Door County, Wisconsin

By Jim Weaver
On summer holidays folks in Boston head for Cape Cod.  In New York, they head for Long Island and in Philadelphia it’s the Jersey Shore.
In Chicago and Milwaukee, people head north to Door County, Wisconsin for vacation.   There are plenty of great reasons to visit Door County, the “vacation capital” of middle America.  Its
beautiful, the weather is perfect, and it offers a seemingly endless number of enjoyable activities.  
Cana Island Lighthouse on Lake Michigan

Cana Island Lighthouse on Lake Michigan

Even before European explorers arrived here Native Americans were spending summer at Door fishing and escaping the seasonal heat.  The county got its name from French explorers
ship wrecked in deadly winter storms here and called it “la porte de la mort” door of death.
Death was later dropped and it has been Door ever since.
Fresh Door County Cherries

Fresh Door County Cherries

Once the cherry capital of the country (maybe world?), Door County had a million plus cherry trees making it number one producer in the U.S.  Now its number three behind Michigan and Utah (who would have guessed).  Nevertheless, there are still plenty of cherries here.  You’ll find cherry pies, cherry preserves, cherry ice cream, and even cherry vodka.  You can visit several cherry orchards and sample the delicious fruit.  One orchard has a pit spitting area where you can test how far you can spit a cherry pit.  The record is 42 feet with a strong wind.  It must have been a tornado.
Door County is popular for other things too. There are Cheese Curds which are actually what’s left after making cheese.  The ones I tried were deep fried and served like French fries — not much flavor and a bit chewy, but all right.

The famous Door County Wisconsin Fish Boil Platter

The famous Door County Wisconsin Fish Boil Platter

The other local “treat” is a Fish Boil.  Surrounded by Lake Michigan, fish are abundant here.  An outdoor Fish Boil involves a very large pot over an open fire.  Wire baskets of potatoes and onions are lowered into the pot to cook.  After a short while, a basket of portion size pieces of white fish is immersed in the boiling water to cook.  Shortly thereafter, kerosene is poured on top.  It ignites, almost immediately, and burns off the oil from the fish that has accumulated on top of the water.  It’s a spectacular fire and everyone present cheers loudly. However, I found the fish had very little flavor left.  Nevertheless, if you visit here, you need to experience it.
I stayed at a Bed and Breakfast in the village of Egg Harbor.  A sign at the edge of town says
Population 201.  That may be the number who remain here year-round, but the warm weather months bring many thousands of tourists and those (from Chicago and Milwaukee) who have summer homes here.
There is one winter event that attracts crowds, a “polar bear swim” in the icy waters of Lake Michigan on New Year’s Day.  Begun about 20 years ago, it initially attracted a few dozen hearty folks.  It has continued to grow in popularity and this year over 700 crazy people got wet.
Door County has four professional theater companies that perform during the summer months.  They are very popular with vacationers and provide a great evenings entertainment
at a reasonable cost.
Door County Zipline

Door County Zipline

There is a Wisconsin State Park here that offers spectacular views of the Lake, abundant hiking trails, a challenging golf course (one par three hole is only 60 yards long, but out of sight from the hilltop tee.) and much more.  There are trolley bus tours of the State Park and other attractions that provide a good orientation to the many activities available.  A number of lake cruises are offered which are an enjoyable way to spend a summer day and to learn more about the history of the peninsula. You can also visit a historic lighthouse.
For those interested in art and fine crafts there are numerous excellent galleries and artists who
welcome visitors to their studios.
Applewood Smoked Cheddar

Applewood Smoked Cheddar

Cheese is BIG in Wisconsin and there are a number of artisan cheese makers in Door County.  There is a Cheese Trail that enables you to visit a number of cheese producers for a delicious tasting of their finest efforts.  There are also several excellent wineries here that offer tastings.  Also, a local distillery that produces high quality vodka and gin and offers tastings.
For something less potent, you’ll want to visit Door County Coffee.  They roast their own
blends that are delicious.  They also serve a great breakfast.
Homemade ice cream is a summer time delight and in Door County, everyone heads for Wilson’s.  It’s been a family operation for many years and has a 1950’s decor including a jukebox with classic recordings from the era.
Its little wonder that Door County, Wisconsin,
continues to attract visitors.  It’s a beautiful, quiet, laid back, kind of place with no fast food restaurants or national chains –a great vacation destination.  Check it out online at         


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