By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 06, 2012 at 5:03 AM

There are some places you just don't associate with kids. Lazing in the Kohler Waters Spa is one of them.

But on our first visit to The American Club last year, it was striking how many families were eating in the restaurants, strolling in the garden and enjoying many of the charms of this getaway that once seemed strictly like the domain of adults perhaps specifically seeking a moment's peace from the hustle and bustle routine of family life.

We even saw a couple teens in the spa itself (guests must be 16 to use it, however).

Kohler has noticed, too, says Christine Loose, resident manager of The American Club and Inn on Woodlake.

"We have seen an increase in family travel, because time is so precious," she says. "Research shows people want to travel more with their children."

So, the Kohler Kidz program was born. Launched last spring, the program offers packages at both The American Club and The Inn at Woodlake and includes a wide range of activities and treats for the little ones.

"We've always had children visiting the resort," says Loose, "but until recently we did not have a true, focused effort for kids programming. Last year we got together cross functionally to look at our programming, make it cohesive, enjoyable and memorable. Since its launch, we continue to grow the program, adding activities and providing special activities around holidays such as Mother's Day, Father's Day, Easter, Fourth of July, etc."

The four-hour Kamp Kohler, which keeps young ones active and engaged for the better part of an afternoon, with lunch, snack, outdoor activities, splashing in the pool or playing in the kids playroom, arts and crafts and more, frees up a little time for parents to visit the spa, play a round of golf or just enjoy some relaxation time.

It's the kind of programming that seems perfect for a place like Kohler that offers adult-specific activities but wants to welcome families, too. It's a smart approach. While families want to enjoy a getaway together, it doesn't mean spending every waking moment finding activities that might suit parents and kids.

"Our goal is to offer fun and engaging kids programming so that families of all ages can enjoy their time at The American Club Resort," says Loose.

"The family can reconnect in the afternoon for dinner and family time. Or, for a quick weekend getaway, the family can spend their day together, the kids can go into dinner and a movie while the parents sneak away for a private dinner. Basically, we can customize any itinerary so the families can maximize together and, if wanted, adults can spend some time alone."

On a recent visit, we mostly stuck together, but one of the kids spent an afternoon at Kamp Kohler with about four other kids. They visited the pool, took part in a scavenger hunt, made St. Patrick's Day gifts for the rest of the family and spent a little while with the Wii.

Earlier in the day, we all swam in the Sports Core pool after our eldest child took his first ever tennis lesson, discovering a knack for a sport he might not have otherwise tried.

We dined together at the Cucina Italian restaurant and the Craverie restaurants in the Shops at Woodlake. They were barely a five-minute walk from the rooms at The Inn at Woodlake and are casual, family-friendly places.

Heading over to The American Club, the kids took part in a Friday night storytime, snuggled under blankets near the fireplace, enjoyed treats in the stunning stained-glass Green House Cafe, romped in the garden during an evening bonfire and had dinner at the Horse and Plow, a casual pub located on the hotel's lower level.

On Saturday night, we divided and conquered, with one of us taking one kid to a movie at The Inn at Kohler while the other put the younger one to bed.

Part of the success of program so far has been a doting, kid-focused staff at every venue. The kids were made to feel welcome at each and every restaurant, hotel and shop.

Although we visited at the wrong time to enjoy it, Loose says that the beach at the Sports Core is perhaps the most popular attraction for families.

"The beach is a beautiful place for families to swim, play in the sand, fish, paddle boat and just sun bathe, in a safe, free environment," she says.

"Dinner and a movie is a huge hit. Our Kohler Kidz coordinator is a pro at customizing the night to the ages of the kids signed up. Just last weekend she had four 'tween girls, while the parents ate dinner on their own. The 'tweens received manicures with glitter, jewels and designs, and went away so ecstatic about their night. It felt special and was just for them."

Despite the immediate success of Kohler Kidz – we saw kids at ever turn during our stay – Loose says Kohler isn't done thinking about how it works to attract families and keep them entertained and happy while there.

"Short term we want to share the news that the resort is kid-friendly and can be seen as a family destination with a variety of activities and programming," she says. "Long term, we will continue to evaluate and expand the Kohler Kidz program to ensure family travel in Kohler is enjoyable and memorable."

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.