If you’re not a Midwesterner, you probably had no idea that the United States has its own Geneva. Yet instead of snowy Alps and many international headquarters, this one has a much quieter lakefront, deep dish and summer shopping.
Check out some of our favorite tips on what to do with 24 Hours in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
Where to grub: Frontier’s patio at Lake Lawn Resort, Boatyard Bagel, Popeyes for a view of the lakefront
There’s no real vacationland without quality dining. We didn’t even scratch the surface of what’s on offer, from wide plantation-style houses that doubled as wine bars to throwback pizza places with red and white-checkered tablecloths. Here are three great options to get you started:
Breakfast: Grab a bite at Boatyard Bagel, an adorable bagel shop with fresh sandwiches, salads and homemade bites. The room itself boasts high ceilings, bright colors, and patio seating. And don’t worry: if you’re cruising in on your luxury yacht, they deliver dockside, too.
Lunch: Though I’m a sucker for outdoor seating, I couldn’t help but adore the kitchy nautical vibe of the Popeye’s interior. It seems the rest of the world can’t resist it either: the space is monstrous, yet the service is exceptionally efficient.After parking next to a big smoker set out in the parking lot, guests are radioed into the front and met at the door by a hostess.
Don’t miss the BBQ or the fried cheese curds. They’ll remind you that you’re in Wisconsin. They’ll also remind you that you never want to leave.
Dinner: For a little romance, you will love the porch seating at Frontier, the restaurant at the Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan, WI, just on the other side of the lake from Lake Geneva. The restaurant was largely deserted (to be fair, it was a Sunday night), and we were totally ok with it. Inside, the vibe is big leather seats, roaring fires, large wine cellars. On the outside, open patio, big string lights, little flower bouquets, and a lakefront view. All that was missing was a cute jazz trio to serenade us – but that probably would have made us stay forever.
By the way, who said Wisconsin didn’t have great wine? Our server, Rick, brought us a local bottle that paired perfectly with our juicy steak dinners. And don’t get us started on the bananas foster crepes for dessert.
What to do: Lake Geneva Cruise Line, boutiquing, and an observatory picnic
If you do one thing, make sure it’s a cruise on the Lake Geneva Cruise Line. Their mail ships are the only water mail delivery service in the country. We had an amazing trip to Black Point Estate, a hilltop mansion built by Chicago beer baron Conrad Seipp in 1887. The estate is so private that it can only be accessed by the public via the lake.
If you love the Newport Mansions, you’ll love the trip across the lake, where the captain points out all the lovely mansions along the lake front, including Stone Manor, a mansion so large that it was recently converted into six – six! – luxury condos.
Possibly one of the most understated sites in the Lake Geneva area is Yerkes Observatory, a University of Chicago gem that hosts the world’s largest refracting telescope. Take a small picnic and sit out along the open lawn with just you and the birds – and an incredible view. On Saturdays, the observatory does tours inside the building. We missed it. But just a walk around the outside is worth the trip.
Of course, no one can go on vacation without a little shopping. If you’re an antiquer, you’ll find your paradise here. We found our trifecta of girly pleasures and know you’ll love them too:
–Be Jeweled, a woman-owned jewelry shop. The owner does her own buying and, unfortunately for my wallet, has exactly my taste
-The Green-Eyed Lady, a woman-owned soap boutique and fragrance shop that does perfume-making classes
–Galena Garlic Co, an olive oil, vinegar and spice shop with endless samples. Catherine bought three bottles of oil and vinegar. I consumed about that much in samples and carried it out for free in my stomach.
As a getaway destination, Lake Geneva is magical. If you’re looking for relaxation, you need nothing else. If you’re hunting for the deeply local, you might have a hard time finding it – in Lake Geneva, the local community is the tourism industry. And the tourists are Chicagoans. The town, for these reasons, caters deeply to the two – a Chicagoan’s vacation hub, through and through.