A Week in Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva is a resort town at heart complete with lakeside estates, classic wooden boats and a history of rubbing elbows with the likes of the Wrigleys and Rockefellers. This may sound like a dream come true but for those of us who are lucky to experience the beauty of the town, it’s just the recipe for another day. There’s excitement and a lot to experience year-round but this is a town that wears its brightest colors when the piers are reunited with the water. Summer is my favorite time in LG and we try to spend as much time as possible there during these 3 months. Even if you don’t have roots up north, there’s a good chance you know somebody who does because it’s just one of those places...A place where everybody knows your name and your drink of choice. And I’ll tell you one thing, we've definitely started to feel like locals over the years.

My family bought the house almost 21 years ago and being 10 at the time, I experienced a lot of homesickness early on because I was concerned about what I might be missing at home (you know, 4th grade FOMO) and now, I feel the same heartache when we're not at the lake. I could never have imagined how engrained the water and woods would become in my blood. It is our happy place, a place where life slows down and simplicity is not only revered, but practiced on a daily basis thanks to things like actually waving to your neighbors (whether you know them or not), taking a midday a nap in the hammock and perfect sunsets on a nightly basis. 

*Fun fact: I wrote a few articles for Lake & Country Magazine a few years ago and truly LOVED being a part of the community there. It was a great way to meet people and learn even more about the area. The magazine is a great resource for staying in the loop on what's happening and finding those hidden gems. You can see one of my articles here!

Recently, I've had multiple people ask me our favorite places to eat, drink, etc. in the area and because so many people make it a weekend destination, I figured it would be helpful to compile a list, making it easy to reference. I could never include everything there is to say about the area because not only is that a very long list, but as you can imagine, we have done almost everything LG has to offer in two+ decades so instead of trying to cover it all, I narrowed down some of our go-to spots. Many of these spots are actually in the areas surrounding the town of Lake Geneva but most of them are no more than a 15 minute drive. I certainly don't consider this a comprehensive guide to the area but rather, a few of the highlights that make our journey 80 miles north of Chicago worth the trip...every single time.


  • Grand Geneva
    • Grand Geneva Resort & Spa is a Four-Diamond resort with excellent restaurants, championship golf, Villa vacations, relaxing WELL Spa + Salon, winter ski hill and much more. *Fun fact: It originally opened in 1968 as the Lake Geneva Playboy Club Hotel, the lush property served as a luxury escape for Midwest travelers. The first Playboy Club Hotel to open in the U.S., the resort brought a touch of glamour to the small lakeside community. One of the coolest parts of this place? The outdoor fireplace lounge...AND it's pet friendly which a few of you asked me about! This is also a great place to stay with kids because you can take advantage of the indoor waterpark - We will definitely be hitting this up when Ro is a little older.  
  • Maxwell Mansion/Baker House
    • Both of these historic properties opened in the 1800's and continue to maintain their original charm and unique settings. Visit the website to learn more about each hotel and what they have to offer - They are even great places just to stop in for a drink!
  • The Cove
    • This is a budget-friendly hotel located smack dab in the middle of downtown Lake Geneva, so in terms of location, it doesn't get much better than this. They have indoor and outdoor pools (with cabana rentals) and a 24-hour arcade - A kids Summer boredom cure! 
  • Air B&B
    • There are a lot of houses to rent in the area which would be great for an extended Family stay. Shaheen recently wrote a post about their experience if you are interested in doing that (and their house was super cute!).

  • Angelus Home, Garden & Lifestyle
    • This is always a stop on our "girls day out", where my Mom, Lisa, my niece Penny and I take on the town. Angelus is a colorful shop full of an ever-changing display of modern country & cottage home decor. It's full of new, repurposed and hand painted furniture, artisan creations, as well as handcrafted natural soaps and candles and essential oil aromatherapy sprays. Every section of the store is a unique theme, making it easy to spend hours there because there's always something different to look at and it's filled with such clever decor ideas. They even host decorative paint workshops - this is on our must-try list!

  • Twill Cottage
    • You guys, this is the tiniest, cutest store you will ever see. Well, it WAS tiny - They're actually moving to a new location in Walworth later this Summer (congrats to you, Deb!) and we're so excited to see them grow. For the time being, the store is located in a little house and full of modern, farmhouse flair. The store is perfect for a unique gift or a fun addition to your house.
  • Cashmere Compass
    • Stacey's store is a mix of new and quality consignment furniture and home goods as well as gift items in a variety of price ranges.Their goal is to brighten your day, bring some beauty and comfort to you and maybe even help you find something you can bring home to help you keep that warm and cozy feeling going. Stacey's story is actually pretty cool - She grew up here and turned the old bank in town into this store! #girlboss 
  • E Street Denim 
    • If you followed me on Sisters Marie, you know that Lisa and I frequently wore and swapped items from E Street. This place is known for its amazing selection of denim (no shock there), but we love the whole store because we can always count on finding things you don't see anywhere else. The owner, Kasey, is so sweet and always willing to help us narrow down our favorite pieces. Plus, last time we shopped they were making margaritas at the register and handing them out to customers. WINNING.
  • Other fun stores in the area include --> Bloomingbyrds, Edie, The Bottle Shop (for wine!), Elegant Farmer (the most AMAZING pies) and Paws For Treats (for furry friends).


*Fun fact: My Mom, Dad and I recently made a list of every restaurant we have eaten at in the area since we bought the house. We even included ones that no longer exist or have changed names and become something else and it was over 100+ places long! It was so fun to recall all the spots where we have created memories or taken different friends and Family over the years. With that said, I could say A LOT in this category - However, you would probably age about 10 years before we finished so I'm keeping this relatively brief with our 3 most visited spots near our home in Fontana. Feel free to ask me about any other restaurant recommendations though, I have A LOT.
  • Gordy's/Chucks
    • If you've been to Fontana, you've definitely been to both of these spots. I even see people wearing merchandise from both places ALL the time at home. I lumped them together because they are right next door to each other and located steps from the lake but that is really where their similarities end. You go to Chucks if you're looking for a laid back beer and burger combo. It's a little more casual, ALWAYS PACKED and definitely the place to be on a warm Summer day - Big party place! Gordy's is a little more Family-friendly (though there's always kids at both places), has a more extensive menu, and requires a little more than just swim trunks and flip flops. Tbh, I think Chucks is great for lunch and Gordy's is nice for Dinner so you can basically just park nearby and spend the whole day there, watching the boats fly by. We are here OFTEN.
  • Pier 290
    • Our Family favorite - I'm sure you've seen this place on my Instagram a thousand times and that's because the setting is just perfect. It's really the only restaurant directly on the water and meets all of the requirements for an amazing dining experience: Unreal views of the lake, a fabulous menu (The watermelon & feta salad is to die for!) and the best al fresco scene. Not to mention, a man-made white sand beach with Adirondack chairs and stone fire pits...it is always 5:00 here. What's cool is, the outdoor patio is open most of the year thanks to heaters and said fire pits, so I always look forward to coming back in layers and boots in the Fall.
    • Order the --> Painkiller! It's SO GOOD.
  • The town of Lake Geneva has SO much to offer --> Check out Oakfire (and their new outdoor deck!), Baker House (also mentioned above as a great hotel!), Medusa, and Simple for breakfast. We also really like Cafe Calamari in Williams Bay...they have a great patio and a salad dressing that's good enough for my Mom to bring home a bottle every time we eat there.
  • The Coffee Mill: I can't say enough good things about this place. We have been coming here since it opened many years ago and I don't think we ever spend a weekend at the lake without making (multiple) stops here. The people are so nice, the coffee is delicious and the store is welcoming. Not to mention, it has the cutest decor (a chalk board menu, wire basket lights and a new sitting area that will hit you with all the rustic-chic feels). Plus, they make a baked oatmeal that is out of this world. Their honeybee coffee drink is our go-to in the cooler months. It's made with local honey (like, we've seen the adorable elderly man drop it off, fresh kind of honey, espresso, steamed milk, and nutmeg. Comfort in a cup!
    • Order the --> Iced Aloha Latte (Summertime fave!)

  • Boxed and Burlap: I met the owners (Lindsay and John Neighbors) at a Lake & Country party just before they opened their shop a few years back and their business card alone was enough to peak my interest. The coffee is custom roasted and cannot be found in any other mid-western coffee shop and they offer a full service espresso bar along with a selection of tea and pastry items. The story of the shop is a true American small town dream. It is owned by a husband and wife couple and built through the help of family and friends. The coffeehouse was woven together with the garden center and studio space, so during the warmer months, we stop by to grab a few succulents as we sip our coffee. But this place is so much more than a great coffee house - Their Batten House is home to many activities on a weekly basis including yoga (through Yoga LG), their amazing farmers market, open mic's, and custom events. We are regulars here and as a bonus, the kids love visiting too. My nephew is always up for a chess match against my husband!
    • Order the --> Iced Lavender Latte - I dream of these year round!

  • Meggy Moo's Dairy Ripple:
    • This is another spot we have been visiting since we bought the house. It's a tiny, drive-up place located in Walworth with tables in the grassy area nearby and an awesome menu. In the Summer, this place is like gold - The lines wrap around the building and the parking lot is always full but the staff works very hard and you never wait too long. Even if you do, you don't mind because it's just such a fun place to bring your Family. We literally schedule our meals during the day around this place - No matter how much we eat, we always make sure we're going to have room in our bellies and time on the clock to stop here. Everyone gets something different but my go-to is a chocolate flurry with cookie dough. Their real food is awesome too! One of the best burgers I've had.

  • Dip in the Bay:
    • Awesome place to go for REAL ice cream - It's hand-dipped and has some of the most delicious flavors

  • Walk the Lake Shore Path
    • Probably my #1 favorite thing to do when we're here, no matter WHAT season. It's 21 miles in total but you can walk bits and pieces of it and still experience all of the amazing homes, landscapes and views of the lake. Two Summers ago, we did 15+ miles with our friends - The goal was to finish the whole thing but by the end, we were exhausted and hungry so we resolved to start earlier next time and finish the path in its entirety. If I lived in the area full-time, I would start every morning on this path. I wrote a little bit more about the path in this post if you're interested. 

  • Yoga on the beach (or at Boxed & Burlap) 
    • This is another one of my personal favorites! If you’re a yoga enthusiast, you haven’t experienced true Namaste until you’ve practiced on the beach. Yoga Lake Geneva hosts weekend morning classes outside of Pier 290 where your downward dog is accompanied by calming sound of light waves. The set-up is more than serene; freshly raked sand and a summer sun just beginning to rise over fifty shades of blue. Loaner mats are available, so even if you’re new to yoga, you can bring a friend or your out-of-town guests for a unique experience. It is AWESOME.

  • Visit the Beach
    • We frequent Fontana Beach since it's closer to our house (and tends to be a little quieter, depending on the day) but the beach in Lake Geneva is great too and just steps away from all of the shops and restaurants
  • Rent Bikes - Avant Bicycle or Pedal & Cup: 
    • Pedal & Cup is located just a short distance from Lake Geneva. The eleven-mile trail is flat and wide, making it feasible for all riders. Once you’re finished, return to the shop to enjoy a sandwich and some iced tea (or a smoothie, espresso and so on). By the way, if you're staying at a hotel in the area, they will deliver the bikes to YOU.
  • If it's Raining...
    • Board & Brush - DIY wood sign workshop...Fun girls night out or date night!
    • Old World Wisconsin - This is a cool stop for a Family with slightly older kids. Travel back in time and experience rural Wisconsin as it was a century ago and more when waves of immigrants came to America. You can explore eight ethnic farms and an 1880s village filled with hands-on activities for all ages.
    • Tour Black Point Estate - The Estate and Gardens (which overlooks the lake) was the
      summer home for Chicago beer baron Conrad Seipp and four
      generations of his descendants. Keep in mind, you must take a boat to get here so the weather can't be TOO bad.
    • Lake Geneva Museum -  Visit Main Street as it was years ago and take a look at historic stores, homes, a school room as well as other places. You can actually go into them for a close up look at furniture, clothing, tools, machines, merchandise, photos and other artifacts of daily living. You can get a real feel for lifestyles in the late 19th and early 20th century in the Geneva Lake area.
    • Studio Winery - All their wine is made on-site and they always have live music lined up!
    • Magic Theatre - Master Illusionist, Tristan Crist presents magic up-close and personal. Witness large illusions in an intimate setting, every seat is close to the action. 60 minutes of live magic, comedy and illusion with new tricks added every year. This place gets GREAT reviews!
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“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

This is so true for many of us and perfectly sums up how I feel about our second home. We always roll down the windows in the car when we turn onto our street because I love the way the air smells and how it feels when it fills my lungs. When the weekends wind down and we've exhausted all of the ways we can stay just "one more day," we wave to Family and pull away with sadness, only to begin plotting the next time we can return. We are so blessed to have this place as a part of our lives and I am so excited for Ronan to grow up with it as a part of his...It's full of real life magic.

If you are planning a visit soon, enjoy every minute...Nobody does Summer like Lake Geneva :) And if you have any additional questions or need further recommendations, I am happy to help! Leave them in the comments or feel free to email me: kaitlately@gmail.com or DM me on Instagram. Hope this helps!

See you at the lake,

1 comment

  1. Loved this! Felt like I got to experience the lake with you ❤️ Thanks for the tips!


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