Exploring Hidden Family Gems: A Summer Getaway for All Ages

May 21, 2024

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve finally entered the month when it’s safe to put plants in the ground! My family always went with the Memorial Day rule for planting when I was a kid. While it was an important weekend for the plants, it was equally important for me and all the other kids at school who had one thing and one thing only on our minds – the countdown to summer! Whether or not gardening is your thing, I think we can all agree that even the sights and wonderful smells from others’ gardens reminds us all that summer is near.

Maybe you’re a water sports lover. Maybe you’re more of a poolside reader or beach lounger. Maybe you’re into exploring trails, trees, and wildlife by foot or by bike. Maybe you can’t wait for the moment when it’s warm enough to finally eat on the deck and then roast marshmallows over the fire with the company of fireflies. Maybe you simply want to read a book, take a walk, or enjoy a cup of coffee with your partner while your kids do what kids do best in the summertime – explore, roam, and in the case of Elkhart Lake – splash.

One of the beautiful parts about Elkhart Lake is that it shines in just about every aspect of summer family leisure. One of the best parts about the village is you can count on being able to choose your own adventure at your family’s pace and for every member’s interest. From exploring the water’s scenery to heading into town for a live performance, the village provides a necessary dose of slowing down with just enough action to keep activity seekers occupied. It’s a summer camp for all ages. Here are a few gems for your family to investigate as you’re planning your summer trip.

AMASA Eatery & Bakery – Authentic Mexican cuisine in a family-friendly setting

One of the most exciting additions to the village’s food scene in recent years without a doubt is AMASA Mexican Eatery & Bakery. Elkhart Lake has long prided itself on its vibrant restaurants and now it’s difficult to imagine the village without the colorful flags strung above AMASA’s outdoor patio, not to mention the stunning mural situated behind their little kitchen. Last summer there was a week when I ate at AMASA three days in a row for breakfast. One day I ate there for breakfast and lunch because I was overtaken by excitement to try as many things as I could on the menu! (I know I’m not the only one who’s done this.)

The menu typically offeres handmade pastries including chocolate croissants and guava cheese croissants as well as tres leches french toast. For savory options they had chilaquiles and huevos rancheros. Don’t skip the Mexican coffee! For lunch and dinner, they typically serve up a variety of tacos including the crowd pleasing quesabirria. Fresh plates like ceviche and heartier entrée options such as carne asada and even a burger for those wanting to keep it simple can be expected. The food is top notch, and the atmosphere is perfectly aligned with the spirit of the village – laid back, welcoming, and family-friendly. Locals are excited to see what they will be serving up this coming summer and to dine in the colorful outdoor space.

Photo by Pankratz Arts Exchange

The Theater at the Shore Club – choreographed musical shows in the historic theater

Each summer the Shore Club Theater teams up with The Pankratz Art Exchange to bring entertainment to Elkhart Lake. Shows are held every Wednesday evening from June until August. The performances are a longstanding tradition in the village and end up on many families’ summer vacation itineraries each year. As a kid, the night my friends and I would get tickets to check out the new music was always an exciting night we looked forward to. While the theme of the setlist changes summer to summer, it’s always lively with songs from a range of decades and genres making it a perfect night out for families. Pankratz has just wrapped up auditions for this summer’s cast and will be rehearsing round the clock for their 2024 “Turn It Up” performance. Stay tuned for tickets here: pae.ticketleap.com.

The Osthoff Kid’s Club – a vacation win win, for parents and kids ages 4-12

One of the reasons Elkhart Lake is legendary is because the oldest and the youngest in the family both agree on that fact. It’s a place where no one gets left behind when it comes to activities and no matter what age you are – everyone’s in vacation mode! Although summer trips are all about families making memories together, it’s also important for parents and kids to have a little freedom to experience the place on their own terms. The Osthoff Resort always does an excellent job of taking the reins for a few hours at their Kid’s Club. From learning how to paddle a kayak on the lake, casting a fishing pole, cooking classes, and crafts, the Kid’s Club caters to a variety of kids’ personalities and interests. It’s best to make reservations ahead of time and you can find the summer schedule of activities here: osthoff.com.

Photo by Road America

4 Miles of Fitness – walk, run, bike at Road America’s woodland trails & paved course

Even though I’ve been visiting the local road racing track since I was in a stroller, I’ll be the first to tell you I know very little trivia about the actual cars that zoom around the course. While I appreciate the world class engines, I think it’s the enthusiasm from the world class visitors who travel from all over to Road America that is really exciting. There’s a specific energy that only Road America holds and a huge part of that is the culture as well as the landscape that the track is nestled into. The whole place glows in the early evening as the sun shifts through the lush leafy trees. A place typically known for roaring engine noise takes on a new calmer personality in the evening.

In recent years the racetrack has made it so that you don’t have to be behind the wheel of a fancy car to enjoy the twists and turns of the terrain. Starting this month on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., bikers and runners, walkers even strollers can hit the trails throughout the property as well as some of the paved surface of the racetrack. Check out more details including a map of the route before you go here: 4-miles-of-fitness.

The Splash Shack at Osthoff Water Sports – gear up for lake time

Packing for the lake seems simple but when you’re trying to load up the car or leave the hotel room in an excited hurry fueled by summer weather, things often get missed. Although a little town, Elkhart Lake has you covered for your beach day shopping needs. Once you get to the lake, head over to the Osthoff Resort’s waterfront. There you will find the watersports rental area and the Splash Shack. Goggles, SPF, beach toys, floaties, and snacks are all stocked on the Splash Shack’s shelves should you need to get some backup supplies for your beach bag.

Elkhart Lake Public Library

Village Public Library – reading material rain or shine, plus a summer program for all ages

Situated within the village park (a gem all its own) is the public library. I highly recommend signing up for a library card, especially if you are someone who returns to Elkhart Lake each year. The cards are free and it’s a wonderful resource for refreshing your reading list. Visitors and locals are lucky to have such a wonderful place to access reading material in this little village. In addition to the selection of books on the shelves, the library always hosts summer programming for adults and children of nearly every age group. It’s a great option to have in your back pocket throughout the summer especially when thunderstorms roll through town. It’s also a great place to meet other families. The summer library program is where I met my best friend from childhood. We’re still dear friends. All that to say, you never know where a local library may lead you. Check out the summer program schedule here: www.elkhartlakepubliclibrary.org.

There are many reasons why families who visit Elkhart Lake tend to return to the village year after year. Some say visiting this place is like stepping back in time and helps their families slow down so they can connect in a more meaningful way. Others feel it’s like returning home or reconnecting with an old friend they haven’t seen in a while. Don’t be surprised if after a few hours of wandering in the village you find yourself walking with a little more ease through the day. Once your family visits Elkhart Lake you’ll likely be saying “We usually try a new place every year, but we will definitely be making this place a repeat!”

For a full list of potential activities and amenities please visit www.elkhartlake.com, and be sure to check out the village’s sustainable tourism initiative The Elkhart Way before exploring the gems of the area. 

Kate Vollrath

Meet The Author

Kate Vollrath was born and raised in Elkhart Lake. After several years of working and adventuring in Anchorage, Alaska and a year studying in Italy, she has returned to her favorite freshwater shoreline. Wisconsin will always be home. The incredible local culture, extraordinary community, and summer Sundays on the water are what keep her rooted and returning no matter where life takes her.