Once hailed as the “Newport of the west” and home to Wisconsin’s second-deepest lake, the town of Lake Geneva and its surrounding communities are some of the best places to embrace lake life in Wisconsin. It is the perfect destination for all sorts of getaways, whether you’re with family, friends, or your partner. This Lake Geneva, Wisconsin travel guide has everything you’ll need to plan your next trip! If you only have time for a short visit, here’s what I recommend for a day trip to Lake Geneva.
Where to Stay In & Around Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
This harbor-side hotel is one of Lake Geneva’s classic hotels. Harbor Shores on Lake Geneva has all the amenities you’ll need, including awesome pizza from the adjacent Gino’s East. Walk just across the street and you’ll find yourself along the lakeshore in front of the iconic Riviera. This is an affordable spot for couples and families in Lake Geneva who want to travel on a budget without sacrificing the quality of their stay.
If you think all of Lake Geneva’s shoreline is reserved for mansions, think again. The Chippewa Resort is brimming with cozy little cabins that are perfect for your next retreat! While they are only available for seasonal rentals, reach out before the start of their season on May 1st and you just might get the best deal ever on your own cabin. The 10+ cabins share a beach overlooking the bay and have a large communal yard for grilling out and playing games.
Where to Eat In & Around Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Your GPS doesn’t need to be spot-on for you to find Daddy Maxwell’s Diner with ease; it is the only antarctic circle diner you are going to see this side of anywhere! This real-life igloo is a fun place for families to eat near Lake Geneva. They are usually quite busy but move through their waiting list with ease. No matter what you order, you’ll want to add one of their freshly-made donuts on the side. Note that they only take cash, so make sure you have some on-hand!
Popeye’s is as full of history as it is good vibes! Started by Nick and Veronica Anagnos in 1971, Popeye’s has grown in line with the city itself. Its menu has expanded since its inception, but quality burgers remain at the heart of its menu. The restaurant offers a beautiful view of Geneva Lake and has an eclectic nautical theme with what I can only describe as hints of a 1920s theater or speakeasy in its decor. Despite this, it is still a great place for both adults and kids alike and makes for the ultimate Lake Geneva dining experience.
Though many restaurants in the area offer dining with lake views, Pier 290 is the only lakeside restaurant on Geneva Lake. I am obsessed with their “upscale, casual American” menu. There’s just something about a high-quality restaurant serving good fries that I can’t resist! I was first attracted to Pier 290 because of the adjacent Gage Marine‘s community involvement; among other events, they help the Aquanut Water Shows host their annual “Freezin’ for a Reason” fundraiser in December where I always go to “polar ski!” I love to stick around after my ski set to enjoy lunch at Pier 290 and watch others brave the cold.
When wealthy Chicagoans started making their way to Lake Geneva in the early 1900s, they brought their famous deep-dish pizza with them. Today, that legacy can be found at Gino’s East, which has locations in both Chicago and Lake Geneva. Their pizzas are cooked to perfection… and perfection takes time. Pizzas can take up to 45 minutes to prepare but are well worth the wait. They also have plenty of appetizers for you to enjoy in the meantime, including some of the best mozzarella sticks I have ever had.
Gordy’s is the epicenter of activity along Geneva Lake’s western shore. Located in the small town of Fontana-On-The-Lake, Gordy’s is a great restaurant with an even greater atmosphere. As its name implies, this “boat house” bar has an expansive view of the lake. It makes for a great lunch or dinner stop after a day spent out on the water. You can conveniently rent a boat or take water ski lessons at Gordy’s too!
Where to Explore In & Around Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva even has its very own Wisconsin state park! Big Foot Beach State Park can be found just south of the city. It offers lots of camping in the summer and hiking year-round. Prairie, forest, and wetlands can all be found here. Just across the street is the park’s small beach, where visitors can swim or relax in the sand. Daily admission costs $8 per car or is free with the purchase of an annual vehicle admission sticker.
A summer stroll along the boardwalk at Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy almost feels like a trip to the Everglades. This marsh ecosystem bursts with tall grass in the warmer months! The park also has miles of trails through the prairie landscape that is iconic to southern Wisconsin’s topography. Parking can be found at all three of the preserve’s entrances.
The shore of Geneva Lake is unique. Despite its abundance of private lakeside residences, the entire twenty-six mile shoreline is publicly accessible thanks to the Shore Path. All owners of lakeside property must allow the path to run through it, which makes for a very scenic walk. The whole trail can be walked in a day, but most visitors explore it in smaller sections.