Take a Weekend Trip to Kohler, Wisconsin’s Design Capital

These 5 places are musts for a Kohler getaway.

An hour north of Milwaukee is the Mothership when it comes to luxury plumbing: the company town of Kohler (pop. 2,108), where many of the products are still made. See for yourself on a three-hour factory tour weekdays at 8:30 a.m., led by retired workers.

Lesser known is Kohler’s hospitality side and unarguably Wisconsin’s most luxurious resort. Rates at The American Club run $132+ weekdays this spring ($214+ weekends), making the village an ideal spring getaway (conversely, summer rates start at $377 and go as high as $1,000 a night). Naturally, Kohler faucets and tubs are in the rooms. Springtime is also before the height of golf season, when golfers from around the country flock to Whistling Straits. Come 2020, the resort will host the Ryders Cup, thrusting the region even further into the spotlight.

Across the street from the resort is the three-story Kohler Design Center staffed by designers who will, at no cost, help build out your dream kitchen or bath. After a consultation, 3D renderings are emailed a week later. Or, you can browse the hundreds of sinks, tubs, toilets and faucets, a feast for the eyes with painted sink basins, soaking tubs to make you swoon, and colors that prove white isn’t your only option. Earlier this year new design suites were added to the mezzanine level crafted by celebrity designers and depicting a Parisian-style kitchen and a bath inspired by Buenos Aires. Don’t leave without touring the museum on the center’s lower level, which documents the company’s beginnings, in 1873 when Austrian immigrant John Michael Kohler purchased a foundry.

One of the Carriage House suites; photo by Kohler

At Kohler Waters Spa next door, treatments weave in the company-made tubs and fixtures. Even the smooth, polished stones used in hot-stone treatments are culled locally, from the Lake Michigan shoreline. As one of just 56 Forbes five-star spas around the world, it’s all about luxury. New on the menu this spring is an ode to Kohler’s property in St. Andrews, Scotland, with the All Things Scotland treatment, which begins with a seaweed wrap and sea-salt exfoliation, followed by a rinse with Kohler’s custom Vichy shower and moisturizing with the aid of warmed seashells. Carriage House rooms above the spa are ideal for spa-seekers who never want to step outside; the rooms’ Kohler soaking tubs are the perfect post-spa indulgence.

Immigrant Restaurant; photo by Kohler

Foodies won’t go home hungry thanks to the resort’s epic Immigrant Restaurant, where dinners are served in rooms decorated in homage to the waves of European immigrants who sought out Wisconsin, including the Danish, German and French. But the food skews modern, with beautiful plating, such as lamb loin dusted with coffee and served with parsnip purée or, for dessert, vanilla crème brûlée with espresso foam.

Edible art at Craverie Chocolatier Cafe; photo by Kohler

For the perfect afternoon snack, chocolates crafted by master chocolatier Anette DeFendi at Craverie Chocolatier Café—in the resort’s Shops at Woodlake—are so beautiful that you feel compelled to snap a photo before eating. One example are the chocolates depicting gemstones, ringed by what look like diamonds. A few years ago, Kohler introduced its signature Terrapins (much like turtles) and these are joined by seasonal tributes, such as the Chocolate Eggs collection for spring (malted milk chocolate, dark-chocolate cognac, strawberries and cream, and peanut butter and cassis pâté de fruit. Short on time? The adjacent Winery Bar boasts one of Wisconsin’s most extensive cheese lists (featuring 13 different Dairy State creameries) as well as craft cocktails you won’t find anywhere else. Some—like the Bitter Boy, with Kohler Original Recipe Chocolate Mint Brandy—feature ingredients from Kohler’s spirits line, proof that this 144-year-old company isn’t short on innovation.



A seasoned writer, and a former editor at Milwaukee Home & Fine Living, Kristine Hansen launched her wine-writing career in 2003, covering wine tourism, wine and food pairings, wine trends and quirky winemakers. Her wine-related articles have published in Wine Enthusiast, Sommelier Journal, Uncorked (an iPad-only magazine), FoodRepublic.com, CNN.com and Whole Living (a Martha Stewart publication). She's trekked through vineyards and chatted up winemakers in many regions, including Chile, Portugal, California (Napa, Sonoma and Central Coast), Canada, Oregon and France (Bordeaux and Burgundy). While picking out her favorite wine is kind of like asking which child you like best, she will admit to being a fan of Oregon Pinot Noir and even on a sub-zero winter day won't turn down a glass of zippy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.