Travel & Activities

Discover the Midwest’s Best Kept Secret

We were barely down the hall when a young girl behind the desk hurried out to greet us. “Good morning Mr. and Mrs. Hartmann” she said warmly. Map in her hand, she was ready to direct us to The Factory Tour, less than two blocks away. I asked if I could take the map, not knowing how close it really was. She handed it to me, and then walked us down the stairs. Instead of just pointing us in the right direction, she continued to walk us across the parking lot and down the block while asking about our stay and giving us dining advice of things she had eaten at Whistling Straits, where we would be going for dinner. She deposited us at the door of the Design Center, the meeting spot for the tour.

That was the start of the 5-star hospitality we received on our recent stay at The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin. If you are looking for a weekend to relax, recharge, and learn a little bit of history, while being treated like a queen, look no farther than The American Club.

Just two and a half hours north of Chicago past the dairy farms and small towns of rural Wisconsin, is where you will find Kohler, a community built around plumbing.

What started in 1883 with John Michael Kohler enameling a hog scaulder tank and selling it as a bathtub, has grown to be one of the leading manufacturers of plumbing products worldwide. A town was built around the factory, and what was originally constructed as a dormitory for immigrant workers is now a 5-star luxury resort known as The American Club.

In it’s early days, immigrants came from Austria and Germany for a new life. They were given a job, a place to live and three meals a day. In the evenings they were taught English and given lessons in American citizenship. When it came time for their “Americanization Day” the men were taken to the County Court House on company time while receiving a full day’s pay. It seems from the beginning, guests of the American Club were treated with the same high level of care and respect given to guests today.midwest1

Built in 1918, and renovated in 1981, The American Club now offers 241 guest rooms, 12 dining options, and a 21,000 square foot state-of-the-art conference facility. Rooms range from the “standard” 349 square foot room to the the 1429 square foot Presidential Suite. All rooms are tastefully decorated with rich fabrics and furnishings, as well as state-of-the-art Kohler products.

Our room had dark paneled walls, thick plush beds, and a large sitting area. Gold floor to ceiling draperies held back by braided ribbons of red and gold hung over wood shuttered windows. Velvety red easy chairs formed a sitting area, with coffee table, end tables, and a wet bar. An ice bucket with tongs, a corkscrew, and thick drink glasses sat nearby.

Rated the #1 resort in the midwest by Conde Naste Traveler in 2013, The American Club is the only Forbes 5-Star, AAA 5-Diamond resort in the midwest. It is one of the Historic Hotels of America, and sits on the Register of Historic Places.

Our bathroom was outfitted with a Kohler whirlpool tub and a glass enclosed shower with 7 different sprayer options. Across the room were two bowl sinks that resembled crystal bowls and of course a Kohler toilet. Behind the bathroom door hung robes. Slippers were found between the beds.

Later, as we were finishing the tour, one couple rushed off abruptly, saying they loved the room so much, they planned to spend as much time as they could in it.

Kohler is also known for it’s championship golf courses. According to a long time Kohler employee and our Factory Tour guide, years ago Herb Kohler Jr. was sitting in a restaurant when he overheard someone say “this place is great, but what they really need is a golf course”.

He began looking into it the very next day.

Today, the golf courses designed by Pete Dye known as Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits continue to be ranked at the top of the list of “America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses” by Golf Digest, and have hosted several PGA Championships.

I’m not a golfer, but I do like to be pampered, and Kohler is home to the top-rated Kohler Water Spa, one of only 48 in the world to hold both the 5-Star and 5-Diamond designation. In addition to massages and facials they offer signature Kohler water treatments such as “Acoustic Bath” and “Riverbath for Two”.

While there you can enjoy the the relaxation pool with 8 foot waterfall, hot tubs, sauna, steam room, and relaxation lounges. A plush robe and sandals are waiting for you in a locker. When we arrived we were again treated to, “Hello Mr. and Mrs. Hartmann. How is your stay going so far, and have you been here before?”

After our massages we went up to the rooftop lounge where four people sat in lounge chairs in front of a fireplace. Some were reading, one was looking at her ipad. Fifteen minutes later I noticed all four were sound asleep, reclined in lounge chairs in their spa robes, books sitting on their laps. Yes, it’s that relaxing. According to one couple we spoke with during our stay, “the minute you check in you feel the stress leaving your body”.

Upon returning to your room after a day of activity, you’ll find your bed turned down, fresh ice in the bucket, and a square of Kohler chocolate, a specialty created when Herb Kohler decided the world deserved something better than a run-of-the-mill turtle.

According to their brochure, “Here the past is always present and provides a security, warmth and interest much like that given to the immigrants who first enjoyed the American Club”.

Isn’t it time you have a 5-Star experience?

Check out www.theamericanclubresort.com for prices, packages, and special events.

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  • Roz Warren

    Sounds fabulous. But is there a pool for actual swimming, or just one for relaxation? I’m going to check out the website and see.

    • Kim Hartmann

      There is an offsite fitness center that was closed for improvements when we were there. If there is one, it would be there. But I’m not sure. There was not one at the American Club, just at the spa, which is in a building next door.

    • Kim Hartmann

      There is not a pool at The American Club itself, but there may be one at the offsite fitness center. That was closed when we were there so we didn’t check it out.

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