Camp Wandawega is known as the haven of all things cool. The beautiful camp is tucked away on Elkhorn, a quiet town situated in the middle of Wisconsin. It was named as one of the World’s Greatest Hotels in 2013 by Travel and Leisure. First established in 1925, the camp has an immense history with aesthetically pleasing surroundings.
Wandawega is the sort of place that makes you disconnect from civilization and modernization and takes you to a simple, vintage and basic kind of life. It is a great place for couples, individuals, and groups looking for a perfect way to bond with each other and with nature without any distractions.
Camp Wandawega has gotten so much attention from social media and press and has been listed on Wisconsin’s Register of Historic Places. Here’s a brief history about the camp, things to do, and available accommodation options.
The History of Camp Wandawega
Wandawega started as a prohibition, then later became a brothel before turning into a gambling den. The period was marked with multiple exits, hidden hatches and trapdoors to conceal stockpiles. After a raid in 1931, the area was shuttered by a prohibition padlock.
During this period, prohibition came to an end, but the demand for gambling and liquor grew. The place hosted Chicagoans hankering for debauchery, criminals on the run, and local law enforcement.
By 1951, the area was renamed to Wandawega Lake Resort by the Andrzejweski family from Chicago, who became the new owners. All the illegal activities were banished and the area was now a fantastic getaway for the residents of Chicago looking for an affordable, yet convenient retreat. The bar was reopened and now served guests and the community.
The Latvian Catholics purchased the property in 1961 led by his Eminence Cardinal Archbishop Mayer. Latvian priests had fled war and were unable to go back home due to the soviet occupation. They turned the resort into Vandevaga as their intent was to turn the resort into a retirement home. The resort became a summer gathering for Latvians where kids could participate in campfires, swimming, fishing, and hiking.
Later in 2003, the Vatican instructed by the fathers to return to Latvia after the Soviet Union dissolved. The current owners Teresa and David purchased the property and renamed it to Camp Wandawega.
Wandawega as Grounds for Lease
You can lease or rent the grounds at the Camp for a wedding, commercial photo shoot, family events, corporate events, engagement parties, reunions, basically any self-guided events. The cost of hiring the grounds for a three-day wedding is about $20,000. The grounds can comfortably accommodate a total of 125 people for a day event and 50-60 people for an overnight stay. You will only get the grounds so you have to look for other event vendors.
Their leasing process is very informal and they do not take up any deposit or applications until you visit the camp, check it out and you are satisfied with what you see at the camp. However they do not take up single cabin rentals, if you have to rent, it has to be the whole camp.
For a commercial photo shoot, the charges are $2500 per day for the location. This gives you access to capture the buildings, the grounds, the sports equipment, canoes and boats. Also, you’ll have access to the lake woods, campfires and the rooms. This cost is exclusive of accommodation charges, this means you’ll need extra money to book a room if you plan on spending the night at the camp.
Dining Options at Camp Wandawega
You’ll have to prepare your meals as the camp doesn’t provide any food. You can use the available grills, griddles, and smokers for your cookouts which is great for outdoor barbeques and grills in the company of family and friends.
There are restaurants that serve freshly-prepared food like the Sperino’s, Lake Breakfast bar and grill, and Holi Canolli which is a great Italian restaurant. You can find delicious steak at Anthony’s Steakhouse located a few miles from the Camp.
Things To See And Do
At the Camp, you can engage in activities such as canoeing, taking boat rides, fishing, hiking, and biking. As an outdoor enthusiast, you’ll love grilling fish that you caught during your fishing adventures.
Other places you can visit for fun and adventure include:
The East Troy Electric Railroad Museum
Here you will take a ride to the Elegant Farmer in Mukwonago in the famous historic railcar. Talk of experiencing history! While at the Elegant Farmer be sure to have a taste of their famous Apple pie that is baked in a brown paper bag. On your way back, visit the Lauber’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor for an ice cream treat.
Rushing Waters Trout Farm
This place offers a year-round trout fishing. The 80-acre farm of crystal clear ponds gives you an education yet fun fishing experience. There is no entrance fee neither do they require you to have a license to fish. You will only pay for the fish that you catch.
Created by Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, this top world-class national resource and house museum is full of for Arts, Arts education resources and theatre.
Old World Wisconsin
The world’s largest museum with the history of rural life. It takes you back to when the European immigrants came to settle in America in the late 19th Century in search of a better life. Some rich history for you to learn about European settlement in America.
This place is ideal for hiking, cycling and bird watching. The glacial hills, lakes, pine woods, hardwood forests, and kettles are a must-see. Be careful when taking hikes and bike rides into the 30mile long forests and woods.
What To Pack For The Camp
When visiting the camp, you’ll need hiking boots, camp basics, beach towels, and a cooler for your water and alcohol. During warm months, bring light clothes. The chilly season is cold and you may need an extra sleeping bag and warm clothes. Packed snacks come in handy as no food is sold at the camp.
You can choose to have either the three bedroom cabin which comfortably fits 6 people, the side by side vintage cabin which fits 4 comfortably, or the Bunkhouse on either the top level, mid-level or low level. The top-level fits 12 people while the mid and low level each fits 2 dozens (24 people) comfortably. Your accommodation choice will depend on the number of people you have on your trip.
The rooms are simple; the furnishings are old and vintage. The Bunkhouses have a communal kitchenette, a common room at end of the hall and the restrooms are shared with well water.
The three bedroom cabin has two smaller rooms and one large room, a kitchenette, interior sitting room, an outside porch and you can access the camp showers from it. The side by side vintage cabin is a private cabin. It overlooks the lake and the wetland. The main room is ideal for parents and the foyer for kids as it has a bunk bed.
The cost of spending a night at the three cabin is $300 while the one or two bedroom cabin goes for $200 per night. You can rent the tents which come with two beds each at $50 per night per person. These fees are inclusive of the linens and access to the resort equipment and amenities such as bikes, boats, fishing supplies etc. Check-in time is any time after 1 pm and check out is 11 am.
Essential Points to Note
You need to agree on the maximum number of guests to board before making a booking since the cabins do not accommodate so many people. The camp has a low expectation manifesto that gives you details on what to expect. It’s advised to visit the camp before making any booking. Also, you must make a booking to be at Camp Wandawega as they do not accept any walk-ins. As a guest, you will be requested to sign the release of liability.
Some cabins are availed for recreational camp activities for kids as part of their philanthropic activities. Smoking is strictly not allowed inside the cabins, but you can find smoking spots outside the camp. You might come across ladybugs while at the camp so don’t be frightened when you see one on your pillow
On Sundays, the camp hosts the morning Catholic mass at 10 am so be informed lest you wake up to hundreds of worshippers on site. This tradition has been there so since the 1960s when the property was owned by the Latvian Marian Fathers and them, in turn, requested the current owners to continue having the mass every Sunday. Pets are allowed but only with special arrangements although some additional fees will apply.