The Wisconsin Dells may be Chicagoans’ water park capital, but Lake Geneva still ranks as the ultimate summer getaway, whatever your water-centric activity of choice — from paddleboarding and boating to tubing and jet skiing. Happier on land? You’ll find wine tasting, brewery tours, supper clubs, ziplining and quirky tours. Here’s everything worth doing.
Where to Stay: Grand Geneva Resort & Spa
Set on 1,300 acres of scenic woodlands, Grand Geneva Resort & Spa opened in 1968 as the first Playboy Club Hotel in the U.S. The bunny costumes and photos of famous guests are wall-art relics now, and the real stars today are the five restaurants and two championship golf courses. The resort’s 609 guest rooms and 29 villas are served by an adventure center — stop by to try archery, pick up an e-bike, hop on a scooter or go for a hike. Horseback riding, three pools, tennis and volleyball courts plus an extensive rock climbing wall mean there aren’t many reasons to leave the property.
Where to Get a Thrill: Lake Geneva Ziplines & Adventures
Geneva Lake is inevitably the top attraction here — but the rest of the landscape is just as striking. Immerse yourself in 100 acres of emerald canopies at Lake Geneva Ziplines & Adventures, where you can fly through a nine-line zipline tour, which ends in a 1,200-foot dual racing line. (There’s also a four-line zipline tour for beginners.) If gliding through treetops isn’t your thing, the company also supplies a 16-obstacle high ropes course, a climbing tower with 12 different routes and hiking and biking through 12 miles of Wisconsin woods.
What To Do: Yerkes Observatory and U.S. Mailboat Demo
Stop by the circa-1897, dome-shaped Yerkes Observatory for a peek inside the birthplace of modern astrophysics. Check out the world’s first retractable telescope and view artifacts and laboratories used by scientists like Albert Einstein. Afterward, roam the lush, maple-lined, 48-acre grounds, designed by legendary landscape architect John Olmsted (father of Frederick Law Olmsted). Lake Geneva is one of a handful of places where mail is still delivered by boat; hop aboard Lake Geneva Cruise Lines for the action-packed U.S. Mailboat Tour, which supplies up-close views of the mansions lining the lake as well as “mail jumpers” who must race down docks, deliver mail and leap back on the boat before it floats away.
Where to Eat: Mars Resort
Experience the charm of an iconic Wisconsin supper club with a visit to the Mars Resort, overlooking the shores of Lake Como. Pull up a chair on the beach patio or inside near the wood-paneled walls. Obviously you’re ordering a signature Old Fashioned made with cherries, along with specialties like fried wild-caught walleye, bluegill or ribs.
Where to Drink: Topsy Turvy Brewery and Studio Winery
Step into a historic church and prepare for the sacred sight of beer taps lined up under glistening stained glass windows. A welcoming atmosphere makes Topsy Turvy Brewery the perfect place to enjoy a flight of locally produced craft beers. With 19 beers on tap — with names like Geneva Beach Blonde, Shiny Lake Session and Twisted Nun — and a light menu of pizza, pretzels and cheese curds, it’s easy to spend a tipsy day here.
Alternatively, wander through the flourishing vineyards of Lake Geneva’s only winery and distillery at Studio Winery. Inside, you’ll discover an art gallery, art studio and recording studio before you even get to the wine. When you do, you’ll find bottles covered with colorful labels named for musicians like Coltrane, Hendrix, Joplin, Bjork and Ringo; accordingly, tastings are offered to the tune of live music on weekends.
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