Though Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is typically known as a summer getaway destination, winter in Lake Geneva provides its own brand of magic. Less than a 2-hour drive from Chicago and a short car trip from lots of other major metropolitan cities, Lake Geneva is a hidden gem that is home to all kinds of winter sports, outdoor adventure, dining, events and more. Check out some of our favorites below!
Lake Geneva Hotels
Obviously, when planning a weekend getaway for winter in Lake Geneva, having your lodging nailed down is one of the most important to-do items on your list.
The Ridge Hotel
Worth noting is The Ridge Hotel, which just went through a multi-million-dollar redesign in the spring of 2016. It’s a quick 7-minute drive from downtown Lake Geneva, which keeps costs extremely reasonable. No reason to worry about convenience, though – they have complimentary shuttles and as long as they haven’t been booked for an event (we recommend inquiring beforehand) they will take you anywhere you want to go! Other perks of The Ridge Lake Geneva perfect for this cozy time of year include on-site dining options and bars, Bean + Vine, which serves Milwaukee-based Collectivo Coffee, wine and more.
There’s also an expansive indoor pool and spa (and a eucalyptus steam room and sauna), and fitness center for those times you just don’t want to go outside. Additionally, they have a brand new Igloo Experience for cozy gatherings with friends and family – igloos are reservation only, but you can also enjoy socially-distanced cocktails to-go and food near the toasty fire feature if you can’t find availability.
Grand Geneva Resort
A few minutes’ drive outside of the main downtown area, the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa is a gorgeous resort and ideal place to stay. Not only does it have great dining and lodging options, it’s also home to a humongous fitness and wellness complex that will have something for everyone – from snow sports at Mountain Top to relaxation treatments at the WELL Spa. The resort is a must-see during the holiday season, when festive trees, cozy fireplaces and holiday lights adorn the common areas.
The Maxwell Mansion is another option – especially if you’re looking for something unique. It was actually the first mansion built in Lake Geneva (the area is home to many) and along with its Baker House and Maxwell Estate sister properties, offers plenty of accommodation options. Book a room in the main house or enjoy their gorgeous Coach House rooms or Stable rooms.
Not only did the Stable rooms used to be where the actual historic stables were, they have renovated them in an upscale and luxurious equestrian style with full steam showers to ward off that winter chill. We especially love the Apothecary bar, the Speakeasy (mum’s the word on the password, but you might find it if you get ‘social’ if you know what I mean) and the screening room!
Restaurants in Lake Geneva
Whether dining out or carrying out during a getaway in winter in Lake Geneva, the area has some great options that will keep you safe and satiated.
Crafted Pizza & Tap at The Ridge Hotel
Come for the pizza and brews but DO NOT miss out on the fried cheese curds – the fried cheese curds at Crafted Pizza & Tap are some of the best in the surrounding Lake Geneva area. You can also order food to go, or if you happen to snag an Igloo Experience reservation, indulge cozily amongst family and friends. Either before (for apps) or after you dine at Crafted, head next door to their cozy Biergarten for Bavarian-style pretzels bigger than your head and boots of bier!
Boxed & Burlap
Possibly one of the coziest coffee spots in the area, Boxed & Burlap is an event venue and coffeehouse locally owned and founded by husband and wife team John and Lindsay Neighbors. Come for the coffee but stay for the cozy vibes in the beautiful and naturally-lit main area, or head into the greenhouse for some extra vitamin D. In the warmer months, you may find local markets, celebrations and other events in their multitude of venue spaces. You can also shop their high quality, hand-crafted goods on-site, of which a portion of sales is donated to support art therapy and mental health services in Walworth County.
The Next Door Pub
Okay, the pizza at Next Door Pub is DANG good – but if you like ribs… you’ve gotta get them. They’re fall-off-the-bone tender and a half-slab is actually HUGE. Their carryout order and pickup process is like a well-oiled machine.
Sabai Sabai‘s specialty is Thai, but the maki rolls and Chinese dishes are actually out of this world, too. The pad thai is rich, tangy and some of the best in the area – plus it carries out really well. There’s nothing like warm, slightly spicy Asian cuisine to warm you up on a cold day!
The Hunt Club Steakhouse
Just off Highway 50 next to Geneva National, you’ll find the Hunt Club. This cozy spot is great for gathering with friends and family – order a martini at the bar and don’t skip out on the mussels (soak up the buttery white wine garlic and sausage sauce with bread). Enjoy the sunset while tucking into a great steak – or order pickup and eat in the comfort of your own home.
Sopra Bistro is reasonably priced, with a romantic Italian vibe, this is a great semi-casual dinner destination while in town. Split the decadent Gnocchi and the steak, to balance out a little of the richness. Pro tip: break up the gnocchi when you get it and start with whatever else you order first – the dish takes a long time to cool down! And don’t forget the rich tiramisu for dessert.
Flat Iron Tap
The Flat Iron Tap is perfect for carry out fare when you’d rather cozy up at home than go out, Flat Iron Tap has a great selection of burgers, wraps, salads and sandwiches. Try a chicken sandwich – they have tons of options that are out of this world!
The Bottle Shop
With over 400 local and imported varieties of wine in The Bottle Shop, beers and beverages plus foodstuffs and daily wine tastings every Saturday and Sunday, it would be hard to find a reason not to visit this local shop.
Featured bottles include sweeter labels from local Wisconsin and Michigan wineries, plus imports from over 20 different countries, that are mostly all under $20. They even carry small batches of collaborations from the Field Museum’s beer program and of course, carry Spotted Cow. Programming at The Bottle Shop also includes live music performances, monthly-featured artists in the lounge area (all art is for sale) and wine and painting classes.
Things to Do in Winter in Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva Winterfest
This winter wonderfest takes place toward the end of January and focuses on art, fun activities and everything cozy. Not to be missed is the national United States snow sculpting championship, an incredibly unique experience that showcases the creativity of cold-weather creatives all over the country. Check out this site for more information and dates each year.
Lake Geneva Ice Castles at Geneva National
One of only a handful of Ice Castle locations in the country, the Lake Geneva Ice Castles winter spectacle has now found its home at the Geneva National Resort. Be sure to book your tickets well in advance, they typically sell out quick! And don’t forget your camera, towering icicles and frozen sculptures make for some great photo ops – while ice slides and tunnels create a magical winter wonderland for the kids.
Related: want to see some real life ice castles? Check out Cave Point Park in Door County in the winter! Check out the full guide on other things to do in Door County Wisconsin here.
Snow Tubing in Lake Geneva
Yes there are plenty of places to ski and snowboard in and around Lake Geneva (Wilmot Mountain – which is now on the Epic pass, Mountain Top at the Grand Geneva, Devil’s Head, just a short drive away, and nearby Alpine Valley, to name a few) – but another underrated snow sport you can easily do is tubing at Wilmot Mountain. Again, it’s best to book timed reservations early to ensure you find a time for the winter season – but it is a thrilling time not to be missed!
As far as activities during winter in Lake Geneva go, you can’t get much better than snowshoeing or cross-country skiing; the flat terrain makes these sports ideal! Bring your own or rent snowshoes (or cross-country skies) at a place like Clear Water Outdoor and get your heart pumping! There are many open spaces (golf courses can be great) as well as trails and nature preserves in the surrounding area for snowshoeing. Be sure to bring boots, warm socks (sometimes the snow can get inside your boot and extra warm socks help a lot) and wear snow pants if you plan to be outside for a while. If you’re feeling up to it, you can even bring along a pair of binoculars for deer and birdwatching in the area!
Walking the Shore Path Around Geneva Lake
The Shore Path is probably one of the coolest things to do in Lake Geneva – once a main thoroughfare around the lake for the native tribespeople (the most recently known are the Lake Geneva Potawatomi), the land is still considered earmarked for public use. The Shore Path is over 26 miles long and would easily take an entire day to hike; it’s certainly worth trying out different sections when you visit. Every season showcases new perspectives and discoveries, and winter is no exception.
Shopping in Downtown Lake Geneva
Looking to do a little shopping? Downtown Lake Geneva will be your JAM. Trendy boutiques, specialty vendors, home goods shops and antique stores take up most of the real estate on Main Street. Some of our favorites:
- JAYNE – perfect if you’re looking for on-trend wardrobe staples or even an outfit for a special event
- Fleming’s Ltd. – a collection of hand-selected Irish goods including authentic wool sweaters, fine jewelry, imported fragrances, food and confections
- Le Cookery – unique kitchenwares and cooking accessories for your food-obsessed friends
- Treasure Cove – definitely one of the weirder spots on this list, but if you are searching for a white elephant present for your office holiday party or family get together, make sure to put this on your agenda