Destination Green Lake
By Melanie Radzicki McManus | Photo ©Green Lake Area Chamber of Commerce
When Scott Jaquish first went to Heidel House Resort & Spa a few years ago, he was blown away by the venue. Although he was there to attend a Wisconsin Park & Recreation Association (WPRA) workshop, Jaquish knew the resort also would be perfect for the annual WPRA Leadership Academy, an intimate gathering of 25 to 38 leaders in the parks, recreation and forestry fields.
What was so special about the atmosphere? “You’re not in the middle of a waterpark,” he says. Instead, the aura is serene and relaxing, perfect for an educational gathering that’s also focused on inspiring and motivating managers. Jaquish recommended moving the annual Leadership Academy there three years ago, and once the group moved no one ever looked back.
“We’ve always had an extremely positive experience, from excellent meals to the warm, inviting meeting spaces,” Jacquish says. “The staff is great to work with and never disappoints. Heidel House has been a great success for us.”
SMALL TOWN, BIG AMENITIES
Heidel House Resort & Spa is located in Green Lake, population 1,000. So is the Green Lake Conference Center, another major meeting venue. The two facilities, along with numerous area offerings, combine to make an attractive meeting destination.
Alyssa Paulsen, marketing and project coordinator with the Green Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, says there are 100,000 square feet of meeting space and 900 hotel rooms in the region, all of which are within 20 minutes of the lake. There are also four well-regarded golf facilities: Tuscumbia Golf Course and the Golf Courses of Lawsonia, both in town, Mascoutin Golf Club in Berlin and White Lake Country Club in Montello. In addition, the neighboring towns of Princeton and Ripon both have shopping pedigrees. Princeton is known for its antiques, while Ripon is famed for its specialty shops and boutiques, many housed in historic buildings.
And then there’s the lake. Green Lake’s namesake body of water is long and narrow, shaped a bit like Lake Michigan lying on its side. The lake boasts 27 miles of shoreline and a 236-foot depth, which makes it the deepest inland lake in Wisconsin. It’s an object of beauty that also offers recreational options galore.
But perhaps even more important than the water is the fact that Green Lake exudes a warm, small-town feel. “There’s a much more relaxed atmosphere here than in a big city,” says Paulsen. “This atmosphere helps clear the mind and sets groups up for being better able to accomplish whatever it is they’re trying to accomplish.”
HEIDEL HOUSE RESORT & SPA
Heidel House Resort & Spa is snugged against Green Lake’s northeastern shore in the south side of town. Its moniker is a bit of a misnomer, as the 20-acre resort consists of a variety of buildings. The property’s original manor and several out-buildings were constructed in 1890 as a private residence; its transition into a hospitality operation began in 1945, when Herb and Lucille Heidel purchased the estate. By the 1970s, Heidel House was one of the state’s hottest destination resorts, and its growth continued over the next few decades with the addition of a conference center, lodge, spa and fine-dining establishment.
Today the resort offers 18,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor meeting space and 177 hotel guest rooms, says Donna Smith, senior sales manager. There are also two houses on the property with 10 and four bedrooms apiece. Smith says the resort typically hosts groups between 50 and 150, although it can accommodate up to 300.
Heidel House’s meeting space is spread throughout several rooms, including the Dartford Ballroom, with a 340-person capacity; Daycholah, which features a stage; and several smaller rooms suitable for breakouts or gatherings of boards of directors. During warmer weather, the resort sets up a carriage tent outside that holds 200 and is perfect for dining events.
“All of our rooms [and the tent] overlook Green Lake, which is really unique,” Smith says.
Groups looking for team-building activities, or simply entertainment options for attendees, have plenty of options. The lake, obviously, is key. In warm weather, up to 60 guests can hop aboard the yacht Escapade, which offers themed cruises. The resort also facilitates watercraft rentals. In the winter, ice skating, cross-country skiing, sledding and ice fishing are popular activities. And a charter fishing expedition is available year-round.
“Green Lake is very well-known for lake trout, and they’re huge,” says Smith. “We’ll have groups where some people have never had a fishing license before. They’ll get their stamp, go on the charter and catch their first fish, which is quite exciting.”
Duffers appreciate that Heidel House works closely with Tuscumbia Golf Course, which sits just across the street. The 18-hole, par 71 course is Wisconsin’s oldest (created in 1896) and is also considered one of the state’s best-manicured.
When the snow begins to fall, the resort’s Evensong Spa becomes quite popular. “A lot of wellness groups come here,” Smith says, noting its indoor labyrinth—one of the largest in the state—is especially popular. In addition to offering treatments and the labyrinth, Evensong can be used for yoga classes and creative events such as wine-pairing.
GREEN LAKE CONFERENCE CENTER
Green Lake Conference Center sits about five miles west of Heidel House. It’s a vast, 900-acre property, part of which hugs the midsection of Green Lake’s northern shore. The center has 60,000 square feet of flexible meeting space spread among 50 rooms, including a conference hall that seats 1,000. Lodging space, which totals 330 rooms, comes via hotel rooms, homes, dormitories and campgrounds.
The conference center was created in 1944 by the American Baptists. So the campus includes amenities such as chapels and prayer towers. But that doesn’t mean it’s strictly for religious groups. The facility hosts organizations of every kind, including nonprofit, corporate, government and educational groups. Jason Kauffeld, director of group relationships, says Green Lake Conference Center is most adept at serving groups of 200 to 400. But it has hosted conferences much larger than that. “Our largest group is the Wisconsin Mathematics Council,” he says. “They’ve got 1,800 people and have been coming for 50 years.”
What’s the draw of this facility? One is privacy. “Usually at a conference, you’re spread over many floors of one hotel, or in many different spots,” says Kauffeld. “But here we have different sized hotels, houses and dorms, so I can put you where you have the entire space to yourselves.” The wide variety of lodging also means a wide variety of price points, from a few bucks a night per person if your group is camping to more than $100 per attendee for a hotel suite.
Another draw for the conference center is its numerous recreational opportunities. The famed Golf Courses of Lawsonia are part of the property; the two 18-hole courses are consistently ranked among the best in the nation. There are also 12 miles of trails, pickleball courts, soccer and football fields, and a disc golf course, to name just a few additional options. And the lake? The center is home to 2.5 miles of its shoreline, plus a swimming beach.
“It’s almost limitless what you can do here,” says Kauffeld.
Amenities aside, the property’s sheer size is a bonus for groups looking for a lot of green space for their activities, such as dog show planners.
Green space along Green Lake. At its very essence, those two features may be the destination’s main appeal.