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Lake Geneva, WI: A Quiet Family Getaway

Lake Geneva, WI: A Quiet Family Getaway

We recently were in the Chicago area to visit family, and so we decided to travel north to Lake Geneva, WI, with our kids for a few days of laid-back fun. The town, a popular regional getaway a couple hours’ drive north of Chicago (and significantly less from the northern suburbs, where we were staying), didn’t disappoint: It was an ideal location for slow-paced, kid-focused relaxation. 

RELATED: Discover all the top NY-area family day trips

The Grand Geneva Resort & Spa

The pool at Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

We stayed at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, located on a sprawling property five minutes’ drive from the town of Lake Geneva. The Grand Geneva is a resort with tons of activities to do on premises, which proved to be great for those of us with little kids. The hotel even provides a trolley to transport guests to the different on-property venues. 

With three kids, we don’t fit comfortably in one hotel room, and for a short, two-night stay, decided to splurge on a one-bedroom suite. This option was somewhat more economical than adjoining rooms, especially since the suite came with access to the “Geneva Club,” which included breakfast, afternoon snacks, and evening hors d’ouevres. The kids fit comfortably in the suite’s common room, each in her own bed or crib, and my wife and I took the bedroom. The kids were especially tickled that the bathroom had a TV in the mirror! 

We spent a lot of time at the hotel pools. The Grand Geneva has indoor and outdoor swimming options, and it was great to find a kiddie pool, which is rare. Unfortunately, there were no lifeguards on duty, which was surprising and worrying to me. The hotel also offers poolside bar service, including snacks and light meals, and pool toys, such as tubes and beach balls, are available for purchase. 

The property also features a stable with pony rides for kids, as well as horse-drawn carriage rides and horseback trail riding. An adjacent petting zoo houses just a small handful of farm animals. 

The Grand Geneva also has family-oriented shows and kids’ activities regularly, though we didn’t personally participate in any. There is also a golf course and a ski slope during the winter, as well as several restaurants and cafes on premises (including a Starbucks and gelato shop).


Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark

The water park at the Timber Ridge Hotel in Lake Geneva, WI

The Grand Geneva premises are so large that there is even a second hotel just yards away, Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark. It is a more kid-focused all-suites hotel, complete with arcade and, as the name promises, a water park, which is mostly indoors. Admission is included in the price of staying at the Timber Ridge hotel, and for us Grand Geneva guests it was an affordable $25 per person for the day.

The water park itself is geared largely toward younger kids, more so than others we’ve been at, such as Great Wolf Lodge, which caters to teens and even adults as well as the little ones. At Moose Mountain Falls, the formal name of Timber Ridge’s water park, there were fewer scary, intense experiences, less noise, and fewer instances of water just plummeting down whether you want it or not. (It was noisy enough, though, to spook my 2 ½-year-old, who insisted on playing only in the outdoors part, which was calmer and quieter than inside.)

The water park features many of the experiences we’ve come to expect from such places, such as the lazy river and various slides of different heights. Moose Mountain Falls also has an outdoor kiddie pool with two small slides, and an outdoor pool for those who know how to swim, with its own somewhat larger—but still not scary—slide. 

RELATED: Our favorite water parks closer to home, in the Northeast.

The Town of Lake Geneva

The beach at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

We went to the town of Lake Geneva mostly for meals at some of the several family-friendly restaurants. (For those so inclined, Bloody Marys seem to be big in this town for us grown-ups, for some reason.) There are also more ice cream shops per capita than just about anywhere else I’ve visited, and we partook liberally.

Aside from restaurants, the town has a small beach, accessed for a fee (although free after 5pm). The water is incredibly calm, and you can watch the boats on Lake Geneva coming and going from the nearby docks. Although we didn’t get on board any of them, there are river tours and boat rentals available, which all looked like great fun. Plus, a path that starts beside the beach runs along the shore and allows for spectacular views both of the lake and of the beautiful mansions beside it.

The town also had many stores with crafts and gift items, which my wife and I would have have loved browsing had we been there without kids. We also spotted a bowling alley and movie theater, and there are many local performance venues and family events. The surrounding area offers myriad ways to enjoy nature and plenty of cultural events, though we were not there long enough to really explore any of these. And for any of you who are able to get there without kids, there are romantic inns and beds-and-breakfasts on and near the lake.

Ultimately, Lake Geneva is unlikely to be a primary vacation destination for those of us from the New York area. But if you find yourself in the vicinity—around Chicago, Milwaukee, or other points nearby--it’s well worth the detour to spend a few days in the quiet beauty of this town and its surrounding areas.

RELATED: Get the top kid-focused area events sent to your in-box!

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Michael Kress

Author: Michael Kress is the former editorial director of NYMetroParents. He is the former executive editor of, the website for Parents magazine, and was previously the VP of Editorial at He is the father of three girls and lives in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. See More

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