Sand Valley Golf Resort is the Ultimate Winter Escape

Ice fishing with a newborn and other Wisconsin adventures

When our son Julian was five weeks old, we took him on his first interstate road trip — and then wrote about it for Minnesota Monthly. Our destination: Sand Valley Golf Resort in rural Nekoosa, Wisconsin, 3.5 hours from the Twin Cities.

The drive out couldn’t have been more bucolic, passing a succession of cranberry bogs blanketed in snow and churches advertising Friday night fish frys. We timed our visit to Sand Valley’s Brews & Brats Weekend, a three-day festival celebrating two of Wisco’s four major food groups (the others are cheese curds and brandy Old Fashioneds).

The 12,000-acre property—which encompasses glassy ponds, rippling sand barrens, and award-wining golf courses—embraces year-round recreation, offering a full slate of frozen pursuits including cross-country skiing, ice skating, and pond hockey.

While there wasn’t enough snow on the ground to go snowshoeing, we mucked up our hiking boots trekking along the resort’s 2.2-mile Ridge Trail. Our cheeks were stinging red by the time we got back to the lodge; the baby—all bundled up under 45 layers of clothing—was as toasty as could be.

The highlight, however, was ice fishing with Ray Blossfield. When he’s not working the front desk at Sand Valley, the self-taught fisherman is drilling holes in ice as thick as our arms are long. He led us on a short drive to Lake Leopold, where he had set up gear and a tent for our family. He cut two fishing holes inside the tent and two outside and dedicated the next few hours to showing us how to fix the line, read a fish finder, jig like a pro, and smile big for the camera when we caught a 10-inch bass. (OK, when he caught a 10-inch bass.)

Ice fishing at Sand Valley

It was a bitterly cold morning, but our tent radiated warm conversation — and when Julian had a meltdown on the frozen lake, Ray took it in perfect stride.

Traveling with an infant isn’t easy. It’s a lot of gear to schlep and things can go wildly awry. But the team at Sand Valley couldn’t have been kinder, which gave us the confidence to keep traveling.

Julian has visited 11 states since that first trip, plus Ontario. For his birthday next month, we’re headed to Mexico. After that, the world!

Sand Valley Golf Resort
1697 Leopold Way, Nekoosa, WI; 877-261-1141.