I would love nothing more than to park myself on a Florida beach all summer, relaxing and playing with the kids. But the sunshine state is quite a hike from here, and while beaches are fun and all, there has to be more to do if you’re going to keep the family entertained for the whole trip.
Enter Two Rivers, Wis. A little less than 200 miles from Chicago, it not only has a fantastic beach, but it also has plenty of other attractions, too.
Let’s start with the beach—Neshotah Beach offers 50 acres of groomed sand beach right on Lake Michigan. With plenty of space for just lounging around and digging in the sand, the beach also offers areas for volleyball and launching jet skis and kayaks. A beach house has restrooms, concessions and a place to change, all important factors in any kid-friendly location. It can get crowded on the weekend, but compared to Oak Street or North Avenue beaches in the city it will feel quite empty.
Once you’ve had enough sun and sand, head into the main street area of Two Rivers, which is only blocks away, and check out the shops, including Unique Flying Objects (2022 Washington St.) which offers a large selection of kites and other, well, flying objects. When you’ve worked up an appetite, grab a bite at Kurtz’s Pub and Deli (1410 Washington St.). Since 1904, Kurtz’s has served a wide variety of sandwiches and salads. But be sure to save room for a hot fudge sundae, because after all, Two Rivers is the birthplace of the much loved ice-cream dish.
Legend has it that in 1881, a local resident asked to have his ice cream topped with chocolate sauce that was reserved for sodas. No surprise, if you’ve ever had a hot fudge sundae, it gained popularity quickly. Two Rivers’ original soda fountain is no longer open, but you can visit it at the historic Washington House (1622 Jefferson St.), which serves as the city’s visitors center and offers four additional exhibits to explore, all free.
While it is fairly close to Chicago, you’ll want to spend at least a night to enjoy it all. Your best bet (and best view of Lake Michigan) is at the Lighthouse Inn (1515 Memorial Drive). Literally on the lakefront, the hotel offers a private beach for its guests and an indoor pool in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.
And if all of this isn’t enough for you, you’ll also find an energy museum, cheese factories and lighthouses to explore, plus a mini-golf course.