High on my end of summer bucket list was:
To get the hell out of town.
Preferably a road trip and somewhere, anywhere, near a lake.
So that’s what we did. We headed to Door County, Wisconsin. Admittedly, I barely knew where this mysterious DC was, but the moment I looked it up – I.Was.Hooked.
It had mom and pop, cheese curds, dive bars, and sunsets written all over it. We packed up the Jeep and a giant cooler Anthony got from Costco (and is obsessed with) and set out on a four-plus hour car ride up north.
We stayed the cute Sister Bay Inn, which was just a stone’s throw from town. It was the perfect home base for this little midwestern adventure we were embarking on.
I am happy to report that Door County is full on hygge all the freaking way. Let’s get started.
Pack layers. The weather definitely fluctuates, plus it can be 15 degrees or so cooler than in Chicago. This wrap from Hygge Life is literally the perfect wrap for this kind of trip.
Bring a waterproof phone case.
Have space to bring home goodies, because you’ll definitely want to.
Don’t make too many plans, you’re going to get lost in Door County adventures, walking, eating, drinking, and exploring.
Time, for some reason, doesn’t seem to exist to strongly.
Bring a back-up phone charger. Your adventures may drain your battery.
Alright, now that we have the technical parts of your trip out of the way, let’s talk about all the spectacular things you should try to see, do, and eat/drink while in Door County. This was, without a doubt, one of my favorite midwestern vacations we’ve taken yet.
Experience the sunsets. They are worth every second of sky gazing.
This is what the sunsets in Door County look like.
The sunset above was taken at Sunset Beach in Fish Creek. It’s not so much a beach, but the view is spectacular.
Taken on the pier at J.J’s Restaurant, this sunset was a bit more moody. Disclaimer: we did not eat here so I have no clue how the food is. The sunset, however, is drool worthy.
I cried at this sunset taken in Sister Bay. I was thinking of my mom and just really taking in all of the beauty she is missing. I felt and still do feel so fortunate to be able to experience this earthly stuff. I can’t take these everyday phenomenons for granted.
Rosé matches a Door County sunset perfectly.
Kayaking in Peninsula State Park is a must.
Grab a kayak at Nicolet Beach, row to the island, and go for a hike. It’ll take about 25-30 minutes to row to the island, once there, hop off and explore. Take some water with you, your waterproof phone case and book it for two hours. You’ll have an incredible journey!
More on the park, here.
Drive-In Movie is a must-do.
Without a doubt, pack up your car with snacks and a few drinks – and head to the Skyway drive-in movie theater because it’s the epitome of midwest nostalgia.
Adult tickets go for $9 and be sure to check out the concession stand. It’s so old school. You can tune into the designated radio station or hang those retro speakers on your window. Either way, it’s amazing.
I wish more than anything we were able to see IT: Chapter Two.
Cheese Curds. Just do it.
Holy cow, these cheese curds were outstanding. Perfectly fried. Dip yours in ranch and ketchup…you’re welcome.
* These were from a Marina Fest in Sister Bay, but the truth is, you really can’t go wrong with any fried cheese curds in DC.
The Blue Ox and Bayside Tavern. It’s true, you kind of have to “stop in for just one” as one of our servers put it. So we did.
The Blue Ox (below) is literally like a vintage museum filled with retro everything and old newspaper clippings of major events throughout history.
Relax with a New Glarus beer lakeside.
Or anywhere for that matter. This brewery knows what’s up when crafting its beers. Spotted Cow is a wonderful go-to, but now that I’ve tried Kid Kolsch, I may have a new Wisconsin favorite.
Enjoy the flowers!
Wild. In a vase. At the farmer’s market. They’re everywhere. Enjoy!
The coffee scene.
The miel captured my heart while in Door County. Espresso, steamed milk (I do oat milk), honey, and cinnamon.
Bearded Heart Coffee does great coffee drinks. I heard their smoked whitefish toast is unreal, but they were sold out by the time we got there. That’s saying something. Get a pastry instead because they’re delightful.
Blue Horse Beach Café was another favorite. Again, they kill it in the miel department annnnnd the BLT one. Perfection.
Go to a fish boil.
Our friend, Hillary, told us we had to do this. When it comes to traveling, we listen to Hillary. Good thing we did, because holy crap, it was incredible. Fresh white fish straight out of the lake and right into the cauldron then onto your plate in a bed of butter. You’re going to get down and dirty with this deliciousness. Everything is boiled in that pot, except for the slaw. It’s one of my favorite culinary experiences.
This restaurant is a gem. From the food and drink to the decor and the servers, this spot is absolutely superb. I highly recommend you check it out for yourself. Perfect for a date night or a gal’s night out.
Go to Trixie’s – here.
Stand Up Paddle Board.
We were in the wide open Lake Michigan for two whole hours. And I kid you not, we had it all to ourselves along with a couple kayakers we saw out in the distance. Honestly, there are so many ways to be active while in Door County – if SUP isn’t your thing, know that there is something for everyone.
Blacksmith. The best boutique.
I love going home with a new piece from where ever I travel. I was struggling to find a store that was both in my budget and had cute clothes I’d actually want to buy until a server recommended this store to me, bless her heart. Say hello to the sweet owner, Lisa. Bless her heart too for being so welcoming and warm.
The plaid wrap is one size, $32.
The striped chunky turtle neck sweater, also one size, $48.
Check out Blacksmith, here.
Weinke’s Market – a must stop.
Stop here on your way back to the city for apple butters, heirloom tomatoes, a sunflower maze, and other yummies.
Visit Weinke’s Market, here.
My traveling buddy.
And photographer @anthciancio.
And my traveling buddy’s best buddy.
Anthony got this from Costco and it was basically the best purchase he’s ever made. It was basically our on-the-go refrigerator which made our experience a bit more like glamping.
Door County Gems
Door CountyvHonorary Mentions:
Delicious Soup and piano bar: Have dinner at Chop. It’s deceivingly good. Then, head downstairs and enjoy the dueling piano bar. Such a blast!
Best Home/Stationery Store: Sister Golden
Best Bottle Shop/Cool stuff: Bison Bison
Best Tacos: Taco Cerveza
Mead Tasting: Go to Alpaca to Apparel for mead tasting!
I know we only scraped the surface, so please let me know in the comments what we should be on the lookout for the next time around.
PS. I can only imagine how beautiful the trees look in the fall. Who’s going?!
Happy traveling! xo, Lauren