Now is a great time to visit Wisconsin’s classic peninsula with average highs at 75 degrees, still-warm waters, and summer business as usual, minus the crowds. It’s also a good time to go beyond what you know to find the more unexpected—and locally loved—side of Door County.
1. Get to Know Wisconsin Cheese
Had your share of fish boils and supper clubs? Get a taste of the statewide passion for cheese. At Schoolhouse Artisan Cheese, a cozy shop just off 42 in Egg Harbor, find some 50 artisan cheeses—from big wheels to small triangle cuts—all made by Wisconsin cheesemakers. (Try Roelli’s smooth Dunbarton Blue or Kelley Country Creamery’s firm and fruity BallyByron.) Further up the peninsula in Sister Bay, baby goats are a telling sign at the entrance of the Napa Valley–vibed Door County Creamery, where you can order wine and cheese at the bar, flatbreads at the deli, or really good goat cheese gelato from an ice cream case.
2. Explore the Outskirts
You could hike Peninsula State Park or boat along the more popular bay side, but try some adventure on the peninsula’s quieter lakeside. Drop in at Cave Point County Park with outfitter Door County Kayak Tours (from $55 a person). Paddle over clear waters and get a unique look at the limestone bluffs and underwater caves formed along the shore thousands of years ago. For a far-flung experience, backpack and camp at the pristine Rock Island State Park, a carless, 912-acre island off the tip of Door County, northeast of Washington Island. It takes two ferry rides to get there (in service through Columbus Day) but the reward includes 2,000 feet of sand beach, hiking trails, and the oldest lighthouse in Wisconsin.
3. Eat Where the Locals Do
Forget Swedish pancakes (and the long wait!) at Al Johnson’s and instead order fluffy flapjacks where the locals do, at the aqua-blue Town Hall Bakery in Jacksonport. In Sister Bay, other local picks include Grasses Grill for a locavore menu that includes a whipped feta and garlic hummus plate, a perfectly creamy macaroni and cheese, and a whitefish Reuben on crunchy marble rye. For something sweet, try a triple chocolate cupcake two doors down at Cupcake Heaven (moist gluten-free cupcakes available, too).
4. Drink Beer and Cider
Forgo the cherry wine and instead taste the Normandy-style pear and apple ciders at Island Orchard Cider in Ellison Bay. Or visit the cider room as part of a Farm & Market Trolley Tour starting at 9:30 a.m. on September 11, which also includes visits to Waseda Farms (known for its organic beef), the Door County Creamery goat farm, Seaquist Orchards Farm Market (the orchards claim the largest acreage of cherries in Wisconsin), and lunch at Grasses Grill ($60 a person, firstname.lastname@example.org or 920-854-4450). There’s also the Egg Harbor Ale Fest on September 20 (1 to 5 p.m., $45 a person at the door) with unlimited sampling of 100 craft breweries, including New Glarus and Shipwrecked.
Where to Stay: Book a room on the lakeside in Baileys Harbor at the pretty Blacksmith Inn on the Shore (from $245). Billed as a B&B, it feels like more with scenic wetlands, private balconies with hammocks, and a dock with complimentary kayaks. Families can reserve the inn’s four-bedroom Orchard House, just across the street (from $395).
See David Bowie’s New Exhibit and Sleep at the Thompson Chicago
Opening September 23 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the new 400-object David Bowie Is retrospective will be the first and only exhibit in the U.S. Admission to the exhibition runs $25 a person or spend $279 for a night at Thompson Chicago plus a build-your-own Ziggy Stardust cocktail kit for two, continental breakfast for two, and a pair of VIP tickets to the Bowie exhibition. See the hotel for more on the package.
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Get a Piece of China’s Moon Festival Here in Chicago
Boisterous beer tents and locals in lederhosen are reason enough to go to Munich’s Oktoberfest (September 20 to October 5), but Rocco Forte’s stunning Charles Hotel gives another: the chance to splurge and show off your own designer-made dirndl. Drop $2,075 on the Munich hotel’s Oktoberfest package for a stay, breakfast, and a made-to-measure Bavarian costume by local designer Sarah Tack of Dirndl Liebe. Tack’s silk and lace dirndl dresses also come with matching accessories. (Rooms at the Charles Hotel sans package run $734 a night).
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