Wisconsin: Door County and the Lake Geneva Area

Door County Wisconsin – Wineries in an Autumn Paradise

Money Magazine has consistently named Door County as one of the top 10 vacation destinations in America. Door County is known for its natural areas, parks, golfing, lodging on sandy beaches, historic lighthouses hugging rocky shorelines and boating on lakes teeming with fish. The arts, galleries, festivals, shopping, fine wines and restaurants await you in this historic peninsula area.

We had the opportunity to visit Door County for a brief three-day weekend, primarily to attend Autumnfest in Baileys Harbor, one of several picturesque towns dotting the landscape here. Fortunately, we were able to leave very early on Friday morning and didn’t need to return until late Sunday night, giving us three full days here as an introductory visit and laying the groundwork for a return trip.

With a little pre-planning and research, we learned that wineries flourish here. Door County is steeped in agricultural traditions, and a variety of crops flourish here. In fact, Door County is perched on the 45th Parallel North, the same parallel as Tuscany and Bordeaux, both great European wine producing areas. The climate is somewhat moderated by the close proximity to Lake Michigan, and even though winters are cold, they are somewhat less harsh than other parts of Wisconsin.

Door County has long been known as a premier four-season destination. The rural element is still prevalent here, with farmers markets and roadside produce stands the norm rather than the exception. And while tourism is big business in Door County, it hasn’t overstepped its bounds. The pace is relaxed, the scenery abundant, and pleasant discoveries are always just around the bend.

It’s easy to navigate Door County. There are two main state highways, Route 57 which traces the Lake Michigan side of the peninsula, and Route 42 which hugs the bay side. Door County itself is about 60 miles in length, and depending upon traffic it’s about an hour from our starting point, Sturgeon Bay, to Gills Rock, the tip of the peninsula and gateway to Washington Island.

Sturgeon Bay and Two Door County Wineries

After reaching Door County mid-morning, it was a short drive to the largest city on the peninsula, Sturgeon Bay, and the Red Oak Winery. You’ll find Red Oak Winery in the midst of downtown Sturgeon Bay, appropriately in Winery Square. Red Oak features Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Riesling, Chardonnay and several other styles to tempt you. Most of the wines noted above are made from grapes from California or Washington and then hand crafted on site.

We wanted a taste of Door County on this visit, so we decided to focus on Red Oak’s wines made with local fruit. We were steered to the Cherry Beaujolais, which reminded us of a really rich, traditional beaujolais, except with a bit more fruit flavor. Exceptionaly smooth and aromatic, this wine and Red Oak’s Ruby Cherry were prime examples of successfully using fruit other than grapes to produce a stellar wine. Stack this one up with your favorite beaujolais — we think you’ll be impressed.

Also, if it’s available, be sure to try Captain Nick’s Port. This wonderfully smooth port has a palate of vanilla, nutmeg, and a bit of toffee in our estimation. One of the better ports we’ve had recently, add it to your collection if you visit.

After leaving Red Oak Winery, we had some time to explore the shops of downtown Sturgeon Bay. This friendly four-seasons resort community is justifiably proud of its charming downtown, a shoppers delight. The heart of downtown is Third Avenue, where you’ll find antiques, home accents, art galleries, and Copper Kettle Confections to satisfy your sweet craving. Another stop not to be missed: Jefferson Street District, where you’ll find eclectic shops like Candleworks of Door County and the Door County Stove Dog Bakery. A very good wine shop in the area is the Madison Avenue Wine Shop, where you’ll find many local wines and gourmet olive oil.

Just a few short miles up Route 42 from Sturgeon Bay is Door Peninsula Winery, the oldest and largest winery in Door County. An all-natural fruit winery, Door Peninsula Winery produces more than 50 types of wine, depending upon the year and season. Two of the newest offerings, and both made with Door County grapes, are Marechel Foch and LaCrosse.

Marechel Foch is a red wine made from cold climate French hybrid grapes. Bold and slightly spicy, it stands up well to any meat or pork dish. The LaCrosse, a white wine, is an easy sipper with a pleasant citrus aroma and slight grapefruit tang at the finish.

You can also taste and buy all sorts of interesting specialty fruit wines at Door Peninsula. We took home a bottle of Blackberry Merlot and loved it. Best of all was Peninsula White, a blend of syval blanc and apple wine that gives the feel and flavor of autumn in the Midwest.

Attached to the Door Peninsula Winery is one of Door County’s newest and most promising dining destination, Bistro 42. Casual yet classy, Bistro 42 opened early in 2008 to rave reviews. We settled in for lunch, enjoying a generous spinach salad and a lunch-sized wood hearth pizza. Interesting paninis and gourmet sandwiches round out the menu. You can also try a glass of Door Peninsula wine with your meal.

With our appetites satisfied and anxious to explore some of Door County’s picturesque communities, we set our sights on Egg Harbor and Fish Creek — two inviting small towns along Route 42 on the bay side.

Egg Harbor, Fish Creek, and Lautenbach Orchard and Winery

Egg Harbor is located in the center of Door County and is well known for its numerous shopping options, including many unique and one-of-a-kind shops. There are more than 100 shops in town, making Egg Harbor a great place to stroll and explore. A prime destination are the Liberty Square Shops, where you’ll find specialty boutiques and galleries.

Downtown Egg Harbor is a delight. Here you’ll find restaurants in restored, historic buildings right alongside small parks brimming with colorful flowers. Egg Harbor in particular is a walking community, so park the car and set off on foot.

If you’re looking for Door County artwork, stop in at Yore Place, a gallery of watercolors and prints, many of which feature Door County scenes. For the kitchen, there’s Harbor Tea and Spice Company, with hundreds of gourmet teas, herbs, extracts, and spices. And there’s also Something Fishy, a whimsical jewelry, handbag and accessories store featuring fun and funky designs and a dog-friendly shopping experience.

In Fish Creek, a few miles north of Egg Harbor, you’ll find a thriving artists community and access to some of the finest views in Door County. Fish Creek boasts a picturesque harbor and city beach, both easily accessible from town. Restaurants and shops beckon, and bed and breakfasts blend seamlessly into the residential and business area. Of note, Fish Creek was recently voted the #1 Small Town Getaway by Midwest Living Magazine.

Just 1/2 mile south of Fish Creek is Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery, a perfect late afternoon stop for a bit of wine tasting. You can pick your own fruit here at this family orchard and winery, or take a 30-minute narrated tour through the orchard and vineyard.

We really enjoyed the wines here. First on our list was Autumn Harvest, a blend of Wisconsin cranberries and Door County apples. The mix of cranberry and apple made for a taste tingling balance between sweet and tart. Another wine to savor is Audrey Grace Red, a light red wine made with grapes from the Lautenbach vineyard. This wine is made from red grapes of the Foch and Frontenac varietal. It’s light in tannins, with a just hint of cherry for a soft, slightly dry finish. Also try Celebrate, a blended wine made with white grapes, apples and Door County cherries. It’s a fun wine that’s light and fruity, with just a kiss of sweetness.

And, visit Door County’s newest winery located in Egg Harbor — Harbor Ridge Winery.

Fish Boils

You’ve probably heard of a fish boil or maybe even tried one. But authentic fish boils, merely a a curiosity elsewhere in the country, is legendary here in Door County. What makes so many people sing its praises?

The main ingredient of a fish boil is fresh whitefish, caught directly from local Lake Michigan waters. Fish boils began more than 100 years ago when Door Country was a commercial lumber and fishing locale. Workers were fed “en masse” by these heaping helpings of fresh fish, red potatoes and onions. And, in addition to being economical, it’s expedient. Here’s how a traditional Door County fish boil comes to pass…

It all starts with a large steel kettle filled with salted water. The kettle is placed over a hot wood fire, heated to almost a boil. When the temperature is perfect, a slotted steel basket is filled with the potatoes and onions. Just a few minutes later, another basket is added, this one brimming with whitefish fillets. With all ingredients present and accounted for, the water is brought back to a rolling boil.

Just before the water is ready to boil over, in comes the secret ingredient. Kerosene is heaved onto the fire, which simultaneously blazes well above the boiling kettle, causing the water to stream down the sides. The water douses the flames and carries off any fish oil that had collected on the surface.

Voila! It’s done, and it’s time to eat! The baskets are lifted from the kettle, completely drained and then served to wowed patrons with a generous topping of melted butter. Everyone is encouraged to come back for second helpings, while cautioned to save room for the traditional fish boil dessert — Door County cherry pie.

You can find fish boils at numerous restaurants in Door County, and some even serve during the winter months. For a true locals experience, visit the White Gull Inn in Fish Creek, a historic restaurant, inn and gathering place.

A Midwestern Island

After a quick breakfast the next morning, it was off to Autumn Fest in Baileys Harbor and more Door County sightseeing, including an excursion to a wonderfully scenic island just off the Door County peninsula.

Located about 7 miles off the Door County peninsula, Washington Island is the largest of numerous islands you’ll encounter here. For the most part, Washington Island is active in the spring, summer, and fall months, although there are several hundred permanent residents. The island is a naturalist’s paradise, and a peaceful respite for both wildlife and tourists alike.

You’ll reach Washington Island via the Island Clipper ferry from the northern tip of Door County. The dock is located in the small community of Gills Rock, and it’s a 30-minute boat ride to the island. You’ll sail the waters of the infamous Death’s Door Passage, well known for numerous shipwrecks in the 1800s and early 1900s. To this day, it’s a favorite dive spot for those seeking to explore the wrecks.

The best way to explore Washington Island is via tram tour, moped or bicycle. We set out to explore this 30-mile-square-foot island via bike, with our first destination an ostrich farm.

Toward the island center lies Double K-W Ostrich Farm. Stop to visit these wonderful animals and see other species as well. There’s a pleasant gift shop where you can buy all sorts of ostrich-related treats, and you can get up close and personal with an ostrich egg (think huge)! After you’ve completed your visit, it’s a short walk or bike ride to the Washington Island business community.

For lunch, we recommend one of the island’s year around mainstays, KK Fiske Restaurant and The Granary. A combination bar-restaurant, their specialty is “lawyer” fish and all sorts of goods baked on site. Lawyer fish is actually a burbot, a mild fish in the cod family that tastes a bit like lobster. You can get it grilled, fried, baked or on a sandwich. Wash it down with a cold draught of Capital Island Wheat, a Wisconsin-brewed beer made with wheat harvested from Washington Island.

Another prime attraction to visit is Mountain Park, in the center of the island. Here you can climb 184 steps to the top of a tower, and on a clear day the view is panoramic and the fresh air liberating. The weather cooperated during our visit, and we were able to see the island’s sandy beaches, island homes, outlying islands and even the Michigan shoreline in the distance.

Saving Door County’s last two wineries for our Sunday afternoon, we returned on the Island Clipper mid-afternoon with our sights set on two Door County communities, Ellison Bay and Sister Bay.

Ellison Bay and Sister Bay

Both Ellison Bay and Sister Bay sit on the bay side in northern Door County. Ellison Bay is an artist’s community where you’ll find numerous painters, crafters and potters creating their wares. The harbor is beautiful, and marinas and small fisheries dot the landscape.

Sister Bay, just south on Highway 42, is Door County’s largest community beyond Sturgeon Bay. A former lumber shipping town, Sister Bay now thrives due to a spectacular harbor, outstanding restaurants and shopping opportunities galore. You’ll find a beautiful stretch of sandy beach adjacent to downtown, and everything is walking distance from the harbor. If you’re looking for a great sunset watching perch, the harborfront park is ideal.

Sister Bay is also well known for its lively festivals, including the Door County Festival of the Arts in August and Blossom Festival in May. Art galleries, home decor boutiques and quaint restaurants create a vibrant scene. Sister Bay’s Swedish and Norwegian heritage is amply represented by chefs and artists alike.

Dinner in Egg Harbor

From Sister Bay, it’s a 15 minute drive south on Highway 42 to Egg Harbor. Just in time for happy hour! And this warm, friendly community offers plenty of agreeable options.

We decided upon MoJo Rosa’s, a lively downtown spot featuring an appealing beer garden, beer specials and fishbowl margaritas. After winding down a bit, it was time to head for dinner at Door County’s only brewpub, Shipwrecked Brewery Restaurant, also in downtown Egg Harbor.

It was just a bit too cool for Shipwrecked’s patio, so we settled inside the cozy dining room with a direct view of the brew kettles. Shipwrecked is set in an historic clapboard roadhouse that dates back to the late 1800’s. The history is quite intriguing, and according to local legend the place is rumored to be haunted. Notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone was one of the customers of yesteryear, and there are numerous tunnels beneath the building, now closed. Supposedly, Capone used them to escape federal agents hot on his trail in the 1920s.

This casual brewpub always has five house ales on draught, plus numerous special batches appropriate for the season. Try the Shipwrecked Signature Salad with local greens, pulled smoked chicken, and bacon. For entrees, two excellent choices are the lake perch platter and the Texas-style smoked brisket, smoked in house. We weren’t expecting to sample BBQ on this trip, but it smelled so good we couldn’t resist. For dessert, try the Cherry Berry Crisp a la mode, made with Door Peninsula Winery Strawberry Zinfandel. Oh, yes — the beer — we recommend the fragrantly hoppy India Pale Ale and the smooth Bayside Blonde.

Ephraim and Two Door County Wineries

Sunday morning brought a cool, pleasant sunrise, ideal for a lakeside stroll to get the blood moving. First, we stopped for breakfast in Egg Harbor at The Bridge, overlooking the water. The Bridge is a unique combination of an Internet cafe, used bookstore, art gallery and casual restaurant. Muffins, scones and breakfast sandwiches await your visit.

From here, we crossed over to the lakeside to experience Whitefish Dunes State Park, located in the quiet village of Jacksonport directly on the shores of Lake Michigan. If you’re a hiker or bike rider, Door County offers numerous trails and paths for your enjoyment. Whitefish Dunes State Park features an invigorating three-mile shoreline hike or a boardwalk path within the park. It’s fresh air, exercise, and scenery at its absolute finest!

On the bay side, the village of Ephraim is another picturesque community to explore. Named Door County’s Most Scenic Village, Ephraim boasts a picture book harbor and waterfront beaches and parks. The quaint business area is adjacent, so plan for a few hours here to take everything in. Don’t miss the City Farmer, a home accent and garden accessory store, and Pet Expressions, a gourmet gift store for your best friend.

And if it’s sweets you crave, an absolute must-go is Wilson’s Ice Cream, open since 1906. Try a house brewed root beer on tap, sumptuous banana split or an extra-thick cherry milkshake. Wilson’s is right downtown, directly across from the harbor.

Now, on to our last two Door County Wineries. First was Simon Creek Winery, home of the largest vineyard in Wisconsin and one of the most modern winery operations in the state. The rural location, actually adjacent to a quiet pond, sits exactly on the 45th Parallel. Sunday afternoons bring live music.

We recommend several offerings from Simon Creek. The first actually isn’t a wine, but rather Peninsula Gold, a cream sherry that pairs very well with cheese. An excellent wine is Untouchable Red, an award winner, in the Cabernet style. It has a deep, red color and is pleasantly off-dry. Also try the Simon Creek Gewurtztraminer, with just a hint of sweetness, balanced with the good spicy characteristics of this style.

The setting here is as peaceful as it gets, absolutely perfect for a Sunday afternoon. Don’t miss Simon Creek when you’re in Door County. You’re welcome to enjoy a picnic here as well.

Our final winery visit for this trip is Stone’s Throw Winery, located in an 80-year-old stone barn at the exact center of Door County peninsula. Stone’s Throw offers a full range of wines from both California grapes and grapes from their on site vineyard.

We especially liked Field Blend White, a great value at $10. This wine is a complex, yet very drinkable, white wine blend that owns the characteristics of a Riesling. The counterpart, Field Blend Red, also impresses.

The winery is something of a celebrity as it were, having been featured on The Food Network not only for its wineries, but also their gourmet line of pasta sauces and olive oils, all created from old family recipes.

There’s an independent spirit here, evidenced by a lack of chain stores and chain restaurants. Door County is blessed with charming waterfront communities, a thriving arts scene and imaginative cuisine created from local ingredients. And, of course, five wineries that prosper from a unique growing location moderated by a climate tempered by bay and lake waters.

During our visit, we saw families, couples and senior citizens enjoying all that Door County has to offer. Hopefully, we’ve given you a small taste of this beautiful vacation destination that’s perfect for not only the wine traveler, but any traveler who simply enjoys life.

Lake Geneva – The Newport of the Midwest, Wine Included

Lake Geneva holds a special connection for many Midwesterners. Located 10 miles north of the Illinois-Wisconsin border, Lake Geneva and Walworth County have long been a resort community destination. In the late 1800s, prominent Chicagoans began to summer here, building palatial homes along Geneva Lake’s 21 mile shoreline. Most of these mansions are still here today, accessible by private boat and public sightseeing cruises.

Often dubbed “The Newport of the Midwest,” Lake Geneva is a popular destination for weekend travelers, offering a vibrant shopping scene and numerous all-in-one resorts. The star of the show, though, is Geneva Lake and the surrounding rural vistas. The lake itself is 7 miles long, 2 miles wide and a sportsman’s paradise. One of the deepest lakes in Wisconsin, Geneva Lake is teeming with fish, evidenced by numerous Friday night fish frys in Walworth County restaurants.

Also of note, a lot of pop culture began in Lake Geneva. The creators of the famous soap opera “The Young and The Restless” lived here, and the long running fantasy game “Dungeons and Dragons” was developed in Lake Geneva. In the late ’60s, entertainment mogul Hugh Hefner opened a Playboy Club here, which is now the Grand Geneva Resort.

Just 90 minutes from Chicago and less than an hour from Milwaukee, Lake Geneva is the best of both worlds. There’s a cosmopolitan sophistication here, nicely balanced by a homespun community feel. Farms dot the landscape, offering a bounty of fresh produce and dairy. And as you’ll discover, vineyards also thrive here, as valleys surround literally dozens of smaller lakes, creating a blossoming opportunity for southern Wisconsin winemakers.

And so, join us as we spend a relaxing weekend in beautiful Lake Geneva and surrounding Walworth County, Wisconsin.

The Sights and Sounds of Lake Geneva

Downtown Lake Geneva isn’t big or widespread, so park the car and stroll around. Most of downtown is on the National Register of Historic Places, and you’ll immediately notice beautifully restored buildings, now housing various retail stores and restaurants. Wandering downtown Lake Geneva’s streets, you’ll find all sorts of interesting diversions, from galleries to coffee shops to sportswear retailers. If you’re in an artsy mood, you’ll barely walk a block without encountering home decor boutiques, antiques and pottery shops. Carve out a couple of hours and enjoy the lake lifestyle!

Just a block from the heart of downtown is the eastern end of Geneva Lake, anchored by the beach and the beautiful Depression-era Riviera Building, home to lower level shops and banquet facilities above. Adjacent are the main docks for Lake Geneva Cruise Line and their historic fleet, offering daily sightseeing cruises in season.

Don’t miss the opportunity to hop on board the Lady of the Lake for one of the many available cruises. Choose from fall color tours, general sightseeing or lake and mansion tours. There’s even a U.S. Mailboat tour, where you’ll marvel at the skill of a specially-trained mail carrier. These agile daredevils literally leap from the boat, dash up the piers to deliver the mail and hop back aboard — all while the vessel continues to motor along. It’s an amazing sight to see!

Lake Geneva: The Full Spectrum

Even though Lake Geneva is often compared to other luxury resort areas like the Hamptons or Newport doesn’t mean everything is pricey. Yes, you’ll find high-end places to stay and eat, but this is resort country mixed with country character. Come here and enjoy a few hours on a family farm, or pamper yourself at a lakeside spa. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy boating, water skiing and fishing. If you’re like us, you’ll thoroughly enjoy exploring Lake Geneva on foot, whether it’s shopping and dining destinations or the new walking path stretching the entire 21- mile shoreline. And if you have more time, there are literally a dozen more interesting small towns dotting the Walworth County landscape, just waiting for you to explore.

Without question though, the resorts here are destinations on their own — they are that special and spectacular. Just to mention a few in the Lake Geneva area, you’ll find Geneva Ridge, Grand Geneva Resort and Spa, Lake Lawn Resort, Alpine Valley Resort and The Abbey Resort. Some are brand new or remodeled, like Lake Lawn and The Abbey. Others combine outdoor activities with full service creature comforts, such as the Grand Geneva Resort and Spa. All are four season resorts, especially Alpine Valley, where you can ski in winter and take in a summer concert at their outdoor amphitheatre. Rock and Roll Hall of Famers know full well the appeal of Alpine Valley! Over the years, such rock legends as The Rolling Stones, Crosby, Stills, and Nash and Eric Clapton have performed here.

Lake Geneva Area Wineries

So now that we’ve given you the lay of the land, join us for some winery hopping!

There are three very enjoyable wineries within 15 minutes of Lake Geneva. Incidentally, the lake (and town) was named after Geneva, New York, by early settlers due to a striking resemblance to the Finger Lakes town of Geneva. And, just as Finger Lakes is wine country, the Lake Geneva area holds its own as a wine travel destination. You can easily visit all three in one afternoon.

Our first winery visit is about 15 minutes east of Lake Geneva, near the town of Burlington, famous for its annual Chocolate Festival. Roll down the windows as you approach Burlington — if you’re lucky you’ll smell the sweet aroma of chocolate in the air. The Nestle Company has a big production plant here.

About 5 miles east of town you’ll find Apple True Winery, located on a sprawling farm and orchard. Apple True is actually known for their draft ciders, both apple and pear in a variety of styles. Even if you don’t imbibe, there’s ample reason to visit, with more than 100 varieties of heirloom apples awaiting your tasting experience.

While the ciders are the star of the show at Apple True, don’t pass up a chance to sample their wines. Particularly, the pear wines. Apple True’s mellow, semi-sweet Pear Wine is made from two varieties of pears grown on site. If you’ve never tried a wine like this before, this is the place to start!

There are also several types of apple wine available, each made from a different apple variety and all grown right here. We liked Autumn Glory the best, probably since it’s made with our favorite apple, the Jonathan. The result is a rich, full bodied wine with just the right amount of crispness that you’d expect.

Apple Barn Orchard and Staller Estate

Heading back west 15 minutes from Apple True, you’ll enter the small town of Elkhorn, 6 miles north of Lake Geneva on Highway 12. Just outside of town is the Apple Barn Orchard and Winery, located on a family farm and orchard founded in 1848.

In addition to picking your own apples, you can tour the farm and of course sample Apple Barn’s wines. We’ve always liked the fruit wines here. Wine competition judges agree, as Apple Barn wines have racked up an impressive collection of awards and medals. There’s always an apple wine available, so be sure to try Honey Crisp Harvest, but don’t overlook other offerings like Summer Peach and Hardy Pear. Take a few bottles to go and savor them over a Lake Geneva sunset.

Less than 10 minutes away on County A is Staller Estate Vineyard and Winery, the area’s newest and a very welcome addition to Wisconsin’s wine scene. Using grapes primarily from their Walworth County vineyard, Staller Estate is already producing an impressive array of wines.

We were very impressed with Whitewater Rush, a semi-dry white named after the nearby college town of Whitewater. With a fragrant grape aroma, this wine starts boldly on the palate and finishes fruity. This wine came home with us, as did a few bottles of Estate Blanc, reminiscent of some wines we tasted in the Finger Lakes. With a touch of sweetness, Estate Blanc is fruit forward, and you’ll love the taste of ripe peach and apple. There’s also Maiden Blush, in the White Zinfandel style but with a bit more fruit aroma and taste. And, Horizon Cuvee a semi-dry white with a wonderful grapefruit tang.

Also, don’t miss the Lake Geneva Wine Festival! Held every September, this nationally renowned wine festival combines the art of cuisine with the splendor of wine.

Or, Spend an Afternoon Shopping!

Traditionally, we like to spend two nights here so we can visit our old favorite shops and restaurants. To add to the mix, there’s always something new to see, as Lake Geneva continues to appeal to generation after generation. After spending one afternoon visiting wineries, we were able to spend another strolling, shopping and sipping. Join us and we’ll show you around!

One of our traditional first stops is The Cheese Box. Located on Wells Street along Motel Mile, The Cheese Box is much more than just cheese. Since 1940, this quaint store offers gourmet deli meats, stuffed sandwiches to go and the best selection of Wisconsin wine we’ve seen. Of course, you’ll also find dozens of unique varieties of cheese, more than any store in the area. If you’re planning a picnic along the lake, this is the place to pick up your fixings.

Downtown Lake Geneva boasts all sorts of shopping opportunities. We enjoy Pop More Corks, an approachable wine store, and Delaney Street Mercantile, a haven for unique home decor. For women’s fashion, there’s Lola’s, Nancy’s Petites and E Street Denim. For your pet, stop in at Paws For Treats and pick up a gourmet treat or stylish accessory. For birding enthusiasts, there’s Wild Birds Unlimited, a naturalists store with a fascinating selection of bird feeders.

Just outside of town, be sure to stop in at Pesche’s Greenhouses, a large garden complex for all your landscape and gardening needs. There’s also Northwind Perennial Farm, a turn of the century farmstead offering ornamental gardens and unique art.

Surrounding towns like Williams Bay, Fontana, Delavan and Walworth are well worth exploring for their shopping and dining options. Each with a personality of their own, these relaxed lake community towns are all within 10-15 minutes of downtown Lake Geneva.

Dining and Night Life

On this quick visit to Lake Geneva, we enjoyed a picnic lunch along the Geneva Lake shoreline and a casual dinner at Chuck’s Lakeshore Inn in nearby Williams Bay. No matter your preference, there are ample dining options in the area, from burger and pizza joints to candlelight and white linen. Lake Geneva has a long and proud tradition of excellent independent eateries, so forego the chains and settle in at one of the many enjoyable local choices.

Going out for a farm fresh breakfast is a longstanding tradition in these parts. Two of our favorites are near the main intersection of downtown Lake Geneva, Rt. 50 and Broad Street. Literally next door to one another, both Harry’s Cafe and Lake-Aire Restaurant are fine choices for satisfying, easy on the wallet breakfasts. Gordy’s Boat House, located on the west end of Geneva Lake in the small town of Fontana, has a lively atmosphere, good food and reasonable prices. Since 1972, Popeye’s, has been a mainstay of Lake Geneva. It has good food at a reasonable value — and the lake view is a plus. Mars Resort and Restaurant is a very special place that’s been in business since the 1920s. Fish frys, steaks, comfort food, good drinks, piano music and an outdoor deck round out the experience. It’s located on the southern shore of Lake Como, about 3 miles from downtown Lake Geneva. Just go west on Rt. 50 from downtown and look for the Mars sign. For Lake Geneva nightlife, just stand at the corner of Rt. 50 and Broad street and look around! There are all sorts of fun local places for a drink and a casual meal. A few of our favorites are Champs Bar and Grill, Fat Cats, and Carvetti’s, all within a block of the Rt. 50 and Broad intersection.

Closing Thoughts

Whether you stay for a week or just a weekend, Lake Geneva’s charms will capture your heart and imagination. You’ll see why this area has long been a preferred destination for generations of visitors. Plan your visit for any time of year, as there are ample activities to delight even the most seasoned traveler. And, with three impressive wineries to visit, wine lovers will discover and embrace this beautiful corner of southern Wisconsin. The visitors bureau slogan pretty much says it all: “Lake Geneva – It’s Always Been The Place!”


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