One of the most popular destinations in the Midwest, Lake Geneva, a small Wisconsin lakeside resort town, is bursting at the seams with ways to celebrate the holidays. Families have been creating memories here for generations after discovering this quaint small town following the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Since then, visitors have discovered festive shopping adventures and a winter wonderland of activities that rival many big cities. This town is a dream come true for those who love the Christmas season.
From a classic boat cruise finding Santa’s Hideaway, watching the World’s Tallest Glass Tree being built, one glowing strand at a time, to eloquent dancing horses, here are some of the top things to do for the holidays in this Midwest winter playground.
Best Holiday Experiences In Downtown Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva Cruise Line’s Santa Cruise
The Lake Geneva Cruise Line has a deep history of providing lake transportation since the late 1800s, including its famous summer mail boat route. For the holidays (November 25 to December 30), enjoy a trip to Santa’s Hideaway on a delightful forty-minute cruise featuring lighted displays on the shoreline. When the boat arrives at Santa’s Hideaway, the jolly bearded man greets guests and reads off the attending children’s names from the “nice list” from shore. Although Santa does not board the boat, it’s an experience to remember.
Lake Geneva Electric Christmas Parade
The theme for this year’s parade is “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” On December 3, watch over eighty entries requiring holiday lighting, including floats, horses, and bands. Start the day by having breakfast with Santa, then enjoy shopping locally-owned businesses to find the perfect gifts before the parade begins at 5 p.m.
Holiday Window Display Competition
Window shopping in Chicago is a favorite holiday activity. However, for a new experience without the hustle and bustle, check out Lake Geneva’s Holiday Window Display Competition from November 19 to December 30. Whether window shopping or finding the perfect gift, enjoy the entire town’s shops, then vote for your favorite.
Holiday Lights Throughout Flat Iron Park
Revel in light displays at Flat Iron Park this holiday season and the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony held at 5 p.m. on December 2. Instead of cutting down a tree for the ceremony, lighted trees near the Andy Gump statue, decorated lamp posts, and wreaths create a charming outdoor scene. Take the perfect holiday photo with the lit “JOY” sign in the background.
Geneva Lake Museum’s Parade Of Trees
Local participants decorate Christmas trees throughout Geneva Lake Museum from November 19 to January 2. Visitors and volunteers vote on their favorite presentations.
Best Holiday Experiences Near Lake Geneva
World’s Tallest Glass Tree At Yerkes Observatory
New this year is the building of the World’s Tallest Glass Tree at Yerkes Observatory. Watch glassblowers construct a thirty-five-foot-tall glass Christmas tree from an onsite oven, then top it off with a four-and-a-half-foot-tall star. Also, watch glassblowing, steel sculpting, and woodworking demonstrations in person, in addition to a Winter Maker Market featuring local artisans and craftspeople. The event is open the first three weekends in December, from Friday to Sunday.
Furthermore, take a Space and Spaces Tour of Yerkes Observatory, home to three telescopes, including the largest refracting telescope in the world.
East Troy Electric Railroad Museum Christmas Train
It’s one of the most popular holiday events, thanks to its vintage electric train. However, it’s more than a train ride. This event running from November 25 to December 18 includes crafts, hot chocolate, cookies, and a visit with Santa at the Elegant Farmer country store. Board the Christmas Train at the East Troy Electric Railroad Museum for a two-hour excursion with various daily departure times.
Let It Glow
Drive through Let It Glow; a free holiday light display from December 2-4 at the Walworth County Fairgrounds.
The Dancing Horses Theatre Holiday Show
Catch a performance at The Dancing Horses Theatre for a one-of-a-kind holiday experience. Horses in Christmas costumes perform to holiday music in a Vegas-style show with plenty of glitz and glamor. This extraordinary family Christmas show provides equestrian artistry in an intimate setting.
Tristan Crist Magic Theatre
Warm up inside the state-of-the-art Tristan Crist Magic Theatre for an evening of Vegas-style magic, comedy, and illusion. Tristan Crist performed at Circus Circus in Las Vegas. Also, he made a circus wagon appear out of thin air at the Circus World Museum in the Wisconsin Dells.
Holiday Arts And Crafts Fair
Attend the Lake Geneva Annual Arts & Crafts Fair on December 3 at the Hawk’s View Golf Club. The event is free and is open from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Lake Geneva Outdoor Activities
Visitors can enjoy skiing at either Grand Geneva Mountain Top or Wilmot Mountain Ski Resort. If you’re looking for great hiking and snowshoeing locations, try these. Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy, Big Foot Beach State Park, Four Seasons Nature Preserve, or Linn Nature Park.
Grand Geneva Resort And Spa Holiday Events
Grand Geneva Resort & Spa is well known for its festive holiday spirit, but it has many attractions worth experiencing. Plus, you don’t need to be a guest to enjoy them. The six-week-long “Christmas in the Country” celebration has many activities throughout the 1,300-acre property. Over two million lights are displayed inside and out.
For instance, take a horse-drawn sleigh ride from Dan Patch Stables or ride a trolley throughout the property on its long winding road for holiday light viewing. Meander through the Gingerbread House Walk after breakfast with Santa, or roam around to find the perfect holiday photo. Make no mistake; there are plenty of holiday festivities at the Grand Geneva.
Best Restaurants In Lake Geneva
- Pier 290: Lake Geneva’s only lakeside restaurant
- 1878 on the Lake: Known for steaks, seafood, chops, and stand out.
- Fireside Dinner Theatre: Offers live performances of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, which stars Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney from November 3rd to December 23rd, 2022. The menu includes a classic Wisconsin fish fry, among many other choices.
- Igloo dining: Great for a memorable dinner and cocktail outdoor winter experience.
Best Hotels And Resorts In Lake Geneva
Main Street Loft
Does winter camping in Wisconsin sound exciting? How about an indoor glamping experience? At Main Street Loft, guests have the luxury of a large, fully furnished rental unit in the heart of downtown and close to Geneva Lake. Main Street Loft has room for twelve guests with two baths. Indeed, a unique opportunity for groups such as families, reunions, and bachelorette parties.
Grand Geneva Resort And Spa
Grand Geneva Resort & Spa sits within gently sloping hills on 1,300 wooded acres on the edge of town. There’s plenty to do if not outside on the family-friendly slopes or playing indoors. But, of course, taking a “you” day at the spa and salon remains a guest favorite.
Timber Ridge Lodge And Waterpark
Celebrating the holidays and kids go hand in hand. In this case, Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark offers an alternative way to stay warm.
The Abbey Resort
Overlooking Abbey Harbor and Fontana Beach, The Abbey Resort has lake-inspired guest rooms and a full-service spa. During the holidays, enjoy a weekly Sunday brunch with Santa, along with a Christmas Eve dinner buffet and Christmas day dinner.
Lake Lawn Resort
Full-service Lake Lawn Resort offers impressive lake views on 250 acres on the Delevan Lake shoreline. Guests can dine at 1878 On The Lake, in addition to Christmas Eve Dinner and Christmas day buffet. You could also have breakfast with Santa in the Courtyard Garden.
Geneva National Resort And Club
At Geneva National Resort & Club, explore one of five ice castles in the United States, outdoor ice skating, candlelight snowshoeing, and the sled hill. Then, when it’s time for food and drink, choose between nine excellent venues.
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