Most people think of Lake Geneva as a summer family travel destination, but fall is one of the most magical times of year to visit this beautiful and historic resort. Less than an hour and a half by car, Lake Geneva is a perfect day trip from Chicago. This southwestern Wisconsin resort community became popular just after the Civil War, when wealthy Chicago families discovered the beautiful, spring-fed lake and began building summer homes there. You can still see these many historic, lakeside estates by boat or via the 21-mile walking path that circles the entire lake.
Here are five ways to celebrate autumn in Lake Geneva:
Set off on the ultimate leaf-peeping experience.
With eight different zip lines high up in the trees, five sky bridges, three spiral stairways and a one-of-a-kind “floating” double helix stairway, Lake Geneva Canopy Tours offer a truly exhilarating experience. I must admit that heights aren’t my thing, but once I gathered up the courage to just let go, I felt safe and secure as I zoomed through the treetops. My daredevilish 13-year-old son joined me on the ziplines and he was thrilled to fly through the forest. Our two guides were funny and full of jokes but also reflected experience and knowledge, putting everyone in our group at ease. If you’re looking for the ultimate family bonding experience and your kids are all seven years and older, book your adventure at Lake Geneva Canopy Tours STAT. And if ziplining isn’t your thing, consider challenging yourselves on the High Ropes Excursion through 16 different obstacles or explore the more than eight miles of Arbor Trails designed to accommodate beginner to advanced hiking and/or mountain biking.
Take a unique cruise on the U.S. Mailboat.
Our entire family, most especially my four-year-old, enjoyed hopping aboard the U.S. Mailboat for a guided tour of Lake Geneva. This special cruiser carries on a tradition that began all the way back in 1870, offering the only marine mail delivery of its type in the country. Loaded with 150 passengers, mail, a very brave and agile mail person and a steady-handed Captain, the crew delivers mail to about 60 homes around the lake. We loved watching as the “Mail Jumper” hopped on and off the boat, delivering mail with a smile. The tour operates every day at 10 a.m. – including Sundays when they deliver newspapers – from June 15 to September 15.
Feed baby deer and watch a parrot ride a bicycle.
At Animal Gardens you can pet, hold and feed exotic and farm animal babies. At the deer park, we were even able to hand-feed the deer. The Exotic Bird Show featured eight large parrots that talk, sing and perform tricks. Also on site is The Dancing Horses Show, a live equestrian extravaganza, which can best be compared to a Las Vegas show performed on horses.
Ride a real My Little Pony.
Dan Patch Stables at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa offers pony rides for little cowboys and cowgirls or horseback riding (ages seven and up) through acres of the fall-kissed Grand Geneva property. My daughter is obsessed with My Little Pony, and a ride on a real little pony was a dream come true.
Catch some fish.
Enjoy a family fishing trip with Lake Geneva Fishing Guide Service. You’ll set off on a pontoon boat equipped with everything you’ll need for a successful day on the water. Another fishing alternative is Rushing Waters Trout Farm, a beautiful 80-acre farm with crystal clear ponds and raceways full of rainbow trout, guaranteeing that you’ll score a catch of the day.
Our family stayed at Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan, a family resort situated on 250 wooded acres alongside two miles of Delavan Lake shoreline in Delavan, Wisconsin, a small resort town that neighbors Lake Geneva. Our large, well-appointed room featured a patio mere steps from Lake Delavan. My two kids (ages four and 13) couldn’t get enough of the outdoor and indoor swimming pools; the 18–hole golf course is another draw. Another top pick for a family-focused resort is The Abbey Resort, on Geneva Lake, in the lovely lakeside town of Fontana.
Popeyes, a family-owned restaurant known for its fab Friday night fish fry, is a popular pick for lunch or dinner, and is steps away from the main pier which is the boarding site for the U.S. Mailboat cruise. The pretzels and fried cheese curds make a stop at Sprecher’s a must-do. Don’t miss the handmade fudge and candies at Kilwins in downtown Lake Geneva.