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  • Suzanne Carmel

Romantic Weekends Close to Home


Though Valentine’s Day has come and gone, there is no need to wait for a holiday, anniversary or birthday to celebrate a weekend away with your significant other. As winter drags on and you yearn for spring, a getaway can be just what you need to recharge and relax. It’s setting aside time for yourself and each other and there are plenty of places to do that within just a few hours of Chicago.


Sundara Inn & Spa


A couple at Sundara Inn and Spa, featured in Romantic Weekends Close to Home
SundaraSpa.com

The spa is the focal point at this adults-only property in the Wisconsin Dells, but even if you aren’t a diehard spa enthusiast it’s still a serene retreat with plenty of space to unwind and embrace beautiful pine forested land, nature and some much-needed peace and quiet.


Check in, sign the digital disconnect policy (no phones, tablets or computers in public spaces), and don the supplied spa robes and sandals. Then settle into your luxurious accommodations (the Woodland Retreat rooms are a special treat) and give yourselves permission to experience all that makes this place special.


There are 27 spa rooms for body, face and bath treatments, a salon for nails, and a Himalayan Salt Room meant to detoxify the lungs. All guests on property – whether receiving a treatment or not – can avail themselves of the Purifying Bath Ritual, a self-guided circuit that includes a rainfall shower and exfoliating treatment, body mist and steam room, hot soak whirlpool and cold plunge pool.


Two separate relaxation/waiting areas serve guests awaiting treatments or just looking for another space to unwind, and the Suvela Silent Room is a completely quiet place to read or snooze. The Woodland Reflection Room hosts yoga and meditation classes and is a great place to simply sit back and enjoy the woods outside – an excellent vantage point for viewing deer, birds and other wildlife.


Two pools are open during the winter – a heated outdoor pool with a heated whirlpool near the spa relaxation room, and an indoor/outdoor pool with another whirlpool in the Cambrian Oasis, complete with a swim-up bar and secluded alcoves where you can order food.


Culinary and mixology classes run weekly in a demonstration kitchen just across from Nava restaurant where guests in their robes and sandals enjoy three a la Carte meals a day. You can also order room service or hop on the complimentary shuttle to several area restaurants.


Hike or snowshoe (bring your own) on the trails outside Sundara, or drive to nearby Mirror Lake, Devil’s Lake or Rocky Arbor state parks. There’s downhill skiing and snowboarding at Cascade and Christmas mountains, or you can thrill to a zipline at Chimney Rock Park (yes, in the winter) or an ice climb at Governor Dodge State Park with Vertical Illusions guide service/outfitters.


For more information, visit www.sundaraspa.com.


Destination Kohler


A couple skiing at Destination Kohler, featured in Romantic Weekends Close to Home
Kohler Co.

The name Kohler instantly brings to mind bathrooms for many, yet the global corporation is more than just a manufacturer of tubs, sinks, showers and baths. The headquarters in the town of Kohler, Wisconsin, is also home to a highly acclaimed resort – comprised of the American Club Resort Hotel, the nearby Carriage House, the Inn at Woodlawn and five private cabins.


Opt to stay in the main inn, once a dormitory for single male workers at the Kohler factory, or the Carriage House across the street, which is connected to the spa. Both Tudor Revival-style buildings are luxurious, cozy and comfortable – the perfect place to unwind during a winter weekend.


Indulge in spa treatments at The Kohler Waters Spa, with separate hot tubs, cold plunge pools, saunas and steam rooms in the men’s and women’s lounges, located on either side of an indoor pool with a waterfall feature and adjacent coed relaxation areas. Thaw out from winter’s chill on the fourth floor in the large coed hot tub or relax on lounge chairs besides the fireplace. Guests of the Carriage House have complimentary access to the spa public space Monday through Thursday.


Other indoor activities include planning a bathroom install or remodel or just marveling at the wide array of products at the 36,000-square-foot Kohler Design Center, browsing through boutiques at The Shops at Woodlake, or getting fit at Sport Core, Bold Cycle (additional fee) or Yoga on the Lake (additional fee).


Outside, head to Winter Wonderland on weekends through March with a $10 pass to come and go throughout the day, sampling skating, ice hockey, fat tire bikes, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and curling on two small scale lanes. All the equipment is available on site. Warm up in the barn and purchase hot chocolate and cider from the bar, complete with homemade whipped cream and assorted toppings.


After indoor and outdoor activities reserve tables for two at restaurants including the elegant Immigrant Room (jacket required), the casual Horse & Plow, and the Wisconsin Room at the American Club. The sunlit Greenhouse serves coffee, tea and ice cream during the day, and the Library Bar adjacent to the Wisconsin Room offers a great place to unwind with a pre-dinner cocktail.


The Taverne on Woodlake and the restaurant Blackwolf Run are good options, merely a complimentary shuttle ride away, but still on property, as well as River Wildlife, where guests can purchase a day pass, grab an a la Carte lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch in the cozy cabin and then walk on the trails or sit in front of a roaring fire.


For more information, visit www.destinationkohler.com.


The Osthoff Resort


The area around Elkhart Lake has long been considered a place of healing and it’s how the Osthoff Resort got its start – when an unwell Paulina Osthoff and her husband, Otto, visited the region in 1886 for its curative powers, which seemed to help her recover. The 20-acre setting is indeed tranquil, situated on the 290-acre lake with wooded trails nearby.


Head here to the site of the original property, reopened in 1995 in the same Victorian architectural style. There are 240 single- to three-bedroom units in which to hole up, complete with gas fireplaces and some with two-person tubs.


An indoor pool and two indoor hot tubs allow guests to soak throughout winter, while an outdoor hot tub remains open on days the temperature remains above 35 degrees. For more comprehensive pampering and relaxation, head to the top-notch Aspira Spa, with 16 treatment rooms covering everything from massages and facials to wraps and hydrotherapy. For a unique treatment combining a massage with water and chromotherapy, the Chromatub is one of only two in the country and the only one open to the public. Guests not receiving a treatment can pay the $45 daily fee to use the spa common space – indoor and outdoor whirlpools, relaxation lounges, Meditation Sanctuary and spa café.


Dine on property at Otto’s or the Concourse Restaurant, complete with fully stocked bars. Brunch at Otto’s is a weekly treat. On weekend evenings, the Elk Room is the place to be. Enjoy live music while seated at an expansive bar or comfy seating by the large fireplace.


You can burn off indulgent meals in the well-appointed fitness room with Precor and cardio equipment and free weights. Or head outdoors to hike the Ice Age National Trail’s nearby 3-mile segment and the Parnell Tower Trail’s 3.4-mile loop including a bird’s-eye view from the tower. A bit more sedentary, but no less exhilarating, head to Bultiz Pumpkin Farm for a sleigh ride or Siberian Outpost for a 2-3 mile dogsled ride (reservations required well in advance).


Spend part of one day in town and grab breakfast or lunch at Off the Rail, located in the original train depot and serving amazing sandwiches. Shop for wine and unique gifts at Vintage Elkhart Lake and sample wine in the Winematic Lounge or pull up a stool at the bar in Switchgear Brewing Co. with 20 locally brewed beers on tap. Next door, Gina’s Gifts & Framing/Elkhart Lake Outfitters sells outdoorsy apparel and gifts, cute décor and mugs.


For more information, visit www.osthoff.com


Grand Geneva Resort & Spa


The Geneva Club Lounge at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, featured in Romantic Weekends Close to Home
Grand Geneva Resort & Spa

For a quick getaway just an hour-and-a-half from Chicago, Lake Geneva offers visitors a scenic setting, cute shops and an array of restaurants. The Grand Geneva is a few minutes from town, where couples can choose to fill their days with activities or cozy up and unwind.


Stay in the main Frank Lloyd Wright inspired building or in one-to-three-bedroom villas situated on 1300 acres, also including the more budget friendly Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark. The main resort got its start in 1968 as the Playboy Club and it’s come a long way since then. Today you can enjoy a full-service spa and fitness center, Mountain Top ski area, and Dan Patch Stables (not owned by the property).


Make the most of a weekend getaway with access to the Geneva Club for an additional daily fee. The private area functions like a club floor, providing complimentary breakfast, afternoon snacks and an evening happy hour with complimentary beer, wine and batch cocktails served with an assortment of hors d’oeuvres.


You can soak in the indoor pool and hot tub, or have an adults-only swim in the lap pool over at the fitness center where you can also play basketball or tennis, try the rock climbing wall and access the WELL Spa + Salon’s 19 treatment rooms, steam room, sauna and whirlpool.


Back at the main property, be as active and social as you’d like, at activities ranging from bingo and trivia contests, to live music in the lobby lounge Thursday through Saturday evenings, and DJ mixed tunes nightly in Evolve from 10:00 on.


Start your mornings with coffee and pastries (the croissants are fantastic) at Grand Central Coffee Shop or stop by for ice cream later in the day. Grand Café off the lobby serves three meals a day, and restaurants Brissago and Geneva Chophouse offer indulgent Italian and steakhouse fare respectively on select evenings.


Cozy up with your other half in one of several igloos situated around the pool. You can reserve a 90-minute spot for a fee and then order from an igloo menu of creative cocktails, finger food and desserts including a decadent s’mores board. A heater and blankets keep things comfortable while you savor every bite.


Grab the complimentary resort trolley to Mountain Top to burn off calories on 20 downhill runs, or cross country ski, ice skate or snowshoe. Tuesday evenings feature live music, and the cafeteria and restaurant are open when skiers are on the slopes.


Dan Patch Stables has weather-dependent trail, carriage and sleigh rides that you can book in advance. If you have the urge to get off property, head into Lake Geneva for a variety of boutique shops and restaurants situated near the lake. Even in the winter, it’s a pretty sight and worth a quick stroll in the cold.


For more information, visit www.grandgeneva.com


Embrace the last few weekends of winter and bridge the gap to spring at these full service retreats. Before you know it, warm weather will be upon us, but these getaways are the perfect places to reconnect and rejuvenate any time of year.

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