Spend Summer — or All Year — in 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.

Water sports abound. You can get out on the lake to go water skiing, wave running, paddle boarding, and boating on beautiful old cruisers like the 100-year-old U.S. Mail Boat. An abundance of great restaurants and small hole-in-the-wall spots dot the area, offering everything from deliciously greasy burgers or pizza to an upscale steak or Italian dinner.

And then there’s the golf. Between world-class courses like Geneva National, the Grand Geneva, Big Foot Country Club near the Abbey Resort and more, there’s a course for every level of golfer.

Families can bike on easy trails like the Wisconsin White River Bicycle Trail, located a few miles out of town. Stop at the Pedal and Cup where you can rent bikes and get a sandwich or sign up to do a zip line excursion with Lake Geneva Canopy Tours. Lake Geneva’s main street offers everything from cute boutiques to quaint ice cream and candy shops.

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 Ari Bendersky
Ari is a freelance lifestyle journalist covering food, wine, spirits and travel. When he isn't on the road, he’s at home in Uptown with his husband and their pooch, Eddie.