The Abbey Resort on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin is one of those places I have often driven past and wondered about. But my family was always more of the rent-a-rustic-cabin type, so we never stopped.
While the resort rooms go for more than $300 a night during the summer, rates fall below $200 in the fall, when the lush colors of a Lake Geneva autumn alone are worth the 80-mile drive northwest from Chicago.
The Abbey is a conference center, but also bills itself as a family-friendly resort. It offers a year-round schedule of kid-friendly activities, ranging from lawn games (horseshoes, ping pong, badminton and Frisbee, among others) to s'mores around the campfire, craft-making and (much to my chagrin) an arcade.
Hubby and I landed there for our anniversary weekend, sans kids, so we did the adult thing and spent an amazing day getting massages and lazing around the Avani Spa pool. The pool was filled with other couples and girlfriends who even ordered lunch to be delivered poolside so they only had to leave when they were summoned for another spa treatment.
Unlike those folks, we did venture outside the resort to explore the small neighboring towns.
In Williams Bay, we discovered the family-owned Daddy Maxwell's Antarctic Circle Diner, where the strawberry pancakes are well worth the calories. We walked off the breakfast on the 77-acre grounds of the Yerkes Observatory. We could have toured the observatory if we had arrived a few minutes earlier (or eaten a little less) since the free tours are offered only on Saturday mornings.
There are lots of tourist-y shops in Lake Geneva, but we prefer shopping as a treasure hunt. So we headed to Delavan where we browsed through second-hand "antique" (junk) shops and spent more than an hour roaming the aisles of Bibliomaniac, a quirky used book store complete with a friendly feline.
Don't head home without a stop at the Elegant Farmer in nearby Mukwonago, Wis., to pick up one of the best apple pies you'll ever taste.