Sheboygan, Wisconsin seems an unlikely destination for a couple who enjoy life at sea. We visited in April and had such a great time we made a return visit in August. If you live on the East Coast, it’s an under two-hour flight. Since Milwaukee is serviced by Southwest Airlines, the major carriers need to offer competitively cheap airfares. There is a lot to like.
If like us, you have cruised, you might feel you have done it all and seen everything. We flew out on Wednesday, August 23rd, stayed three nights and flew home on Saturday, August 26th. I will skip the flight and rental car details, focusing on why this trip made memories.
Sheboygan, WI is about an hour north of Milwaukee. It is literally adjacent to the town of Kohler. Interstate 43 is the main highway. The left side of the road is Kohler and Sheboygan is on the right. We stayed at the Fairfield Inn, “the only Marriott for 35 miles in any direction.” The staff does a fine job treating every guest as an individual. They are happy to plan your sightseeing, if you are agreeable.
Thursday, August 24th:
Three activities made Thursday special. You could do each of them too!
- Kohler Design Center. The town of Kohler is the home base for Kohler, best known for bathroom fixtures. The design center is a 36,000 square foot building on three stories. The top floor was the reason for our visit, the individual designer showcases. There are about thirty bathrooms created by designers from across the country. Kohler also owns brands producing cabinetry along with Ann Sacks, their tile company. The settings are inspirational and redone every year. The design center includes a floor showcasing Kohler products and another floor dedicated to the Kohler museum. This is all free to visit and open seven days a week.
- Mackinac County Fair. This annual event happened to coincide with our weekend visit. It was a short distance away, across the county line. This is an agricultural themed fair, held over a five-day period and open to the general public. They bring in amusement park rides, plenty of food vendors and live entertainment. It’s a family event. Admission was $10.00/head, yet the person at the ticket book, noticing my grey hair, politely asked if we would prefer the senior tickets instead. These $6.00 tickets did not include amusement park rides. East decision. One highlight was the animal judging competition, which included a lot of cows, since Wisconsin is the dairy state. The small animal category included chickens, rabbits, geese and ducks. Another highlight is the food. Our best find was the chocolate dipped frozen cheesecake on a stick, although the deep dried cheddar nuggets were good too. (The dairy state produces lots of cheese.)
- Schwarz Supper Club. Supper clubs are a Wisconsin phenomenon. There are a couple of hundred around the state. These are conventional restaurants that can attract huge crowds. Schwartz in Saint Anna is one of the most famous. When you hear what makes it famous, you wonder why anyone goes there! They start serving dinner at 4:00 PM. Dinner is done at 8:00 PM. They do not take reservations, you put your name on a list. You must order a drink from the bar before you can add your name! On weekends, it is not uncommon to wait one or two hours for your table to be available! It’s been in business 65+ years, having opened in 1957. The rituals make it special. The Old Fashioned is Wisconsin’s official cocktail. You choose your liquor, sweetness level and fruit. The drinks are good and $5.00 each! They hand you a menu. FYI: Prime rib starts at about $25.00 as a complete meal. When you are ready to order, you stand your menu vertically on the bar and someone takes your order. You give your name, but here is the next ritual. Many people give phony names, like John Dillinger! The announcements by name with “your table is ready” gets the crowd laughing. Dinner for two with three cocktails ran about $78.00 before tip.
Friday, August 25th:
We are nobody special, yet people treat us nicely. On Thursday night the hotel staff asked if we had plans for Friday. We said no. They said they would plan our day. This also included three standout activities.
- Wade House Historic Site. This is a circa 1848 stagecoach inn between Fond du Lac and Sheboygan. The visitor center has a spectacular collection of wagons and carriages. We have seen the collection at the Summer Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. This is better. It helps that Frank Lloyd Wright collected carriages and the Kohler Foundation, who bought Wade House, renovated it during the early 1950’s and gave it to Wisconsin to be operated as a state park. In addition to the coaching inn, the complex also has a working blacksmith and sawmill. Admission is $15.00 for adults. Curiously, winter pricing is $8.00.
- Kohler Stables. Since you have heard about Kohler the company, Kohler the town and the Kohler Foundation, it should come as no surprise the Kohler Family is the 27th richest family in America, according to Forbes. The family has been interested in horses for generations, having their own Kohler Stables and horse farm in the town. They raise, breed and sell Morgan horses. They can accommodate about 60 in their stables. Our hotel manager arranged a tour for us and we were taken through the facility, introduced to the horses (and the barn cat) for about 90 minutes. We were quite honored to be given this tour, yet learned people can request a tour by visiting their website.
- The kayak regatta. Kawanis Park is in downtown Sheboygan. We were in town on the right day for the 7th annual kayak regatta. About 15+ single person boats were decorated in themes like a pirate ship, duck hunting blind, Christmas display and a great white shark. Timing is everything! We arrived at 6:45 PM and they pushed out into the river at 7:00.
We flew home on Saturday morning, having spent a couple of days in and around Sheboygan at minimal cost. When we are not at sea, this is a great way to relax and unwind.
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