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Soak Up the Sun in Lake Geneva

With picturesque lakes, palatial homes, and first-class meeting facilities, the Wisconsin border town is a haven for groups

By Danielle Letenyei

Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva Cruise Line. || Courtesy of Lake Geneva Cruise Line

Residents of Chicago have been vacationing in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, since the late 1800s. Located on the northeast shore of Geneva Lake, the area became known as the “Newport of the West” for its palatial mansions and lavish summer homes that were built along the lakeshore by wealthy Chicago families. Today, Lake Geneva is still a popular summer playground for Illinois residents looking to soak up the sun, go boating, or hit one of the nearby golf courses.

Location: Lake Geneva in southeastern Wisconsin is just 10 miles north of the Illinois border and about 75 miles northwest of Chicago. The area around Geneva Lake includes the lakeside communities of Williams Bay and Fontana. Two other lakes—Delavan Lake and Lake Como—are also nearby.

History: The Potawatomi tribe that inhabited Lake Geneva until the early 19th century named Geneva Lake “Kish-Way-Kee-Tow,” which means “clean water.” Around 1835, government surveyor John Brink renamed the town after his hometown of Geneva, New York. After a massive fire destroyed much of Chicago in 1871, many Chicagoans relocated to a Lake Geneva summer camp while their homes were being rebuilt. Several also built stately homes in the area.

Hotels: Lake Geneva and the surrounding communities are dotted with several self-contained resorts with fine dining, day spas, and golf courses, including Geneva National Resort & Club, The Abbey Resort, and Delavan Lake Resort. Many also provide meeting and event space. The area has 14 hotels with a total of 1,322 guest rooms. 

Venues: Gather at The Riviera Ballroom, which is owned and operated by the City of Lake Geneva on the shores of Geneva Lake. Heather Jones, director of event sales at The Riviera, says she often partners with Lake Geneva Cruise Line so event attendees can take a break to cruise on the lake.

The Grand Geneva Resort & Spa offers 62,000 square feet of conference space to accommodate up to 1,800 guests. The 1,300-acre resort grounds include the Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark, Well Spa + Salon, and two 18-hole golf courses.

Located 10 miles outside of Lake Geneva on the shores of Delavan Lake, Lake Lawn Resort boasts a 250-acre championship golf course and full-service day spa and salon.

Must-Sees and -Dos: Lake Geneva is a quaint small town with many shops to explore and restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat or sip your favorite cocktail. To see the spectacular mansions around the lake, hike part of the 21-mile Geneva Lake Shore Path. Along the path, you’ll find the Yerkes Observatory, home to the world’s largest refracting telescope.

If you’re looking for a bit of a thrill, Lake Geneva Ziplines & Adventures has several attractions to get your attendees’ hearts pumping. Besides a zip lining course, the 100-acre property has a climbing tower and 12 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails.

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