If you are planning a visit to the Lake Geneva area, check out these top 20 unique Lake Geneva attractions that should not be missed!
Lake Geneva is a wonderful place to visit in any season. This resort town is known as the “Newport of the Midwest” and has been a popular vacation destination for Chicago’s well heeled crowd for decades. Located in southern Wisconsin on the shores of the beautiful Geneva Lake, Lake Geneva is less than an hour from Milwaukee and only 1.5 hours from Chicago, which makes it perfect for a day or weekend getaway.
There are three towns around Geneva Lake. When people say they are visiting “Lake Geneva” they normally mean one of the three towns: Lake Geneva, Fontana, or Williams Bay, WI. Click here for more info on each town.
There are so many fun and unique things to do around Lake Geneva, it really depends on what you like. Whether you are looking for an action packed day or want to relax and recharge, there is something for everyone. My family has been in the area since the 1930s so I have put together a list of the top Lake Geneva attractions so you can spend less time planning and more time making memories around the lake.
Top 20 Lake Geneva Attractions
- Geneva Lake Shore Path
- Eat at a restaurant with a Lakeview
- Lake Geneva Boat Tours
- Lake Geneva Public Beach
- Lake Geneva Resorts and Spa
- Visit Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark
- Ice castles in Lake Geneva
- Lake Geneva Winterfest
- Safari Lake Geneva
- Lake Geneva Zip lines
- Yerkes Observatory
- Visit Maxwell Mansion Speakeasy
- Shopping Downtown Lake Geneva
- Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride around the Lake
- Scooter Tour around the Lake (16+ up)
- Horseback Trail Ride
- Rent a Boat, Kayak, or Paddleboat and get on the water!
- Dancing Horses Theater
- Award Winning Golf Courses near Lake Geneva
- Ski Lake Geneva
- Las Vegas Style Magic Show Lake Geneva
This post is all about the top Lake Geneva attractions.
Geneva Lake Shore Path
The Geneva Lake Shore Path is one of the most unique things to do in Lake Geneva WI. This 21-26 mile public walking path goes around the ENTIRE lake, is FREE and open to the public year round. There really is no better way to view the mansions around the lake, than walking the path right in their backyard while enjoying the stunning lake views! Some people hike the entire loop (which can take 8- 10 hours), but most people opt to walk a portion of the path at a time. It can be fun seeing the lake from different points of view and taking in the beauty of each location. No matter how far (or short) of a walk you take, you will enjoy this bucket list thing to do! Click here for my full guide on the Geneva Lake Shore Path with entry points, restrooms, and short walking routes.
There are so many delicious dining options near Lake Geneva Wi! From Wisconsin classics like cheese curds and fish frys to wood fired pizzas or even gluten free veggie burgers, there really is something for everyone.
The recommendations below are not only delicious, but all of these have a view of the lake. Check out my full guide to the top 7 restaurants on the water with insiders tips and recommendations here. Here is the shortlist of best places:
- Pier 290– This upmarket American inspired restaurant in Williams Bay (15 minutes from downtown Lake Geneva) offers craft cocktails, free valet parking, indoor and outdoor seating, a gift shop and breathtaking lakeviews which make it a local favorite. You can come by boat, dock in front of the restaurant, have lunch and then enjoy the rest of the day on the water. It is also located right off the Geneva Lake Shore path so you can take a pre or post lunch walk! Insider tip: Several places in downtown Lake Geneva do NOT take reservations. Pier 290 DOES and is a 15 minute drive from downtown Lake Geneva, so well worth it!
- Gordy’s Boathouse- Located in Fontana, WI (a 15 minute drive from downtown Lake Geneva), this seasonal (May-October) relaxed American eatery has been around since 1955 and the locals keep coming back! You can dock your boat then sit in or outdoors (where they often have live music), and enjoy the classic american fare and enjoy the view from both places. It is a 5 minutes walk from the Fontana access point of the Geneva Lake Shore path and just around the corner from Reid Park aka the pirate ship playground.
- The Grandview– Upscale american restaurant with beautiful lake views located in the Geneva Inn Hotel. The floor to ceiling windows perfectly frame the lake and are only matched by the steaks and seafood. The hotel also has a first come first serve outdoor patio. This is one of my favorite places to have a romantic date night with my husband, and watch the sunset over the lake. This is located a 5 mintues drive from downtown Lake Geneva.
- Popeyes on Lake Geneva: A Lake Geneva institution! Open since the 70s they are known for their rotisserie based menu (free range chicken, ribs, lamb, and pulled pork), fish fry, kitschy maritime decor, and large outdoor patio. They are located right across from both the Rivera building (where you grab the Lake Geneva Boat Cruises) and the downtown Lake Geneva public Beach. Fair warning- no reservations accepted and can get packed in peak season!
- Oakfire Lake Geneva: Situated right next to Popeyes this is a two story restaurant specializes in wood fired pizzas. They also offer salads, sandwiches and gluten free pizza crusts in addition to the lakeviews. The Mickey mouse shaped pizza was a hit with our three year old and the House Margarita with blood orange liquor and hibiscus syrup is my favorite! This place always has a buzz going on! Again no reservations accepted.
- The Boathouse Bar and Grille: This newish addition to the lake has quickly become an extremely popular destination! Opened in 2017 the family owed bar and grille offers classic american fare (think burgers, wings and salads) and has a large outdoor deck with sweeping views of the lake! The have a large parking lot, you are able to dock your boat across the street so many ways to get here, and have live music most nights from 6-9pm. This is located on the eastern portion of the lake, next to the Big Foot State Park.
- Mars Resort: Located RIGHT on the shore of Lake Como (the 2nd smaller lake located in the town of Lake Geneva). This retro Wisconsin supper club has live piano music, an outdoor bar on the beach (complete with adirondack chairs) and offers short pontoon boat tours from their own dock. Think Wisconsin classics like fish fry, salads, filet mignon, pork chops, and of course, cheese curds! This place in the summer can’t be beat. Sitting on the beach with a cocktail in hand and listening to music outside is the best. Fair warning no reservations are accepted so the inside dining area fills up quickly.
This is the BEST way to take in the beauty of the lake! There is nothing better than relaxing on a beautiful boat (cocktail in hand!) while learning about the history of the lakefront mansions and cruising around the lake. The Lake Geneva Cruise Line offers so many different options there is something for everyone: Kid friendly ice cream tours, the exciting mail boat tour, full and half lake options, or jazz cocktail cruise to name a few. For a full guide to all of the types of boat tours and everything you need to except click here! If you only check out one of the Lake Geneva attractions, this should be it!
Visit a Public Beach
You can’t have a list of top Lake Geneva attractions without mentioning the wonderful public beaches! 3 favorites are Riviera beach (downtown Lake Geneva), Williams Bay Beach (smaller quieter but still lots of fun) and Fontana Beach (walking distance to the Abbey resort and spa). Each beach has it’s own feel. Click here for my local guide to find the right fit for your beach day!
In addition to the fun lakeside activities, the Lake Geneva area is also know for wonderful hotel, resort and spa options! For full details and insider tips on the top 5 best hotels click here; for top 3 family friendly places to stay click here.
Short list of best places to stay in Lake Geneva area:
The Abbey Resort : Upscale full resort and spa located in Fontana, right on the lake. Newly renovated spa, multiple restaurants, 3 pools, mini movie theater, arcade, coffee and gift shop in an absolutely beautiful setting.
The Grand Geneva Resort and Spa: This former playboy club turned luxury resort has so many amenities, including it’s own sku hill and luxury spa, you won’t even mind that your are not right on the lake. This is a 5 minute drive from downtown Lake Geneva and offers multiple accommodation options from hotel rooms to multi bedroom villas.
Maxwell Mansion: This adult only boutique hotel was the first mansion built in Lake Geneva (in 1855!) by the prominent Chicago surgeon Dr. Phillip Maxwell. The hotel does not have a spa or restaurant on site but does have a speakeasy (password required!), bar, outdoor heated saltwater pool, ballroom with live music at times, and is located within 2 blocks west from all of the downtown Lake Geneva restaurants, bars, public beach, shopping and boat tours.
The Geneva Inn: If you are looking for a romantic getaway in Lake Geneva, this waterfront inn is one of the best places! The Geneva Inn has modern amenities in a luxurious atmosphere with panoramic views of Lake Geneva. While the Inn may not be as large as some of the other resorts or hotels on this list, do not discount it! The service, tranquil accommodations, dining option and breathtaking lakeviews always keeps it on my top 5.
Did you know Lake Geneva has an indoor waterpark? The Timber Ridge Lodge is a sister resort to the Grand Geneva Resort, but a separate building entirely. This is a family focused hotel with an on site water park featuring a toddler section with small slide, big pool with lily pads and multiple basketball hoops, and two water slides! There is even a pool snack bar that serves adult beverages. While the restaurants are more kid focused you can also eat at the upscale options at the Grand Geneva down the street. There is even a trolley shuttle between the two (which is an activity in itself for my kids!). Check out my full guide to this hotel here for all the insider tips and recommendations!
Did you know that Lake Geneva is one of 5 places in the entire USA that hosts the giant illuminated ice castles?! This larger than life ice castle includes ice slides, an ice maze, crawl tunnels, caves, fountains and even sleigh rides! Tickets usually go on sale in late November and the event starts end of January/early February and runs through late Feb/beginning of March- but exact dates are dependant on the weather. Tickets sell out quickly so make sure to reserve as soon as they go on sale! For more info on what to expect, click here.
Lake Geneva Winterfest
Lake Geneva is home to the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship! Since 1996 during the first week of February teams from around the USA arrive to take part in this professional snow sculpting competition.
In addition to watching the sculptors work, stroll around downtown where 40 local business display beautiful ice sculptures. There are also activities like the Fire and Ice bar at the Baker House, a party at the Maxwell Mansion massive igloo, s’mores and igloos on Riviera beach, a warming center in the Riviera center, live jazz and food trucks!
Did you know there is a drive through safari 10 minutes from downtown Lake Geneva?! Camels, ostrich, alpaca, giraffe, bison, and zebras are just of few of the species you will see walking freely around this unique wildlife conservatory. Insider tip: purchase a bowl of animal feed for $5, but watch out for some of the animals they stick their entire heads in your car to get the food, espically the ostriches! You must purchase tickets online in advance and there are restrooms on location before you drive in.
Make unforgettable memories with Lake Geneva Zipline and Adventures. Open year round choose from two famous zipline adventures, a high ropes course, 12 miles of mountain biking (bring your own bike) and climbing tower for older kids. Reservations highly recommended and approximate time per course is 2 hours. All ages welcome but must be 70 lbs minimum to participate.
Yerkes Observatory is a wonderful place to visit if you are in the Lake Geneva area. Located in Williams Bay, it was founded in 1892 it is known as the birthplace of modern astrophysics and had the largest refracting telescope. Albert Einstein even visited in 1921! Walk the beautiful grounds for free or take a paid guided tour! For more information click here.
Go Back in Time and Visit the Maxwell Mansion Speakeasy
Do you love a good speakeasy? If so head to Maxwell Mansion! To get inside the basement speakeasy you need the password, which changes every day but can be found on their facebook page. Delicious craft cocktails and a fake door leading up to the rest of the hotel make this a unique, fun place to grab a drink before heading out to dinner in downtown Lake Geneva.
Shopping Downtown Lake Geneva
Downtown Lake Geneva has the cutest main street with a variety of boutique shops filled with clothing, toys, souvenirs, sweets, candle making opportunities, coffee shops, restaurants and more! Grab a coffee (or a cocktail) and then stroll along to window or really shop! Allison Wonderland is a must visit toy store right in the middle of all of the shopping actions. It is located at 720 W Main St, Lake Geneva, WI 53147.
Experience Lake Geneva in a whole new way by taking a tour in a hot air balloon with the Lake Geneva Balloon Company. This one hour tour around the lake finishes with a champagne toast post flight celebration at the Geneva Pie Company!
Whether you are a seasoned scooter veteran or trying it for the first time, the Scooter Tour is a super fun Lake Geneva attraction! Starting point is at the Grand Geneva Resort, around a 10 minute drive from downtown Lake Geneva. You can choose to rent by the hour, for the day or even go on a guided tour. All drivers must have a valid drivers license in order to take advantage of this fantastic way to explore the lake area. Bonus- after the tour grab a cocktail at the Grand Geneva Resort before heading back to downtown Lake Geneva. Click here for more info!
Dan Patch Stables is located near the entrance of the Grand Geneva Resort and offers guided trail rides that all levels of riders can enjoy. The horses are very docile so even children (7 and up) are able to take advantage of this fun adventure. The 45 minute trail ride takes you through the woods, and is a wonderful way to take in the scenery in spring, summer or fall. There is a very small free petting zoo at the entry point as well as pony rides for little children. The activity is cash only and reservations need to be made ahead of time by calling (262) 215-5303. After the trail ride drive up the street to the luxurious Grand Geneva Resort and grab a post ride cocktail and appetizer!
To rent a kayak or paddleboard in downtown Lake Geneva head to Clearwater Outdoor (the rental location is by the Baker House, not to be confused with their outdoor store located on main street). Equipment, universal life jacket, “mini” lesson for beginner paddlers/kayakers, and float plan are provided at each location. 16 and under must be accompanied by an adult.
To rent a boat or stand up paddleboard head to Gordy’s in Fontana! They know their stuff and have been around since 1955!. They proudly and exclusively rent Cobalt Boats – the best built runabout boats in the world. Whether you want to take the kids skiing, boarding, tubing, or just want to cruise the shoreline and check out the beautiful lake homes the Gordy’s Rental Team is here to help. You must be 21 or older to rent a boat, and a boating license is required for anyone born after 1988. Click here for more info and to reserve online.
The Dancing Horses Theatre is one of Lake Geneva’s most unique attractions. Open year round this 90 minute show is perfect for all ages and in a 300 seat climate controlled theater. You will be taken on a magical journey as you experience the beauty of The Dancing Horses. Insider tip: Pony rides are available in the arena, and you can purchase a backstage tour for and additional $5.00.
On weekends from end of May-end of October make sure to get there early and take advantage of the 40-acre petting zoo called Animal Gardens. Come roam or ride the manicured trails which guide you to several exhibits including the Train ride through the Wildlife Exhibit, featuring both exotics and indigenous animals to Wisconsin.
Golf Lake Geneva
There are several award winning public golf courses near Lake Geneva Wisconsin. Geneva National Resort and Club has THREE golf courses that were designed by golf masters Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Gary Player. Grand Geneva Resort has two courses: the Brute (more challenging) and the Highlands (Scottish inspired course with scenic hill and lush foliage). Abbey Springs golf course is set in the wooded hills of Fontana. While Abbey Springs is a member only club, the golf course is open to the public! Hawk’s View Golf Course has two courses: the Como Crossings Golf Course (18 hold rates Best Golf Course in Lake Geneva 2018, 2020, & 2021), and Barn Hallow, a the family friendly short course with holes ranging from 67-222 yards. No matter your skill level one of these amazing courses will fit your game perfectly. Many of the resorts offer golf packages so make a weekend of it!
Ski Lake Geneva
If you like to ski the AAA Four Diamond Wisconsin resort, The Mountain Top Ski & Adventure at the The Grand Geneva Resort, is for you. The property is situation on 1300 acres and has it’s own ski hill, called The Mountain Top where they offer skiing and snowboarding from December through beginning of March. The resort is amazing on it’s own (check out my full review and tips here), but add in skiing and snowboarding (both lift tickets, rentals, ski school and two restaurants by the mountain) and you are in heaven. The resort makes it’s own snow so you will have a great time no matter what the weather. After skiing take advantage of the luxury spa at the resort to recharge and relax!
This Las Vegas style magic show designed for teens and adults shouldn’t be missed, and is consistently rated one of the top Lake Geneva attractions year round! Watch a lady get cut in half, see objects levitate and be stunned as a Harley-Davidson motorcycle vanishes in 2 seconds. Resident Tristan Crist was named Master Illusionist of the Year by the International Magicians Society in 2021. Tickets are $40/person and ages 12+ is recommended. Purchase tickets here.
No matter what you love to do, there are Lake Geneva attractions that will match your style of fun! I hope you make wonderful memories with the people you love!
This post was all about Lake Geneva attractions.