Do you know what happens when you tell people in the South that you are going to Door County, Wisconsin - in February? Their eyes widen and their mouths begin to drop open and they look at you like you are CRAZY.
Wisconsin in the Winter?! Yes, in the winter! These folks are used to the cold weather and snow and they don't let it slow them down.
And where is Door County? Door County is located in the upper part of Wisconsin on a peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan.
But let me tell you - you aren't crazy if you go to Door County in the Winter. Or any other time of the year for that matter. Door County is an awesome place with really friendly people.
I was a guest in Door County in February and had an amazing time. I am going to share with you five good reasons you should visit Door County.
1. The Food!
Swedish Pancakes at Al Johnson's
Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant is a family-owned restaurant in the sweet little village of Sister Bay. The restaurant serves authentic Swedish pancakes, Swedish meatballs, and cups of hot chocolate that will make you drool.
The attached shop sells traditional Swedish goods and food that will bring out your inner Swedish chef. Be sure to pick up a box of pancakes mix and a jar of lingonberry jam to take home with you. (If you don't have room in your suitcase, you can always order it online from their store or at Amazon.com.)
If you dine during warmer weather, be sure to look for the goats that are on the roof grazing.
Artisan Coffee at Door County Coffee & Tea
Door County might not sit at the right elevation for growing coffee, but the people at Door County Coffee & Tea have figured out how to roast coffee beans to perfection at their 20,000 square foot facility.
They roast more than 100 varieties of coffee. Not only that, they use only Specialty Class 1 Arabica coffee beans, which are the top 2% of what’s grown in the world. In addition to great coffee, you can enjoy a delicious breakfast (I enjoyed the strata) and shop for all of your coffee needs all in one place.
Blue Cheese Chips at Juniper's Gin Joint
Who'd thunk that you could order Blue Cheese Chips at a gin joint? It's true. So even if you don't drink, you can stop by Juniper's Gin Joint in Fish Creek and order a few delicious appetizers such as the chips pictured above. They also serve some pretty tasty fried Wisconsin Cheese Curds and Tobacco Onions.
The Seat Mac 'N Cheese at Scaturo's
I had plate envy when I had lunch at Scaturo's in Sturgeon Bay. Everything looked so good! I ordered the Italian Chef Antipasto Salad and I highly recommend it.
However, if you are seeking comfort food, order The Seat Mac 'N Cheese (pictured above). It's made with a homemade three-cheese sauce and pasta, then topped with Marchant's bacon, Renard's 2-year white cheddar, and diced tomatoes. (Tip: It may not be on the menu, but you can request Diet Coke.)
Renard's Cheese Curds
A trip to Wisconsin would not be complete without stopping at a shop to pick up some fresh cheese curds. When you see Renard's, you better pull over so that you can pick up some of the freshest, squeakiest cheese curds you will ever have.
Renard's Cheese Store is family-owned and operated by the third generation of cheesemakers. The prices at the store were some of the best that I saw on cheese curds and jam.
Tip: Freeze your cheese curds after you buy them. Keep them in the freezer before you get ready to return home and then pack them in your carry-on luggage. You know, in case you get hungry on the plane or while waiting at the airport.
Door County Cherry Pie at Sonny's Pizzeria
In addition to cheese curds, you have to have something made with cherries when in Door County. (There are over 2500 acres of cherry orchards in Door County.)
At Sonny's Pizzeria, you can delve into fresh-made pizzas, pasta, and dessert. The Door Cherry Pie is not to be missed. If the weather is nice, be sure to take in the views since Sonny's is located on the waterfront at Sturgeon Bay.
Texas Brisket Sandwich at Shipwrecked Brew Pub
When in Egg Harbor, you have to stop at Shipwrecked Brew Pub. The cozy interior has a nautical theme that fits naturally in this lakeside community. There you can sample their beer by ordering a Plank 'O Brews.
They also serve a pretty mean Texas Brisket Sandwich (smoked brown sugar rubbed beef brisket sliced thin & piled on a Sheboygan roll with caramelized onions and creamy horseradish sauce). I ordered my sandwich with a side of coleslaw.
2. The Drinks!
Door County is a great place to pick up a bottle of wine and try some spirits.
Door County Distillery
Door County Distillery crafts its namesake products in small batches in an artisanal copper pot using water that contains natural limestone and mineral notes from the Door Peninsula.
Their brandies and whiskeys are likewise small batch made and flavored by Door County natural ingredients like Door Peninsula cherries. There is a wine bar, too, where wine tastings are available. During the summer, Door County Distillery is open daily from 10 am - 6 pm.
If you spot Moai head lookalikes, then you have arrived at Harbor Ridge Winery. The icons have become, more or less, the mascot of the winery and you will spot their likeness on a few of the varieties of wine that they produce and sell. (I highly recommend Knockin' Heads Red if you like smooth, slightly fruity wine.)
The people at Harbor Ridge Winery are passionate about their business and are some of the nicest people you will meet. In addition to wine, you can shop for all-natural soap (the cherry almond is my favorite!) and authentic Wisconsin cheese at the winery.
Cherry Margarita at Mojo Rosa's
Mojo Rosa's is the kind of place you go to unwind and just be yourself. The restaurant offers a variety of Mexican dishes, $10 Tapas, burgers & chicken, broasted chicken, and soups & salad.
If you are thirsting for beer, they have over 99 to choose from. Personally, though, I think that the Cherry Margarita should become their signature drink - it was the best margarita I have ever had. Seriously.
Flight of Beers at Starboard Brewing
If you are in downtown Sturgeon Bay on the weekend (well, Thursday - Sunday), Starboard Brewing is the place to be.
Starboard Brewing is Sturgeon Bay's first nano-brewery and has some pretty tasty beer on tap. (My favorite was Winter Long, the one on the right.) Not sure which one you would like? You can order a flight and discover which one will be your new favorite.
3. The Fun!
Sleigh Ride via Mayberry's Carriages
If you are in Door County when there is snow, then you have the opportunity to take a sleigh ride through the cherry orchard and dreamy woods by Lautenbach's Orchard Country Winery. The 30-minute ride is led by two beautiful horses pulling a large sleigh. The jingling of the bells adds to the ambiance of the experience. After the ride, guests can shop at the winery and sample local wines (for adults only, of course) and ciders.
Authentic Fish Boil at White Gull Inn
Over 100 years ago, Scandinavian settlers would boil freshly caught fish over an open fire. The tradition continues today at the White Gull Inn where diners can watch the fish boil over and then go inside and enjoy the fish along with potatoes, coleslaw, and fresh-baked bread.
My favorite part of the experience was the cherry pie that comes along after the meal. It is made with a sweet crust and topped with whipped cream.
4. The Arts!
Stephanie Trenchard and Jeremy Popelka are true artisans. From the moment you step foot inside their studio/gallery, you will see displays of their gorgeous art everywhere.
The handcrafted glass pieces will remind you of fine Murano glass that is made by artisans in Italy, as it should since it is made in very much the same way. The couple's art has been featured around the United States.
Coffeehouse Concerts (Deathfolk pictured above)
Door Community Auditorium plays host to some well-known artists. In 2015, music greats such as Melissa Etheridge, The Charlie Daniels Band, and Lyle Lovett & His Large Band were among the headliners.
Previous artists include Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Rosemary Clooney, Harry Belafonte, Jeff Tweedy, and Alison Krauss. DCA also hosts coffeehouse concerts, which are fun little, intimate performances by yet-to-be-famous artists such as Deathfolk. (Click here to hear them sing Come on Up to the House.)
5. The Scenery!
View from Room 1301 at The Landmark Resort
While I was in Door Creek, I was a guest at The Landmark Resort in Egg Harbor. The resort is a hotel/condominium complex that provides the comfort of a home and amenities of a resort, such as indoor swimming pools, sauna, and whirlpool. I was fortunate to be in a two-bedroom unit that had views of Green Bay. I was able to enjoy my morning coffee with the incredible view you see above.
Historic Noble House in Fish Creek
This beautiful home is located in the village of Fish Creek. Completed in 1875, it was the first to be made of lathe and plaster and is the oldest remaining residence in the village.
How To Get to Door County
There are a couple of airports that you can fly into to get to Door County: the Austin Straubel Airport in Green Bay (one hour drive to Sturgeon Bay) and the Appleton Airport is the next closest (one hour and twenty minutes to Sturgeon Bay). From there, you can rent a car or make other arrangements for ground transportation.
More to do in Door County
There are over 300 miles of shoreline, beaches, and bluff in Door County. There is something there for everyone - fishing, golfing, biking, exploring the outdoors, and exploring the rich maritime past at Door County Maritime Museum.
My advice to you should you get the change to go to Door County - GO! See why the community of quaint villages and towns has won numerous awards and accolades.