Two Days to Explore
In the winter...
Ashland’s wild beauty beckons outdoor enthusiasts to make the trek north to this spot on a large sheltered bay of Lake Superior known as Chequamegon. Local businesses relish that visitor enthusiasm, providing a warm welcome to snowmobilers, anglers, and cross-country skiers. For anyone looking for a soul-stirring destination, this is it.
For those famished from the trip, grab lunch at Burger Barn. We’re talking Wisconsin cheese curds, a bacon burger topped with homemade BBQ sauce, and a Cowpie dessert of cookies and ice cream. Stretch your legs on the city’s self-guided downtown mural walk, a virtual walk through Ashland’s history with 20 murals in all, the newest being the Women of Ashland mural. Stock up on cold-weather clothing and gear at Moore’s on Main, third generation and locally owned. There’s also Solstice Outdoors, a top spot for ski and snowshoe rentals and activewear. For those who plan to cozy up next to a fire with a good book, pop into Spinster Books, where the owner sells more than just books. Lots of options for where to rest your head, starting with The Inn at Timber Cove, with private cottages for rent and breakfast delivered right to your door. Mission Spring Resort is another option, this one ideal for families. Blue Wave Inn is a five-room boutique hotel right on the shore of Lake Superior. There’s ample parking for snowmobile trailers at River Rock Inn, a mom-and-pop motel where you can purchase Lake Superior fish from their shop. Friday evening, be sure to take in the breathtakingly beautiful winter sunset over the bay. Watch it anywhere in town, as there’s not a bad seat in the house. Toast to the weekend with a brew from South Shore Brewery. Try one of their flagship beers, like the Nut Brown Ale or Northern Lights. Then head next door to Deep Water Grille for the Lake Superior whitefish dinner.
Saturday morning if you’re in a hurry to hit the snowmobile trails, pick up a pastry at Ashland Baking Company. If you can spare a bit more time, head across the street to Black Cat Coffeehouse, 20 years in business, where the food is made-from-scratch and the menu emphasizes organic, fair trade and vegetarian. Scurry to the snowmobile trails, with 280 miles of groomed trails in Ashland County. There’s bound to be a good base, given the average annual snowfall here is 73 inches. For those who brought their fat tire bikes for pedaling in the snow, there’s the Tri-County Corridor Trail that takes you through Ashland, Bayfield, and Douglas counties. When conditions are right and the ice road is open, you can even bike to Madeline Island.
Have a hankering for pizza? You’re in luck, with a trio of top choices - Hugo’s, Frankie’s and Pizza Pub – all open for lunch. If authentic Mexican is what you crave, try El Dorado for the salsa alone. And for those who believe no lunch is complete without something sweet, you’ll love Gabriele’s German Cookies & Chocolates, where the cookie recipes have been in the family for 100 years and the chocolate truffles are all handmade.
In the afternoon, turn your attention to ice fishing for trophy trout on Chequamegon Bay. Check on ice conditions and hot fishing spots at local bait shops including Angler’s All or River Rock Inn. Get your heart racing with some cross-country skiing. Copper Falls State Park has 14 miles of trails for classic and 6.5 miles for skate. The 8.6 km loop of the Penokee Mountain Ski Trail in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest has climbs and downhills that demand intermediate skiing ability. Take a side trip to Benoit Cheese Haus, where you can taste before you purchase. There are more than 150 varieties of cheeses here, from fresh curds to 16-year cheddar.
Your dinner destination is 2nd Street Bistro. This restaurant has made a name for itself by using fresh seasonal ingredients and supporting local farms. Butternut squash ravioli with wild mushrooms sounds like a good choice here. Then get a nightcap at Scott & Ar’s Bar, where the locals go, or take in a game at The Neighborly Bar. If you still have energy left, make it a late night with blackjack at Bad River Lodge Casino.
As for where the locals congregate for breakfast, that would be Ashland Family Restaurant, where the homestyle cinnamon French toast tops the menu. Then make a stop at Sixth Street Market, where they have 38 flavors of homemade fresh bratwurst to choose from. Hope you packed a cooler. If ice conditions permit and time allows, stick around to see hot rods race an oval track on frozen Lake Superior. It happens every Sunday during the winter months.
Tip: If the ride home takes you near Clam Lake, slow down for wildlife viewing as this is the Elk Capital of Wisconsin.
TIME YOUR VISIT!
January 12, Northwoods Harness Club Sleigh & Cutter Rally: See antique sleighs and drivers in period dress on parade at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center.
February 16, Book Across the Bay: Annual cross-country ski race and snowshoe nighttime trek across Chequamegon Bay. The 10K course, groomed for classic and skate, starts in Ashland and finishes in Washburn and is lit by the stars and nearly 1,500 candles in ice luminaries. Chili feed and bonfire at the finish line. VisitAshland.com