Co-ed pool and respite area "on the roof" at the Kohler Water Spa. Photo courtesy of Kohler Company.Destination SPA .... The Kohler Waters Spa
at Kohler's American Club Resort

Kohler, Wisconsin   Please hold your cursor over the photographs to see the caption.

Pat Middleton
Travel Insight Features may not reproduce in any format without the express permission of Great River Publishing

 

    There was a tune (in Julie Andrew's voice) that resurfaced repeatedly in my mind during the recent "Killer Snowstorm" that swamped the Upper Midwest in 20-30" of blowing snow. While blizzard conditions outdoors made travel next to impossible, we found ourselves delightfully ensconced at the Carriage House above the Kohler Waters Spa at the Kohler Company's American Club resort!The American Club was originally the dorm and cafeteria area for Kohler employees. Built in 1918, the American Club is on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo Courtesy of the Kohler Company.


"Somewhere in my youth or childhood...... I must have done something good!"

We arrived at the American Club on the Kohler Campus Friday afternoon to be met at the curb by both the valet and the bell person in one smooth transfer of luggage and automobile. Yes, they were expecting us.  Yes, our room in the Carriage House was ready for us. Yes, complimentary hors d'oeuvres and wine would be available from  5:30 until 7:30 p.m. Yes, they would be happy to make our dinner reservations for us.

The "waterfall" pool and respite area at the Kohler Waters Spa. Photo courtesy of the Kohler Company.How do they train people to be this pleasant, we wondered!

"Somewhere in my youth or childhood..."

 

Yes, the waterfall pool, the men's and women's respite rooms (each with steam room, sauna, whirlpool, and cool plunge pool), and the newly opened roof-top co-ed respite room with fireplace and whirlpool were complimentary to guests of the Carriage House. Yes, they would be happy to reserve treatments in the Spa. Yes, a complimentary continental breakfast of various fresh croissants, breads, fruits, cereals and fine coffee would all be available at 6:30 a.m. Fitness room opens at 8 a.m. And by all means, feel comfortable to walk around all day in your comfy Kohler Waters Spa robe and slippers! Tea and desserts would be set out at 3:30.  Photo by Rich Middleton

Photo courtesy of the Kohler Company
Complimentary tea and desserts?! 

    "... I must have done something good..."

 
Kohler's luxurious American Club resort hotel in Kohler, Wisconsin, is a world-class destination (among Conde Nast's top 50 US Resorts) both summer and winter. The American Club is on the National Historic Register, the resort has received the AAA Five Diamond Award for 22 consecutive years.

While I get excited about the prospect of chalking up several stress-relieving, winter-canceling days in steam rooms and whirlpools, my husband is recounting in his mind how many major golf tournaments have been played out here The Straits Course at Whistling Straits. One of three 5-star courses owned by the American Club resort. Photo courtesy of the Kohler Company.on Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run.

The US Senior Open Championships will be held at Whistling Straits July 2nd through July 8th, 2007. And Tiger Woods walked right here during the 2004 PGA Championships!

I found the comforts of the water treatments, the waterfall pool, the rainforest showers of the Kohler Waters Spa alluring enough to fill two days, but this is a resort that offers a world class venue for the sports enthusiast, fitness buff, golfer,The "cold plunge" pool adds a new dimension to steam room, sauna, and hot tub. Photo by Richard Middleton naturalist, and more. Each day we received an overview of activities available at the resort:

Perhaps a tour of the Waelderhaus, a replica of the Kohler family's ancestral home in Austria, an historic tour of the American Club, and  cross-country skiing at Blackwolf Run. Swim, Yoga & Pilates at the Sports Core Health & Rec Facility.

The Sports Core Health and Fitness Facility offers a broad range of classes and facilities... from an adult lap pool to snowshoe rentals. Photo courtesy of the Kohler Company.Daily activities also included cooking demonstrations, Wine and Cheese presentations in the Winery Bar, a carriage ride through the village of Kohler, and of course, a meander through the magic of the Kohler Design Center.

The Sheboygan River valley is home to numerous deer, and other wildlife. Look for tracks and the animals themselves in any of the open meadows. Photo by Richard MiddletonObviously, this is a place with far more to enjoy and experience than we could ever cover in a single visit. So while the storm rages outside, we indulge ourselves at the spa that Travel & Leisure ranks as one of the top 10 resort spas. That Wisconsin Trails magazine ranked #1 in the Midwest, and that Conde Nast Traveler labeled as one of the top 40 Spas in North America and the Caribbean.

Am I still in Wisconsin? Just 55 miles north of Milwaukee? 2.5 hours north of Chicago, 4 hours east of La Crosse? A small fitness area is located with the Kohler Waters Spa. Photo courtesy of the Kohler Company.

 

One couple I encountered was from Colorado... on a surprise date set up by the hubby. The wife recalled landing at the airport in Milwaukee...

     "Oh no," she recalled saying to him, "you didn't bring me to Milwaukee for our getaway!" Just wait, he assured her, there's more to this than Milwaukee.

    "I've loved being here," she summarized. "This is the most immaculately clean, most accommodating spa I've ever been at. I just don't want to leave!"  Another young businessman from London had checked with his Chicago associates for a good getaway weekend with his friend... the Kohler Water Spa was suggested as a favorite by several.The "Girlfriends" package offers an affordable getaway for a group of women friends. Photo courtesy of the Kohler Company.

Carol, a Chicago woman was spending the weekend with an a friend from New York.

    "We were working on this project at 11 p.m. via the Internet. I told my friend, 'Look, if we're both working at 11 p.m., obviously we need to get away. Why don't we rendezvous and go to the Kohler Waters Spa?" Her friend found a flight from New York for $140 and here they were... combining brainstorming with hours of  mental and physical respite.

Carol, a Kohler Waters Spa regular, offered several tips for planning a visit:

 

 

Try to get out and explore the resort for maybe two hours each day. The free shuttle will get you everywhere on the complex. There are NINE restaurants in the resort and the food is excellent, even by Chicago and New York standards. Her favorites include the Cucina Italian Restaurant for lunch (in the shopping area) and the lodge at Blackwolf Run. 

Every venue offers visual and historical variety, and a strong sense of place. The Immigrant Bar, photographed by Richard Middleton is replete with artifacts from the turn of the century that represent the many immigrant groups who worked for Kohler Company.

We grew to appreciate the "sense of place" cultivated the Kohler Company at the American Club resort.
 

The Immigrant Restaurant & Winery Bar is filled with antiques and remembrances of the long immigrant history associated with the American Club. The Wisconsin Room restaurant is the former cafeteria for Kohler's immigrant factory workers... food was excellent and bountiful even then. Immigrants could eat all they wanted, but they had to eat everything on their plates! Dining is outstanding throughout the resort. Price points vary so that everyone can enjoy an excellent meal. Photo courtesy of the Kohler Company.

 


A wood carving of Old Abe the Civil War Eagle sits at the entry to the Wisconsin Room. Old Abe accompanied troops from Eau Claire and La Crosse, Wisconsin, for 14,000 miles. He flew over the field of battle 36 times. He was called "that Yankee Buzzard" by southern sharpshooters assigned to bring him down. He escaped the war unscathed to return with the troops to Wisconsin. An iron statue of Old Abe sits atop the Wisconsin monument at the Vicksburg Battlefield in Mississippi.
(From Vol 4, Discover! America's Great River Road, by Pat Middleton)

The Blackwolf Run lodge overlooks the Sheboygan River valley and two rolling 18-hole golf courses. The River course, the Meadow Valleys course at Blackwolf Run, and the Straits have all been designated as five star courses by Golf Digest. The lodge was reconstructed from an western hunting lodge, it's huge ponderosa pine logs shipped from Montana. It is filled with historic relics and stories of local Indian tribes. Blackwolf, by the way, is thought to be the grandfather of Black Hawk, a storied warrior along the Mississippi River.

One of the business men I met had just taken a public tour of the Kohler factories located among the resort venues. It was a very comprehensive tour, he thought. It included several buildings and lasted nearly three hours!

This is it.... a hog processing tub. Enamelled, it became an upscale bathtub for the human species! Photographed in the Kohler Museum in the Design Center.

A tour of the Kohler Design Center offered a fascinating look both forward and backward into the Kohler family business. How does a manufacturer evolve from producing iron agricultural implements to the design and manufacture of innovative upscale fixtures for the home? Think of enameling a "pig trough" to protect it from rusting. And then make the leap from hog tubs to  bathtubs...  add color to the enamel....  and suddenly it's really luxuThe Design Center features a most modern look at the world of Kohler. Photo courtesy of Richard Middleton.rious bathtubs!

Don't miss the museum downstairs in the Design Center.

 

It was great fun to wander through the demonstration kitchens and innovative bathroom spaces on the upper levels of the Design Center. It was clear that these designers were not just thinking "fixtures" or "bathrooms" or "kitchens". They were designing spaces for relaxation, comfort, and restoration of body and soul!

            .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

    "So, how do you train the staff to be so kind and helpful?" I asked in Human Resources.

    "We don't train them for kindness, resourcefulness, and helpfulness," she told me, "...we hire for that. We train for the rest." 

    "Except for one thing," our Carriage House receptionist added... "We are taught to never say 'No' to our guests. We will find a way to accommodate you."

And that is exactly what stood out to us from the moment we arrived.

 

Entry to the Inn on Woodlake. Photo courtesy of the Kohler Company.  

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