated “the most scenic hole in Wisconsin.” From atop a bluff you your ball will drop over a hundred feet on its way to the green, just 268 yards away. There are rumors of hole in ones with four irons. Hiking is also big. From day hikes in the 3,776 acre Peninsula State Park to pack in/pack out multi day trips in Newport State Park, outdoor enthusiasts can kayak the rivers, climb the bluffs, swim in the clear waters and camp amid the conifers.
Where you have lots of active people, you’ll find lots of hungry people. Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor feeds them Cheeseburgers and Classic Turtle Sundaes in a Norman Rockwell type setting. Fred and Fuzzy’s Waterfront Grill serves whitefish sandwiches with cold beer outside as the setting sun ignites the evening sky with brilliant colors. The Bistro in Liberty Square is the Best Place to Eat Healthy while the Mission Grille serves elegance. You’ll find seared scallops, prime rib and duck confit paired with wonderful wines in this remodeled, turn of the century church. The Savory Spoon helps hungry people help themselves. Chef Janice Thomas teaches and oversees students as they prepare their own meals in her historic 1878 schoolhouse. Now that’s a cooking school!
Fish boils are a must attend event. The luaus of Door County, fish boils are like a dinner show. Historians tell stories as Boil Masters prepare dinner in a large pot over open flames. At Rowley’s Bay Restaurant, 86 year-old Rowley leans on his old wooden staff and tells stories of how Indians and pioneers impacted the area. When the fire flares and the pot boils over, he rings the giant antique dinner bell and leads guests inside to eat a traditional fish boil dinner along with a full buffet of other entrees, sides and desserts.
SIDEBAR: When loggers were harvesting timber in the late 1800s, the most plentiful food was whitefish. Unfortunately the boney, oily fish did not sit well with lumberjacks. Until, they mastered the art of boiling. Salt, potatoes and onions are thrown into a large pot of boiling water. Whitefish, gutted and chopped into steaks, gets thrown into the mix in the last ten minutes of cooking. As the fish boils, the oils are released and float to the top of the pot. At this point kerosene is thrown on the fire. The sudden burst of heat causes the pot to overflow and all the nasty oils flow over the side. The whitefish, now tender and delicious is easy to debone. It is traditionally served with generous amounts of melted butter, corn, potatoes, slaw and rye bread.
American Folklore Theatre can help you wind down after dinner as they perform outdoors in Peninsula State Park. Their signature performance, Cheeseheads, the Musical will pull at your heartstrings as factory workers deal with cheese, love and work in trying economic times. Just down the road, Peninsula Players Theatre in the Garden has been entertaining Door County for 75 years. Lomabardi has locals and visitors packing the house to hear the story of the famed Packers coach.
Lodging is plentiful throughout Door County, but don’t expect Hiltons or Holiday Inns. Small resorts, hotels and bed and breakfasts enhance the areas character and provide quality service. The Landmark Resort is centrally located in the county’s small town of Egg Harbor. Rooms have small kitchens and patios along with great views of Green Bay and surrounding woods. The resort has pools, fitness area, basketball/volleyball/tennis courts and a lively restaurant and bar, the Carrington Pub and Grill. Staying there is extremely affordable, starting around $150 per night for one and two bedrooms during peak times.
Loaded with activities, Door County, WI. is where Midwesterners vacation. The charming community’s family friendly ambiance has been drawing them back for generations. Head north, you’ll see why.
Door County Convention and Visitors Bureau
Country Ovens/Cherry De-Lite
Fred and Fuzzys Waterfront Grill
Door County Coffee and Tea
Door County Trolley
Orchard Country Winery and Market
The Mission Grille
American Folklore Theatre
Alpine Resort and Golf
Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor
Savory Spoon Cooking School
Galileo’s Italian Food
The Bistro Bar and grill
Rowley’s Bay Restaurant
Peninsula Players Theatre in the Garden