Giants Ridge

Giants Ridge provides a full-service active vacation, with skiing, winter sports, hiking, biking, a climbing wall and a spa. But the resort's two golf courses are its true gems. The Quarry course was named the fourth-best in Minnesota by Golf Digest. It's built on the site of a former Iron Range mine, which accounts for its challenging, exotic topography. And you can't get a more appropriately named water hazard than the Embarrass River, which flows nearby. The neighboring Legend course offers a more traditional, picture-postcard experience. Lodging includes suites, private villas and the rustic Green Gate Guest Houses, all anchored by a new chalet; inquire about golf packages. (Biwabik, Minn. 1-800-688-7669 or


Stout's Island Lodge

A ferry delivers guests to this 27-acre island retreat in Wisconsin's Red Cedar Lake, with a classic 1912 lodge and 11 cabins. Since you're basically captive on an island, it's a good thing that Stout's Island Restaurant takes the dining program up a notch (sister properties include W.A. Frost and the Commodore in St. Paul). The menu emphasizes Midwest cuisine with local ingredients, whether it's a grass-fed bison filet with rosemary-garlic potatoes; roast trout with mushrooms and spinach; or grilled eggplant rounds with ratatouille and ricotta. There's a rich wine list, with beers from Wisconsin and beyond. Curated picnic baskets are available. Round out the evening with a nightly s'mores bonfire. (Birchwood, Wis. 1-715-354-3646 or stoutsisland­


Madden's on Gull Lake

The big kahuna of Minnesota resorts is known for golf, but it also claims more recreation options than any other (trap shooting, anyone?). Perfect your backhand at the peninsular resort's Tennis & Croquet Club, where four tennis courts are available by the hour. You can also bone up on the bourgeois arts of croquet, lawn bowling and badminton. All of the above (except the trap shooting) are free for guests who reserve the Resort Package or Basic Resort Package, or purchase a Recreation Pass from $25 per person per stay up to $55 per family. Madden's villas and hotel rooms overlook Gull Lake's scenic Steamboat and Wilson bays. (Brainerd, Minn. 1-800-233-2934 or


The American Club

Kohler already makes the best faucets, shower heads and flush handles in your home, so they ought to know a thing or two about spas. At the company's high-end American Club resort in its hometown of Kohler, Wis., the Kohler Waters Spa is claimed to be one of only 60 five-star spas in the world. Hydrotherapy treatments, massage, facials and mani/pedis are all offered, and you can even clear imbalances in your body's energy field. An enclosed rooftop deck has a whirlpool, fireplace and lounge. An expansion to be completed in June includes new "coed relaxation seating" near the relaxation pool, a spa cafe and a bridal suite. (Kohler, Wis. 1-855-444-2838 or americanclub­

Simon Peter Groebner