Only in Wisconsin
Where else to find ice-fishing, sea caves, and one of the world’s longest Nordic ski events?
Ice-fishing in Door County Photograph: John Nienhuis/Destination Door County
Ice-Fishing in Door County
Drive time: 4 hours 30 minutes ■ ■
Part of the Niagara Escarpment, Door County is surrounded by water on three sides — tops for ice-fishing. Go with JJ’s Guide Service (jjsguideservice.com); Captain JJ Malvitz will set you up with everything you need to nab whitefish and walleye. Back on land, explore Peninsula State Park, toss back an old-time old-fashioned at Sister Bay Bowl and Supper Club, and stay at the new Nordic-style Dörr Hotel overlooking Sister Bay (from $89 a night; thedorrhotel.com).
Cross-Country Skiing in Cable
Drive time: 7 hours ■ ■
The home of the American Birkebeiner, the largest cross-country ski race in North America, is perhaps best experienced outside of the actual event, when you can be on the rolling 100-plus-kilometer trail system sans crowds. Book everything you need at Start Line Services, owned by two former Chicagoans, who can set you up with ski and fat-tire bike rentals, lessons, and a cabin with access to the start of the trail — one of the Northwoods’ most peaceful (from $115; startlineinn.com). By late winter, conditions may also be right — and worth the one-hour drive — to see spectacular ice caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
Travel Back in Time in Elkhorn
Drive time: 1 hour 45 minutes ■ ■ ■
At Camp Wandawega (cabins from $650 for two nights; wandawega.com), step back in time at this hip-meets-historic lakeside retreat. Think pond skating, snowshoe hikes, and hatchet throwing.
Wellness in Bayfield
Drive time: 7 hours 30 minutes ■ ■ ■
Now that architect David Salmela has completed his Scandi-inspired cabins on the shores of Lake Superior, frazzled urbanites can lose themselves in the 114 acres of the Wild Rice Retreat (from $199, wildriceretreat.com). Secluded accommodations peer over snow-blanketed birch and pine. Unpack, then consider yoga, apothecary how-tos, jewelry making, dogsledding, or snowshoeing. Finish with a healthy meal by Lars Dukowitz, chef of the beloved Wild Rice Restaurant.
A Proper Ski Trip
Look north to two Michigan mountains that defy their Midwest roots.
Boyne Mountain Photograph: Boyne Mountain Resort
For Newbies on Up
Drive time: 4 hours 45 minutes ■ ■ ■ ■
Maybe Crystal Mountain (from $119; crystalmountain.com) didn’t get the memo that its vertical is only 375 feet. By the look of its high-speed lifts, legit ski school, and posh slope-side accommodations, you’d think this was a Colorado resort. Even its 58 trails are surprisingly varied and fun for pretty much all levels. Off mountain, try outdoor laser tag, Belgian horse–drawn surrey rides, even a Thai foot massage at the massive spa.
For the Hardcore
Drive time: 5 hours 40 minutes ■ ■ ■ ■
Boyne Mountain (from $255, boynemountain.com) doesn’t mess around, with 415 skiable and 500 vertical acres plus something unheard of anywhere near Chicago: a one-mile-long run. There’s boatloads to do off the slopes, too, including Michigan’s largest spa and indoor water park, Avalanche Bay. But perhaps the most exciting will be landing a stay at Chalet Edelweiss, a luxury Alps-inspired guesthouse opening this month.
Get Off the Grid
• Outside Madison, Wisconsin, Anaway Place (from $145; anaway.com) takes up 80 acres of the Driftless Area, where just six cabins and one barn are available for private weekends. We love the Meadow House, with its 360-degree views and wood-burning stove. Hop in the car and go. ■ ■ ■ ■ ■
• Gourmands can get their fix at Goldberry Woods Farm (from $179; goldberrywoods.com), in Michigan’s Harbor Country, 90 miles from Chicago. Its kitchen draws on the 30-acre farm to prepare breakfasts delivered to the inn’s eight rooms. Though daylight is short, make the most of it with cross-country skiing — and together time in the enclosed pool and hot tub. ■ ■ ■ ■