Even though I’ve lived in Milwaukee for a few years now, I haven’t ventured out and gone on many weekend trips yet. So, when I was given the opportunity to travel an hour North to Elkhart Lake for a weekend, I was excited to jump at the chance. Not being from the area, I went in with no idea of what to expect from Elkhart Lake, but I was so pleasantly surprised.

From lovely restaurants to a gorgeous resort and the best spa I’ve ever been to, I was ready to return before the trip was even over! The group I was with actually went with the intention of highlighting the Christmas markets at the Ostoff Resort and the Christmas happenings in the area, but most everything would be lovely year round.

The accommodations were at the Ostoff Resort, a beautiful place with a spa, cooking school (more on that later) and dining that absolutely delicious. Even in the winter, the resort was a perfect place to stay inside and cozy up, especially since everything can be accessed within short walking distance of the resort. I was amazed at how easily we were able to run back to the resort, then meet up for lunch just a short time later in the downtown area. The location was perfect and right on the lake, which is something I can’t wait to go back and take advantage of in the warmer months (hello kayaking!). By the way, the bathroom in my room at the resort was amazing and I might have totally overfilled it with bubble bath, whoops (worth it!).

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Now, on to the important stuff, food! The weekend was kind of a whirlwind of eating, exploring and just checking all the things of the town out, but I have to say, I was beyond impressed with the dining options in Elkhart Lake. Our first lunch was at Off the Rail, a cute cafe that was is a converted train car and has the best sandwiches and desserts that I’ve eaten in a long time. From the scent of freshly brewed coffee to the locals who seemed to welcome anyone in along the way, this place felt like the kind that you could become a regular at with ease. I came for the Ghost Train sandwich (which was easily made vegan), but stayed for the peanut butter bars, which were outstanding, and homemade by the owner’s wife to boot. After an afternoon of shopping at the cutest shops around the downtown, this was the perfect break in the day!

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One of the biggest highlights of the trip was being able to take a class at the Ostoff Cooking School. The classes range from an all pastry class (swoon!) to a French themed cooking class, which was the one we took. Since it was near the holidays, the whole meal was holiday themed, complete with baguettes and a Buche de Noel (which I helped make, oh hi!). Not all of the food was vegan/vegetarian, but plenty of accommodations were made. From the bread to a perfect citrus salad, I had plenty to eat and was able to sample lots of gorgeously prepared food. One of the things that I loved the most about the class was that we were actually able to prepare the food and get tips from the head chef and teachers in the class, hands on. I don’t love when cooking classes involve you sitting and watching someone else cook, I want to get in there! I would take another one of these cooking classes in a heartbeat, without a doubt.

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Moving later into the day, we went on to one of my favorite places, Vintage Elkhart Lake. I’m not one to have a vast knowledge of wine, but after our wine tasting and chatting with the knowledgeable owner, Jaclyn, I kind of almost felt like I understood and knew just a bit more about wine and how to pair it with food. I’m not going to lie, I loved every wine we tasted, but I still do have a couple very cryptic notes scribbled into my phone of the wines I loved, so I can’t wait to hunt them down soon. Jaclyn knows her stuff, so I can’t wait to go back to her shop (which has an amazing selection of local food too!) and try even more wine. I also did a bit of shopping for my husband and dad at this shop too, picking up a bottle of mid shelf whiskey and another that was pecan pie whiskey, which I couldn’t wait to steal back from my dad after he cracked it open.

To top it all off, we stopped at Victorian Village for a nightcap and a few desserts, chatting with the charming owner and learning a bit more about the area. From an internationally known racetrack to a laid back tiki bar that’s open in the winter (hello, Wisconsin people will partake in a festive drink anytime and anywhere!), the town has quite a bit of charm to offer. I finished my night off with a festive winter themed old fashioned and a taste of a brownie parfait laced with peppermint and extra chocolate.

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The next day, after a bit of spa time and breakfast on our own, we were finally able to visit the Christmas markets at the resort, complete with lunch of potato pancakes and dessert of the most amazing apple strudel. Between perusing the booths for ornaments and buying way too many soft pretzels for just me to eat (I suppose I shared with my husband), I winded up buying a bit of mulled wine and didn’t buy all the cat ornaments I wanted, but they would have been so perfect! To cap off the day, we ate at Lola’s On the Lake, which offered up a perfect old fashioned and roasted parsnip and leek ravioli. Needless to say, at the end of the trip I was stuffed, happy and excited to make another trip back to Elkhart Lake. If you are in the area, I would highly recommend paying this lovely town a visit!