GETTING THERE: Flights to Milwaukee from Washington take less than two hours and are consistently inexpensive. Northwest and United have nonstop flights starting at $187. From Milwaukee, the "Up North" area around Marinette County and Crivitz is about three hours by car.
WHERE TO STAY: It's all about being near the water in northern Wisconsin, on either the dozens of lakes or along the rivers. The tourism office can point you to a limited number of private cottages (see below), but several very local "resorts" offer both motel-style rooms and stand-alone cottages.
Near Crivitz, Shaffer Park Resort and Supper Club is in a pretty wooded setting next to the Peshtigo River with a heated pool (N7217 Shaffer Rd., 715-854-2186, www.shafferparkresort.com). Kitchenette suites start at $62 a night, and a six-person cottage rents for $135 a day or $795 a week. The restaurant, with huge, comfy lounge and an outdoor deck, is a crowd magnet with Mrs. Shaffer's chicken ($8.95) and fried Canadian walleye ($11.95). Popp's Resort is a bigger facility on the High Falls Reservoir with boat rental and lakeshore cottages (W11581 County Road X, Crivitz, 715-757-3511, www.poppsresort.com). Rooms begin at $65 a night and cottages at $64.
For an entirely different experience, the new Four Seasons Resort in the far north corner of the county is a well-appointed oasis in the north woods (N16800 Shoreline Dr., Pembine, 877-324-5244, www.thefourseasonsclub.com). Built onto a 100-year-old supper club on an island in the Menominee River, it boasts a nine-hole golf course, two lounges, a huge indoor pool (this is Northern Wisconsin, after all) and 55 nicely appointed suites. Rates begin at $129 a night on weekends, $99 during the week.
WHAT TO DO:
* There are several small, friendly golf courses in the area. We played at the Four Seasons Resort (above) and DeSmidt's near Crivitz (N7559 Shaffer Rd., 715-854-7939, www.desmidts.com), a pleasant short course with beautiful big trees and a cheery 19th hole (nine holes with a cart cost $29 for two golfers).
* The Nicolet National Forest offers hundreds of miles of trails and lakeside camping. We explored the edge of it on horseback through Mountain Meadows Ranch at $20 per person per hour (13807 Whiffen Lane, Mountain, 715-276-3860).
* Marinette County bills itself as waterfall country, and several scenic ones dot the map. We made the short hike to a great one, the powerful cataract rapids within Dave's Falls Park just outside of Amberg on Route 141. See the tourism contacts below for outfitters.
* The consummate water spectacle here are the various water-ski shows that pop up on weekend nights. We made it to the Twin Bridges ski show (Thursday and Saturday nights at Stephenson Town Park on the High Falls Reservoir, no charge).
INFO: Marinette County, www.marinettecounty.com, or the county Chamber of Commerce, 800-236-6681.
-- Steve Hendrix