FUN FOR ALL AGES
Summer Lake Towns 2010
Nature hikes, canoe trips, pancake breakfasts—just another perfect summer day in one of America's best lake towns.
Chelan, Wash., on Lake Chelan Photo 1 of 3
Everywhere you look in Chelan, some ruddy-cheeked soul is kayaking, swimming, fishing, or windsurfing on the 50-mile-long glacier-fed lake (kayak rental, lakeridersports.com, from $40). The Stillwater Inn, a butter-yellow 1906 house just a block from the beach, makes an ideal home base, thanks in part to the fortifying breakfasts of fresh-baked goods and fruit served each day (509/682-3500, thestillwaterinn.com, from $135). Two miles down the road, in downtown, the one-screen Ruby Theatre has been entertaining families since 1914, and these days it doubles as a community meeting place that hosts benefit concerts, dance recitals, and school plays (509/682-5016, rubytheatre.com, $8). Don't leave without taking a ferry up the lake—the fjord-like gorges make for stunning scenery, with the slopes of the North Cascades dropping dramatically into the deep-blue water. Most ferries make a stop in Stehekin, population 95, where the local organic garden sells fresh vegetables, goat cheese, and yogurt for an off-the-beaten-path afternoon picnic. (ladyofthelake.com, round trip from $39).
Grand Marais, Minn., on Lake Superior Photo 1 of 3
Lake Superior begins at the edge of town, and the Boundary Waters—a series of connecting lakes that offer 1,500 miles of canoe routes—is just 25 miles southwest. Fishing for prime trout and salmon has improved in recent years owing to a massive restocking program. Before you set out for a day of activities on the lake (try Bear Track Outfitting Co., 800/795-8068, bear-track.com, rentals from $35), fuel up at World's Best Donuts. The name sounds like hyperbole until you taste the confections: The simple cake doughnut, with a dense, chewy inside and a golden, just-crisp-enough outside, is a thing of beauty (worldsbestdonutsmn.com, from 70¢). For dinner, head to the Angry Trout Cafe at sunset and ask for a table outside. The combination of simply prepared, freshly caught fish, a light evening breeze, and sunlight reflecting off the lake is enough to make you consider investing in a summer cabin (218/387-1265, angrytroutcafe.com, entrées from $10). East Bay Suites has rooms with lake views, kitchenettes, and balconies (21 Wisconsin St., 800/414-2807, eastbaysuites.com, from $129).
Dillon, Colo., on Lake Dillon Photo 1 of 3
Lake adventures in this Summit County town—within 15 miles of ski-season hotspots Breckenridge, Keystone, and Copper Mountain—start at the Dillon Marina, with weekend sailing regattas, boat rentals, and meet-ups for guided Saturday-morning hikes and kid-friendly wildflower walks (boat/kayak rental from $105, nature hikes free). Find locals at the Tiki Bar, an island-inspired lakeside watering hole where the signature drink, the rum runner, is so popular (and so potent) that the owners instituted a two-rum-runner limit per person (151 Marina Dr., 970/262-6309). From the marina, head two blocks to downtown for the Friday farmers market, where more than 90 vendors sell fresh produce and folk-rock musicians entertain the crowd (Buffalo St., June 11–Sept. 24, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.). For some good old-fashioned fun, spend an afternoon at 18-lane Lakeside Bowl, the only bowling alley in the county (970/468-6257, $3.50 per game). The rooms at the Best Western Ptarmigan Lodge are nothing to write home about, but the lakeside location just a block from the marina is hard to beat. Rooms with decks and lake views are available (ptarmiganlodge.com, from $85).
Forest Grove, Ore., near Hagg Lake Photo 1 of 2
Just 25 miles west of Portland, Forest Grove is quintessential Oregon: laid-back and outdoorsy with a healthy dose of quirk. The historic downtown is lined with old-fashioned ironwork street lamps, sophisticated wine bars, and boutique gift shops. Institutions like Joe's Ice Cream & Deli will take you back to an America you thought was long gone—get the black-licorice ice cream, a townie favorite (2001 Main St., 503/357-3077). The 1,100-acre Hagg Lake is an easy nine miles away and sits at the base of Oregon's coastal mountain range, surrounded by picnic areas, two boat launches, and 15 miles of hiking trails. Serious fishermen appreciate that the lake is well-stocked with rainbow trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and yellow perch, and waterskiing and kayaking opportunities are easy to find, too (503/927-5489, $10 per hour/$40 per day). The area's most unique lodging option comes from the McMenamin brothers, famous in the Northwest for converting old buildings into hotels and bars. In 2000, they restored a late 20th-century Masonic home and opened McMenamins Grand Lodge, a 77-room hotel. On rainy days, hang out at the lodge and watch a second-run movie at the Compass Room Theater with a burger and fries; there's also a heated outdoor saltwater soaking pool for post-waterskiing recuperation (mcmenamins.com, king with private bath $115).