Wisconsin might be best known for its cheese and its cheeseheads, but the state should be just as renowned for its water.
Wisconsin is bordered to the north by Lake Superior, to the east by Lake Michigan and to the west by the Mississippi River and dotted all over by countless inland lakes, streams and rivers.
Wisconsin communities take full advantage of their waterways, shorelines and riverbanks, and planners will find plenty of options to do the same for their events.
Fond du Lac
French for “far end of the lake” or “bottom of the lake,” the city of Fond du Lac is “anchored at the foot of one of the country’s largest freshwater inland lakes,” said Carrie Stollenwerk, director of sales for the Fond du Lac Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The lake is one of the city’s biggest and best features, and groups can enjoy it on the shore or on the water. The Lakeside Park Pavilion sits just steps from the water’s edge, and “it’s like having a little house on the lake,” Stollenwerk said. The pavilion can accommodate up to 225 people, and it sits in the 400-acre Lakeside Park, where groups can climb to the top of a lighthouse, visit the zoo, stroll past the marina or rent kayaks and pedal boats to navigate the canal that winds through the park.
The lake is known for its “silent sports,” especially sailing and windsurfing, because the winds come whipping off the Niagara Escarpment on the eastern side of the lake. The Wind Power Surf Shop offer group lessons and rentals for windsurfing, kite sailing and paddleboarding.
The 139-room Holiday Inn Fond du Lac recently doubled the size of the Lake Winnebago Conference Center to 14,000 square feet; the space includes a 6,250-square-foot ballroom that can be halved as well as several other smaller flexible meeting rooms. The hotel also recently remodeled and reimagined its former Holidome as a 10,000-square-foot reception hall; an adjoining courtyard offers outdoor space.
The hotel and conference center anchor the conference district, which includes two neighboring hotels with another 300 guest rooms.
In downtown, Hotel Retlaw is “undergoing a grand transformation” and is slated to reopen in December, Stollenwerk said. The interior of the 1920s hotel has been reduced to bare bones and is being rebuilt and restored as an urban luxury hotel with an Art Deco flair. The 127-room boutique hotel will have 10,000 square feet of function space, including the 3,400-square-foot Crystal Ballroom, which will return to its Roaring ’20s elegance and retain its crystal chandelier.
Just steps from Hotel Retlaw, planners will find the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts, housed half in the historic Masonic Temple building and half in a contemporary addition. In the historic side, groups can book the 2,900-square-foot Fountain City Room or the 1,800-square-foot Grand Hall Lounge with an arched stage. In the contemporary wing, groups can gather in the galleries, the six breakout rooms or a 2,000-square-foot outdoor plaza.