My husband and I have an agreement that if one of us travels for work, each will do his or her best to accompany the other. His recent conference in Chicago while our children were out of school provided an ideal scenario for tacking on a family visit to The American Club in Kohler, Wisc., where the tagline is “Escape to where village charm meets old-world elegance.”
Yes, that’s the Kohler, as in the plumbing products company. Over the course of three days, my family became immersed in the history and allure of this 5.63-square-mile classic American Dream town located near Sheboygan, Wisc., roughly two hours north of Chicagoland. What started as a steel and fixture company in 1873, employing hundreds of first-generation immigrants, morphed into a still family-run business focusing on stylish and cutting-edge kitchen and bath plumbing fixtures, furniture, accessories, cabinetry, tile, engines and generators, as well as bucket list-worthy golf courses, restaurants, resorts and, of course, spas.
The Kohler umbrella encompasses several local lodging options, but the flagship option is The American Club. Nearly a century ago, what is now the hotel was built directly across from the Kohler factory as housing for European immigrant factory workers. At the 1918 dedication, founder Walter J. Kohler said, referencing the garden-filled property, “A worker deserves not only wages but roses as well.”
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, the structure’s exterior remained unchanged while the interior was restored and refurbished in 1981. It reveals oak paneling, stained glass, brass fixtures, elegant furnishings and antique photos reflecting days past. Continuously updated and renovated, it features the finest amenities, including the latest Kohler Co. products.
Each guestroom pays homage to a notable American, but the bathrooms reveal this isn’t your average historic resort. Each features top-of-the-line, spa-inspired showers; whirlpool tubs; toilets; and sinks proudly displaying the Kohler name.
As for exploring Kohler, my family took advantage of the complimentary shuttle service available between all resort venues including restaurants, recreation, Shops at Woodlake, Sports Core and the three-level Kohler Design Center offering a free self-tour of all things past, present and future Kohler. Adjacent to the Design Center lies the village’s ultimate in indulgence, the Carriage House and Kohler Waters Spa — Wisconsin’s only 5-star spa.
The Carriage House provides a 55-room luxury accommodation option. History is once again honored; here each guestroom bears the name of a famous carriage. Rooms vary in size, style and price point, starting at $350 a night. What makes the Carriage House appealing for spa-goers is not only the no-kids rule (minimum age is 16) but also direct access to the Waters Spa. That means guests may, if they wish, stay in their personally issued bathrobe and slippers their entire stay. Breakfast, afternoon tea and evening refreshments are included, while the upper lounge area serves additional spa fare options daily 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. An elevator ride down delivers spa-goers to their treatments, and a quick ride up reveals a year-round, glass-enclosed rooftop deck with whirlpool, fireplace and lounge.
While my husband and children ventured off to the Kohler Golf Academy for an indoor studio lesson, I took some pampering time for myself. The friendly staff greeted me and pointed out the spa’s various points of interest before escorting me downstairs to the quiet and dimly lit spa level and into the central relaxation pool area. I instinctually let out a deep exhale and my shoulders relaxed at the sight of the spa’s signature co-ed 30-foot mosaic-titled relaxation pool surrounded by tumbled limestone and lush chaise chairs. The handpainted sky mural overhead and the sound of the gushing eight-foot waterfall inspired my “Ahhhh, I have arrived!” response. If anyone knows how to turn water into an experience, it’s Kohler.
Next, I viewed the ladies’ respite room, which included many more deep lounge chairs and a water and fruit station, as well as a selection of soaking and relaxation options: tiled whirlpool, cool plunge pool, sauna, steam room and showers. Following an easy locker tutorial, I retrieved a glass of water and headed to the treatment waiting area, where I relaxed with a magazine and awaited my 80-minute maternity massage. The spa menu options are plentiful, but mine were limited since expectant ladies must avoid too-high temperatures. The 80-minute Detox De’lite sounded tempting, offering a therapeutic and detoxifying experience of dry brushing to boost circulation, a full body massage with cool and warm Lake Superior stones, detox-inducing pressure points, and warming and cooling massage oils and scents. Another unique option was the 50- or 80-minute Bamboo Contouring Drizzle, relying on the DTV-programmed Kohler Custom Vichy Shower and allowing therapists’ hands to stay focused on the guest.
While such treatments sounded dreamy, I took the cautious route to heart and stuck with the massage. Complete with a body pillow designed specifically to accommodate expectant women, classical music playing in the background and the gentle trickle of the in-room wall waterfall, Vanessa, my therapist, began my massage using the Waters Spa Super-Sensitive Massage and Body Oil. I settled in and let her work her magic. By the end, I realized my body felt the most comfortable it had in months. An Avocado Spritz, a healing aloe-based mist ideal for rehydrating and soothing skin, ended my treatment.
After spending a little time relaxing and enjoying my after-massage high, I floated out of Waters Spa to join my family at Craverie Chocolatier Café — “Where Sweet Meets Savory” — for lunch and a few homemade treats including a luscious raspberry garden ganache. As I nibbled my decadent chocolates in the French café-inspired bistro, it occurred to me that I was experiencing my own reality TV show in a conglomeration of Food Network, Travel Channel and HGTV. It seems Kohler doesn’t just turn water into an experience — Kohler turns everything into an experience.
Kohler Waters Spa at The American Club
501 Highland Drive
Kohler, WI 53044
tel 855 444 2838
I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
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