Plan Your Next Getaway With These Exciting Destinations

From day trips to tropical treks, these vacation spots promise a good time.

Photo courtesy of Fox Cities CVB

Day Trips


Beloit is home to one of the most charming main streets in Wisconsin. With excellent dining, posh hotels and unique shops only an hour and a half outside Milwaukee, it’s ideal for a weekend away. Consider staying at one of Beloit’s two boutique hotels, Hotel Goodwin or Ironworks Hotel, which both offer upscale accommodations, or try 1810 Emerson House, Beloit’s quaint, romantic bed and breakfast. Dining options are plentiful, from delicious waffles to start your day at Sophia’s Family Restaurant, to a New York strip at Merrill & Houston’s Steak Joint. If you’re interested in imbibing, there are plenty of pubs, a winery and breweries to choose from. DC Estate Winery is a tranquil spot where you can pair a vintage with snacks – or if you’re more hops-inclined, head to, and download the Beloit and Beyond Craft Beer Trail passport. Challenge yourself to hit six different local spots, including local breweries G5 Brewing Co. and CheezHead Brewing, to win a free T-shirt. 

Ironworks Hotel, Beloit; Photo courtesy of Ironworks Hotel

Appleton and the Fox Cities

If you’re looking to spend some time in nature, the Fox Cities have a lot to offer in the winter and spring. That’s when the area becomes home to hundreds of bald eagles along the the Fox River. This year, Eagle Days is being hosted on Jan. 28 at 1000 Islands Environmental Center. The unique event will include sunrise and sunset guided eagle viewings, kids’ activities and more. And there are plenty of other outdoor adventures to be had nearby. The Fox Cities have over 100 miles of trails to snowshoe and cross-country ski, or hike and bike when the weather warms. Bubolz Nature Preserve has great trails and frequently hosts nighttime candlelit hikes. Last year, the Fox Cities also saw the opening of The Plaza at Gateway Park, a new skating rink modeled after New York’s Rockefeller Center – you can stop by for a skate or just enjoy a warm cup of cocoa at its café. While the outdoor options are plentiful, there’s more to enjoy in the Fox Cities. The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton hosts plays, musicals and more throughout the year. The original Broadway musical Six, about the doomed wives of Henry VIII, begins its run Jan. 17. 

The Plaza; Photo courtesy of The Plaza at Gateway Park

Fish Creek

Thorp House Inn sits on a hillside bluff overlooking downtown Fish Creek, just a block away from Main Street. The beautiful inn, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is a perfect home base for a weekend in Door County. Choose a room in the main building or one of the private cottages on the grounds, which have their own kitchens and fireplaces. Each room comes with a delicious breakfast served in the turn-of-the-century kitchen every morning. You could easily spend a day just relaxing at Thorp House, but there’s plenty to do around Fish Creek. The Northern Sky Gould Theater puts on shows throughout the winter, and as spring arrives, Northern Sky’s outdoor amphitheater, surrounded by the woods, will open again. There are abundant restaurants nearby, like Alexander’s, serving steak and seafood, Bayside Tavern, for burgers and sandwiches, and Wild Tomato, with its delicious pizza Peninsula State Park offers miles of scenic trails to explore by foot or bike, and Fish Creek has dozens of quaint shops selling unique gifts like Alpaca to Apparel, Blue Ivy, Door County Rock and Gem and Hide Side Boutique

Thorp House Inn in Fish Creek; Photo by Dan Eggert, courtesy of Thorp House Inn

Elkhart Lake

Elkhart Lake is a beautiful resort town for a weekend of pampering. The spa, abundant shopping options and tranquil views of the water offer you the chance to slow down, have fun and reconnect with friends. For relaxation and rejuvenation, check out The Osthoff’s Aspira Spa, which offers an extensive variety of unique treatment options, from CBD massage and hydrotherapy to Himalayan hot stone massage (not to mention the whirlpool bath and sauna). For shopping and strolling, there are plenty of charming and unique stores in the village. Elkhart Lake Outfitters specializes in men’s and women’s activewear clothing, shoes and accessories, perfect for lake living needs. Two Fish Gallery sells fine art and crafts by both local and national artists. Nordic Accents – Scandinavian Imports offers cozy home decor, along with jewelry, candles, Norwegian sweaters and more. And consider a stop by Vintage Elkhart Lake to enjoy one of over 250 wines, available by the bottle or at the wine bar, where you can sample local cheese, snacks, chocolates and more. 

Elkhart Lake; Photo courtesy of Elkhart Lake


Photo by Getty Images

West Bend

Less than an hour’s drive from Milwaukee, West Bend’s historic downtown makes for a lively day trip. This spring, the city is finishing construction on its Riverwalk. The major project will cut through downtown with a waterside stroll along dozens of shops, bars and restaurants. Your dining opportunities are plenty – consider a stop by The Norbert to enjoy its seasonal tapas menu, Riverside Brewery and Restaurant for a beer and burger, or just pop into Candyman on Main for a sweet treat. You’ll also pass near shopping destinations like Savoring Thyme gift shop, Sass A Frass Candles, The Beat Goes on Records and Urban Farm Girl furniture store and gift shop, which features work from local artisans. And the new Riverwalk goes right by the Museum of Wisconsin Art, one of Wisconsin’s most prestigious art institutions. MOWA exhibits original work by Wisconsin artists year-round and is always worth a stop. 

Museum of Wisconsin Art; Photo courtesy of Visit West Bend


The Norbert; Photo courtesy of Visit West Bend


Potawatomi Hotel & Casino

Milwaukee’s beloved casino makes for a fun weekend of gaming, relaxation and fun. Book a suite in the hotel if you want to make a weekend of it, or plan an evening of fun. There are 2,500 slot machines, three dozen table games, blackjack, baccarat, craps and more. The hotel and casino is in the process of finishing a $100 million renovation to its third floor, adding a new bar and coffeehouse, as well as a new restaurant, Rock & Brews. That’s on top of the three other restaurants in the building: Ruyi, serving Asian cuisine, Canal Street Café, serving breakfast, and the newly reopened Dream Dance steakhouse. Plus, this winter, Potawatomi is introducing sports betting, making it one of the few casinos in the state to offer it. 

The Pfister Hotel 

The Pfister Hotel needs no introduction. It’s one of the most historic and luxurious hotels in Milwaukee, and an ideal spot for a weekend of pampering. There’s plenty to do: spend a day getting customized treatments at the WELL Spa + Salon, indulge in dinner at Mason Street Grill, enjoy a drink at Blu, the 23rd-floor cocktail bar with a skyline view, or soak in the atmosphere of the Lobby Lounge. The central location makes it a stylish headquarters for a weekend exploring Downtown and the East Side.  

Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel

Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel is worth a stop for the dining alone. There’s ARIA, serving artisanal American cuisine; Proof Pizza; The Dark Room’s secret, private dining space; and Giggly Champagne and Wine Bar, the only champagne bar in Milwaukee. Located in the heart of the Theater District, Saint Kate is a quick stroll away from the Marcus Performing Arts Center, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, the Pabst Theater and more. The hotel has multiple carefully curated art exhibition spaces, including a satellite location of the Museum of Wisconsin Art. And, if they’re available, you can book one of Saint Kate’s four canvas rooms custom-designed by local artists.

Sunny Escapes 

After the doldrums of a Wisconsin winter, a visit to a luxurious resort a little closer to the equator is especially welcome. Funjet Vacations books all-inclusive packages across the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii and more. Here are three of Funjet’s most popular destinations. 


This Mexican destination has some of the most pristine beaches in the world. A Funjet package to one of Cancun’s many resorts makes for a delightful vacation, whether you just want to lie on the beach with a drink in your hand, scuba off the coast or stay up late exploring Cancun’s vibrant nightlife. 


Funjet books to resorts all over Jamaica. The always popular Montego Bay is well known for its shopping and nightlife (not to mention the beautiful oceanfront). Outdoor adventurers will want to check out Ocho Rios, where you can spend a day exploring the falls, mountain biking, hiking and more through a scenic environment unlike anything you’ll find in the U.S.  

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic has so much to offer – snorkel along coral reefs, tee off on world-renowned golf courses, kitesurf or just lounge on one of the many white-sand beaches that line the shore. Funjet’s vacation packages can book you into luxurious resorts and point you toward off-the-beaten path adventures, like merengue dancing and scuba diving near shipwrecks. 

Visit or call your local travel advisor to check out all Funjet’s destinations and package options.

A Vehicle Like No Other

Photo courtesy of Orion Motors

Angie Thundercloud and her husband and two children are always on the move, whether it’s backpacking, college visits, high school sports or road trips. Last year, Thundercloud bought an Orion 365 camper van to make everything she and her family does easier – and more fun. In only nine months, the family has already put over 25,000 miles on it. “It’s just made our lives so much better,” Thundercloud says. “The Orion’s flexibility makes everything simpler. We take it on everything from big vacations to tailgates.” The Orion 365 camper van was developed by Brian and Heidi Dondlinger, a Milwaukee couple who both have mechanical engineering backgrounds. The vehicle has four modes: drive, sleep, relax and cargo. The van adapts to whatever you might need: Want extra cargo space for a big trip? The seats will fold to fit. Planning to camp out? Full-size mattresses drop down at the push of a button. “We really like the kitchen,” Thundercloud says. “We can cook for outdoor trips or events right there.” And electric outlets and wi-fi allow Thundercloud to get online if she needs to log on to a meeting for work or respond to emails. “The Orion really blows my mind,” she says. “I’m so excited to get back on the road with it.” 

Planning Makes Perfect 

Jillian Gibas; Photo courtesy of JLJ Travel

When you’re booking your next vacation, consider cutting out all the hassle and turning to a professional. Jillian Gibas, founder of JLJ Travel, plans customized, easy and most importantly, amazing trips. “Working with a travel designer is like having an expert in your back pocket,” Gibas says. She starts out with a complimentary consultation to discuss the trip, and afterward her clients fill out a questionnaire outlining their travel preferences, goals and desires. “Then, you kick back and relax while we get to work,” Gibas says. “You’ll receive a beautiful outline for your getaway – all unique and catered to you.” She says her clients appreciate the time-saving, the peace of mind and the expertise JLJ brings, introducing them to the best their destination has to offer, far beyond what they would have found on their own. Some of the most popular destinations for her clients are Paris, Cancun and Los Cabos in Mexico, and Sedona, Arizona. “I spend hours and hours per day planning and coordinating trips for clients,” she says. “We take the time to learn about your interests, your preferences and your travel style so we can add those little details to your trip that take it from regular to spectacular.”


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s January issue.

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