Iâ€™m proud to say that the Jurkiewicz family makes an art of "The Day Trip."
My parents always felt that nothing bonded a family or educated a child more than travel. They took us on full-fledged vacations as often as possible, but in a pinch, a 16-hour getaway worked just fine. We had plenty of those, and they count among my favorite childhood memories.
Now that weâ€™re grown with spouses and children, my siblings and I still love to travel with our parents, and not just because they pay for our food. We usually transform my momâ€™s Astro van into a clown car and pile all eight of us inside; this July, when my sister has her second child, that wonâ€™t be possible, so we decided to take the clown car out for one last spin on Saturday. Door County or bust.
It might seem like a strange choice for this time of year, but my family has previously day-tripped in Door County during the winter. Itâ€™s true that many attractions and shops are closed (my all-time favorite, Wilsonâ€™s, shuts up for winter), but there are still a lot of great places open â€“ and in the off-season, theyâ€™re not clogged with rich Chicago vacationers.
Because the truth is, Door County is something of a ghost town this time of year â€“ and frankly, thatâ€™s just how we like it. When my parents honeymooned there in 1983, it wasnâ€™t the chic Midwestern vacation destination it is now. It was a kitschy, north-y retreat with vistas that took your breath away. Seeing Fish Creek, Ephraim, Egg Harbor and Sister Bay all but abandoned in the middle of winter is reminiscent of the tranquil, removed setting and slowed-down pace that made these towns a tourist hotspot in the first place.
For us, the drive is as integral a part of the trip as the destination. We take I-43 to Manitowoc and then continue north on Highway 42. Itâ€™s a peaceful, beautiful route that takes about three and a half hours and, in my opinion, shows Wisconsin at its most charming â€“ miles of farm fields, shoreline, small towns, and best of all, businesses with pun-y names.
My favorite? Golddiggers Gentlemenâ€™s Club and Iâ€™ve Been Framed frame store, both fine business establishments of Manitowoc (and hey, if youâ€™re in the market, Golddiggerâ€™s is looking for an assistant manager).
We like to stop at the Harbor Express Grill on Milwaukee Street in Kewaunee. This gas station/eatery is brimming with unrefined small-town charm, and frankly, their muffins are out of this world. Seriously. Get the cinnamon spice muffin. It will make you consider moving to Kewaunee just so you can eat it every single day in the Harbor Expressâ€™ mini-dining room that overlooks the marina. They also sell â€“ wait for it â€“ fried cheese curds. Do not underestimate the tastiness of deep-fried cheese at 10 a.m. on a road trip.
The first stop for us in the county of Door is always the Door County Coffee and Tea Company, 5773 Hwy 42. Iâ€™ve never eaten there (still always full from the Kewaunee muffins and cheese curds) but I love perusing their wide selection of coffee, tea and paraphernalia. My favorite tea is the orange spice flavor, and I recently discovered the cinnamon sugar biscotti flavored coffee. We stock up when we go to Door County, but you can also order online.
After that, itâ€™s time for some free booze. Across the street is the Door Peninsula Winery, where wine and spirits tasting comes with no charge. But you may end up spending some money â€“ the Viognier is amazingly smooth. It tastes like juice â€“ but you feel really, really happy afterwards. And itâ€™s a steal at $10.99 a bottle. Door Peninsula Winery also takes online orders.
We usually eat lunch at Shipwrecked Microbrewery, 7791 Hwy 42 in Egg Harbor. A lot of the restaurants are closed, but Shipwrecked is open year-round and is usually fairly full even when we stop by in winter. The food is great but the beer is fantastic. I had the Captainâ€™s Copper this time, a full-bodied ale with hints of caramel and hops. My brother-in-law went all-in for the sampler â€“ seven different kinds of beer. He liked the Door County Cherry Wheat so much he bought a growler for $12.99 (refills for $9.50).
This trip, we stopped at a new place recommended by my aunt - Jornâ€™s Sugar Bush in Egg Harbor. The Jorn family has been making maple syrup in Door County since 1857, and current owner Roland Jorn has been in the business for 75 years. His wife mans the store, located at 4518 County Hwy T, and can fill you in on the history of the place, which is quite extensive. Itâ€™s heartening to see a family business still going strong after all these years. Be sure to bring cash or a personal check, though, because credit cards are not accepted.
The last stop is another perennial favorite, O'Meara's Irish House in Fish Creek. I ran in ten minutes before they closed (sorry about that, girl behind the counter) and bought a knit sweater for my future nephew. I wish I would have had more time, because I usually love to look at their inventory of imported goods, soaps and jewelry from Ireland. But no worries â€“ they visit Irish Fest every year, so I'll get my shop on then.
Weâ€™ve heard great things about Sister Bayâ€™s Inn at Kristoferâ€™s, 10716 N. Bay Shore Dr., which is always open during the winter. But we usually grab dinner at the Culverâ€™s in Sturgeon Bay instead.
Hey, day-trippingâ€™s all about the budget, right?
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Colleen Jurkiewicz
Published Sept. 30, 2013
Everyone knows that Danny Gokey, Milwaukee's favorite idol, has faced his unfair share of adversity and loss. But some stories that Gokey shares in his new book, "Hope in Front of Me" (NavPress), will be new even to his biggest fans.
Published Sept. 24, 2013
October and September is high season for haunted houses, haunted corn mazes, haunted hikes...but if you prefer a little liquid courage while you get your spook on, check out Untapped Tours' Haunted Hops and Evil Spirits Pub Crawl.
Published Sept. 19, 2013
Waukesha author Kathie Giorgio is getting ready to debut her latest novel, a sequel to the award-winning "A Home for Wayward Clocks." She tells OnMilwaukee.com the secret to writing a good follow-up and shares her views on the publishing industry today.
Published Sept. 19, 2013
"I Left My Heart" is, as the title implies, a tribute to Tony Bennett's music. The young performers onstage didn't try to replicate anything else about 87-year-old Bennett. Instead, it was an evening of appreciation for the style of this unique performer whose career has essentially run laps on so many others.
Published Sept. 18, 2013
"Power Balladz" comes to the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts this weekend, hoping to re-introduce Milwaukee audiences to the decidedly awesome music of the 1970s, '80s and '90s.
Published Sept. 15, 2013
Award-winning choreographer Stephen Mear talks to OnMilwaukee.com about the logistical and emotional challenges of choreographing "Ragtime," the largest production ever to be staged on the Quadracci Powerhouse.
Published Sept. 12, 2013
Actors Bill Jackson and Marty McNamee, along with Boulevard Theatre's artistic director Mark Bucher, sat down with OnMilwaukee.com to talk about what has gone into staging and developing "Jerker," which premiered 1986 and follows the budding relationship between two men in the early years of the AIDS epidemic.
Published Sept. 12, 2013
In the midst of rebranding efforts for Water Street, Milwaukee artist Patrice Procopio opened the area's latest fashion anchor, Third Coast Style, this past weekend. A by-Milwaukee-for-Milwaukee one-stop fashion shop, the new boutique features the handiwork of over 30 Cream City artists.
Published Sept. 10, 2013
John Gurda makes a splash with his new lecture tour, a history of Lake Michigan and Milwaukee's waterways.
Published Sept. 9, 2013
Ryan Braun probably won't be calling me. But if he did, he would probably regret it instantly. Not because I'm mad mat him (we all screw up, dude), but because these are the questions I would probably ask him.