10 Things We Love About Lake Geneva

Imagine a place that has world-class golfing, high-end spas, relaxing boat cruises, charming shops, breweries, and even skiing. What if we told you there was such a place and that it is only one and a half hour’s drive from downtown Chicago? That place is Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. And as a popular resort town that draws visitors from both the Chicago and Milwaukee metro areas, there is plenty to see and do.

Here are just some of our favorite things about Lake Geneva.

The Drive from Chicago and Beyond

In good traffic, the 80-mile drive to Lake Geneva from downtown Chicago should take just an hour and a half. But you might want to make a detour along the way at popular attractions such as the Mars Cheese Castle, a kitschy highway stop stocked full of Wisconsin-brewed beers and delicious cheese from local dairies. Continue past Lake Geneva to hit Rustic Road 29, a winding, scenic drive perfect for a cruise in the convertible during the warmer months or to enjoy the colorful leaves in the autumn.

Golf Courses to Improve your Swing

Make sure to grab your clubs before heading to Lake Geneva because there are more than a dozen resorts, country clubs, and golf courses with lush fairways and manicured greens located in the area. Some top destinations include places like Geneva National Resort & Club, Grand Geneva Resort, and many others. Or if traditional golfing isn’t your thing — check out White River Disc Golf Course or Paradise Miniature Golf.

Festivals Abound

Summertime brings tons of festivals to the Midwest, and you’ll find plenty of them in Lake Geneva. The town’s calendar is brimming with events, including the annual farmer’s market, the Lake Geneva Burger Throwdown, and the long-running Venetian Festival, culminating in a spectacular fireworks display over the water.

Ample Water Activities

Fans of water slides will delight at the opportunity to explore the sprawling 50,000-square-foot indoor water park at Timber Ridge Lodge. With activities and attractions for all ages, there’s more than enough to keep everyone entertained for an entire weekend. But those who want to avoid the crowds and noise, there’s always the public Riviera Beach located in the center of downtown Lake Geneva.

Outdoor Adventures

After a day at the spa, head out of town to check out one of Lake Geneva’s many outdoor attractions. Be sure to visit the Dan Patch Stables for pony rides and petting farm with goats, cows, donkeys and more. But for more extreme thrills, there’s sky-high ziplining, mountain bike trails and hiking at Lake Geneva Canopy Tours. And don’t forget to pack the skis during a winter visit to Mountain Top Ski.

Geneva Lake

Geneva Lake spans 5,400 acres, making it one of the largest bodies of water (other than Lake Michigan) within close proximity to the Chicago area. For a serene trip around the freshwater body, Lake Geneva Cruise Line offers numerous options for sightseeing, narrated tours, or dinner and cocktail cruises. If you prefer to chart your own course, there are boat rental companies in town.

Unique Antique Shops

Downtown Lake Geneva is full of small businesses and boutiques with great gift ideas and keepsakes to remember your visit. When planning your trip, consider stops at Pesche’s Greenhouse, Floral Shop & Gift Barn, Delaney Street Mercantile, Cornerstone Shop & Gallery, and the Lake Geneva Antique Mall.

Countless Opportunities to Learn Something New

While Lake Geneva may be best known as a vacation destination, the resort town features a number of excellent educational institutions. For starters, the small Geneva Lake Museum offers visitors a glance into the area’s history. And for outdoor enthusiasts, the 231-acre Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy is a perfect spot for bird watching, discovering native flora, or simply relaxing. And for an up-close look at American bison and more exotic creatures, check out the 800-acre Safari Lake Geneva.

Brewery and Winery Tours

A long day of golfing, hiking, spa treatments, or water activities is enough to make anyone thirsty. And with a variety of breweries, wine bars, and pubs to choose from, Lake Geneva can certainly help quench one’s thirst. Highlights include crowd favorites such as Geneva Lake Brewing Co., Studio Winery, and Barrique Wine and Brew Bar. Or venture to nearby orchards in Elkhorn, Burlington, or Genoa City for fresh apple cider.

Dining and Restaurants

What’s a resort town without a respectable lineup of restaurants and dining options? Whatever you’re in the mood for, there’s a good chance you’ll find it in or around downtown Lake Geneva. Fine dining can be found at the area’s high-end resorts, but there’s also numerous cafes and coffee shops. Highly rated establishments include Baker House Restaurant & Lounge, Geneva ChopHouse, and Hunt Club Steakhouse, among many others, such as:

Pier 290 | Williams Bay

Pier 290 Restaurant in Lake Geneva

Looking for farm-to-table fare in a waterfront setting? Pier 290 in Williams Bay is your place. They offer a number of upscale American options, all locally sourced.

Simple Café | Lake Geneva

Simple Café offers a variety of health-focused & farm-to-table breakfast & lunch options. Word on the street is that the Apple Crumble French Toast is a must try.

Joni’s Diner | Lake Geneva

Radiating with a classic diner ambiance, Joni’s prides itself on outstanding homestyle breakfasts made with fresh and local ingredients. Find a delicious mix of omelets, buttermilk pancakes, and homemade banana bread french toast at Joni’s Diner in Lake Geneva.

Popeye’s on Lake Geneva | Lake Geneva

Popeye's Restaurant on Lake Geneva

This quirky Lake Geneva landmark is a great spot for those looking for a casual meal in a fun setting. Be sure to try the famous flame roasted chicken at Popeye’s on Lake Geneva!

Great Entertainment for Families

Lake Geneva Clue Room

Lake Geneva Clue Room

Lake Geneva has plenty of wonderful activities for the whole family but we recommend the new attraction in town, Lake Geneva Clue Room! You’ll have 60 minutes to work together to solve the puzzles and challenges in order to make your escape from the room. Currently there are three rooms available every day – C&NW Railroad, Cold War Clash, and Al Capone.  Don’t miss this opportunity to work together and make your escape!

Tristan Crist Magic Theater

If being able to sit back and relax while your kids are entertained is more your speed, we recommend that you check out the Tristan Crist Magic Theater.  Enjoy 60 minutes of incredible magic and illusion where you’ll even get the chance to witness a person levitate! Tristan Crist is a wonderful, incredibly kid-friendly host and your family will surely enjoy the experience.

Enjoy the Outdoors

Get a feel for Lake Geneva life as you take in breathtaking views of the lake and multi-million dollar homes on the Geneva Lake Shore Path! Spend 10 minutes or 10 hours, your Geneva Lake Shore Path experience is completely in your control.

Walking Path at Lake Geneva

Also happen to be thrill seekers? Look no further than Lake Geneva Zipline Tours!  With zip lines, sky bridges, and spiral stairways, this “living tour” built in the trees of a 100-acre forest will surely provide an adrenaline rush.  Don’t worry, there’s no need to be an expert here. The friendly staff at Lake Geneva Canopy Tours will make sure you make it through the tour with aplomb.

Sit Back and Relax

After a tiring day of sightseeing, nothing sounds better than a glass of wine and some live music. Check out Studio Winery for an all-around wonderful experience centered around wine. Head in for just a tasting or go for Studio Winery’s Corks and Canvas class where you can paint while you drink.  If you’re lucky enough to be in town on Saturday evening you can even catch some live music while you enjoy the local wines. Cheers!

Studio Winery

Looking for total relaxation with absolutely no effort involved? Look no further than Avani Spa located in The Abbey Resort.  Choose from a plethora of services which will make you feel great. Want to bring the kids along? Avani also has services available for teens 13-16 years old.

Avani Spa in Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva Balloon Company

If you’re looking to elevate your trip to Lake Geneva, look to the Lake Geneva Balloon Company. This is the perfect outing for a couple looking for a romantic experience with breathtaking views.

Lake Geneva Cruise Line

If you’re looking to explore Lake Geneva by water, you’ll want to check out the Lake Geneva Cruise Line. From a tour of one of the last remaining U.S. Mailboats to a full tour of Williams Bay, you’re sure to find a tour the whole family can agree on.

Geneva National Golf Club & Resort

Consistently rated one of the best golf destinations in the country, Geneva National is the go-to for golfers in the area. With courses designed by golf legends like Arnold Palmer & Gary Player, you know you’re up for a challenge.

History of Lake Geneva

Since the mid 1800s, some of Chicago’s most prominent families have escaped to tony Lake Geneva for summer vacation. Back then the train connected the city and the bucolic lakeside town, where barons of the day — Wrigley, Sears, Schwinn, Smyth, Maytag, Swift — erected Gilded Era mansions along the shore of Geneva Lake giving the town the nickname “Newport of the West.”

Today, many of the stately homes still reign over the lake, and a beautiful 21-mile-long path that runs along the lakefront allows you a peek into the lives of the rich – if not always famous.

But the Lake Geneva area, which also includes the nearby lake towns of Fontana and Williams Bay, offers so much more than impressive real estate. It has long been a vacation destination for families from the Chicago and Milwaukee areas.

Best of all Lake Geneva is only about an hour and a half from Chicago, so you can load up the car and be on the lake in no time. Those families in the 1800s were onto something and we can’t wait for you to discover your own Lake Geneva.

Written by @properties
@properties Christie’s International Real Estate is Chicagoland’s #1 brokerage. Through our affiliation with Christie’s International Real Estate, our network spans nearly 50 countries. No matter your real estate needs, we’ve got you covered.