Wisconsin

Overnight Getaway to The Osthoff Resort

I used to be such a good gift buyer. Or at least I was as a young adult buying gifts for my parents. I knew my parents so well, their likes and dislikes. Buying the perfect gift was easy.

Then I got married.

Jason has been notoriously difficult to buy for. Part of the difficulty — and this applies to me as well — is that if Jason wants something, he just goes and buys it. This past Christmas, I was drawing a complete blank. Then, I remembered this …

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

With that in mind, I decided to give Jason the gift of travel and time with an overnight getaway to The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

For those not familiar with it, The Osthoff Resort is a AAA Four Diamond resort located just northwest of the Sheboygan/Kohler area. Accommodations include one-, two-, and three-bedrooms suites as well as basic guest rooms (which is what we stayed in on this trip). There are several dining options, the Aspira Spa, and lots of recreational activities, especially in the summer months.

We headed up on a Friday afternoon in early February. The drive from home was a little over two hours — just far enough to feel like we were away. We got checked in, relaxed in the room for a bit, explored the resort, and then made our way to dinner at the Elkhart Inn, just off the resort property.

Elkhart Inn restaurant in Elkhart Lake, WI

When we arrived, we were the only guests there. A smidge awkward. But with no crowd to contend with, we parked ourselves at the bar for a pre-dinner drink. I enjoyed my new obsession, a Moscow Mule!

Moscow Mule at the Elkhart Inn

For dinner, I had the Scallops in a Lemon Butter Beurre Blanc with Asparagus Risotto. Jason had a steak. Both entrées were delicious! Honestly, the only thing we didn’t love about our experience at the Elkhart Inn was the lack of people in the restaurant. Thankfully, two more tables filled in while we dined. Otherwise, it would have been kind of creepy.

After dinner, we headed back to the resort’s Elk Room lounge where we scored a seat right in front of the great fireplace. With another Moscow Mule in hand, it was quite perfect!

Elk Room fireplace at The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, WISaturday morning, we woke up and had breakfast at Otto’s Restaurant in the resort. Then we hit the road home. It was a super short and very simple trip, but it was perfect. Just Jason and I spending quality time together. Maybe it’s simply time that makes us richer …

Laura and Jason at the Elkhart Inn during an overnight trip to The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, WI

Travel

Pilgrimage to See Bruce Hornsby

Since I barely blogged last year, I figured I would backtrack and share some of our adventures from 2015. From weekend getaways to trips with the camper to sporting events, Jason and I had lots of fun during the spring and summer months. It all kicked off in April with a weekend trip to see Bruce Hornsby in concert.

Let me give you a little insight into our obsession — and that’s not an exaggeration — with Bruce Hornsby. I have loved Bruce Hornsby and the Range’s music since I was young. From an early age, their songs became deeply connected to memories of family vacations and other significant life events. Then there were the band’s songs in the movie White Water Summer, a movie which sparked my interest in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the obsession was born.

As Jason and I began our camping and national park travels, Bruce Hornsby and the Range songs were the foundation of our travel playlist — which now sits at 170 songs and can get us driving from Wisconsin to Alabama without starting over (fun fact!). Thanks to Pandora, I discovered some of Bruce’s newer solo music that quickly was added to the list. Since I’ve always associated music with my memories, I can’t listen to a Bruce Hornsby song now without thinking about all of the incredible trips Jason and I have taken.

Seeing him in concert was a matter of sheer luck. We were in Illinois to see Michael McDonald (I swear we’re only in our mid-30s) and Jason and I started talking about how great it would be to see Bruce Hornsby in concert, too. Out of curiosity, I jumped on my phone and looked to see if he was touring. He was, and the closest he was coming to Wisconsin was Iowa. Done!

We set off for Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Friday morning for the evening concert. Now, ask anyone in Wisconsin about driving through Iowa — or Illinois for that matter — and you’ll be met with pity. Both states are flat, flat, flat — nothing to see but cornfields. But we found that driving through Northern Iowa wasn’t so bad. Much more interesting topography, which made for a much more pleasant trip.

Once we got to our hotel, we started investigating good dinner spots. We settled on The Brown Bottle, a highly rated Italian restaurant near downtown. The restaurant had just opened for the evening when we pulled up, and by the time we left, the parking lot was full.

The food did not disappoint!

Chicken Parmigiana at The Brown Bottle in Cedar Falls, Iowa

Chicken Parmigiana at The Brown Bottle — I swear there was chicken under all that cheese.

After dinner, we made our way to the University of Northern Iowa campus and their Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center. From my days working at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, I knew that UNI was a comparable college. It definitely was … but it was so much better! The campus included many old buildings, and the Gallagher Bluedorn was a very impressive venue attracting some impressive acts.

Building on the University of Northern Iowa campus where Bruce Hornsby performed in concert in April 2015

What put it over the top for Jason and I? Adult beverages in adult sippy cups — Score!

Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center cup of wine while waiting to see Bruce Hornsby in concert

The concert was perfect! When Bruce chatted between songs, it reminded us a lot of seeing Richard Marx in concert several years ago — he was so funny! One of my favorite songs is Mandolin Rain, and his live version is hauntingly beautiful. Dare I say I love it more than the original?

Everyone received a copy of his Solo Concerts album which includes the live version of Mandolin Rain. So happy!

The next morning, we decided to have breakfast at a Maid-Rite. Maid-Rites are concentrated in Iowa — and when in Iowa, do as the Iowans do.

Maid-Rite in Cedar Falls, Iowa

On the way home, we made a slight detour through Galena, Illinois. Given the time of year, we thought the tiny town would be quiet. Little did we know there was a massive Boy Scout event that weekend — kids everywhere! We did a little shopping at some of our favorite stores, grabbed some lunch, and got the heck out of dodge.

Downtown Gallena, Illinois

It was so fun to take a quick little weekend trip, and it’s something I would love for us to do more often. While I absolutely love traveling far from home, there are a lot of great things happening in our own and neighboring states.

And if you ever have the chance to see a favorite band or singer live that you’ve loved since childhood, do it! I can now add Bruce Hornsby to my list that includes Duran Duran, Prince, Sting, The Police, and Richard Marx. And it’s made me love their music that much more.

Question of the Week

What was your first concert?

My first concert was New Kids on the Block — Oh, the 90s!