Throwing a big birthday bash may feel too self-indulgent for some folks out there, but we have an approach that makes it more about your friends having a good time than just about celebrating another revolution around the sun. Enter Camp Wandawega, a sleepaway camp for the grown-ups (and the not-so-grown-up).
A sprawling property that sits on a lake, this no-frills experience is free of scolding camp counselors and still full of activities. If you’re all for spending a b-day weekend soaking up sunshine surrounded by your whole posse, this spot is sure to make it on your birthday party bucket list.
Photography by Sergio Mottola
Prohibition, Organized Crime, and The Catholic Church
Hold the phone. Before we get into the modern day iteration of this awesome camp, we just have to give you a sliver of its insane history. The original resort at Wandawega was actually built to be a speakeasy, complete with illegal distribution of booze, gambling, and prostitution. The whole site was a sort of hangout for criminals on the lam, especially popular with the Chicago crowd. We’re not saying the place is haunted, but we have a feeling you could tell some real crazy stories around the campfire.
About 20 years after it was built, a Polish family took over and made the place legit, then a Catholic church came in after that to make the grounds into a church camp. In fact, there’s a whole book about the history of this spot and it spans across 90 years to include Indians, bootleggers, madams, the feds, murderers, refugee priests, ghosts, gangsters, Latvian Catholics, and a whole slew of other characters. While your bucket list might not include staying at “a bawdy house of ill fame,” we’re willing to bet your friends would want in on this b-day trip.
Vintage Bunkhouses, Cute Cabins, and An Old Hotel
Set beside the lake, Camp Wandawega is made up of a collection of small, old cabins and a larger hotel. The whole property sleeps about 50 guests and maintains its original charm. If you want to call it vintage, go for it. But these guys stress that if there’s anything that appears cute and old to you, it’s legitimately authentic to its time because there ain’t no stylists ‘round here.
While there are no luxury thread-counts to be found at this camp, this spot is perfect for a group of friends who enjoy roughing it a bit, and really just need a good beer and some sunshine to have a good time. Think your people are chill enough to hang? Add it to the bucket list.
Water Sports, BBQs, Games, and A Treehouse
As for activities at this mega-camp, you can count on the lake to be priority numero uno. Your water-loving friends can spend their days lounging around on the private beach or hopping in the vintage boats and canoes. There are lots of hiking trails through the woods, and there’s even a cool treehouse that makes for an awesome sunset viewpoint. Archery, shuffleboard and horseshoes are just a few of the other activities your gang might pick up while waiting for the meats to grill on the outdoor BBQ. If your birthday bucket list is all about taking the time to relax and spend a whole lot of downtime hanging with your crew, Camp Wandawega is definitely looking like a ten outta ten.