Pundits have already branded 2018 as the “year of the woman.” Indeed, women across the country have become increasingly engaged and energized in using their voices to demand change.wine glass

As New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says, “We can no longer wait for some white knight in Washington to ride up and save us.”

Great advice and if anyone needs a tutorial in just how to do that, they should head to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin where for several decades, women have been innovating, leading and proving that the last thing anybody needs is a white knight.

Most of the businesses in this charming village near Kettle Moraine State Park are run by women. Lola Roeh helms the venerable Osthoff Resort and its Aspira Spa that in 2017 was ranked second best spa in America. Chef Lynn Chisholm restored a hardware store from the 1880’s, turning it into the award-winning Paddock Club. Across the street is Vintage Elkhart Lake, a wine shop owned by Jaclyn Stuart, a certified sommelier who wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine & Food. Most of the hotels, restaurants and businesses are women-owned.

Here are four more reasons to visit this delightful little tourist town:

1. There’s a French cooking school. L’Ecole de la Maison, in the Osthoff Resort (thank you, Lola), offers culinary classes on everything from truffles and chocolates to casual Italian. While I was busy cooking lemon curd and rolling out homemade baguettes in the cooking school’s gorgeous kitchen, a fellow chef-in training insisted she’d been to the Cordon Bleu in Rome and this was far better.
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2. It sports the longest raceway in the United States. Road America, the four-mile, 14-turn masterpiece originally carved out of 640 acres of rolling Wisconsin farmland, draws hundreds of thousands of race fans for more than 450 events each year. There’s NASCAR, American Le Mans, a vintage race with such classics as 1928 Bugattis and million-dollar Shelby Cobras.

road americaNeedless to say, it’s a great place to spot celebrities. Although long-time regular Paul Newman is gone (he’s still memorialized at Siebkens Stop-Inn Tavern), fans can still spot such stars as Mario Andretti, Patrick Dempsey, Bobby Rahal who likes Road America so much that he constructed a slot car replica of its twisting turns in his basement and Ashley Judd who danced on the table in celebration of her now ex-husband Dario Franchitti’s victory.

3. It’s better than a doctor. According to the Potawatomi Indians, the 292-acre Elkhart Lake not only contains curative powers, but swimmers step out of its pure clear waters “handsome once again.” I’ve yet to see photographic evidence of this before-and-after pulchritude, but I do know I feel 100 percent rejuvenated after walking its four-mile perimeter and partaking of its beachside Aspira Spa.

Just spending a few restful days in this tiny town with its impeccably manicured grounds, vibrant gardens and friendly residents who, for fun, hold International Jazz Fests and Christmas Markets and Top Chef competitions diminishes stress lines.

4. It’s a quintessential foodie destination. There are at least two theories on how a town with a population of 967 can support so many great restaurants (more than a dozen) and a wine shop with more than 250 hand-picked wines.

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Theory number one goes back to Road America that draws wealthy Europeans and discerning vintage car racers, many who likely ascribe to the motto, “Life’s too short to eat boring food.” The other stems from being 18 miles away from the posh American Club, the only five-diamond resort in the Midwest.

I’d like to add my theory to the mix. Any time you find women running the show, you’re bound to find creativity, excellence and awe-inspiring food.