My family and I were searching for a long weekend getaway not far from Chicago. We needed something we could get to relatively quickly, be fun for the kids and not too expensive. In our searching we came across Door County, Wisconsin. It’s a place we had been to without kids but we weren’t quite sure if there would be enough activities for kids. Turns out YES there are tons of fun cheap activities for the whole family. I have created a list of 10 activities my family enjoyed on our trip to Door County, Wisconsin and I hope you can use this list to have a great family vacation too!!
10 Places to Visit in Door County, Wisconsin
1. State Parks –
My family loves to hike and explore nature so over our 5-day trip to Door County, Wisconsin we visited several State Parks. There are five state parks throughout Door County that you can visit. Each park offers something unique to the area. The following three were our favorites.
Potawatomi State Park – This park is a great first stop on your drive into Door County. It is located in Sturgeon Bay and can be just a quick hour or two stop. So not too long that the kids can’t make it through. Much of the area you can drive and just stop at the pullouts for views and pictures or if the kids are older take a hike. There is also a really cool 75-foot observation tower that overlooks Green Bay. It’s worth the climb up for the view however if you have toddlers who wander off, hold on tight.
Whitefish Dunes State Park – This park is located on the Eastern side of Door County. It has a small nature center and ranger stand. There is an easy hike for kids from the nature center that also has displays of how people lived in this area. The kids really enjoyed seeing this part of the park. Several different hiking options are available including a boardwalk hike. The other great part about this park is the beach. There is a thin strip of beach located along the shore. The waves were a little bigger on this side which was fun for the kids. However, on a hot sunny day this part of the park gets very crowded. I think this beach would even be fun on a cooler day just to play in the sand. They also have changing rooms and bathrooms near the entrance to the beach so you can hike and then change into your bathing suits or wash off the sand when you’re done.
Peninsula State Park – This by far is the most popular state park in Door County. It is located on the west and central side of the peninsula. Which makes it easy to get to from most of the hotels’ accommodations. They also offer great camp sites here if you prefer that over a hotel.
This park offers a lot from the beaches to all the hiking trails. Our kids really enjoyed exploring the nature center. When we were there they even had a scavenger hunt in their nature preserve for the kids and a craft. Lots of families were also biking throughout the park and stopping to enjoy all the overlooks. Another popular stop in this park is the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse. It is one of the few lighthouses you can go inside for a guided tour. The house is recreated to look like it did when the family who worked the lighthouse lived there. I will say that it is tight in there and might be harder with younger children who are squirmy. My 8-year-old enjoyed it a lot, my 5-year-old was bored. But can’t please both all the time, right? The 5-year-old loved the rest of the park.
**Tip we did not see anywhere to buy food in the parks so remember to pack a picnic, snacks and water.
2. Door County Historical Museum, 18 N. 4th Ave. Sturgeon Bay
This museum was a great little find in downtown Sturgeon Bay. It is free admission and displays the great history of the area. There is a neat taxidermy display made by a local of all the animals and birds in the area created to look like the animal’s natural surroundings. If your kids like firetrucks, there is a whole display of old firetrucks and a fake jail my kids thought was fun to play in. Downstairs is a mock town of what the area would have looked like back in the day. We made this stop on our way into Door County after our hike in Potawatomi State Park. The two locations are about 15 minutes apart. The museum’s downtown location made it a great place to stop for a meal after or just an ice cream for the kids. Overall it was a fun free activity which has enough variety to make it fun for all ages. http://map.co.door.wi.us/museum/
3. Cherry Picking and Wine Tasting
What a great combination for both kids and parents! Cherry picking in the late summer is all over Door County and it is the thing to do, so there are lots of places to choose from. We went to Lautenbach’s Orchard Country in Fish Creek. The kids had a blast running around the Cherry Orchard trying to find the best cherries. Afterward we went into their cute store and did a quick wine tasting for the adults and apple juice tasting for the kids. This made us all happy. Don’t worry if you can’t visit in the summer they also have apple picking with a fall festival and sleigh rides in the winter. So, no matter what season this is a great stop. Lautenbach’s Orchard Country – 9197 WI-42, Fish Creek http://orchardcountry.com/
4. Fish Boil
Fish boils are a Door County tradition and are a must try with the kids! How is a fish boil fun you ask? Well it’s the theatrics of the whole event. First you start out watching the fish, potatoes and onions being prepared in a huge outdoor kettle while the cook explains the tradition. But the really fun part for the kids is when the fish “boils over” and huge flames shoot up in the air. It’s pretty cool to watch. My kids watched it three times while we ate. There are tons of places to choose from in the area so which one should you choose? We choose Pelletier’s Restaurant and Fish Boil in Fish Creek. I knew my kids would want to watch the fish boil but not want to eat the fish. This restaurant offered kids meals so I admit that was our motivation. It is also in downtown Fish Creek so it gave us a chance to walk around the downtown area shops. Plus it had a nice outdoor seating so the kids could keep watching the “show” while eating. Make sure to make reservations as all the restaurants fill up quick.
Pelletier’s Restaurant and Fish Boil, 4199 Main St., Fish Creek
Phone – 920-868-3313 http://www.doorcountyfishboil.com/
5. Waterfront Park, Sister Bay
We were looking for a beach area to take the kids and found this little gem. It is located in downtown Sister Bay and is the largest public waterfront in Door County. It offers a great little beach, a pier and swim out platform to jump off, a playground, bar-b-ques, picnic tables and outdoor concert stage area. The beach is great for all ages because it has a sandy entrance for the little kids and the swim out platform for the big kids. You can also watch all the boats coming in and out of the marina. We planned on spending a couple of hours but stayed all day! It is in the heart of all the restaurants so we walked over and picked up dinner from the local pizza place Wild Tomato and had a picnic on the beach. The kids were thrilled we didn’t have to leave for dinner. Pack your own meal and it’s a great place for a fun free family day out. http://www.cometosisterbay.com/public-facilities/waterfront-park/
6. Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant, 10698 N. Bay Shore Dr., Sister Bay
Located just down the street from Waterfront Park is Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant. Why must you drive by this restaurant? There are goats living on top of the grass covered roof! How cool is that? Feel free to stop there to eat or just drive by a couple times to look at the goats. The lines get long here so be prepared to wait if you want to eat. http://www.aljohnsons.com/
7. Mini Golf
What is a family vacation without mini golf? There are tons of places to play. I would pick one that is closest to where you’re staying. We didn’t necessarily see one that stood out more than the others so I think you will have fun at whichever one you pick.
8. Fred and Fuzzy’s Waterfront Bar and Grill, 10620 Little Sister Rd., Sister Bay
This is a great relaxed family friendly waterfront restaurant to take the kids to. Very casual and perfect place to watch the sunset. The kids can go down to the pier or throw rocks in the water while you relax waiting for dinner. It is also right next to the famed Pebble Beach. Just keep in mind all of the seating is outside so don’t go on a rainy day. http://www.fredandfuzzys.com/
9. Pebble Beach, Sister Bay
This beach is a little tricky to find in a residential neighborhood but it’s worth it. Just drive to the end of Pebble Beach Rd in Sister Bay and you will run into it. The entire beach is made of Pebbles. Pretty cool to see and a great place to skip rocks. However, it’s not a beach you spend a long time at so check it out before heading out to dinner at Fred and Fuzzy’s.
10. Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor, 9990 Water St. S. Ephraim
Wilson’s is a Door County Landmark and has been in Ephraim since 1906. It’s a fun spot to stop for ice cream or a diner type meal. With its fame comes the crowds so you might want to choose to eat a little early or pick up your ice cream and eat it across the street overlooking the water. http://wilsonsicecream.com/
Those are my 10 top family places in Door County. I hope this will help you have as much fun on a trip there as we did! If you find more great places please let us know in our comments section. I love to learn from my readers and share with our community.
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