If you think the best thing about summer is that it is followed by fall, then a trip to Wisconsin’s Door County is in order. On a peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan, this one county contains 11 towns, an island, and 300 miles of shoreline along with 53 public beaches. In and around these charming villages, visitors find wineries, breweries and a distillery, orchards, boutiques, art galleries, lighthouses, and hiking trails — under a brilliant fall cloak of color. Last year I visited Door County in mid-October, peak viewing season and early enough that southern Indiana’s fall color was still ahead when I arrived home.
Despite being one of the premier destinations in the Great Lakes, Door County (settled in the 1850s by primarily Scandinavian and Belgian immigrants) retains a slow pace of life and rural vibe, making it feel worlds away from the hustle and bustle of larger Midwestern cities. Outside of Sturgeon Bay (Door County’s only city, with a population of around 10,000), zoning laws prohibit chains and franchises.
Accommodating inns are found in each Door County town. I stayed at the Newport Resort in Egg Harbor, an easy walk’s distance down into the village. Your best bet is to visit doorcounty.com and explore the array of available inns, resorts, lodges, and cabins. Nearly all are family run.
Door County has been singled out by authorities including Trip Advisor and Travel + Leisure as one of the country’s top foliage destinations. Bursts of scarlet, gold, russet, and vermilion line the highway and form canopies over lanes in the Peninsula State Park (between Ephraim and Fish Creek), where the fall colors take center stage. Colors peak first in the northern part of Door County at Washington Island, becoming more vivid throughout the southern areas as the season progresses.
Fall also is when apples ripen and find their way into countless goodies sold at a multitude of stores and orchards. The county’s largest grower, Wood Orchard Market near Egg Harbor, is packed with customers shopping for everything apple, including apple cider doughnuts.
“We’re really famous for our apple cider doughnuts,” says owner Crista Kochanski.
An ideal fall trip to Door County should include seasonal standards — visiting an orchard and eating that apple cider doughnut as well as waiting for the boilover at the quintessential Door County experience, the fish boil — but also many under-the-radar endeavors listed below.
When You Go to Door County
Door County Visitors Bureau
The Newport Resort
Wood Orchard Market
Peninsula State Park
Do or County Trolley Co.
Eagle Bluff Lighthouse at Peninsula State Park
Edgewood Orchard Galleries
Ferry Line, Inc.
Pelletier’s Restaurant & Fish Boil
Rowley’s Bay Resort
Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor
Become a Fan of the Town
Consider beginning your trip to Door County south in Wisconsin’s oldest city, Green Bay, where you will find more than enough to keep you busy for several days, even if you’re not visiting on one of the 10 days each year when the Green Bay Packers play at Lambeau Field.
Green Bay is served by Austin Straubel International Airport. From Green Bay, it is about a 45-minute drive to Sturgeon Bay, the base of Door County, making it an ideal spot to start your Wisconsin adventure.
Few cities evoke such a singular notion for residents and visitors as Green Bay, home for a century to the Green Bay Packers NFL team. Over the course of 100 years, the fan-owned professional team has given fans plenty to celebrate, with 13 world championships, 25 Pro Football Hall of Famers, and a beloved home, Lambeau Field. The franchise will celebrate its 100th birthday Aug. 11.
Football season or not, a trip to Green Bay should start by visiting the iconic gridiron, Lambeau Field, open most days for tours. A $300-million redevelopment project completed in 2003 added the Atrium, a building open year round that houses the Packers Hall of Fame museum, Packers-themed commercial outlets, and meeting space.
Additions of more seats and a standing-room area in 2013 and 2014 brought capacity to more than 81,000, the second-largest in the NFL at the time. When the Packers are not playing, Lambeau Field occasionally hosts concerts and other events; Paul McCartney appeared June 8.
Slightly more than a decade ago, the Packers began buying land on the west side of Lambeau Field. The plan was to create a district that could enhance economic growth throughout the region, attract visitors year round, and offer amenities traditionally not seen in Green Bay. The resulting 45-acre Titletown Phase 1 opened in 2018.
“We’ve always felt like we needed to invest not only in the stadium, but in the community. We’re not a typical developer. We’re owned by the community — a quarter of Titletown is dedicated to public space and parks. It makes us unique,” Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy told NFL.com shortly after announcing the creation of Titletown Phase 2, which will add office space and residences.
Currently, Titletown includes a public park and plaza with outdoor games, a skating park, a tubing hill, the four-diamond Lodge Kohler where I stayed, a football field, a sports medicine and orthopedics clinic, and Hinterland Restaurant and Brewery.
In tapping a hotel — the only hotel in the city located immediately adjacent to Lambeau Field — the Packers went to a trusted Wisconsin brand. Kohler, the American plumbing manufacturer headquartered in Kohler, Wisconsin (southwest of Green Bay), also is recognized for Destination Kohler, which owns several prime hotels and resorts in Scotland and Wisconsin, including the American Way Club in Kohler.
In addition to excellent plumbing fixtures and many nice amenities, the property brings the famous Kohler Water Spa to Green Bay. Lodge Kohler dining includes Leaps and Bounds Café for breakfast and Taverne in the Sky, offering modern rotisserie cuisine.
When You Go to Green Bay
Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau
Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame Lambeau Field Tours
Green Bay Botanical Garden
Downtown Green Bay Saturday Farmers Market
Historic Meyer Theatre
Parallel 44 Winery & Vineyard
Black and Tan Grille
Uncle Mike’s Bake Shoppe
Cannery Public Market
Badger State Brewing
Anduzzi’s Sports Club