Racing and Small Town Charm Any Time of Year in Wisconsin's Elkhart Lake
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Safety concerns ended the race in 1952 after only three years of driving excitement, but the town still attracts racers and spectators to nearby Road America.
Nostalgic racing fans can still drive that historic course, sedately, of course. In 2006, the Elkhart Lake Road Race Circuits was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Maps are available to help drivers navigate the course. You can find one online at http://historicracecircuits.com Each May Elkhart Lake hosts a re-enactment of those historic races with vintage cars taking to the roads.
Road AmericaThe real motor action today is at Road America, located just outside of the historic town. With over 400 events a year there's almost always something either roaring its way around the curves. In addition to its lineup of professional races, Road America offers drive-your-own-car Sunset Cruising, lets you get on track with their Karting Club, enjoy the white-knuckle fun of riding Pace Car Hot Laps, and much more.
Autumn and Winter on the Elkhart LakeSummer is the major season in Elkhart Lake. The cottages and hotels along the 292-acre spring-fed lake open and people dine in excellent restaurants and shop the local businesses. You can also rent a pontoon boat by the hour, or sign up for a guided tour at Captain Tom's Elkhart Queen.
Don't rule out an Autumn visit when the crowds have gone and the trees surrounding the lake glow red and yellow in the clear sunshine. Or, come in winter to revel in the snow. The locals keep many of the restaurants and several shops open all year.
The Lake Street Cafe offers gourmet salads and sandwiches. Think smoked ham and brie, green apple and toasted walnut salad, and other delicious offerings. But there's also a gourmet restaurant side to Lake Street. The staff bakes their own fresh breads and desserts and change the menu seasonally but from fish to Angus beef the food is stunning.
Another source for mouth-watering dinners is the Paddock Club. Their tuna tartare and the veal and porcini mushroom ragu were dishes I'd have time and again.
The compact historic town center encourages strolling and shopping. Several local businesses are open all year. Stop in Vintage Elkhart Lake and chat with owner and sommelier Jaclyn Stuart. She'll be happy to recommend wines from her personally-selected stock of over 200 bottles. Her shop also sells Wisconsin-made artisan cheese, gourmet chocolates and even special flavors of popcorn. You can also sample some wines by-the-glass, or even a flight of wines, at the tasting bar.
Gina's Fine Art & Framing is also open all year specializing in a wide variety of gift items.
Don't miss Two Fish Gallery. If you're in a group you can arrange for a private lesson taught by co-owner Patrick Robison, but you'll enjoy the diversity of fine art and fine craft available. Patrick and Karen also offer Fair Trade handmade products from around the world.
LodgingThe graceful buildings of Osthoff Resort dominate the lake and offer guests plush comfort, and world-class amenities. The Aspira Spa is designed for calm and meditative reflection with a thoughtful menu of services and treatments. Their Moroccan Hot Oil massage was one of the highlights creating a sense of indescribable physical and emotional rejuvenated. Also on site is Lola's on the Lake for fine dining and Otto's Restaurant for more casual breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Elk Room's spacious yet cozy feel is enhanced by the picture-perfect views of the grounds and the lake beyond. It's a perfect place to enjoy a cocktail before or after dinner. L'ecole de la Maison, their fine cuisine cooking school, provides one-day classes through out the year.
Siebkens Resort also welcomes with gracious architecture and four generations of family history. The comfortable contemporary condominium hotel suites were built in 2008 and offer electric start fireplaces, full kitchens, and well-appointed rooms. Their dining options are only open in season, but the Osthoff is literally across the road and the restaurants in town are similarly convenient.
The Victorian Village Resort offers condominium rooms and its casual Back Porch Bistro restaurant open all year. The tradition of theater presentations is still maintained with its own dedicated space which hosts performances throughout the summer.
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Lake photo by Neala McCarten; Road America courtesy of Road America