If you’re anything like us, winter can be a bit of a drag – it’s dark, cold and precipitous. Though it’s hard to feel like doing much of anything besides hiding out inside binging on Netflix, it can actually be a really great time to visit some destinations that are typically crowded during other times of the year. Check out this post for some great things to do in Door County Wisconsin – with heavy Scandinavian influence and tons of state parks and places to explore, it should be on your list for pursing friluftsliv – the Norwegian word for the joy of being outdoors!
Note: we partnered with Geiger PR and Destination Door County to showcase everything the magic of Door County has to offer, but our experiences and curiosity are our own.
A Quick Note for Curiosity During Current Times
Just because you are going on a getaway doesn’t mean you can let your guard down – and you still need to be respectful of those putting themselves at risk in the hospitality industry and the communities that you’re visiting. Mask up at all times, don’t go out if you’re sick, tip extra and be kind, courteous and empathetic!
Where to Stay – Door County Hotels
There are a TON of different Door County hotels and places to stay in the northern Wisconsin peninsula – everything from resorts and inns to Airbnbs and cabins, you’ll find a lodging solution. Some options to note:
The Landmark Resort Egg Harbor, Door County Wisconsin
For our experience with Door County hotels, we opted to stay at the Landmark Resort – and we LOVED it. Their commitment to safety and cleaning protocols left no stone unturned – only one person in the lobby at a time, masks, social distancing, plexiglass dividers between the staff and you, and staff is all wearing masks. Our suite was in the Harbor building with a lake-facing view and it was stunning. The room was sparkling clean – with lots of extra towels (daily service isn’t available during this time), remotes sealed, etc. It also had a kitchen (with a small stove, oven, and dishwasher too!) cook if you’d like, too! Oh – and they also hold the Travel Green Wisconsin certification – you can learn more about it here.
Things to Do in Door County Wisconsin
When it comes to things to do in Door County Wisconsin, summertime activities probably come to mind – camping, kayaking, fish frys and other Wisco pastimes. But winter is uniquely positioned to offer up some other amazing options that will get your blood pumping and your stress levels down.
HandsOn Art Studio
Did you know that there have been studies (like this one from Drexel) that show that making art is proven to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol? What better way to get some R&R then by getting truly hands on at HandsOn Art Studio?! Cofounder and co-owner Karon Ohm and her husband Cy Turnbladh have built a gigantic campus of creativity in Door County on an abandoned farm with the mission of making art accessible to everyone, where a day pass gets you access to everything from mosaic, pottery and jewelry stamping to metalworking, ceramics and glass fusion. Don’t want to go to the studio? You can also grab Art-to-Go kits to get your creative on from the comfort of your own room.
The thing we especially loved about Karon was learning how much she cares about bolstering her team and the community – she verdantly includes her team in strategy and decision making for the business, and also encourages creative play and skill building – for every hour employees work, they receive $2 of art credit in addition to their pay so they can work in the studios. She also helps them set up their Etsy stores, market themselves and mentors them on building careers in the arts.
Says Karon, “I always welcome their ideas. We pay them not only for their time here and their physical work, but I also pay them for their ideas. It keeps them engaged – they can see their ideas, they have input – and it makes them take more ownership.”
Learn more at handsonartstudio.com.
Things to Do in Door County – Outdoor Activities
If you want to enjoy friluftsliv – the Norwegian idea of enjoying getting out in nature – you have plenty of options in Door County. Just a few of our favorites:
Activities in DoCo
- Door County Kicksleds: Historically used by the Swedish, Finnish and Norwegians to carry fish, ice, firewood, etc., kicksleds have evolved into an amazing winter activity that is accessible to anyone – young kids, adults and even older outdoor lovers – especially in slick or icy conditions. Door County is only one of 4 places in the United States where you can purchase kicksleds right now (the others are Minnesota, Alaska and New Hampshire).
- Fat Tire Snow Biking at Nor Door Sports & Cyclery: this rental spot is right across from the Peninsula State Park, where there are a few different roads you can cycle that wind through gorgeous scenery on moderate and easy pathways. Takes a little getting used to, but it’s a unique way to get outdoors – and can be a workout!
Places to Go in DoCo
- Ridges Sanctuary: Wisconsin’s oldest non-profit nature preserve sits on 1,600-acre of land and has been designated as a national natural landmark, an important birdwatching area and a Wisconsin state natural area. If you go in winter you may be able to try the nighttime luminaria-lit Hidden Brook Boardwalk!
- Whitefish Dunes State Park – perfect for kicksledding, hiking and photography – Cave Point County Park is a can’t-miss natural wonder. The rock formations are made of dolomite rock (basically limestone with extra magnesium) and over 400 million years old!
- Newport State Park – amazing place for trail walking, cross-country skiing, and stargazing – it’s actually one of the International Dark Sky Association designated parks in the country!
- Peninsula State Park – gorgeous spot for snow biking (there is a designated road for bikes), walking, hiking, fishing and all kinds of other activities.
Things to Do in Door County – Eating
As a heads up, Wisconsin does allow indoor dining and patrons visiting these places have varying levels of commitment to safety protocols – so proceed at your own risk. However, we found that we still had a great time and got to comfortably try a lot of delicious takeout and outdoor dining. A few of our favorites:
- White Gull Inn: a must-visit when in Door County; they are known for their famous fish boils, as well as their cherry-stuffed French toast. We had a reservation to dine onsite and they went above and beyond in accommodating us – they had heat lamps in the back and sipping coffee while snow fell softly around us was magical!
- Hugel Haus: influenced by Wisconsin’s strong German culture, Hugel Huas offers delicious and hearty fare that’s easy to carry out or even eat in your car. Highlights included the cheese curds, the Best of the Wurst platter and the Jagerschnitzel platter.
- Wild Tomato Pizza: as far as pandemic food options go, pizza is probably one of the best – it’s made for carry out and can be easily eaten on the go. We placed our order, picked it up and happily munched away in our car, using the pizza box as a platter. Go for the Paisano!
- Trixie’s: a natural wine bar with great eats in Ephraim. They focus on wines that are produced with traditional, sustainable and organic methods – each of the featured wines captures the essence of where they are grown. Their wine list also prominently features female winemakers to help build their presence in the industry. Food-wise, ingredients are picked with seasonality in mind and sourced locally and everything is made from scratch. They also offer a stellar takeout menu with great sandwiches, soups and salads!
- Door County Coffee & Tea Co.: loved this little spot for grabbing coffee on the way out of the area – if you didn’t get a chance to do any souvenir hunting, this is a perfect place for last-minute shopping, too. In warmer months they have a great outdoor seating area – would love to come back and check it out!
- Sonny’s Italian Kitchen and Pizzeria: an Italian and pizza spot serving delicious fare and large portions in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, which makes it a perfect stop on your way in or out of the area – but it’s quickly evolving into a destination in its own right. Indoor dining is permitted here and tables/diners are spaced out. In the warmer months, they have a number of outdoor seating areas, a Tiki Bar, and they also have future plans for a food truck for pizza by the slice, beer and other delicious treats. Downstairs you’ll find the microbrewery and taproom called Bridge Up Brewing Co. (which is also open year-round and serves its beer upstairs at the restaurant, too) – they brew a range of craft beers and welcome any and all input from the community – truly beer by the people, for the people. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but a few unique highlights include their Chicago-style deep dish, their pastas and Neapolitan pizzas made with 00 Italian-imported flour, and their cauliflower crust option.
As you can tell, there are a lot of things to do in Door County Wisconsin that will offer safety, seclusion and satisfaction – oh, and don’t forget the friluftslliv!