When you stay at Destination Kohler, an unusual resort spa in the charming village of Kohler, Wisconsin, you have several great choices. If you want a spa-focused stay, try the Carriage House, a 55-room, three-story brick hotel that was originally the grocery store and shops for the workers who lived at The American Club next door.
Not only is Kohler Waters Spa located in the Carriage House, you get extras like complimentary access to the spa facilities even if you aren't getting a treatment that day. When you check in, you'll be offered a glass of sparkling wine, orange juice, or a Mimosa -- no matter what time of day. A beautiful spread of smoked salmon, bagels, croissants, muffins, fruit and sweetbreads are laid out every morning -- complimentary for guests in Carriage House, who are encouraged to come down in the spa robes and slippers that are found in every room. You are also invited to a complimentary afternoon tea and evening cordials.
The rooms are warm and clubby, with wood-paneled walls, rich jewel-toned fabrics, and beds with fabric treatments that make you feel like a royal. I stayed in a deluxe room with a comfortable red sofa and, as you might expect, an impressive bathroom with a Kohler whirlpool bath and open shower that provided a new kind of bathing experience.
All the rooms are named after a particular type of carriage, and you can learn about it from artwork in the room. I stayed in the Dog Cart room, for instance, where I learned that dog carts were not pulled by dogs, as I initially thought, but used to transport packs of dogs to sporting events.
Spa reception is located on the ground floor of the Carriage House, and it's an easy elevator ride from your room. This is definitely not a place where you have to wander the corridors looking for the spa. It also feels a bit more low-key than The American Club, now a beautiful red brick Tudor-style hotel with 185 guest rooms and 11 suites. It was originally built in 1918 as housing for the workers, most of them immigrants and "single men of modest means" who worked at the factory across the street (still open and available for tours).
In 1918 Walter J. Kohler, himself the son of an immigrant, envisioned The American Club as a place where immigrants could live in a clean, comfortable environment, learn English, and develop a love of their adopted country. It was a hugely successful model that lasted for many decades. But in the 1970s The American Club closed, and over several year transformed into a luxury hotel called….The American Club.
It opened in 1981, and was a success. Over the years Kohler expanded, adding four golf courses that people fly in from all over the world to play, a luxurious spa, an inspiring 30,000 square-foot Kohler Design Center, a chocolate company, a 500-acre nature preserve called River Wildlife, and twelve restaurants.
All the rooms in The American Club are named after great Americans such as Mary Pickford, Ernest Hemingway, and John James Audubon, whom you can read about on the walls of the rooms. Destination Kohler gets a lot of business groups and businessmen, and most of them stay in The American Club, so it's definitely a different feeling from the more intimate Carriage House.
There are still echoes of the immigrants life at The American Club. Now serving farm-to-table cuisine, the beautiful oak-panelled Wisconsin Room is original dining room where Kohler employees once feasted. The workers' bowling alley was transformed into a pub called The Horse and Plow, which incorporated wood from the original bowling alley. The Lincoln Room, once a study with a beautiful marble fireplace, is still a gathering place for ambitious men.
Inn on Woodlake is a less expensive lodging alternative, located next to The Shops at Woodlake, all within easy walking distance of Kohler Waters Spa. And if you want your own private cabin, Sandhill is secluded retreat on 350 acres about a ten-minute drive from The American Club. They are all wonderful choices, depending on the kind of experience you want.