Monday, November 21, 2011

Kohler: Vacation in the land of fancy faucets

A few months ago I won a weekend getaway to Kohler, Wisconsin from fellow Chicago mom blogger Kim Moldofsky, whose latest blog, The Reluctant Renovator, chronicles the updates she and her husband are making to their new (old) house.

If Kohler sounds familiar to you, it's probably because your sink, tub or toilet bears the name. But the 140 year old Kohler company has more than an over-the-top design showroom to lure tourists to their small company town outside Sheboygan--they've transformed what used to be housing for the single immigrant men who worked in their factories into a deluxe 5 star hotel, The American Club. To further entice tourism, they've built fancy golf courses, opened a luxury spa and installed upscale shopping and restaurants on the Kohler campus. The buildings are spread out, but a free shuttle will pick you up and drop you off anywhere within minutes.

All hail the wall of toilets
Since the package I'd won was geared toward families, we were put up at the slightly less luxurious but more child-friendly Inn at Woodlake, which serves free breakfast every day and will loan you board games (or even an Xbox). The Inn at Woodlake is also home to the weekend Kamp Kohler kids programming, which we took full advantage of on Saturday.

Since it was an off-season weekend the girls were the only children enrolled, but they had an awesome time with Ginger, racing through the woods on a nature scavenger hunt, swimming at the pool at the nearby Sports Core and putting together some Thanksgiving-themed crafts. They had so much fun they begged to be sent back for the evening "Dinner and a Movie" program, which meant Josh and I had lunch and dinner on our own (Neopolitan pizza at Il Ritrovo and fish and chips at the Duke of Devon Pub) and plenty of time to explore the amazing John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, which had a very moving exhibit on memory and memory loss. There was a great multi-room installation that reminded me a bit of the Alzheimer's novel Turn of Mind and a bunch of photographs from The Oxford Project, which I loved so much I bought the book.

Ada checks out the "quiet seat" in a lit-from-below bathroom
But back to our stay in Kohler. The staff everywhere on the resort was cheerful, friendly and eager to please. The beds at the Inn on Woodlake were comfortable and the flat screen was large, but the most memorable part of room was the bathroom, especially the shower, which was from another world--5 adjustable sprayers for a shower I didn't ever want to get out of!

We toured the Kohler Design Center with the girls, which is amazing on multiple levels. I loved seeing the history of their advertisements, we all giggled imagining ourselves rich enough to live in a house with one of their many over-the-top bathroom set-ups and the kids and Josh marveled at all the crazy technology (multi-sprayer showers and Japanese-style programmable toilets with remote controls). Had we been there on a weekday morning, we could have also toured the factory.

No trip to Kohler would be complete without a stop at the fancy Kohler Water Spa, so I sent Josh and the girls off to the Above and Beyond Children's Museum in Sheboygan Sunday morning and indulged myself in a Thai-style "stretch and flex" massage and an hour soaking in a hot tub, baking in a sauna and generally feeling pampered and relaxed.

Would we go back? Definitely. At least in this family, happy family getaways are much happier when there is a kids' club to give mom and dad some alone time. And while the Kohler Resort's stellar reputation proceeded it, we were pleasantly surprised by all that nearby (and fun-to-pronounce) Sheboygan has to offer. I've never been the type to stay exclusively on a resort property, but I didn't know that there would be genuine foodie restaurants and a couple of great museums in a small Wisconsin city just 5 minutes away.