Traditions

 

If you ask someone to describe what they love most about going "up north", they usually have a hard time finding the right words. They say that "up north" is a feeling that cannot be translated into language. However, we have discovered that when you ask people to share some of the traditions that make "up north" so special, their stories are a collection of memories that capture the soul of Wisconsin's Northwoods. We are excited to share these beautiful stories with you, and we hope the feelings inspire you to take the road North to create traditions of your own.

 

"up north" traditions 

For the first 10 years of my life, we always went to a cabin in Crivitz and since about 2012/13, we’ve called Mantiowish Waters home. In between those years, my Mom's side of the family would always pick a new lake and a new location in northern Wisconsin for a week long stay.  The best part was you never knew when you were going to get your first glimpse of the lake.  I loved sitting in the backseat and opening my window once we hit a county road trying to get a peak of the clear blue water through the trees! 
Shared by Elizabeth - follow her on Instagram, @howsheseesmke

There's a cabin on the North Shore our family friends let us use whenever we need to get away for a bit and while there's so many beautiful waterfalls and hikes in the area, one of my favorite spots is this little cove less than a mile down the street. The cove makes you feel like you're in New England with big waves on a windy day and there's the perfect, barely stepped on, peninsula you can hike out to. The perfect place for catching the sunrise.
Shared by Claire Bakken - follow her on Instagram, @clairebakken

Every year around the campfire, my Dad would tell a story of the man with the golden arm with all of our little eyes glazed over with fear. It was a thriller about a man who had passed but the family did not bury him with his golden arm, so he would have to come back as a ghost to reclaim it. As we got older we realized my Dad changed the plot every year and probably just had one too many adult beverages. To this day we still make him tell the story once in a while just to see what he comes up with!  
Shared by Elizabeth - follow her on Instagram, @howsheseesmke

Every summer morning, when everyone finally rolls out of bed, we take a group morning walk through the woods. We're all wearing suits underneath so that on the trip back we can go straight to the water to rinse off before breakfast, which is undoubtedly - bacon and eggs.
Shared by Katharine Graham - follow her on Instagram, @LakeEffectCo

Every year, we spend the week between Christmas and New Years on the ice - ice fishing and hockey all day long, only coming in to get warm!
Shared by the Behrendt Family - follow their family resort on Instagram, @sunriseresortwi 

We owned property in Pembine, Wisconsin when I was growing up and pretty much lived there in the summer. The first night we would always get broasted chicken and seasoned fries for dinner - my favorite! The day we went home we always got to eat all of the ice cream left in the freezer for breakfast.
Shared by Alison - follow her on Instagram, @_mapleandoak

For 10 years, we have picked our “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree. The kids will walk the trail, pick the tree, cut it down, and drag it back to house. Then we all decorate it and listen to Christmas music or watch Christmas Vacation or Elf (sometimes over and over!!). One year we had to tie up the back so it looked like it had enough branches - a true Charlie Brown tree. 
Shared by the Behrendt Family - follow their family resort on Instagram, @sunriseresortwi 

 

cabin traditions

My family and I live on a lake on a peninsula, filled with cute little cabins. During the beautiful Midwest summers, I love leaving work a little earlier than normal, rushing home, pulling out the floaties with my mom and watching the sun go down over the lake with a glass of wine in hand.
Shared by Claire Bakken - follow her on Instagram, @clairebakken

I have to say my favorite memory that is constant across all of the years we’ve called the Northwoods home is of all 20 of us eating dinner together. When we were younger, there was a huge dinner bell that called everyone to the table. You could hear it even if you were across the lake!
Shared by Elizabeth - follow her on Instagram, @howsheseesmke

My grandparents on my Dad’s side rented a cabin for the whole family in Three Lakes, Wisconsin, so I would always spend a week up in that part of the state each summer. Best week of the year! Now we added in a girls weekend (me, my mom, and my sister) each fall at those same cabins for Cranberry Fest in Eagle River, Wisconsin. I just love all the lakes in Three Lakes. The sunsets are unmatched on Big Stone Lake. And even if I am alone up there, the Northwoods always feel like family.
Shared by Alison - follower her on Instagram, @_mapleandoak

The smell of the cabin when you’re the first one to arrive and open it up - very nostalgic and welcoming.
Shared by Carrie L - Manitowish Waters, WI. 

Growing up, my family ran a small resort in Rhinelander, Wisconsin - Conro's Resort, new owners now but still great! We have so many memories... first kiss on the dock... catching toads... but what I loved most was sitting around the outdoor fieldstone fireplace at night with a fire blazing and a sing-a-long. We'd go from true basics to show tunes. The best. 
Shared by Barb - follow her on Instagram, @spiffythrift 

Memorial Day is our official kick-off to summer, and that means it's time to get the beach ready for fun! The six cottages on our bay are like family - funny enough, half of those six ARE owned by my family! My dad and two of his brothers each own their own cottage. Every year, on Saturday of Memorial weekend, all the men gather at one end of the bay to start putting in the piers one by one. As the guys start hauling piers into the water, us ladies, sweatshirt-clad, coffee in hand, and warm on shore, get to watch as they slowly make their way into the cold water. As they move from cottage to cottage becoming more numb along the way, the ladies walk along the shore, as warm as ever. After 15 years, we still have to take the smack talk from the guys. Funny though, they never complain about the nice big fire we have built for them when the job is done!
Shared by Magg Nett - follow her on Instagram, @magg.nett 
 

We purchased our cottage in 1993 and soon learned more about the history of our property. When the original owners lived in the Boathouse, they rented out 2 little cabins-always welcoming the weekly renters with a chocolate cake. We’ve adopted the tradition of welcoming our guests with “Clara’s Cake”- our version of the one the original hostess, Clara Kendall, offered. It is such a heartwarming feeling to know how many people look upon these special lakes as important memories in their lives. I hope that someday our grandchildren will be making the cake to welcome their grandchildren.
Shared by Pam P. - Manitowish Waters, WI

 

Family traditions

We host all day Harry Potter movie marathons at our Bayfield, Wisconsin cabin over Christmas break. 
Shared by Laura Heff - follow her on Instagram, @lauradheff

Our pup absolutely loved time by the lake, so much so in fact that he was a crabby thing for the first few days when we'd head back to our home in southern Wisconsin. He loved to jump off the pier at the same time as us, including actually understanding the 1, 2, 3, count. Duke and Dad were the only two men of our crew, so Dad always said, "you ready to go swimmin' with the women?" We didn't even have to be on the pier for him to start to make his way towards the water. When he passed, we spread his ashes in the lake and we still talk about him and his love of "swimmin' with the women" when we're taking a dip. We have a new pup this year, and we can't wait to teach him the protocol.
Shared by Katharine G. - follow her on Instagram, @LakeEffectCo

As children, my mother would haul us out to the woods to collect fallen leaves anywhere between September and Thanksgiving. We would be responsible for collecting enough leaves to make our annual autumnal placemats. As a new mother of a now 13-month old, I have been looking forward to continuing this tradition with my daughter, Rosie. On one of our recent hikes, we picked up and examined a number of freshly-fallen leaves - brown oak, red and yellow maple, ash, and cedar. I folded them into a trail map to preserve them until we got home, where I then pressed them between the pages of a heavy book overnight. Since Rosie is still a bit too young, I had a little arts-and-crafts alone time while she took a nap. I arranged the leaves on a sheet of wax paper so they would peek out from under a dinner plate, and gently ironed another sheet over the top of the first to make a placemat. Made with endless combinations of wax paper, crayon shavings, tape, and leaves, this budget-friendly DIY tradition works for all ages (kids to adults), fosters engagement with nature, and encourages creativity and bonding at the kitchen table during the assemblage of the placemats. // Read Carley's blog post for photos + instructions to make your own wax paper placemats. 
Shared by Carley Windorff - follow her on Instagram, @windorffsdowisconsin + her blog


BLOODY SALADS! At or slightly after lunch hour on any given vacation day at the cottage, there comes a time when we just know it's time for a bloody. Our dad is famous for his bloody mary recipe, but we're notorious for making this beverage into one awesome "salad." We carefully curate the fixings to include high quality pickled goods, sausages, cheeses, etc., so it's a balanced "meal". Fork necessary.
Shared by Katharine Graham - follow her on Instagram, @LakeEffectCo




MAKING New Traditions

We grew up spending summer weekends at family cabins and attending camp in the Northwoods.  We purchased a small lake house north of Wisconsin Dells 11 years ago as a way to share the love of Wisconsin outdoors with our family + friends. We realized we loved to entertain at the cabin and rarely did we have a weekend alone as our friends enjoyed the experience and kept coming back for more!  Eventually, we wanted to find a place on a larger lake, maybe with a cabin or two that we could rent out and provide more space for our family + friends. We began looking at properties in Vilas County and early in our search we stumbled upon Sunrise Resort (not even realizing it was for sale!).

We loved the classic vintage feel and were very interested in maintaining the 50’s charm + “old school” resort-style with a few updated twists.  Our vision was an unplugged, classic resort where families could come, reconnect, and build new memories + traditions. If you visit you'll likely find a lively game of wiffle ball, giant Jenga, or yard Yahtzee going on. The kids can be found down on the dock catching crayfish (our adult guests really love to trap them over a night or two and have a crayfish boil!!).  Our major project in year one was to convert the garage into a recreational room and it's always filled with guests sharing a meal, watching a game, or gathering around the fire making s'mores.
Shared by the Behrendt Family - follow their family resort on Instagram, @sunriseresortwi 

 

Sign up for our newsletter, The Current Collective
Explore northern Wisconsin with the Northerly Collective Adventure Guide