The Source of Family Fun in Door County

This first weeks of August are traditionally when more families with children visit Door County than any other time of year. The weather is usually beautiful in early August. The water is warm. The season of activities is in full swing on our peninsula, and we still have a few weeks before school shopping begins and folks have to get ready for the new school year. This is the perfect time for families with children to visit our beloved Door County.

Thank goodness for charity in Door County!

Consider that for many of our visitors, a trip to Door County begins with an exploration of our incredible natural treasures. Peninsula State Park is arguably the crown jewel of the Wisconsin State Park system. From its 20 miles of hiking trails, 12 miles of off-road biking paths, eight miles of shoreline, a championship golf course, and nearly 500 campsites, Peninsula State Park offers something for everyone in the family.

Yet as grand as Peninsula State Park is, Door County has several other incredible parks that would be the preeminent natural areas in virtually any other community. From the 2,400 acres of wilderness in Newport State Park, to the hiking trails and breathtaking view from the observation tower at Potawatomi State Park, to the magnificent beaches at Whitefish Dunes, to countless others – Door County is a dream come true for families that enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer.

If your kids prefer a little education with their outdoor activities, there are two truly outstanding environmental education centers on our peninsula. The Ridges Sanctuary is one of the most biologically diverse settings in the State of Wisconsin. On its campus you’ll find the newly opened Cook-Albert Fuller Nature Center and have the opportunity to visit the historic Range Lights that were originally constructed in 1869 as an important navigational tool.

Crossroads at Big Creek welcomes learners of all ages to experience science, history, and the environment. Here you’ll experience the Collins Learning Center, the Stonecipher Astronomy Center, the Leif Everson Observatory, and the Historical Village at Big Creek. There’s always something exciting going on the Crossroads at Big Creek campus.

The most iconic image of Door County is that of Cana Island Lighthouse. Situated on a nine-acre island that is easily accessible by a short walk from the mainland, this lighthouse has stood watch on the shore of Lake Michigan for more than 140 years. Cana Island is stewarded by the Door County Maritime Museum. The Museum’s main facility is in Sturgeon Bay and it has a satellite in Gill Rock, both of which tell the story of our vibrant maritime history from shipbuilders to shipwrecks.

Of course, no family vacation to Door County is truly complete without seeing a show on one of our many stages. There is perhaps no community of our size in the Midwest with as many live performances.

For those with children that are a little older, the grand stage of the Peninsula Players hosts plays that can be as memorable as the awe-inspiring view from its shoreline. Through mid-August, you can attend a performance of the hysterical comedy Lend Me a Tenor. It’s a farce of mistaken identity, misunderstandings and mixed signals.

Children and adults of all ages are invited to enjoy one of the most unique theatrical experiences around at Northern Sky Theater. Set under the stars in the heart of Peninsula State Park, this Door County treasure is now presenting three original heartwarming musicals, every one of which is sure to get the entire family laughing. Our family is particularly fond of Strings Attached, a comic tale of mistaken identity when the owner of a Hawaiian ukulele manufacturer crosses paths with the heir to a Wisconsin banjo dynasty.

You can also enjoy the works of Shakespeare performed in a garden by Door Shakespeare. Located on the Bj?rklunden property, this August you can enjoy performances of the tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet and the thunderous fantasy of The Tempest.

These are just a few highlights of Door County’s family offerings as there are far too many others to describe here. We have student performances at Birch Creek Music Performance Center, national acts on the stage of the Door Community Auditorium, and countless historical sites like the historic Noble House, the Old Anderson House and the Corner of the Past, and the Ephraim Historical Foundation. And the list could go on and on.

If you’ve managed to read this far, you may be wondering why the guy who normally writes a column about philanthropy is beginning to sound like a tourism brochure. It’s because every organization that’s described above is dependent on charitable gifts.

Every single one of Door County’s historical groups is a charity. The same holds true for all of the performing arts groups listed above. While our parks are generally owned by state or local governments, tight budgets and fiscal restraints have meant that the citizen “friends” groups need to raise critical charitable dollars to ensure these parks continue to thrive.

Quite simply, Door County depends on charitable gifts from people in our community. Whether you’re a tourist visiting us for a short time, a seasonal resident who returns every year, or a year-round resident who makes a living in our community, your charitable gift is essential to maintaining Door County’s unique quality of life. This season find a charity that you care about and make a gift today. To learn more, view a list of local charities at or just give me a call. I’d love to talk more with you about why you should Give Door County.

Bret Bicoy is president & CEO of the Door County Community Foundation. Contact him at [email protected].