We (Sara & Katie) are homebodies who also like to get away. The both of us look forward to fall and slowing down a little bit from a fun, but busy, summer. After returning home from Steamboat, we were a little disappointed that there was nothing on the calendar for a while. We decided to go somewhere for a couple nights the last weekend of September. A lot of different locations were tossed around, mostly in northern Wisconsin or Michigan. Some of the considerations we made were that our location needed to be drive-able, someplace new to explore, enough activities to keep us busy, and a good lodging rental.
Since winter in Wisconsin can be absolutely brutal (still recovering from the post-trauma of the Polar Vortex in early 2019), it’s crucial to enjoy the last few nice weeks of the year. The leaves generally reach peak color in late September up north, so this is a great time to get away. Also, many cabin rentals in summer require a minimum of one week stay at steep prices, but they are often discounted and available with 2 or 3-night minimum stays in September and beyond. Northern Wisconsin is a great place to explore the colors, crisp weather, and all the comforts of fall.
This year, we chose to spend a weekend in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin. A 3.5 hour drive north from Madison, it’s an ideal location to visit for a few nights and has all the outdoor activities that northern Wisconsin is known for – biking, hiking, fishing, water activities, snowmobiling, dining, and shopping. Katie found the rental after striking out on VRBO’s – this time of year can be hard to find last-minute rentals to fit a group our size. The “Kodiak Kastle” at Big Bear Hideaway fit our group and was a pleasant surprise! This rental appealed to us because of the walkability to shops & restaurants, the firepit, the sauna (Justin’s pick!), the layout / bedroom situation, and cozy vibe tucked into the pines.
We highly recommend this cabin and resort! The cabin construction had so much detail – nearly everything was hand-crafted and so unique. The kids loved exploring all the little nooks and crannies throughout and as usual, many games of hide & seek were played. It would be fun to visit again in the future with a larger group – there are 6 cabins on site plus a shared “den” cabin so each family could rent their own cabin and everyone could enjoy the resort together. This resort can also be used as a wedding venue and we can only imagine how pretty it must be to host your wedding here! The owners live on-site and were very friendly and helpful. It’s definitely on our “will return again” list! (Friends – let’s pick a weekend next year!!)
The only downside: while there were two “private” bedrooms + a lofted bedroom and plenty of beds, the entire cabin had open rafters and partial walls and the noise traveled very easily. We utilized the fans provided and sound machines to help drown out the noise and thankfully the kids all slept okay!
What we did:
The downtown area is quite small but had a few shops to get our fix in that weekend. They were mostly woodsy cabin-themed decor, some art and pottery galleries, and sporting good / apparel shops. This time of year, many of the local businesses close due to lower tourism so it was pretty quiet. We still managed to walk away with a few things (best purchase of the weekend: a whoopie cushion).
The cabin had a good selection of board games for the kids so we played some games of Apples to Apples and Charades for Kids. We also brought along a new game that we had purchased a week earlier when visiting Baraboo, WI called Codenames. Without really knowing what the game was about, we were able to learn it quickly and had fun playing at night when the kids were in bed.
Big Bear Hideaway had a nice firepit we took advantage of. While it is shared with the other cabins in the resort, we had it to ourselves each night. There’s nothing better than a warm fire, S’mores, and hot cocoa on a chilly night!
Boulder Junction is known for it’s amazing bike trails, so we were excited to check it out. The “Heart of Vilas County Bike Trail” originated in Boulder Junction and now expanded to cover over 50 miles and is fully paved. We brought bikes from home, but there are a few local places to rent bikes from. All three big kids now ride bikes without training wheels and the youngest rode in a pull-behind bike trailer. We got on the bike path right outside the resort and went out and back about 4 miles. Despite most of the adults having not ridden a bike in many years, plus four kids age 6 and under, we did pretty well and everyone had a really good time!
After biking, we drove into Minocqua, a touristy town about 20 minutes from Boulder Junction. The weekend we visited, Mincoqua had it’s annual “Beef-A-Rama” festival going on so we had to see what it was all about. Only in Wisconsin would there be an entire festival devoted to beef! The website advertised many activities for the kids, some good food, and unique events (Cow Pie Plop contest…Google it). However, we must have missed the part on the website that mentions 12,000 people coming to the festival annually. We hit a huge line of cars entering the town, road closures, and swarms of people EVERYWHERE. We quickly aborted the plan, as nobody had patience to chase four kids around in a huge crowd and instead picked a kid-friendly restaurant on the outskirts of town called The 19th Hole.
The resort where the cabin was located also had some open spaces for the kids to run, bike, and play. In addition to the firepit, there was an area to play horseshoes and basketball.
what we ate:
When we first arrived into town, we stopped at the Boulder Beer Bar & Restaurant for lunch. It’s your classic Wisconsin bar and grill, food and drinks were good (and cheap!). Everyone had a good time and the kids were able to burn off some energy from the car ride playing in the game room.
For dinner, we decided to stay in and cook at the cabin. We had brought all the fixings for grilled cheese, plus Katie’s mom’s homemade tomato soup. It was a chilly, dreary night so this was a fitting and easy meal.
Saturday morning breakfast included homemade breakfast sandwiches and powdered donuts for the kids 🙂 It’s tradition.
It was Badger game day on Saturday, so we went to the 19th Hole Sports Bar & Grill to watch football and have lunch. The lower level had a large arcade to entertain the kids, which is always a parenting win. Next door was a Par Three golf course and Wilderness Miniature Golf but we didn’t do any of these activities.
For dinner on Saturday night, Sara’s in-laws joined us at the Aqualand Alehouse. It was right next door to the Big Bear Hideaway resort and an easy walk. There was a beautiful outdoor patio, so after we finished eating inside we took our drinks outside while the kids ran around. We didn’t spend too long here since it got late, but can see how it would’ve been really fun on a nice summer night. (Plus = string lights! Our favorite!)
Even though we’re neighbors and spend a decent amount of time together, it was still a really nice getaway with our two families. The kids always play so well together and it’s nice to forget the responsibilities of home for a few nights!