This ‘Lake Geneva’ in Wisconsin lies in the southeastern part of the state. It’s called ‘The Hammock’ for it’s a popular vacation spot for the cities of the midwest. It’s also been called the ‘Newport of the West’ for the palatial homes that were built on the shores of this 5400-acre lake. This popular Midwest destination earned itself a Lake Geneva travel guide.
Lake Geneva might have been a creation of the glacial activity in the area a long, long time ago. Now it’s a spring-fed lake that’s pretty deep and has clean & clear water.
This lake has been a place of interest since the very early days. The history of the area says it was once the home of the Potawatomi tribe. In fact, the path around the lake itself is said to date back to the natives who used it to move around and to get to the early villages around the lake.
In the 19th century, this lake, which was back then known as the Big Foot Lake (named after Potawatomi Chief Maunk-suck) underwent some change. The big city of Chicago had discovered a beautiful lake area northwest of it, which the city folk could use as a getaway. Soon there were summer homes being built around the water. Then a railway line connected the city to the area that is now Williams Bay. And that was followed by The Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which saw many Chicagoans rebuild their lives here around the lake.
Later, a surveyor who visited the lake area thought it reminded him of the Geneva on the banks of Lake Seneca, New York, and renamed this lake in Wisconsin as Geneva. The name stuck. So did several of the affluent estates that came into being all those years ago. And it continues to attract people! People who don’t and cannot have a home by the lake come here to holiday & experience the charm of this historic small town.
What to see and do
Over the years, the lake that began drawing people to it went from being a summer hotspot to a resort town to a year-round destination. This Lake Geneva travel guide includes all of the best the area has to offer. All through the year, visitors are allowed to walk the Shore Path — the original path of the natives of the area — to enjoy the lake and its surroundings. Today, the walkway is owned and maintained by the owners of the lakeside properties.
In the warm months, visitors come to enjoy the water and the activities on the lake. And in the winter, Lake Geneva attracts snow sculptors & holiday traffic and turns into the ice-boating capital of the world.
The things to see and do in the city of Lake Geneva and the other two cities (Fontana and Williams Bay) around the lake include enjoying the beaches, looking at the stately mansions on the shores, and making the most of the good food and entertainment available here. If you’re here in the summer, try to witness the mail boat deliveries to the houses on the waterfront. It’s quite a feat! And if you’d like to take home some history lessons, you could visit the Geneva Lake Museum. And if you’d like to see the building that houses the largest refractive telescope in the world, the Yerkes Observatory is on the northwestern part of this lake. (You might want to call ahead and check if it is open.)
Read about the top 10 things to do in Lake Geneva.
Lake Geneva is known to have some places that serve great breakfasts, farm-to-table food, even good beer & wine. You’ll find good Korean food, pizza, other Italian dishes & grilled meat in the restaurants around the lake.
Check out the best restaurants in Lake Geneva.
Lake Geneva has a lot of local businesses selling attractive gifts you can take back with you. Designer clothes, home decor & antiques are just some suggestions. Lake Geneva is a place that celebrates the outdoors, so you can find yourself some outdoor gear while you holiday here.
If you get to attend an art workshop at Studio Winery, you’ll have some artwork as a souvenir.
Another way to find yourself some perfect souvenirs is to browse through the wares at the gift shop inside the Geneva Lake Museum. You’ll find books and puzzles, pictures and shirts of Lake Geneva here.
Lake Geneva sits in the southeastern part of Wisconsin in Walworth County. It’s been a place of interest since the old days when these parts were occupied by natives who had a few settlements around the lake.
Now there are 3 towns around the spring-fed lake, that all attract a lot of tourists to the resort area. The City of Lake Geneva, Fontana-on-Geneva-Lake & Williams Bay are the names of the modern-day settlements.
The Shore Path, the trail that runs around the lake takes hikers through the greenery and a few ups and downs of the area.
An important part of this Lake Geneva travel guide is how to get there! If you’re flying, the airports that are close to Lake Geneva are General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee and O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Then it’s less than an hour’s drive from Milwaukee and a bit over an hour’s drive from O’Hare.
By road, Lake Geneva is well connected to Madison, Greater Milwaukee & Chicago, IL.
Or you could take a train from Chicago to Harvard, IL, and see if your resort can give you a shuttle ride to Lake Geneva. Or its taxi or rental car from there.
Once you’re in Lake Geneva, you can take boats of your choice to go to different parts of the lake, cruise in it or even do some sightseeing on the lake. Should you have the time for a few scenic drives around the lake you should rent a car.
Best time to visit
Summer is when Lake Geneva sees most of its visitors. It’s been the case since the late 19th century. People come in to relax on the beach, paddle board, boat, cruise & fly board. All the restaurants and shops in town are open and bustling with activity in the warmer months.
Although it’s known for being busy in the summer, Lake Geneva has been turning into a year-round destination with the festivities organized in fall and winter.
In fall, you can go here to see the beautiful autumn colors and scenic-drives around the lake and to the towns near the lake.
In winter, there’s a tree lighting, a Christmas parade, storefronts are decked up in holiday displays and an ice castle is built. There are Santa Cruises you can do in the lake and when the lake freezes in January, the ice boaters take over the lake. Then, there’s the national snow-sculpting championship that Lake Geneva hosts.
Lake Geneva has been attracting residents and vacationers to its shores for around 2 centuries now. And over the years, the area has managed to set up several hotels and resorts to keep with the traffic.
The Abbey Resort, The Geneva Inn, The Baker House, The Cove of Lake Geneva & Maxwell Mansion are some popular names. There are properties belonging to the Hampton Inn and Hilton chains, also. There are several vacation rentals around, too. And if you’d like to camp by the lake, Big Foot Beach State Park has great facilities.
When you visit Geneva Lake you can also look at staying at one of the other towns, Fontana or Williams Bay. Even though this is a Lake Geneva travel guide, these towns also share the same lake.
When you make your bookings you should consider what you want to be close to — water activities, downtown area or spas. You can also look at it terms of a lake view, adult-only pools, staying in a historical building or activities for kids.
If you’d like to see some more lakes, Delavan Lake and Como Lake are not too far away. Or you could consider driving further north to Kettle Moraine State Forest.
After seeing the towns just around the lake you could go spend some time in Madison or the Milwaukee area. Or you could visit Cedarburg north of Milwaukee or Racine or Kenosha south of the city.