In 1871, following the Great Chicago Fire, natives of Chicago traveled to the Geneva Lake area in Walworth County, Wisconsin to build summer estates. Today, Chicagoland families can experience the beauty of these estates and the remarkable Geneva Lake Shore during a trip to Walworth County, or WalCo, this summer.
“This is super unique,” says Tessa Springer, a lifelong Walworth County resident and the treasurer of the Walworth County Visitors Bureau “The shoreline around Geneva Lake is 21 miles, but the path reaches about 26 miles because you’re actually going through people’s yards.”
Since there isn’t an actual road along the lake, this is how visitors can experience the beauty of the lakeshore while getting a peek at the lake mansions and their beautiful landscaping.
The entire walk can take 8-10 hours, but families don’t have to walk the whole path. In fact, “if you start in Lake Geneva, about halfway through there’s a town called Fontana. There’s restaurants and bars, there’s a public beach,” she says. It’s a good place to stop and grab lunch and fill up waters before continuing your walk.
“A neat way to see those lake homes,” Springer says. “It’s almost its own little world. It’s a must-do.”
Aside from the lake shore path, there is plenty of fun to be had in WalCo. Here, Springer offers details on top summer things to do.
Fly through the 100-acre property on nine zipline courses. You can do a full zipline tour of all nine lines or a short zipline tour with four lines. There’s a high-ropes course and climbing tower, too, if you’re not in the mood to zipline.
The climbing tower features three climbing walls and a vertical obstacle course for ages 4 and older.
To participate in the zipline tour, you must be at least 4 feet tall and weigh between 70 and 250 pounds. Those ages 14 and under must do the zipline tour with a parent. Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes for your time at this local spot.
They partner with local restaurants so you can get food delivered while you’re there, Springer adds.
Experience the Geneva Lakes area from the sky by booking a hot air balloon ride with the Lake Geneva Balloon Company, which has been in operation since 2002.
“I personally have not been up in one but it’s on the bucket list,” Springer says.
The wind dictates where you and your family will end up going and what you’ll end up seeing, which makes the experience even more special.
“This is such a unique way to see the county, the homes, all the beautiful trees and landscape,” she says.
For Springer, the Lake Geneva Cruise Line is a personal favorite.
“This is another opportunity to see lake homes and the lake without having to do the shore path,” she says.
The one-hour Geneva Bay Tour is perfect for all ages. The captain will discuss the most famous historical sites on the lake. If you want a special snack on your boat trip, then the Ice Cream Social Tour is for you. Open to all ages, this 1.25-hour narrated tour teaches families about the great migration from Chicago after the Great Fire, shows you the original Wrigley Estate and more. The U.S. Mailboat Tour is a unique opportunity to see how Lake Geneva residents get their mail. Their mailboxes are on the pier, Springer notes, so you’ll get to see how the mail is delivered from the boat.
Love to golf or want to introduce your kiddos to the sport? Look no further than Majestic Oaks, which is the only public golf course located right next to picturesque Delavan Lake in Walworth County. Families are welcome to participate in family golf nights. For $14 per person, you and your crew can play a 9-hole course.
You don’t have to stay at the resort to play there, Springer notes, but if you do stay at the resort, mom or dad should be sure to visit the spa.
“They have an award-winning spa,” Springer says. “Their spa is phenomenal.”
Rainy weather suggestions
Summer isn’t always sunny, so what if you’re in town during a rainy day? There’s plenty to do, Springer says.
Visit the Tristan Crist Magic Theatre for daily magic and illusion shows that are perfect for all ages.
“He is phenomenal,” she says. “You feel like you’re in Vegas when you’re watching his show.”
Stop by LG Axe Throwing or the Lake Geneva Clue Room, or get a pass to Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark, which boasts an indoor waterpark. You don’t need to lodge there to enjoy this indoor fun.
There’s so much to discover about #WalCo in the summer. Visit gowalco.com to learn more and make your own plans.