An All-American Getaway

Lake Geneva captures Independence Day spirit all summer long

Since the mid-nineteenth century, Lake Geneva has serenely stood as an escape from the daily grind, a place where one can live a more charmed life—if only for a few days. Long a weekend and summer destination for wealthy Chicagoans, today it beckons anyone with a penchant for playing rounds of golf, enjoying delicious food, strolling through downtown shops and galleries, and relaxing along the lakefront.

SEE: After checking out the beach, it’s time to see Lake Geneva’s namesake waterway from a new perspective. At the downtown Riviera Docks, buy a ticket for the Lake Geneva Cruise Line’s full lake tour. Take a seat on the Walworth (head to the open-air top deck if the weather is nice) and settle in for a two-hour excursion. A guide points out jaw-dropping examples of turn-of-the-century architectural styles—colonial, Italianate, Georgian and more—and you’ll surely recognize a few homeowners’ names. The cruise is an informative and fun introduction, both physically and historically, to the lake.

STAY: The sprawling Grand Geneva is a destination in its own right. The town’s only AAA Four-Diamond resort underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation last year, which included a new outdoor pool deck and an outdoor lounge area with a sleek fireplace that’s a popular spot at night. Also fun come sunset is a visit to the lobby lounge, where a pianist entertains with live music. The 355 guestrooms also are newly revamped, with classic décor, bathrooms outfitted with granite countertops and TVs embedded in vanity mirrors, and balconies overlooking lush landscaping. Also within the resort’s 1,300 acres are three restaurants, several shops and facilities for tennis and horseback riding.

PLAY: Challenging courses set on stunning grounds make it hard to find a better spot to hit the links than the Geneva National Golf Club. Each day, two of the three championship courses—designed by masters Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Lee Trevino—are open for public play (the third is reserved for the club’s private members). Each course is unique; the Palmer course boasts varied terrain, rolling hills, fast greens and lake views. After the exercise of eighteen holes, relax and rehash the game swing by swing over a round of beers and a snack at the club’s outdoor patio.

EAT: For dinner, head to Sopra, an American bistro on Main Street. The long, narrow restaurant with muted gold walls, exposed ductwork and dark floors brings a dose of city style to the small resort town, as do chefs Simon Cumming and Roxanne Spruance, who spent years cooking in Chicago eateries. An extensive drinks list—with the best beer selection in town, Spruance points out—is far longer than the dinner menu, which constantly changes to take advantage of local and seasonal ingredients. Dishes draw influences from Spanish, French, Italian and Asian cuisines and range from classic grilled salmon to adventurous lobster won tons.

Celebrate the Fourth: If you find yourself in Lake Geneva on Fourth of July weekend, check out fireworks displays at Fontana Beach or the Grand Geneva. For more information, call (800) 345-1020 or visit

Katie Vaughn is associate editor of Madison Magazine.

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