Imagine this: a gorgeous, expansive, and accessible lake set in a charming and bustling Wisconsin town, where you can’t help but admire the beauty of the water that reaches farther than your eye can see.
Lake Geneva is a small, 8,000-person resort summer town named for the undeniable star of the show: a fresh-water, glacier-formed lake that spans about 5,401 acres with a depth that averages 61 feet. In addition to a rich history of lakeside estates (often built by large-name business families with Chicago roots), Lake Geneva is also the only place in the world where mail jumping via boat is practiced as a longstanding tradition.
Honestly, it’s just about as cool as it gets.
Everywhere you look, there’s something to smile about; the grounds of Lake Geneva are lush with vibrant green plants and trees and docks line the shores as locals and visitors alike delight in the cold water below.
The coastline extends farther than the eye can see, and there’s a mix of families, couples, and plenty of dogs enjoying the area.
For Chad’s birthday this year, I decided to take us out of the city and straight into this Midwest paradise, less than an hour away from home. We hadn’t really heard of Lake Geneva, so it was a stimulating and exciting crash course in local tourism to celebrate his 28th year.
Activities at Lake Geneva
Though our trip was only a quick weekend, Chad and I managed to do as much as possible during our stay in the town of Lake Geneva. Unfortunately, the weather was cloudy, windy, rainy, and chilly, so my plans for a relaxing beach day were thwarted. We never managed to set foot in the lake, which made for a unique challenge to my original plans.
Somehow, we still managed to have a blast.
As a credit to our Colorado-grown thick skins, Chad and I spent a lot of time outside, even when it was yucky out, which gave us lots of steps and privacy as the crowds thinned. We did several laps around downtown, which has plenty of shops and stops for refreshments.
When it came to eating and drinking, we went out as much as possible. We checked out:
- Flat Iron Tap for burgers and beers on the patio
- Inspired Coffee for a quick coffee (I loved their mission to employ and empower people with disabilities)
- Oakfire for pizza and cocktails
- Topsy Turvy Brewery for beer – but the setting in an old church was a highlight
- Scoops Ice Cream for some yummy local flavors
- Champ’s Sports Bar and Grill for cheap beer and a few basketball shots
- Studio Winery + Geneva Lake Distilling for live music and eclectic local vibes and drinks
- Lake City Social for a late dinner and delicious drinks
- Joni’s Diner for a hearty local breakfast experience
One of the definite highlights of our trip was taking a 1-hour boat tour on the lake, by Lake Geneva Cruise Line. We ordered a High Noon canned cocktail and a bloody Mary and sipped them while a boat took us along part of the Lake Geneva coast. We loved the narration and getting quick peeks at the grand mansions and estates of the area, especially when we recognized the historic names behind them (namely, Wrigley).
The next time we’re back, I’d love to do another of the cruises that are offered: maybe the longer tour, an ice cream tour, a sunset party tour, or a brunch tour.
Harbor Lake Shores
While Lake Geneva is definitely close enough to Milwaukee to day-trip very easily (about a 45-minute drive), I wanted the full overnight experience for Chad’s birthday, especially given that there are so many places to grab drinks.
We learned pretty quickly that where you stay is critical in Lake Geneva, as access to the water and downtown are priorities to maximize your visit. Thankfully, Chad and I lucked out in all aspects; we found a scenic, lakefront refuge at Harbor Shores at Lake Geneva.
If the two-minute walk to the bustling downtown, prime-time parking, or the easy access to the waves of the water weren’t enough of a sell, our stunning balcony view of Lake Geneva was it. I could barely tear my eyes away from the panoramic views (especially during an expansive sunset reflected over the lake) for long enough to enjoy our spacious room and scan the list of activities offered by the resort.
When we weren’t eating out, drinking at one of the many waterholes, admiring the lake, or walking through the lively downtown, Chad and I were busy enjoying ourselves at Harbor Shores.
Since the weather wasn’t sunny or warm enough for a lake day at the beach, we decided to spend time at the outdoor pool and hot tub instead, and loved the easy access to food and drinks at Gino’s—an Italian spot on the property. We stayed up late, eating snacks in bed, watching movies, and cheering to another wonderful year of adventure ahead for my husband.
Lake Geneva….I loved you. I can’t wait to return with the sun on our side.