Last May, I took a press trip to Door County. I didn’t write about it until now because Door County is not exactly a cheap destination in the summer. The bargains there are in the off-season: fall, winter, and into the spring.
Door County it is a great, low-cost long weekend destination from Chicago as long as you avoid summer! Even if you go during high season, you can find some relatively inexpensive ways to have fun. Here are a few ideas to see Door County on the cheap.
Hotels: Door County has a wide variety of places to stay, from high-end bed-and-breakfasts to camping. Prices will be high everywhere on summer weekends, but the rest of the time, you may be able to get a good deal through the Chicago on the Cheap travel page. I stayed at the Country House Resort in Sister Bay, which had comfortable rooms, great views, and an included breakfast.
The Door County Land Trust: The Door County Land Trust operates thirteen nature preserves on the Peninsula, and they do not have admission or permit fees, unlike Peninsula State Park. They are great sites for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. The Land Trust website includes information on the hiking trails. You can use it to plan hikes to see the region’s geography. If you need skis, snowshoes, or snow tubes, Nor Door Sport rents them from locations in Fish Creek and Sturgeon Bay.
Maritime Museum: The Door County Maritime Museum is a series of three museums. The main location is at Sturgeon Bay and is open all year; smaller museums at Cana Island Lighthouse and Gills Rock are open during high season. The main museum has an interesting combination of exhibits about the history of the region, its shipbuilding industry, the lighthouses, and artwork about the Great Lakes. There’s also a really fun and kid-friendly pirate exhibit. (There was some piracy on the Great Lakes, but not very much.) In season, the Sturgeon Bay Museum has a working tugboat that you can tour. This is well worth the admission fee, and if you are visiting in the summer, you can get a combined ticket that includes the tugboat and the outlying museums, a good value.
Shopping in Sturgeon Bay: When you’re in Sturgeon Bay checking out the museum or renting gear, you may want to check out a few of the shops in town. The Untitled Used and Rare Bookstore is a great place to stock up on discount reading materials and interesting gifts. Door County Candy has lots of fun treats, many of which are made on site.
Fish boils: A fish boil is a traditional way to prepare whitefish. The fish is boiled and then the fat is burned off to create a tender, mild-tasting dish – and a spectacular show. The fish is served with potatoes, cole slaw, bread, and cherry pie. On the press trip, I attended the fish boil at the White Gull Inn. I don’t eat any meat, yet the sides alone were plenty of food and the evening was worth it for the fun. (Dinner for adults is $19.95, excluding alcohol, including dessert; the service is all you can eat during a seating.) Depending on the time of year, you may find a good fish boil put on by a church or community group, which will be even cheaper.
The Door County Visitors Bureau website has more information about fun things to do and special events. I had a great time over a long weekend, and I hope you do, too.