Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is a popular destination for people who grew up or live in the Midwest, but if you’re not from the area, it may be totally unfamiliar. We really enjoyed our visit and found some of the best things to do with kids at Lake Geneva and Wisconsin farm country. Near Madison, WI and Milwaukee, it’s a great destination for getting away from city life, and is the perfect stop on a Wisconsin road trip. It’s even an easy weekend getaway from Chicago.
Being a historic summer town, a lot of the fun things to do in Lake Geneva are available primarily from May to October. As fall sets in, the lake goes quiet and those who visit shift into ski-season mode. For summer visitors though, it’s a Midwest paradise that’s perfect for families. June is the best time to visit, before it’s too hot. You can pair a trip to Lake Geneva with visiting Madison, WI for Pride. Perfect plan!
Here are some great activities to show you the best of southern Wisconsin while you visit Lake Geneva. If you have anything to add or have any questions, please leave a comment or send us a note. We’re happy to share more.
And for another awesome Wisconsin trip, check out Door County in Northern WI!
Getting Out on Lake Geneva
One of the best things to do at Lake Geneva is to get out on the water. Whether you’re doing a lake cruise or kayaking along the shore, there are ample opportunities to enjoy lake life. You can get on the water from late spring all the way to December (but it gets really cold), so set aside an afternoon for enjoying the waters of Lake Geneva.
Lake Geneva Cruises to Enjoy
Lake Geneva Cruises does several different types of excursions during the summer months. Want to do a brunch cruise? Sure! Want to watch the mail jumpers run on the docks delivering newspapers and packages and then jump back on board? There’s a tour for that! Or if you just want to enjoy a relaxing cruise around the lake admiring the beautiful historic homes, that’s available too.
When you’re visiting Lake Geneva, be sure to book your lake cruise in advance (including the Santa Cruise in December), and take into consideration the length of the cruise. You can do short lake cruises or multi-hour ones. The mailboat cruise is really fun and beautiful, but it’s LONG.
Kayaking on Lake Geneva
There are several places to rent kayaks around Lake Geneva. Put in at Riviera Beach at the rental station in the town of Lake Geneva, or drive around to the village of Williams Bay. While there are many motor boats that go on water in the middle of the lake, paddling close to shore is a great way to enjoy the water and take in the views.
While kayaking is one of the best things to do on Lake Geneva, stand up paddle may prove to be a bit more difficult. The lake has a lot of boat traffic making wakes, so the water isn’t often as calm as we like for doing SUP. It’s still a good option for the experienced paddle boarder, but it will for sure be a workout.
Experience Lake Geneva’s Unique Community
As you walk through the town of Lake Geneva you’ll see that it really is a community, in that everyone is friendly and seems to know everyone. I think this is due to the long established businesses AND because they have great community events. From the farmers markets to public concerts, Lake Geneva is pretty great.
Walk the Lake Geneva Shore Path
At 27 miles, the Lake Geneva Shore Path is a must-do activity when you visit. No, you don’t have to walk the full loop around the entire lake, but circling the whole thing, I’m sure you’ll find a stretch to enjoy. Pick any part of the Shore Path and you’ll get to see a different community, each unique and beautiful.
Get the audio guide for the Lake Geneva Shore Path here!
One of the best things to do, the Lake Geneva Shore Path can be accessed all around the lake. From the waterfront in town to Edgewater Park in Williams bay, or at Fontana Beach on the south end the Shore Path is a public walkway allowing everyone to enjoy Lake Geneva from every angle. Part of what makes the Shore Path work and remain accessible to visitors and residents alike is that boundaries, such as the private docks and lawns, are respected by all walking the path.
Catch the Best Magic Show in the Midwest
You don’t have to be a big fan of magic and illusions to enjoy a good magic show, and Lake Geneva has one of the best around. Tristan Crist has been performing magic and illusions in Lake Geneva for years, and now has his own magic theater. Our kids were baffled by his performance, and the incredible mind reading that was a part of the show.
I know, you may not think that a magic show is one of the best things to do during your Lake Geneva vacation, but trust me, you’ll be so glad you went! Besides the excellent performance and storytelling, the actual magician and cast takes time after the show to mingle and chat. If you have a kid that’s into magic, this makes the experience extra special (and our kids still talk about it).
Lake Geneva Summer Concerts
There is always a lot of people along the lake shore next to the town of Lake Geneva, but when the summer concerts happen (June – August) it becomes even more fun and full of life. Flat Iron Park, by the Riviera building and beach is the main venue space, but other towns around the lake have concerts too.
The Pier 290 concerts in Williams Bay to the south start in May and continue through the summer. At the Studio Winery they do live music weekends (indoor/outdoor), and then if you go beyond the immediate Lake Geneva area you’ll find even more!
Exploring Wisconsin Farm Country Around Lake Geneva
How can you even think about visiting Wisconsin without spending some time on a farm? One of the best things to do in the Lake Geneva area, a farm visit can take many forms. Agritourism is a fantastic way to approach travel as a family.
Do a Corn Maze or Sunflower Maze
With rolling hills covered in fields of many different crops, you’ll find quite a few types of mazes to enjoy in Wisconsin farm country. Corn Mazes are most popular at the end of summer and beginning of fall, but sunflower mazes are available from the start of summer season until fall.
Wander through the challenging paths, watching for birds and critters and taking endless photos in the beautiful crops.
Since Lake Geneva is so close to the Illinois border, it’s actually really easy to cross over real quick to visit one of the best farm mazes we’ve ever been to: Von Bergen’s Country Market and Sunflowers. A marketplace, sunflower farm, petting zoo, playground and a U-Cut Flower crop, Von Bergens is gorgeous and tons of fun to visit with kids.
Visit a Farmers Market in Lake Geneva
Being in farm country means that farmers markets take on a different feel than when you visit one in the city. In Wisconsin farm country, you’re sure to find local produce and baked goods at the weekly farmers market in the town of Lake Geneva, but then also when you’re driving through the area there are farm stands and produce shops everywhere.
Take time to stop by one of the many markets for snacks and cooking supplies. Grab some fresh picked corn and cheese curds to make a delicious meal back at your vacation rental if you’ve got one, or to take home with you. Between farm-fresh ingredients and homemade seasonings and rubs you’ll be ready to fire up the barbecue to roast corn on the cob and meats, and you’re set for a perfect Wisconsin summertime meal!
Go Wine Tasting (Even with Kids)
Although southern Wisconsin is known for its cheese and corn, there are also quite a few wineries in the area. To make wine tasting and experiencing this side of Wisconsin agriculture more accessible to visitors, a lot of wineries make visiting family friendly. Whether it’s providing snacks or juice for kids, or by having yard games set up to keep everyone occupied, visiting wineries is a fun outing.
Staller Winery is a great one to visit, near the town of Delavan. The winery is set between corn and soybean fields, with a vineyard on-site. Indoor spaces and an outdoor play area (complete with yard games) make Staller a winning spot to visit with kids. Another great option is the Apple Barn Orchard and Winery. Whether you want to do a wine tasting or pick apples with kids (seasonal) it’s the perfect afternoon destination, one of the best things to do near Lake Geneva.
Where to Stay in Lake Geneva
Something we always appreciate about visiting southern Wisconsin in summer is the weather. Yes, it might rain occasionally (and be pretty epic about it) but most of the time it’s sunny with a nice breeze. It’s the perfect weather for enjoying resort life, from the pool to mini golf. There are some cute hotels in downtown Lake Geneva, and some historic stays as well.
Staying at Holiday Inn Club Vacations Lake Geneva Resort
We try to stay with IHG properties whenever we can, as we have found great benefits in their points program for inexpensive travel, so the Holiday Inn Club Vacations condos at Lake Geneva were ideal for us. With tons of space and separate bedrooms, the vacation condos are perfect for families visiting southern Wisconsin in the summer OR WINTER.
Holiday Inn Club Vacations Lake Geneva Resort is connected to the Grand Geneva Resort, so guests have access to not just the pool area at the Vacation Club, but also the indoor pool at the Grand Geneva, the waterpark at the Timber Ridge Lodge (one of the best indoor waterparks in Wisconsin!) and golf and horseback riding as well.
We even enjoyed riding the trolley around the complete property, watching for wildlife (turkeys, groundhogs and deer) and enjoying the sights. From our balcony, we watched the sunset each night and then fireflies lit up below us, down in the grass. Relaxing and setting time aside to decompress is an important part of travel and the setting at the resort was perfect for it.
Book the Holiday Inn Club Vacations Lake Geneva condos here!
Downtown Lake Geneva Stays
I wish I could say that downtown Lake Geneva had some super cute historic hotels like Savannah does, but it’s not quite that type of town. The history of Lake Geneva is that of wealthy industrialists and bankers from Chicago coming up to the Lake to their mansions, so you’ll find TONS of mansions around the lake, but cute historic hotels in the downtown area of Lake Geneva just don’t exist.
You’ll find some really neat short term rentals (AirBNBs and VRBOs) in some of the older brick buildings, but nothing else. Along the lake you’ll find hotels and small resorts that are great for weekend getaways and summer trips. From the Bella Vista on the lake to the Abbey Resort down in Fontana Beach. Lot’s a great options!
Enjoy your visit to Lake Geneva! You’ll find so many things to do directly in town and around the lake, as well as with any day trips you might plan. Day trip suggestions include visiting Kenosha on Lake Michigan (50 minutes east), checking out the Wisconsin capitol in Madison (1 hour away) or even heading up to Baraboo for hiking at Devil’s Lake State Park or visiting Circus World.
Southern Wisconsin is a treat to visit and after spending a few days or a week relaxing at Lake Geneva, you’ll be recharged and ready to get back to reality. If you have any other suggestions or questions, please leave a comment or send us a note. We love helping people plan their travels!
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