Scouting mission: Door County for the whole family
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FISH CREEK – In all the summers I've visited Door County (19 in a row, to be specific), I've never made it a family trip. It has always been more of a "guys' weekend" with one of my oldest friends, Eron.
Of course, a lot has changed in our lives since we were 20-year-olds sleeping in tents and running out of gas on the way home. Now that we both have children, we couldn't help but see our annual trip to our favorite peninsula as an opportunity: put together a child's dream vacation.
After all these years, I now realize that I have been taking the kind of trip that a child would adore.
This year, I set an agenda for our summer tradition, which began back in 1994 as a poorly planned camping trip: take a look at Door County through a kid's eyes; relive old memories and make new ones; and frame a vacation that would entertain an entire family.
Turns out, this scouting mission was one for which I've been gathering data for nearly two decades.
"Door County is a great place to bring a family because it's a participatory destination that promotes family togetherness," says the Visitor Bureau's Jon Jarosh. "Whether that's by building a sandcastle with your kids on the beach, going for a family bike ride, marveling at coastline caves on a family kayak tour or sitting around a campfire together making s'mores."
The great outdoors: You can take a perfectly nice Door County vacation without getting on the water, but it's also a missed opportunity if you don't. Some kids will appreciate a boat tour, but this year, we wanted to get wet, too, so we met up with Door County Adventure Tours at Egg Harbor Beach.
Kayaking on Lake Michigan can be as challenging or relaxing as you want it to be, and with tandem sea kayaks, even very young children can participate. Our guided tour was led by Sam Peterson, who took us from Whitefish Bay Beach on the other side of the peninsula, into Cave Point and back. Tours are $55 per person and can last for several hours.
"This job is a dream," says Peterson, who's in her second summer of leading kayak tours. "The majority of participants have tried kayaking once or maybe twice, so they're coming in looking for new knowledge: a safe, fun experience, and we get to do that. After their first 15 minutes, you see improvement and how they work together."
The tour guides don't skimp on the safety training and education, so you'll feel secure when you push off from the beach. While the caves aren't as grandiose as the ones I squeezed through in the Apostle Islands, they're plenty beautiful, and this part of Lake Michigan is calm and serene.
For a different view of the peninsula, Door County offers a few zip line opportunities. In 2010, we tried Door County Gravity Trails in Ellison Bay. It's not like soaring above an Amazon rainforest, but it's still exhilarating and suitable for the whole family, too. Similarly, consider an off-road Segway tour from Seaquist Segway if your kids are a little older.
This summer, Eron and I took a very difficult six-mile run through Peninsula State Park's Sunset Trail. That might be a little much for a family, but two years ago, we took a similar route with rented bikes, and that's a great way to see one of the state's prettiest parks and get the whole family some exercise.
Finally, if you want scenic – while someone else does the work – try the Grizzly Scenic Air Tours. At $160 for up to three people, you'll get a 30-minute arial tour of Door County. It's an experience no one in the family will forget and it's quite a bargain.
I scream, you scream: Believe it or not, the Door County Visitor Bureau promotes an official ice cream tour of Door County. It's really not that surprising, since ice cream is everywhere you look. Two of our favorite ice cream spots are the iconic Wilson's in Ephraim and the Door County Ice Cream Factory in Sister Bay.
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