Door County, WI: Winter Wonderland

Your correspondent heads to Door County, WI for an active winter weekend with great local food. by MATT CLAPP
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Your correspondent heads to Door County, WI for an active winter weekend with great local food. by MATT CLAPP

Door County, WI is very popular tourist destination in the summer. Less known are its winter attractions. Take a sleigh ride in the snow, watch small waves of ice shards break against the shore of a partially frozen lake, or go shoeshowing at Ridges Sanctuary. Then warm up in between activities with authentic Swedish meatballs or locally-roasted coffee.

Door County is a great option if you're looking to duck out of town for an extended weekend and sneak in a variety of outdoor activities. A great option to fuel up before an early morning adventure is Door County Coffee & Tea Company for breakfast or just to grab a to go cup of their locally roasted coffee. Then head out to the well maintained Ridges Sanctuary, where you can rent snowshoes or stick to their newly-built wooden footpath. If you're looking for something more casual, make a stop at Cave Point County Park inside Whitefish Dunes State Park. Walk along the snow covered ledge and watch the waves crash up against the ice-encrusted rocks.

Need to refuel for lunch? Head to Al Johnson's for authentic Swedish meatballs with gravy, mashed potatoes, and lingonberries just like Grandma Elsa used to make. Or skip lunch entirely and get a little boozy at Lautenbach's Orchard with some cherry wine. Once you've got that warm feeling in your tummy (or head), step outside for a horse-drawn sleigh ride with Mayberry's Carriages. (Don't forget your chocolate-covered cherries!)

If your timing is right, you can catch the incredible experience of small waves of ice shards crashing and tinkling against a partially frozen lakeshore. While my trip to Door County had a lot of unique local experiences, this was definitely the highlight for me.

At the end of the day, head over to the White Gull Inn for a hearty meal of fish and potatoes at an authentic Fish Boil, a tradition started by the peninsula's Scandinavian settlers 100 years ago. Bring your camera for the "boil over". Fish oil rises to to the top of the cauldron and when the fish is done, the Master Boiler tosses a small amount of kerosene on the flames, causing a 10' pillar of flame to erupt!

Door County is definitely a gem of a trip - lots of local flavor, numerous outdoor options (active and otherwise), great food and friendly people. Make sure you plan this trip firmly in the winter, not the beginning or the end. The snow crunches better, sleigh ride glides smoother, hot meal will taste better, and your cherry red nose glows warmer.