Lake Geneva, just a stone’s throw from Chicago in southern Wisconsin makes for the perfect family vacation. The resort town that once housed lakeside mansions for wealthy Chicago families has become a haven for fun-loving families.
Whether you prefer skiing down the slopes or getting out on the lake to ogle at the mansions, Lake Geneva offers something for families all year round.
Our family guide below breaks down the best things to do with kids when visiting Lake Geneva. Looking for more travel ideas? Check out these Midwest family destinations.
Consider Moose Mountain Falls at Timber Ridge Resort for your all-weather escape. Thrill-seekers will enjoy the two gigantic heated waterslides, and those craving relaxation may prefer lounging around on the 500-foot long lazy river surrounding the waterpark or the huge indoor/outdoor hot tub. Little ones will stay busy splashing away in the Tiny Timbers, an area with zero-depth entry, little slides, swings, and mushroom fountain. Tip: Waterpark day passes can be purchased depending on availability.
Take in a show at Tristan Crist Magic Theatre and you’ll leave believing in magic. From the very beginning, Tristan will keep you captivated with classic magic acts like cutting someone in half as well as mind-bending card tricks or even a motorcycle and a helicopter appearing out of nowhere!
Explore Lake Geneva’s past at this museum. The recreated Old Town Geneva feels as if you’ve literally stepped back in time. Walk the cobblestone streets and peruse the shops and homes from the 1800s. Tip: If you have kids in tow, you’ll want to ask the museum for an I-Spy worksheet of items found in the museum. A genius way to keep them busy!
Horse lovers will be mesmerized at seeing the majestic horses dancing and performing at The Dancing Horses Theatre. At the end of the show, guests can get up close and pet the horses.
A zip lining adventure awaits! Challenge yourself on the high ropes course with 16 suspended obstacles or choose to zip through the treetops of the 100-acre forest. And yes, they are even open in the winter. Prefer something less strenuous? Give snowshoeing a try.
Take a stroll down Lake Geneva’s quaint downtown where you’ll find boutique shops for clothing, home decor, delicious food and people watching. Kids will love to visit Allison Wonderland, the cutest toy store around with classic toys, games and puzzles. Next door is a cool comic book store and just around the corner is a children’s bookstore, Dust Bunny Books.
If you’re looking for good food with large portions, look no further than Popeye’s. Must tries include their rotisserie chicken roasted outside, crab Rangoon cheese dip, cheese curds, lobster bisque and mixed drinks. Sporting a nautical theme, the restaurant offers plenty of distractions (like a floating mermaid) to keep the kids occupied. Great for a game of I Spy!
We love, love ordering pizza on vacation, and one place we always crave when we’re in the Lake Geneva area is Next Door Pub. On our last visit, we actually visited the restaurant and enjoyed it even more. The joint has received numerous awards so you know you won’t be disappointed. And you must order the giant soft pretzel with three different sauces.
With a prime location in front of Geneva Lake, Oakfire is a great spot to drop by after a day on the lake or beach or after perusing downtown. They offer amazing Neapolitan-style pizza (try their Margherita pizza with Bufala Mozzarella. Oh so good!) The kids can even get their delicious Mickey Mouse-shaped pizzas.
If you are craving a breakfast place, Simple Café has your vote. It’s a cute, bright restaurant and the food is unbelievable. You have to try the Croque Madam and the Korean Rice Bowl. They also have a bakery next door with so many great treats.
In the mood for pie? Try any of the pies at this Lake Geneva shop. You won’t be disappointed! Psst … you have to try their key lime pie.
Located just one block from the lake, Kilwins is our go-to spot for ice cream. They also make their own fudge and chocolate, but really you can’t go wrong with anything here. Tip: Take your ice cream and go window shopping up and down Main Street.
With Moose Mountain Falls Waterpark on-site as well as all-suite rooms, it’s no wonder Timber Ridge Lodge is a family favorite. Other activities to keep families happy — kid-friendly restaurants, character breakfasts, story time with milk and cookies, an arcade, and an activity center.
Located off the beaten path a few minutes away from downtown Lake Geneva, the pet-friendly The Ridge Hotel offers amazing views of Lake Como. Plus, there’s plenty of activities to keep families entertained including ice skating during the winter and bike rentals during warmer months. Kids can splash away in their extra large pool, while mom or dad can enjoy the hot tub, steam and sauna.
If you’re looking for a hotel with pools (yes, more than one), spacious accommodations with a kitchen and an awesome location central to everything, then The Cove of Lake Geneva is the perfect family-friendly hotel for you.
Located on the other side of Geneva Lake lies one of our other favorite places to stay when visiting the area – The Abbey Resort & Spa. One of the best things about the resort is the number of family-friendly activities they offer. From watching movies at their small theater or pool to roasting s’mores at the bonfire and creating crafts, your family will never be bored!
Luxurious accommodations await at Grand Geneva Resort and Spa. From horseback riding and skiing to hiking, Grand Geneva offers something for everyone year-round. Looking for a home away from home? The Villas provide a spacious, luxurious yet cozy getaway. Trust us — you’ll never want to leave!
- Be one like Elsa and “let it go” at your very own ice wonderland, Ice Castles. Ice Castles in Lake Geneva sports a new larger location at Geneva National Resort along with a few new features to make your experience even better like snack stands that sell hot chocolate inside the Ice Castles. Game changer, folks!
- Have snow much fun during Winterfest, Lake Geneva’s popular winter festival. Highlights include an ice sculpture contest, downtown cocoa walk, abominable snow race, and bonfires and s’mores on the beach.
- Strap into skis or a snowboard at The Mountain Top at Grand Geneva Resort where those of all abilities can enjoy the slopes. Plus, don’t worry about the forecast — they make their own snow.
- When the itch to go ice skating hits, hit The Abbey Resort, Grand Geneva or The Ridge Hotel.
- Lake Geneva gets extra festive during the holidays. Gaze at more than 2 million lights at the Grand Geneva Resort. Have a holly jolly good time on a Santa Cruise on Geneva Lake as you look at lighted displays.
- As the weather warms up, people flock to the lake to enjoy sailing lessons, pontoon rentals, kayaking and more. For a fun time, take a tour on the Lake Geneva Cruise Line. The cruise line offers a variety of tours for all interests.
- Take a stroll down a portion of the 26-mile Lake Geneva Shore Path and take a peek at many of majestic homes that dot the lake. The designated path around the lake is maintained by property owners so the trail is not all the same and can range from concrete to gravel.
- As soon as the weather warms, you can tee it up on the fairway. Golf lovers have a number of golf courses to choose from: Geneva National, Grand Geneva or Lake Lawn. Kids can learn how to play by taking lessons at Geneva National.
- Relax and catch some rays at Riviera Beach. Other options include Fontana and Williams Bay all open to the public.
- Kick back and relax as you listen to the sweet sounds of music every Thursday evening during the free “Concerts in the Park” at Flat Iron Park.
- Not only can visitors learn and see more 50 animals at Safari Lake Geneva, but they can also enjoy plenty of feeding opportunities.
- A day out at the farm makes for the perfect fall day. Find gourds of all sizes at Pearce’s Farm Stand, or take a hayride to find your perfect pumpkin.
- During Elegant Farmer’s Autumn Harvest Fest, families can get lost in the corn mazes, pick the perfect pumpkin from their pumpkin patch and hop on train or hay rides. Whatever you do, don’t miss their famous apple pie baked in a paper bag for dessert.
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