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Act Your Age: Family Fun for the Young & Young Heart


By Brenda Bredahl

Families have long flocked to the “Door” to make memories on land and water. A strong environmental sensibility is evident, so all are encouraged to tread lightly to ensure this beautiful maritime and agricultural region is enjoyed by all. But treading lightly doesn’t mean quietly. Family fun—from the relaxing to the boisterous—is at the top of the must-do list.

1 • Water Fun

Numerous scenic boat tours offer unique views of the peninsula. Take the Norra Dörr at Sister Bay Scenic Boat Tours to pass Peninsula State Park’s sea caves and lighthouse. The tour guide, grandson of a lighthouse keeper and son of a commercial fisherman keeps families entertained with local folklore.

Join a cruise with Fish Creek Scenic Boat Tours to explore nearby islands, bluffs, and beaches. The sunset cruise, which features live music, and the fireworks cruise prove especially popular for those with young ones.

Washington Island’s Schoolhouse Beach consists of unique limestone rocks that have been worn smooth by the waves over thousands of years. This swimming spot is a local favorite, where you’ll find generations of families grilling on the shore and frolicking in the clear water. For exceptionally soft, fine sand and a quieter ambiance, head to Sand Dunes Beach Park at the southern end of the island.

To visit Washington Island, you’ll need to cross the ominous-sounding Death’s Door from the northern tip of the peninsula. The name “Death’s Door” comes from indigenous peoples who referred to the passage as the Door of Death after losing many men and canoes in a battle. The French adopted the name and began to label their maps Port des Morts, which roughly translates to “Death’s Door” in English. Thanks to today’s modern technology, such as weather forecasting and detailed mapping systems, boaters can now safely travel the waters of Death’s Door. 

Hop aboard the Washington Island Ferry, which will take you, your family, your pet, and your vehicle across the bay; in winter, it’s impressive to watch the ship break through sheets of ice during the 30-minute journey.

2 • Teen Time

Your older kids will want to document their exciting adventures as they explore the peninsula. Egg Harbor Fun Park has paintball and batting cages, plus an arcade and go-karts. At Door County Adventure Center, teens can take awesome helmet-cam videos of Rowleys Bay while zip lining through the trees. Lakeshore Adventures offers clear-bottom kayak tours to view shipwrecks up close. Tag along with Bay Shore Outfitters for standup paddleboard lessons. Take to the skies with Parasail Door County, which offers solo and tandem parasailing adventures for ages five and up (yes, you read that right!). Learn about tales from the past — and maybe even spot an apparition — on a Door County Trolley ghost tour.

3 • Natural Resources 

Peninsula State Park is famous for its eight miles of shoreline, including Nicolet Beach for boating and swimming, Eagle Bluff Lighthouse (circa 1868), the 60-foot-high Eagle Tower observation deck, seasonal Northern Sky Theater performances, a golf course, and numerous ways to get in touch with nature. 

Kids flock to the White Cedar Nature Center for wildlife displays, animal fossils and furs, nature programs, crafts, evening campfires, and more. The Ridges Sanctuary, Wisconsin’s oldest nonprofit nature preserve, holds weekly summer camps for children, but families can visit the trails and fully accessible boardwalks here any time of year, and kids get in free. Guided tours, including autumn night hikes — focusing on nocturnal creatures and the two lighthouses on the property — meet at the expansive Cook-Albert Fuller Nature Center.

4 • Spare Time 

Weekends mean Friday fish frys and bowling at Sister Bay Bowl and Supper Club. Bowl on a handful of lanes built in the 1950s in the former Sister Bay Hotel’s dance hall, or step inside the iconic Wisconsin supper club, still run by the founding family, for Shirley Temples and Old-Fashioneds. In Sturgeon Bay, check out Cherry Lanes Arcade Bar, featuring retro pinball machines and four fully restored vintage bowling lanes — and just like the old days, scoring is done manually.

5 • Mini-Golf

For a friendly competition, treat the crew to a round of putt-putt. Family-owned Red Putter Mini Golf offers a vintage course full of charm — and cheap rates. The Salty Seagull’s oceanside-themed course is ADA-compliant and contains a killdeer nesting area that squawks if you get too close.

Learn about the environment, conservation, and sustainability while trying to get a hole-in-one at the brand-new Evergreen Miniature Golf course. At Pirates Cove Adventure Golf, you and your scallywags will cross rickety footbridges and putt past skeletons and sinking ships to see which buccaneer makes it closest to the hole.

6 • Creativity Shines

Nature undoubtedly inspires Door County’s artists, whose work can be found in dozens of galleries and open studios. Kids are surprised and delighted to learn that they’re actually allowed and encouraged to decorate the dockside warehouse of Anderson Dock in Ephraim.* Inside is the Hardy Gallery, featuring exhibits by local artists. 

Candles, oils, and melts are handcrafted in small batches on-site at Carlsville’s Door County Candle Company, and guests of all ages can make their own unique souvenirs by dipping taper candles into a rainbow of colors. Feeling inspired by the beauty of Door County? Drop in with the family and create art together at the Hands On Art Studio in Fish Creek. The DIY projects include ceramics, mosaics, canvas painting, wooden signs, jewelry, and fused-glass art.

*A reminder when signing the walls of the famously decorated Anderson Dock warehouse, please do so in a tasteful, respectful manner. Adding graffiti or decorating any other areas surrounding the warehouse is strictly prohibited.  

7 • Dining Delights

Traditional Scandinavian fish boils are always exciting to watch. Kids shriek, dogs bark, and audiences ooh and ahh when kerosene is thrown on the fire, causing a “boilover” to cook potatoes, onions, and locally caught whitefish. 

Kids won’t be bored sitting around the fire pits at places like the Old Post Office Restaurant and Pelletier’s Restaurant. Look up to see goats grazing on the sod roof at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant. (They live in a cozy barn overnight, and once the cold weather hits.) You’ll find kid-friendly eats here, from pancakes topped with lingonberries to Swedish meatballs. A spacious Scandinavian-themed beer garden hosts live music for dancing. Pick up a treat, such as Swedish fish, from the on-site gift shop, Al’s Butik.

Where else does your food arrive via model train than at railroad-themed PC Junction? A counter made of old doors serves as an order and delivery area, where plates of pizza, mac ‘n’ cheese bites, hot dogs, and other family-friendly fare arrive on the chew-chew train. 

Not Licked Yet serves up a Wisconsin specialty—frozen custard. Try it on a cherry pie or as part of a Door County sundae with cherries, chocolate sauce, and pecans. Kids can work up an appetite on the huge playground at this eclectic outdoor café. Fish Creek runs through the property, so watch for deer getting a drink while you eat.

8 • Flicks with the Fam

The neon marquee of the Skyway Drive-In Theater beckons families to the big nighttime screen, old-school style. With seasonal hours, the Skyway hosts first-run double features served in a nostalgic Northwoods time capsule, complete with a kiddie playground and a concession stand serving up treats from Door County Ice Cream Factory. 

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