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Here's what you need to know before visiting Kohler, Wisconsin, according to a local.
When you hear the name Kohler, you might think of the kitchen and bath brand or the host of the 43rd Ryder Cup, but those in the know may recognize it for the five-star resort destination tucked away near Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Kohler — one of the nation’s first planned communities — was designed by the Olmsted brothers as a factory town and garden community for the Kohler Company in the early 1900s. Located within a few hours of major Midwestern cities like Chicago and Milwaukee, this small Wisconsin town is now a resort destination offering the ideal combination of wellness, culture, and nature, making it the perfect weekend escape. Here’s what you need to know about visiting Kohler, Wisconsin, according to a local.
Related: 10 Best Small Towns in the Midwest
Best Time to Visit Kohler
Kohler is beautiful at all times of the year, but summer is best for those looking to take advantage of the nice weather (with highs in the 70s) to play golf and enjoy nearby Lake Michigan. In the fall, visitors can check out the annual Kohler Food and Wine festival, while winter festivities include the popular holiday market and ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and more at Winter Wonderland.
Where to Stay in Kohler
The American Club
The American Club started its life around the turn of the century as housing for Kohler’s immigrant factory employees. In the 1980s, it was transformed into a five-star resort with three restaurants, a garden cafe, beautiful courtyards, and plenty of cozy nooks and crannies to explore. Of course, you can expect to find plenty of Kohler products throughout The American Club and the other on-property accommodations.
The Carriage House
Formally known as The American Club Carriage House, this property is attached to the Kohler Waters Spa and emphasizes guest wellness. There is an on-site wellness concierge that can arrange everything from yoga classes on the lake to special wellness-focused room amenities. One of the best things about staying here is full access to the spa on weekdays.
Inn on Woodlake
The contemporary and sleek Inn on Woodlake is perfect for groups thanks to multi-bedroom suites and a prime location on Wood Lake, just a short walk to shops and restaurants.
Kohler Cabin Collection
For those looking for a more off-the-grid experience, Kohler has a choice of five unique cabins, ranging from the 100-year-old rustic Tomczyk Cabin (which has no running water or electricity) to the more refined Pond Cabin.
Best Things to Do in Kohler
Visit the Art Preserve.
With its large wooden beams stretching toward the sky, entering the Art Preserve feels like walking into a forest. The three-story facility houses a collection of immersive “artist-built environments.” According to curator Laura Bickford, this term was coined by the museum to describe when an artist completely transforms their homes, studios, or yards into a total work of art. These environments were taken from their original locations and preserved in the museum. “We are the only museum in the world dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of this type of work,” said Bickford
Even the washrooms are works of art — and not just because of their top-of-the-line Kohler features. Artists were commissioned to create enchanting works of art inside the center’s restrooms, and each one is different, so you’ll want to pop in several to take a look.
The Art Preserve is one of two art museums around Kohler; the other is the John Michael Kohler Art Center, which owns the Art Preserve but hosts different rotating exhibits and events.
Get inspired at the Kohler Design Center.
A childhood favorite destination of mine, the Kohler Design Center is like the Disneyland of bathroom and kitchen showrooms. This three-floor building houses everything you could need to create your dream bathroom or kitchen. The lower level is a museum that shows the history of Kohler, the main floor showcases the newest products, and the top floor features model bathrooms designed by well-known interior designers like Samuel Amoia and Justina Blakeny. On-staff designers are also available to help guide visitors through the bathroom design process, perfect for people who come to Kohler for design inspiration.
Explore River Wildlife.
River Wildlife is a private recreational area in Kohler reserved exclusively for guests at the resort with purchased passes and members. It features 500 acres of protected wilderness which include five miles of the Sheboygan River. Depending on the season, there are a variety of activities to choose from, including hiking, wildlife spotting, fishing, pheasant hunting, and kayaking. There is also an exclusive restaurant on the property.
Play some golf.
Kohler is world renowned for its golf courses — it’s home to four of the top 100 public golf courses in the U.S. according to Golf Digest — and it has hosted PGA Tournaments and even the Ryder Cup. Perhaps best known is The Straits, one of two courses at Whistling Straits. This course follows two miles of Lake Michigan coastline and was designed by famous course architect, Pete Dye. Once they play the courses at Whistling Straits, visitors should check out the three courses at Blackwolf Run.
Relax at the Kohler Waters Spa.
After spending a day exploring Kohler, one of the best things to do is visit the Kohler Waters Spa. This spa is the only Forbes five-star spa in Wisconsin. It has a range of treatments, including unique hydrotherapy options that feature Kohler products, like the Lavender Rain treatment which uses the Kohler Custom Vichy shower.
Where to Eat and Drink in Kohler
The Immigrant Restaurant
This fine-dining restaurant pays homage to early Wisconsin settlers including French, Dutch, English, Danish, and German immigrants in its theming. The German Room — where I dined — was reminiscent of a posh hunting lodge with rich green walls and an antique maximalist aesthetic. Guests can select from an à la carte menu or opt for a five-course tasting menu (vegan and vegetarian options are available).
River Wildlife Restaurant
Like the rest of the River Wildlife property, the restaurant is reserved specifically for members and resort guests with purchased passes. Hidden along a wooded path, the charming, rustic restaurant serves up elevated comfort foods like breaded Canadian walleye and roasted portabella mushroom paninis.
This cafe located in the courtyard of The American Club features a variety of tasty fare like fresh-baked lavender apricot scones and berry cream cheese danishes alongside coffee and ice cream. While the food is good, you can’t beat the atmosphere. The Greenhouse is actually an antique solarium from England that was carefully reassembled during the original renovations of the American Club. Here you can sip your coffee while admiring gorgeous stained glass windows and a variety of plant life.
Taverne on Woodlake
A favorite amongst locals and guests alike, the Taverne on Woodlake provides a great casual spot to catch a quick bite to eat. This restaurant overlooks Wood Lake and specializes in woodfired takes on classic dishes including prosciutto and fig pizza and wood-fired salmon BLTs.
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