Lake Geneva is a resort town located on the shores of Geneva Lake in southeast Wisconsin. Popular with vacationers from Chicago and Milwaukee, most of the top things to do in the town center the lake. This includes the 26-mile Shore Path and great boat tours.
But this is not just a summer vacation hotspot. In fact, some of the top events occur in winter, including the award-winning Ice Castles phenomenon. No matter what time of year you visit, make sure you spend time exploring downtown as well. Here are 14 of the best things to do in Lake Geneva.
1. Big Foot Beach State Park
Big Foot Beach State Park was named after Chief Big Foot, an early Potawatomi leader who was forced to relocate in 1836. Located on Geneva Lake, the most popular things to do in the park including camping, fishing, and swimming. Boats and other watersports are available to rent from a local vendor in the park as well. With a sandy shore and open green space, a visit to Big Foot Beach State Park is one of the best things to do in Lake Geneva in summer.
2. Tristan Crist Magic Theatre
The Tristan Crist Magic Theatre has been voted the number one thing to do in Lake Geneva. Award-winning illusionist Tristan Crist does 60-minute performances, which include a remarkable combination of magic, illusion, and comedy. See a motorcycle and helicopter appear out of thin air, and a woman cut in half. Tristan Crist also loves audience participation. So if you’re searching for fun things to do at night, check out a performance at the Tristan Crist Magic Theatre.
3. Lake Geneva Canopy Tours
Lake Geneva Canopy Tours is both an outdoor adventurer’s paradise and a very family-friendly attraction. It’s home to a nine-line zipline tour through the treetops; a high rope course featuring 16 fun and challenging suspended obstacles; and over 12 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails through its 100-acre forest. The best part it, Canopy Tours is a year-round outdoor destination. If you’ve ever wanted to zipline through the snow, visit Canopy Tours this winter.
4. Geneva Lake Museum
Enter Geneva Lake Museum and take a step back in time. The museum includes a replication of what Main Street would have looked like between 1830 and 1930. You can visit historic homes and stores, which are filled with furniture, machinery, clothing, and tools from the 19th and early 20th century. Geneva Lake Museum’s North Gallery also has exhibitions on Geneva Lake, the area’s private and opulent mansions, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hotel Geneva, and so much more.
5. Riviera Beach
Lying on the shores of Geneva Lake, Riviera Beach is only open during the summer months – from Memorial Day to Labor Day. There’s an admission fee to enter Riviera Beach, but regular visitors can purchase a season pass. The fee does give you access to one of the area’s most beautiful beaches. Riviera Beach is located in downtown as well, so the town’s main restaurant and business district are within walking distance.
6. Safari Lake Geneva
A visit to Safari Lake Geneva is one of the most family-friendly things to do here. A general admission ticket here includes a one-hour guided safari adventure through a conservation park that’s home to over 50 different animal species from five continents. From the customized safari wagon, visitors can feed and interact with animals like zebra, American bison, and ostrich. Safari Lake Geneva is located five miles from downtown.
7. Studio Winery
Welcome to Lake Geneva’s only winery. Studio Winery is an urban winery and distillery with a difference, as both the owners are also artists. Doug is the winemaker and a musician, while Kathy is an artist and the label designer. Visit Studio Winery for wine tastings, live music performances, and creative workshops. Their wine selection includes both whites and reds made in small batches. Although they have their own vineyard, they also source grapes from local growers in nearby Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
8. Lake Geneva Shore Path
One of the most popular things to do around the lake (no matter the time of year) is to go for a walk along the Shore Path. It stretches for nearly 26 miles along the lake shoreline. Along the Shore Path you’ll spot many historic estates with manicured gardens. Chicago locals built these summer homes on the lake following the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. The easiest place to start is from the Lake Geneva Library, walking in either direction.
9. Geneva Lake
Geneva Lake is a large freshwater lake in southeast Wisconsin. Covering an area of over 5000 acres, on the shores of Geneva Lake you’ll find the towns of Fontana-on-Geneva-Lake, Williams Bay, and of course, the city of Lake Geneva. As mentioned above, you can go swimming in the lake from Riviera Beach; go boating from Big Foot Beach State Park; or walk around some of its shoreline and admire the lakefront mansions on the Shore Path.
10. The mountain top at Grand Geneva
The Mountain Top at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa says it has the best ski hills in Wisconsin. The ski resort features 20 downhill ski runs, which suit all ages and abilities. There’s three chairlifts, two carpet lifts, the new Burton Riglet Park for children, and night skiing available as well. Trolley transport is available from Grand Geneva Resort & Spa and Timber Ridge Lodge. Located just one hour from both Milwaukee and Chicago, The Mountain Top is a must-visit ski resort in Wisconsin.
11. Black Point Estate
Black Point Estate is a historic estate located on the south shore of the Lake. It was built in 1888 and was the summer home of Conrad Seipp, a Chicago beer tycoon. Built in the Queen Anne-style, the four-story and 20-room mansion features a nautical theme and an observation tower. Today, you can tour Black Point Estate and Gardens in summer, but it’s only accessible by boat from Riviera Docks in downtown. General admission includes the cruise and guided tour.
12. Ice Castles
Looking for things to do in Lake Geneva in winter? Ice Castles is an award-winning tourist attraction that pops up in six cities across North America every winter. Professional ice artists build the Ice Castles from hundreds of thousands of icicles. The Ice Castles experience includes fun features like LED-lit sculptures, frozen thrones and ice slides. It’s held at the Geneva National Resort & Club in January and February, but specific dates are released closer to the opening.
13. Yerkes Observatory
Located in nearby Williams Bay on the shores of the lake, Yerkes Observatory is an astronomical observatory owned by the University of Chicago’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Founded in 1897, Yerkes Observatory was once known as the birthplace of modern astrophysics. The Romanesque-style building is castle-like, with its two large domes and landscaped gardens. Today, Yerkes Observatory is known for being home to the world’s largest refracting telescope, which is 40 inches in diameter.
14. St. Francis de Sales Catholic Parish
The St. Francis de Sales Catholic Congregation was first organized in 1842. In 2017, to celebrate 175 years as a parish, the St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church received a much-needed renovation. The historic building’s exterior was restored and the interior was updated. New features include a new stained glass window, a new organ, and original pew restorations. Over 1000 local families belong to the St. Francis de Sales Catholic Parish, but their doors are always open to people visiting on vacation.