A Perfect Weekend in Lake Geneva, WI
As someone who loves to travel, my mind often drifts to far away places, and my travel bucket list is forever expanding. While visiting other states and countries is certainly a passion, as I discovered two weeks ago, I have a gem of a vacation destination a scant 40-minute drive from my backyard: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
Located in between Chicago and Milwaukee, Lake Geneva is a charming town on the shores of beautiful Geneva Lake. From luxury resorts, to year-round outdoor activities, to shopping, to a fabulous food scene, Lake Geneva truly has something to offer everyone. Whether you are looking for a romantic escape, a family vacation, or in my case, a girls’ getaway with your college best friend, Lake Geneva is ideal.
Although Laura, one of my closest friends from college, and I have stayed close, between living in different cities, busy work schedules, and getting married, the two of us had not enjoyed a block of dedicated “girl time” since either of us could remember. Although I adore Laura’s husband (and she is a close friend of Ben), the two of us decided to ditch our boys and meet in Lake Geneva for a girls-only weekend of food, wine, and pampering.
Grand Geneva Resort
Lucky ladies that we are, we had the privilege to stay at the Grand Geneva Resort. I’d read many positive reviews of the resort, but nothing prepared me for the vast, sprawling beauty of the grounds, the wide array of on-site activities, and the many relaxing spaces that the Grand Geneva offers.
From a fireplace lounge that turns into a late-night bar/dance spot, to an outdoor patio with a fire pit, to a spa and fitness center, Grand Geneva has plenty to keep guests of all ages occupied without ever leaving the resort. On-site activities include two golf courses, cross country and downhill skiing, horseback riding, and an adventure center. The resort is large—more than 1300 acres—and a free trolley is available to transport guests anywhere on resort grounds. Feeling overwhelmed by the options? The Grand Geneva also offers themed itineraries to help plan your stay.
From the moment I arrived, I knew the Grand Geneva was going to quickly feel like home. Outrageous amounts of fluffy pillows and artisan chocolates left as a welcome gift? I’m sold for life. The resort also has a private lake, and we watched the sunrise over it from our hotel room (it’s the first picture in this post).
Our first morning, we woke up early to explore the resort, and enjoyed a light breakfast in the Club Room (pictured above), a small upgrade that guests can add to their stay. In addition to being a quiet, cozy space to relax, the Club Room offers continental breakfast, evening hors d’oeuvres, discounted cocktails, and a warm fire place that’s the perfect spot to relax.
Frontier Restaurant at Lake Lawn Resort
Once Laura and I arrived (and consumed our welcome chocolates), we dressed up and headed out to dinner at Frontier Restaurant, located at Lake Lawn Resort. The larger Lake Geneva area is actually comprised of three lakes, and each offers its own charms and options for accomodations. Lake Lawn is a lovely resort located on Delavan Lake, only 15 minutes from the town of Lake Geneva. Although Laura and I didn’t have much time to explore the resort itself, based on the phenomenal service and excellent meal we enjoyed at the hotel’s flagship restaurant, Frontier, I would return in an instant.
We could not have wished for a better way to kick off our weekend than the spread at Frontier. Every dish was beautifully presented (I almost felt guilty cutting into my expertly arranged beet goat cheese salad), and the lobster mac and cheese we ordered as an “appetizer” was one of the best things we tasted all weekend.
Avani Spa at the Abbey Resort
If you are looking to feel pampered, search no farther than Avani. Laura and I both enjoyed a relaxation massage, with our pick of “add ons.” I opted for an exfoliating hand and foot treatment (my poor dry Wisconsin winter skin will be forever grateful), and Laura added aromatherapy to hers. My massage therapist could not have been kinder, and I felt both incredibly relaxed and soothed afterwards.
After our massages, Laura and I enjoyed the spa amentities, which are open to any guest who books a spa service. We checked out the sauna and whirlpools, read magazines by a cozy fireplace, and enjoyed a light pool-side lunch and glass of wine. It was a long, lazy morning I’m anxious to repeat.
In addition to offering a variety of activities and packages for couples and small groups, the Abbey Resort and Spa also offers fun options for wedding and bridal parties. The spa even has a private room with a pool that’s often rented by couples looking for a private escape or for a bachelorette or bridal party. The main pool area (pictured above) is open to all spa patrons and will be undergoing renovations this winter. I can’t wait to see its new, improved look.
Lake Geneva, The Town
Ultra pampered, well fed, and refreshed, Laura and I set out to explore the town of Lake Geneva.
In addition to the array of resorts and corresponding resort activities (golfing, spa-ing, cross country skiing, etc.) one of Lake Geneva’s best amenities is the town itself. The downtown is compact enough to enjoy on foot and filled with blocks of charming boutiques, wine shops, restaurants, and stores selling homemade local goods. Laura and I easily passed a few hours window shopping, wine sampling, and fudge tasting, and had time and shoe-selection allowed, we would have hiked a portion of the lake’s 21-mile walking path too.
Of all of the downtown Lake Geneva spots we visited, Studio Winery was our uncontested favorite. Part art studio, part music studio, and all about the wine, Studio Winery is owned and operated by husband and wife team Doug and Kathy Jackson. Doug is the musician and wine-maker, Kathy is the artist, and together they’ve created a truly unique, engaging space.
Kathy’s art serves as both the tasting room décor and the bottle labels, many of which are inspired by famous songs and musicians. Doug leads all of the wine processing, fermenting, and bottling on site. I found the two of them to be incredibly warm, inviting, and indisputably cool. I could have hung out and chatted for hours, especially if Doug kept pouring wine, because every one I tried was outstanding. From dry to sweet, Studio Winery has a wine for every palate, and I was a sucker for their selection of French-style wines. If I lived in Lake Geneva, I’d be a Studio Winery regular.
Hunt Club Steakhouse
On our final night in Lake Geneva, Laura and I headed to Hunt Club Steakhouse at the Geneva National Resort. Located near Lake Como (another lake in the Lake Geneva Area), dinner at the Hunt Club is reason enough to visit Lake Geneva.
The Hunt Club is housed in a two-story mansion that was built in 1915 by plumbing magnate Richard Crane. In 2013, the building was was revived and reopened as the Hunt Club Steakhouse, and it retains all of its storied charm. I felt like I had been transported back to a more relaxed, genteel time during our meal, and what a meal it was!
From classic cocktails, to steak tartar, to seasonal salads, to perfectly prepared homemade ravioli, to trout, every dish we tasted at the Hunt Club was expertly prepared and beautifully balanced. The chef places a high priority upon sourcing local ingredients, and their quality shines in the dishes’ exquisite flavors. I honestly didn’t think I could eat another bite…until our unquestionably outrageous, yet indisputably necessary loaded brownie sundae arrived. We were best friends with a homemade brownie sundae in an old-school steakhouse. Life really doesn’t get much more wonderful.
Geneva ChopHouse Champagne Brunch
Our final morning in Lake Geneva arrived far too quickly, but it was one we spent in movie-star style at the Geneva ChopHouse Champagne Brunch.
All you can drink mimosas? Check. Crab claws, smoked salmon, and peel and eat shrimp? Check. Antipasti that would make an Italian blush with envy? Check. Eggs Benedict, made-to-order omelettes, and three types of pancakes and French toast? Check, check, and check. Don’t forget the boeuf bourguignon, carving stations, and butternut squash fettuccini.
Full yet? I hope not. There’s a chocolate fountain and dessert bar too.
I’ve never eaten at a palace, but I don’t think the queen herself could have ordered a better brunch than we enjoyed at the Geneva ChopHouse. It was the perfect way to toast to an absolutely perfect weekend.
I am incredibly grateful to all of the restaurants and resorts that hosted Laura and I during our stay. Being able to spend quality time with a best friend is a gift, and I know we will both treasure the memories from our weekend in Lake Geneva for years to come.
Thank you Lake Geneva. I hope to see you again soon!
Again, I am so grateful to the mentioned hotels and restaurants, who hosted us during our stay. I was not compensated to write this post but am doing so because we enjoyed our experience in Lake Geneva so much. All opinions are my own. Thank you also to the Lake Geneva Area Convention and Visitors Bureau for coordinating our schedule. I truly hope to return!