A family lake vacation —any time of year—is guaranteed to create beautiful memories that last a lifetime. Chances are, you have a few of your own from your youth. If you are looking for a nostalgic destination that will let you share the glory of lake escapes with your kids, Elkhart Lake is perfect for you. Read on to find out why, and where to eat, play and stay while you are there.

photo: via Elkhart Lake

Vroom! Vroom! Elkhart Lake’s History

In the early 1950’s, motor racing transformed Elkhart Lake from a town that was a prohibition-era haven for gamblers and gangsters into a vibrant vacation location. What started as a gentlemen’s race that took place on the streets of the village and surrounding roads, eventually turned into safety hazard as crowds grew and traffic became uncontrollable. The race was moved to a permanent track on 570 acres of rolling hills southeast of the town. It was the longest natural road-racing track in America, and quickly became a major stop on the international auto-racing circuit.

With thousands of visitors to accommodate during the summer months and race season, Elkhart Lake became a popular vacation destination offering stunning accommodations, a variety array of activities for all ages and exceptional eateries. Today, your family can experience a genuine 1950’s lake escape at Elkhart. Regardless of when or where you stay—or what you choose to do—the area’s timelessness is undeniable and provides the stuff childhood vacation dreams are made of.

Elkhart Lake

photo: via Elkhart Lake

Where to Stay at Elkhart Lake

There are no bad options when it comes to booking a place to stay at the lake. In fact, there are plenty of fantastic options. The gorgeous Osthoff Resort offers expansive one, two and three-bedroom suites as well as guest rooms—all with stunning views. Gaze out the windows at woodlands, the courtyard or even the lake. When the weather is brisk, curl up by the fireplace. Or, stare at the starry-night sky from your private balcony. This smart resort knows how to balance the comfort of home with elegance.

If you want to stay right on the lake, the restored Victorian Village Resort is the perfect option. With charming condos and rooms to choose from, the resort fits families of all sizes. Additionally, guests have onsite dining options including the beloved Barefoot Tiki Bar, which is perfectly situated right between the resort’s pool and the lake.

Finally, the landmark Siebkens Resort should not be overlooked. Owned and operated by the fourth generation of the Seibken family, this Victorian building provides one, two and three bedroom condominium hotel suites with open floor plans, full kitchens, an outdoor pool and so much more. The resort is also home to Sissy’s Coffee Coffee & Ice Cream Shoppe, perfect for beating the heat with its covered outdoor patio. The Cocktail Bar is also attached to the resort and it’s the place to be when races are on as it is a favorite gathering place for famous drivers and fans as indicated by the branded signs, stickers and flags that decorate the place. You can’t go wrong with any of these resorts.

photo: by Annette Benedetti

Family Activities at Elkhart Lake

Water Play
With a multitude of both indoor and outdoor activities, Elkhart Lake is a perfect place to spend your vacation anytime of year. During the warmer months, getting in and on the water is a must. Osthoff rents every kind of watercraft you can imagine wanting for your entertainment. Paddle around in a kayak, canoe or on a paddle board. You can rent a sail boat, hydro-bike or a pedal pontoon. The options are endless. Spend a day on the lake fishing with Jay’ Guiding Service. Jay runs the boat, baits the hooks and you enjoy catching the fish. The experience makes for the perfect day on the lake.

photo: by Annette Benedetti

Race Cars & More
After you are done with water play, grab the race fanatics in the family and head to Road America where over 450 events are held each year. You are likely to catch a race, event or you can sign up for one of their exciting programs. Call for one of their adventure programs including Karting Adventure, Geocaching Adventure and Off Road Adventure. When you get done on the racetrack head over to Throttlestop Car & Cycle Concierge where you can tour their museum which houses a large collections of vintage and rare restored motorcycles. Along with iconic Harley, Indian and Suzuki motorcycles, you are likely to see an incredible array of cars as well.

photo: by Annette Benedetti

History Lessons
Step back in time with a trip to the Wade House Historic Site & Carriage Museum. Take a ride on a horse-drawn wagon and visit the blacksmith in his shop and learn how to shape metal. Stroll over to the sawmill and help the sawmill worker cut wood. Bring your fishing pole and tackle and try to catch a fish in the pond. While your there, don’t forget to head over to the stagecoach hotel where you can receive a tour of its 27 rooms. It will transport you into the past with its costumed guides and reenactments. Before you go, check out the stage coach museum!

photo: by Annette Benedetti

Stretch Your Legs
If you want an activity that includes a whole lot of walking, head to the Ice Age National Scenic Trail where you can hike through the nearby wilderness area. Another great option is catching a game of golf at the Quit Qui Oc Golf Club. This family-owned course has an onsite clubhouse with a pro shop and restaurant. The course is also perfect for a snowshoeing or cross-country skiing adventure during the winter months.

Relax
Do not miss your opportunity to spend a morning, afternoon or day at Aspira Spa located inside the Osthoff Resort. They offer a suite of exceptional spa treatments that include massages, facials, and envelopments. When your treatment is done, you don’t have to run off, you can spend the day enjoying the whirlpool, steam room, meditation room and dining in the spa café.

photo: via Elkhart Lake

Dining at Elkhart Lake
There are so many fantastic places to eat at Elkhart Lake; we hardly know where to begin. Back Porch Bistro at the Victorian Village Resort has a tasty array of entrees that include pan-seared scallops with risotto cakes, short rib and pork wiener schnitzel. Head over to Lake Street Café where you can enjoy 30 wines by the glass along with a wide range of dishes that include pizza, scallops, and the popular tenderloin shiraz. Everything on the kids’ menu is $5. Don’t over look the lobster bisque. We are certain you’ll love it.

The Paddock Club isn’t to be missed. This eating establishment has a regular menu that includes fresh pasta and entrees like fillet mignon and lemon tarragon chicken. But we suggest you go on Tuesdays when you can sample small plates! Order a bit of everything to try and get a taste of dishes like grilled hanger steak, pork shoulder nachos and more. Everyone will fall in love with at least one plate.

Finally, make sure you catch a meal at the Osthoff’s Lola’s on the Lake. The atmosphere is stunning, offering fantastic views and incredible menu options. Lola’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and every dish is exceptionally made. From pan roasted duck breast to herb pasta Pomodora, there’s something to satisfy every craving that hits your clan.

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—Annette Benedetti

This trip was paid for by Elkhart Lake Tourism, but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.

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