Thrills and Hills in Elkhart Lake

Thrills and Hills in Elkhart Lake
At the northern tip of Wisconsin’s kettle moraine, an old resort town still draws a crowd.
 
In its entire 150-year history as a resort town, Elkhart Lake rarely has been a sedate place. The early resort owners loved entertainment and built opera houses, dance halls and theaters. Then they put in casinos, and gambling became so commonplace that placing a bet was like buying an ice-cream cone; everybody did it. The town was a little bit Catskills, a little bit Vegas and a lot of Chicago. Elkhart Lake is quieter these days. The biggest gamble likely will be whether the foie-gras agnolotti or chipotle-braised pork cheeks is the better choice at the village’s bistros. It’s still a fast place, though— especially during the Concours d’Elegance in July, when vintage race cars roar into the village from Road America. Two things brought in the colorful characters that shaped the town. The beautiful lake, for one. The story is that the Potawatomi named it for its shape, but it makes more sense that it was mixed up with nearby Crystal Lake, which really is shaped like an elk’s heart. Elkhart Lake is the crystalline one, spring-fed and clear. It’s a kettle lake, formed in the depression created by a giant chunk of glacial ice, and the fourth-deepest natural lake in Wisconsin. It’s also close to the big cities, an hour from Milwaukee and 2½ hours from Chicago.
 
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