6 Top Moments at the Midwest's Only 5-Star Resort
In any of the Midwest’s most populous states, you’re probably within a weekend drive of a luxury hotel and spa. But residents of the upper Midwest—specifically the greater Chicago and Milwaukee areas—have a special backyard gem: Destination Kohler, the region’s highest-ranked getaway.
Yes, the Midwest's top-ranked resort is brought to you by Kohler, the folks who long ago defined the sinks, tile and showerheads that star in the visions of your remodeled kitchen and bath. In the late 1970s, the company, located about one hour north of Milwaukee in its own namesake village, went into the resort business. Needless to say, they cut no corners. The American Club resort is the Midwest's only AAA 5-Diamond resort, and one of only 48 hotels worldwide to earn both that designation and a Forbes Five-Star certification. Here are six of our favorite experiences.
Kohler Waters Spa – This lux destination tucked under the Carriage House inn centers on a Romanesque bath with a cascading waterfall. No-detail-missed amenities like steam rooms, hot tubs, plunge pools and cucumber water at every turn have earned Kohler Waters Spa a spot on pretty much every top-spa list you'll find. The staff is impeccably trained-essential in a service category where so much as the slightest wrong comment can be a mood-wrecker. The spa constantly rolls out new treatments like Bamboo Bliss, in which a technician works out your muscles' kinks with heated bamboo sticks.
Lodging – The American Club and Carriage House stand side-by-side in the village of Kohler, each offering the chance to feel old-money-rich for a night. Our most recent stay was at the Carriage House, where arched wooden doors open onto rooms named for classic horse carriages and filled with top-grade furniture and bedding. But this being Kohler, the showers and baths steal the show. Our room featured an enormous chromatherapy tub and a shower system with more nozzles than a carwash, all set up so perfectly that you almost consider skipping the spa downstairs. Almost. If you watch for specials and time your visit right, you can find rooms for under $200. Plus, there's the Inn on Woodlake (a three-star lodging), which runs around $100 per night.
Kohler Design Center – Planning a remodeling may not sound like a vacation. But the Design Center attached to the Carriage House is more art gallery than home-improvement store. The famed Great Wall of China soars overhead with hundreds of toilets in multiple colors. The third floor features about a dozen dream bath suites created by renowned designers. Whether you're into starfish-theme tile, fireplaces by the soaking tub, poured concrete counters or chandeliers lighting pink bathing chambers, you'll find a look that motivates you to tear into your dated bathroom the day you get home.
Golf – Few courses merit a bucket-list spot more than Whistling Straits, a links-style layout created on a Lake Michigan bluff. Design demigod Pete Dye carved the course from a table-flat landscape by adding about 1,000 bunkers and countless berms covered in tall grass. The Straits hosts its third PGA Championship in 2015 and the Ryder Cup in 2020, but the course is open most of the year to any golfer ready to drop around $400 on a round. (Three other Kohler courses offer more affordable fees.) Even non-golfers should visit the stone clubhouse for a look at the layout.
Dining – The American Club features the upscale Wisconsin Room and the ultra-posh Immigrant Room. But our favorite dining experience so far has been at River Wildlife, a 19th-century Maine cabin relocated to the woods of Kohler's wildlife preserve near its other golf course at Blackwolf Run. The cabin offers a crackling blaze in a stone fireplace and an inventive menu with the likes of wild boar ragout and the ultimate grilled cheese feature arugula, Brie and a cherry chutney.
Events – Special draws throughout the year present drop-in tastes of the finer things. The October Food & Wine Event brings seminars with many top national and regional chefs and restaurateurs. February's In Celebration of Chocolate does exactly what it says. (Throughout the year, stop in for a sample of the jewel-like chocolates made at The Craverie next door to the Design Center.) Next up on the Kohler calendar is May's Festival of Beer, which shares the best of the old and new in Wisconsin brew. Whenever you're planning a visit, ask about one-off events like browsing for morels with Kohler chefs in spring.
Photos courtesy of Kohler Co.