Whether you’re a new visitor to the Lake Geneva region or a loyal follower returning year after year, here is a convenient checklist of the things that make Lake Geneva, the place to visit.
1. The Historic Geneva Lake Shore Path
At 21 miles, it’s best to break up your walk into segments so you can slow down and soak in the million-dollar views of the estates built after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 by the likes of Chicago’s rich and famous, including the Wrigleys, Maytags and Schwinns. These summer “cottages” will take your breath away and you’ll get to walk through the front yards of them all. Enjoy the lush garden views to one side and the tranquil water views to the other as sailboats and excursion boats glide across the crystal-clear waters.
2. A Classic Lake Cruise
The narrated boat tours by Lake Geneva Cruise Line give you the history of all those magnificent mansions that rim the shoreline. There’s also an evening dinner cruise and the famous U.S. mailboat tour with mail “jumpers” delivering the mail to piers with the boat never slowing down. Also add to your lake cruise checklist a tour of Delavan Lake aboard the double-decker Lake Lawn Queen. (Did you know there are five Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes on Delavan Lake?)
3. The Thrill of the Lakes
There are plenty of opportunities for skiing, wakeboarding and, the latest sensation, wake surfing. Gage Marine’s Wake Experience even includes private lessons. Gordy’s Marine also has great boats to practice wake boarding and wake surfing, with pilots who are experienced coaches for these watersports. If paddling is more your pace, consider stand-up paddleboard and kayak rentals from Clear Water Outdoor. In the winter, enjoy a hovercraft ride on the frozen water of Geneva Lake from TLS WindSled.
4. A Day at the Beach
A summer vacation to Lake Geneva wouldn't be complete without a day at the beach. Geneva Lake offers three great beach options to meet all of you sun seeking needs! The sugar sand and lapping waves that define Riviera Beach on Geneva Lake are irresistible to both children and grown-ups! Steps away from the historic Riviera Ballroom building that houses great snack options for beach goers and access to the Lake Geneva Cruise Line boats, you are sure to have a grand day. For a beach day a little more relaxed but just as fun try the Fontana Beach, situated on the West end of the lake and steps from the famed Abbey Resort, or the Williams Bay Beach tucked between Fontana and Lake Geneva across from the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy.
A safari. Dancing horses. Magic shows. Yes, we listed three attractions with this one, but they all fall under the category of “magical things to do that will make you feel like a kid.” The Tristan Crist Magic Theatre is home to illusionist Tristan Crist, who’s known for his large-scale illusions performed up close and personal. Safari Lake Geneva is a wildlife preserve that’s home to animals from around the world roaming free while visitors traverse the grounds “safely caged” in their cars. The marquee show at The Dancing Horses Theatre is full of pageantry, music and a cast of performers (both horses and trainers) in exquisite costumes.
6. Lakeview Dining
With three lakes in the area — Geneva Lake, Delavan Lake and Lake Como — the lakeview dining options are plentiful. A table upstairs at Oakfire provides exceptional views of Geneva Lake, and for a truly lakeside dining experience on Geneva Lake grab a window seat at The Grandview Restaurant or an Adirondack chair around the fire pit right on the beach at Pier 290. A seat on the beach deck at Mars Resort gives you amazing views of all the activity on Lake Como, and a table on the deck at the Lookout Bar & Eatery at Lake Lawn Resort is a great option for checking out the beautiful Delavan Lake.
7. A Walk Through the Flora and Fauna
The Lake Geneva area offers plenty of local parks and nature trails highlighting our beautiful natural scenery. The hidden gem, Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy, reveals rolling creeks, mirror-like ponds and lush colors to satisfy the senses. Stroll the boardwalk that hovers above the wetland or walk the trails that crisscross the 231 acres of forests and prairie. The Geneva Lake Conservancy is another organization dedicated to the preservation of environmentally sensitive lands, tending to five preserves, including the Helen Rohner Children’s Fishing Park. The family-friendly Linn Nature Park offers half- and 2-mile trails surrounding ponds, bridges and historic silos.
8. A Ride in the Clouds
Get a bird’s eye view of Lake Geneva with a sunrise or sunset hot air balloon ride courtesy of Lake Geneva Balloon Company. In 2021, U.S. News & World Report named it one of the “18 Best Hot Air Balloon Rides in the World,” alongside other notable offerings in Tanzania, Turkey, Switzerland, France and Italy.
9. Legendary Golf
Golfers are spoiled for choice in the Lake Geneva area. Two 18-hole courses at Grand Geneva Resort present the kind of challenge golfers relish, thanks to the contributions of original designers Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye. At Geneva National Resort, golfers can put their skills to the test on 54 holes of award-winning golf designed by legends Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Lee Trevino. Explore here for more golf courses>.
Considered the birthplace of modern astrophysics, Yerkes Observatory nearly defies description, with its ornately carved entrance, three domes — including the Great Dome housing the world’s largest refracting telescope — and tree-lined grounds born from plans by the famous landscape architectural firm of Frederick Law Olmsted. A valiant preservation effort of the 1897 observatory is now completed and once again is open to the public for academic pursuits and tours.