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There’s never a bad time to make a visit to Door County; even in the coldest months of the year, you’ll find cozy corners and unique experiences that can only be found here. While the busiest season of the year lands in summer and fall, the slower season—considered to be the months of November-May—has some serious perks. The secret to enjoying the slower season lies in adapting a slower pace, having a willingness to explore and, of course, the ability to embrace a fresh perspective of the peninsula and Washington Island.
Many favorite summertime experiences that draw crowds over the peak season can also be experienced in the winter, but this time, you’re much more likely to get the VIP treatment. Try visiting Cave Point in the winter to see icy landscapes and snow-covered shorelines or visit your favorite shops, wineries, and breweries on the weekends for a more personalized experience.
Once the lake has frozen, get a totally different view of Eagle Harbor in Ephraim by actually snowshoeing across it. If it’s a Saturday night, you may still want to make a reservation at your favorite dining spot, but this time you can count on calling a week in advance instead of a month. And you can even take a winter ferry ride over to Washington Island—the ferries run year round and it’s quite an experience in the midst of winter.
Unless we’re experiencing one of our infamous blizzards, getting outside most often leads to an incredibly beautiful and peaceful experience. The blanket of snow has a sound dampening effect and with no crowds to speak of, you’ll be able to hear every beat of your own heart. The winter ice build up also has a transforming effect, changing your favorite landscapes into something entirely new. Even the sunsets take on an other-worldly aura, making them more spectacular—if that is even possible. So if its peace and quiet you’re looking for, there’s no better time to be in Door County.
While we are experiencing the vast weather shifts of the seasons down here on planet earth, the night sky remains big, beautiful and as visible as ever in the northern parts of the county. That means a visit to Newport State Park, the only Wisconsin state park with the International Dark Sky designation, is still a worthy endeavor, even if it means donning your warmest parka and long johns. In fact, colder months of winter is the best time to visit as the warm, moisture-laden atmosphere of summer is thicker, and less transparent than the crisp, cold winter dome. Nights are also longer in the winter, giving us a greater window in which to enjoy the wonders of the universe. If you’re lucky, you may be given an opportunity to witness the Northern Lights, too, if the aurora activity registers at a visible level to the Midwest region. More on that here.
Door County is a hub of artistry, with theater, pottery, music, and galleries peppering the county from north to south. You’ll discover that the opportunity to experience the arts extend year round: Theater can be found in the cooler months at Third Avenue Playhouse as Door County's only year-round professional theatre troupe, and the new Barbara & Spencer Gould Theater in Fish Creek will have a special “Home for the Holidays” concert show indoors between Christmas and New Years. Live music events stay steady at many bar and restaurant establishments, but more formal musical appearances happen at Door County Auditorium.
While many art galleries north of Sturgeon Bay choose to have seasonal openings, many do continue to stay open near the southern portion of the peninsula. Check the gallery listings for variety of art, locations and hours. Step into the artist role yourself when you visit Hands On Art Studio in Fish Creek where you can paint ceramics, create glass mosaics, make jewelry and more. Make signs, home decor and other crafty custom projects at Reclaimed, Clink!, And Stone Silo. Or, add to your skillset with a class at the Peninsula School of Art.
The winter season sees a return to the core communities of the county, with roughly 27,000 residents residing here year round. Do as a local does with some of the favorite pastimes and hobbies here, including snowmobiling, ice fishing, fat tire biking, cross country skiing, sledding on Hill 17 and cozying up at our favorite pubs and supper clubs. You may not live here (yet!), but it’s a great way to see what it could be like! You’re bound to strike up more than a few conversations with friendly people that call this beautiful place home year round.
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