Midwest Vacation Getaway for Grownups

horse-drawn carriage midwest

 Susan Breslow Sardone

The Midwest's top destination resort, The American Club at Destination Kohler has the distinction of being one of only 48 hotels in North America to boast both five-star and five-diamond status.

That's even more of an accomplishment when put into context: This historic hotel, 55 miles north of Milwaukee, was originally built in 1918 to house immigrants who worked in the Kohler factories producing farm equipment.

Today the Tudor-style hotel is a classic and classy destination where couples have the pleasure of luxuriating in fine Kohler bathtubs and showers.

Should you leave your private water wonderland, you'll find a dozen different places to eat and drink, an award-winning spa, four lauded golf courses, shops, and the unique Kohler Design Center, likely to trigger porcelain envy and inspire home renovation.

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Lobby of The American Club

lobby midwest historic
Susan Breslow Sardone.

In the early part of the 20th century, this room was where the immigrant boarders studied to learn English and become citizens. 

Walter J. Kohler, himself the son of an immigrant, fully supported their efforts. Each spring, on the annual “Americanization Day,” men who qualified were taken to the County Court House on company time and received full wages on the day they became American citizens.

Today this portion of the lobby is an elegant pass-through between the check-in area and the Wisconsin Room restaurant.

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Stained Glass Window at The American Club

american club stained glass
Susan Breslow Sardone.

A portrait of an early 19th-century American woman in stained glass and mosaic, this decoration in The American Club lobby is elegant and uplifting.

What's also uplifting is the absence of droves of children. Although they are not restricted from the premises and there is a kids' staff, couples are unlikely to be disturbed by little ones.  The kids we saw (and only at some meals) were well-behaved.

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Wisconsin Room Restaurant at The American Club

midwest restaurant
Susan Breslow Sardone.

Treat yourselves to breakfast, lunch or dinner at the Wisconsin Room inside The American Club. We savored brunch in the wood-paneled room where immigrant workers once chowed down.

A generous bounty of freshly baked breads (including crisp, buttery croissants), fruit, cheeses and other delectables awaited at the buffet. For a more relaxing experience, order from the menu and sip mimosas while waiting for your expertly prepared order to arrive. 

The staff has a collaborative attitude that was nice to see; we noted several people help out an overworked waitress so that patrons received their food and beverages on time.

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Guest Room at The American Club

hotel bed midwest
Susan Breslow Sardone.

The three-story American Club holds 240 rooms in a quadrangle configuration with a center courtyard, so some rooms are quite far from the lobby. All are traditionally furnished with American heritage Baker and McGuire furniture and Kohler bathroom fixtures. The look is sturdy, high-quality and classic. 

Our room was quite spacious with a king-size bed across from a big flat-screen TV. Sensitive sleepers who find the supplied pillows unyielding should reach out to Housekeeping, which will substitute feather pillows. This room also featured a well-upholstered chair and matching ottoman but no couch.

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Bathroom at The American Club

Susan Breslow Sardone.

There's nothing as romantic in a hotel as a bathtub big enough for two. This one at the American Club could provide long, lingering moments of good, clean fun especially when products from the Spa are poured in to mix with the water.

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Eau de Vie Suite at The American Club

Eau de Vie suite American Club
Susan Breslow Sardone.

There's only one Eau de Vie Suite at The American Club, and it's the best in the house. On the top floor, it features a curtained, four-poster king-size bed with a fainting couch at the foot; a glass-enclosed gas fireplace; and an ultra-long (but not notably wide) bathtub for one NBA player or two normal-sized people to stretch out foot to foot. 

This open-plan suite also has a large sink/vanity area with a toilet behind a door. 

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The Carriage House at Destination Kohler

Balcony Carriage House suit
Susan Breslow Sardone.

Carriage House rooms and suites are located above the Kohler Waters Spa, which makes them the best choice for couples who want to spend time using the facilities. 

One of the best guest rooms in the Carriage House has not only a large balcony but also an oversize Kohler spa tub on it, so you can take your ablutions privately. If you're not fans of spas — the humidity, the mind-deadening music, the sight of strangers shuffling around in bathrobes — you can have your own version of one here.

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Sandhill at Destination Kohler

private cabin midwest
Susan Breslow Sardone.

Although it may feel too big for one couple, the private Sandhill cabin would be ideal for a group of friends traveling together. It has a cozy master bedroom upstairs and a guest one below decks. In between is a comfortable great room with a big leather couch in front of a fireplace. There's also a spacious open kitchen and dining area.

The view from the porch is a placid pond.  And Sandhill is appealing year-round: the outbuilding contains a sauna, heater and big round table, perfect for a game of (naked?) poker in the cool months. 

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Kohler Waters Spa

Kohler Waters Spa.
Susan Breslow Sardone.

Kohler Waters Spa is considered one of the best in the Midwest. It's a short distance from The American Club and can also be reached via an underground walkway in cold Wisconsin winters. And if you're feeling lazy or have trouble walking, take the complimentary shuttle to reach it.

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Couples Room in the Kohler Waters Spa

Kohler Waters Spa bath
Susan Breslow Sardone.

The couples room in the Kohler Waters Spa appears fairly standard, with two massage beds and low lighting. What elevates it is the presence of a huge jetted spa tub (we saw a similar one in the Kohler Design Center priced at about $15,000). So if dual treatments with a side of good, clean watery fun is your idea of heaven, book the room for a Spa Two-gether couples treatment.

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Marrying at Destination Kohler

midwest wedding
Destination Kohler.

Thinking about tying the knot in a scenic spot? Destination Kohler has numerous venues, both indoors and out, to celebrate a wedding. And thanks to its top-rated spa and golf courses, destination weddings that span a long weekend offer multiple activities to keep family and friends entertained.

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Irish Barn at Whistling Straits

irish wedding barn midwest kohler
Destination Kohler.

Adjacent to the Whistling Straits golf course, the Irish Barn can accommodate up to 120 guests. Add a tent if you're having a larger affair, and the capacity extends to 250.

Since this venue only offers buffet dining, couples who want a more formal affair can choose other venues, such as the chandelier-lit Great Bay Ballroom at The American Club. For a more casual celebration, consider the laidback (and dog-friendly) Inn on Woodlake, which can offer its beach or patio for vows.

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The Shops at Woodlake Kohler

midwest shopping kohler
Susan Breslow Sardone.

Need a last-minute wedding gift or want to treat yourselves? Shoppers visiting Destination Kohler can board the complimentary shuttle to reach The Shops at Woodlake Kohler. This upscale strip mall was virtually deserted when I visited, yet it had several shops worth browsing.

Wisconsin Trader arrays a campy camping mix. In addition to products that pay tribute to the state's huntin', fishin' and beer drinkin' ethos, it sells unusual and wacky Christmas trinkets year round (we could picture hanging their glittery s'mores ornament from a tree). 

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Artspace at The Shops at Woodlake Kohler

Artspace Shops Woodlake
Susan Breslow Sardone.

Artspace at The Shops at Woodlake Kohler has a pleasing curated collection of crafts, books, textiles, jewelry, and tchotchkes.​

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Scentualities at The Shops at Woodlake Kohler

lingerie midwest
Susan Breslow Sardone.

This uber-femmy shop arrays lingerie for the bride and others who like their undergarments silky and sexy. Scentualities also sells comfortable and practical lingerie and loungewear in a good range of sizes. Here you can also buy Frette towels and sheets if you fell in love with the brand that graces rooms at The American Club.

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Woodlake Market at The Shops at Woodlake Kohler

wisconsin beer
Susan Breslow Sardone.

Couples who want to assemble their own picnic or grab a snack can find everything they need at the vast Woodlake Market, which has an area with tables. As you might expect, its beer selection is impressive — as is its array of both Wisconsin and imported cheeses.

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Golf at Destination Kohler

golf kohler midwest
Susan Breslow Sardone.

If you didn't care about dining or spas or shopping but were golfers, you'd still put Destination Kohler on your "must visit" list. The resort boasts four highly ranked golf courses, two at Blackwolf Run and two at Whistling Straits. The latter hosts many prestigious championship matches.

Both sections contain a clubhouse, golf shop, and restaurant. In fact, the meal we enjoyed most during our visit was in the cozy Blackwolf Run Restaurant, which features a huge fireplace. The grilled beef tenderloin was impeccable as was the friendly service. And as a non-drinker, this writer appreciated the waitress's suggestion to quaff a tasty creamsicle mocktail.

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Kohler Design Center

Kohler Design Center.
Susan Breslow Sardone.

Our favorite place in Destination Kohler, this museum-showroom is a place to dream in porcelain. Couples who are serious about upgrading or adding home fixtures can consult with the Kohler Design Center team; others can wander among the sinks and tubs, model bathrooms, porcelain art and have a jejune giggle at the wall of toilets.

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History of Plumbing at Kohler Design Center

old bathtub toilet kohler
Susan Breslow Sardone.

The lower level of the Kohler Design Center is a unique museum that traces the history of the town, introduces visitors to the Kohler family, and shows the evolution of indoor plumbing. Examples, from horse troughs converted to bathtubs (thanks to the addition of a porcelain coating and feet) to the wild colors of the 60s to modern conveniences, are on display. There is also a section that shows sculpture and art that uses the medium of porcelain.

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Best of Kohler Design Center

big bathtubs kohler
Susan Breslow Sardone.

The Kohler Design Center devotes the first floor to show its biggest and best products. Have a spare $15,000 and plenty of room? Then the round jetted bathtub in the photo can be yours, complete with neck rest. (It's the same model that's available at the Kohler Waters Spa, so you can try before you buy.) More modestly priced and smaller bathtubs, showers, and other fixtures are also exhibited. 

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Dining at Destination Kohler

filet mignon
Susan Breslow Sardone.

Even if you stay for a week you might not have the opportunity to sample every restaurant on the property. We didn't have the chance to eat at The Immigrant, which is considered the best and most romantic eatery on site. We did dine at Cucina, which serves a poor interpretation of Italian fare. Not only was the food thoroughly disappointing (we ordered the menu's signature items — rubbery calamari fritti and gummy truffle gnocchi sans truffles) but the room smelled overwhelmingly of cheese.

As mentioned earlier, we had the opposite experience at the Blackwolf Run Restaurant. So my advice is: When dining here, stick to things they do well in the midwest like cooking quality beef.

We did enjoy brunch in the Wisconsin Room and lunch at the River Wildlife Lodge, an extended log cabin that serves fresh, seasonal Midwestern fare. Hearty homemade soup, salad, and tempting sandwiches satisfied everyone at the table.

Note: The annual Kohler Food & Wine Experience, which takes place every October, brings in popular chefs and wine experts.

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Craverie Chocolatier Cafe

Craverie Chocolate Café
Susan Breslow Sardone.

Start the day with something sweet at Craverie Chocolatier Cafe, which is located in the shopping area. In addition to barista-produced coffee served in oversize cups, the cafe serves salads, soup, sandwiches, and pastries. It's also a chocolate shop that produces original collections of artisanal chocolates that can be ordered online. Fans of chocolate turtles are likely to favor the house's terrapins. Don't get addicted; they are quite expensive.

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The Greenhouse at Destination Kohler

Greenhouse american club
Susan Breslow Sardone.

A favorite spot in Destination Kohler, the Greenhouse is an antique solarium with stained-glass walls that was imported from England. It is located inside the courtyard of The American Club. Thanks to its overstuffed chairs in clusters respectably spaced apart, it's an ideal place to read, relax and savor a treat from the snack menu of ice cream and smoothies. 

Destination Kohler
The American Club
Official Hotel Website
419 Highland Dr, Kohler, WI 53044
(800) 344-2838

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