Kohler, Wisconsin

At the American Club resort in Kohler, Wisconsin, an older gentleman stands beside his horse and carriage trying to drum up business. His pitch: “If I take you on a ride and you see one piece of trash or paper, it’s free.” I didn’t take him up on his offer, but after spending a few days in Kohler—a postcard-perfect village developed by the plumbing company that shares its name—I would be shocked if the man has ever given out a free ride.

The exterior of the American Club.

Proud to be the American: Built in 1918 as a home for the Kohler Company’s immigrant employees, the American Club is now the Midwest’s only AAA Five Diamond resort hotel. Although its boarding-house days are long gone, the club’s history is never far from mind. Black-and-white photos and faded memorabilia hang throughout, and the signature restaurant, the Immigrant, is decorated to honor the European heritage of those early workers. They’ve even named the on-site pub the Horse & Plow. There’s nothing old-school about the bathrooms, however. Not surprising for a resort run by a kitchen and bath company, each room at the American Club features a state-of-the-art shower, and select rooms have whirlpool tubs.

Water World: With those luxurious bathrooms, it’s easy to be clean here, and the Kohler Waters Spa makes it even easier. Located in an annex to the American Club called the Carriage House, the 25,000-square-foot spa is known for its water treatments. The Lavender Rain service, for example, includes a full-body exfoliation and a warm Vichy shower and finishes with a foot and scalp massage. The Harmony Bath treatment begins the same way but ends with a dip in an oversize bathtub you’ll wish you never had to leave. A soft pillow and relaxing water jets aimed at the neck mean tension doesn’t stand a chance. Book a room in the Carriage House, and the spa is just an elevator ride away.

River Wildlife’s dining room.

The Great Outdoors: If the spa’s not your thing, don’t fret. There are plenty of other activities to keep you busy in Kohler. Nature enthusiasts are sure to love River Wildlife, a private recreational and dining club open (with a fee) to guests of the American Club. This wilderness preserve along the Sheboygan River offers canoeing, trap shooting, horseback riding, fishing, and more. (In winter, try snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.) Dining at River Wildlife is as quaint as it comes. A rustic log cabin, complete with fireplace and taxidermy, provides the setting. For lunch, think homemade soups, chicken salad sandwiches, and a pheasant BLT. The always-changing dinner menu might include roast duck and Pacific salmon. Golfers, of course, will want to reserve a tee time at Whistling Straits, host of the 2010 PGA Championship. Situated on Lake Michigan’s western shore, Whistling Straits provides two 18-hole championship courses: the Straits course and the Irish course. The recently renovated Blackwolf Run, which is set to host the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open Championship, is also nearby.

How to Get There: Frontier Airlines flies direct from DFW to Milwaukee. Kohler is a one-hour drive from the airport.

Where to Stay: The American Club

This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of D Magazine.

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