Your guide to a great guys getaway in Lake Geneva
Located a mere 50 miles southwest of here, a scenic and easy drive that takes less than an hour to reach from Milwaukee, Lake Geneva is a gorgeous, touristy resort town in Walworth County, enormously popular among leisure-lovers from Illinois and Wisconsin. But you already knew that.
If you've ever been to Lake Geneva, you know it's a haven for bachelorette parties, especially during the busy season, and if you've read OnMilwaukee, you know that it's also a cherished vacation destination for families – in late-summer, winter and on spring break, as well as among foodie couples and magic-appreciating adventure-seekers.
I've never been intentionally included on a bachelorette party, and I don't have a significant other or kids, but last week I spent three nights in Lake Geneva – on two separate, coincidentally timed and unexpectedly similar trips – and I can say this now with certainty: it's for the boys, too.
The first trip was an eventful but all-too-brief overnight stay in the middle of the week to play golf with a buddy from Madison and also pack in a bunch of other stuff – the fulfillment of a two-year-old wedding present promise. The second trip was a 12-guy bachelor party, in which no one else was from Wisconsin and only two other people had been to Lake Geneva before.
From this sample size of recent experience, I feel qualified to offer an unbeatable three-night itinerary for a great guys getaway in Lake Geneva.
Where to stay: Lake Lawn Resort
A former circus property that first opened its doors as a hotel 140 years ago, the historic Lake Lawn Resort sits along the Delavan Lake shoreline – just a mile and a half from Interstate 43 – and is a year-round destination for getaways, family retreats, weddings and conferences.
The full-service resort, 2400 Geneva St. in Delavan, offers over 270 guest rooms, as well as an 18-hole golf course, boat and water sport rentals, two outdoor swimming pools, an indoor pool, a 170-slip marina, fitness center, the Calladora Spa and three on-site restaurants.
My buddy and I had a spacious suite in the Norwood Lodge, which we checked into early in the evening. The room – well-appointed with a rustic aesthetic – was wonderfully more than we needed, featuring a queen bedroom, upstairs twin beds, three bathrooms, a sizable living/dining room and kitchen.
No sooner had we sat on our patio, regretting having not bought a bottle of bourbon to drink while overlooking the lake, than we realized it was time to leave for our first activity.
What to do: Lake cruise
After a 10-mile ride (15-20 minutes) in the Lake Lawn Resort shuttle, we'd arrived in downtown Lake Geneva. Placid, clear, surrounded by stunning mansions and imbued with the carefree vibe of vacation, Geneva Lake – remember, Lake Geneva is the town; Geneva Lake is the body of water – has been dropping visitors' jaws for more than a half-century.
The Sundowner Tour is one of about a dozen offered by Lake Geneva Cruise Line, 812 Wrigley Dr., and I'd argue it's the best: picturesque beauty at sunset on an early summer evening, an interesting guided narration of the lake's history and homes and a sufficiently stocked bar. Also, the Sundowner's only an hour long, which is exactly enough time for a drink, a couple photos and all the information you need about the Wrigley family's unfathomable wealth.
Later, for the bachelor party, we took a pontoon boat out on Powers Lake, swam around and invented a new drinking game. Boating on one of the calm, clean lakes in the area is highly recommended; Geneva Lake and Delavan Lake both offer public rentals, and there's nothing better than beers on a boat with the boys.
Where to eat: Oakfire
This sleek, three-year-old Italian-American eatery located right across from the Riviera Docks, where the cruises let off, is the relatively new kid on the block and definitely a crowd-pleaser. Oakfire, 831 Wrigley Dr., serves a nice selection of appetizers, salads, paninis, pasta and wood-fired Neopolitan-style pizzas, as well as some delectable desserts.
We ordered the bruschetta with prosciutto, buttermilk fried chicken parmigiana and sausage calzone, as well as a couple of the restaurant's signature cocktails, enjoying it at an outdoor table with a charming view of the lake. All of the food was quite tasty, but the best item was dessert: the almost-immorally indulgent Pizza con Nutella, a stuffed pizza with sliced bananas, Nutella, powdered sugar, chocolate drizzle, fresh basil and strawberries that had us feeling not only full, but like we needed to go to Confession.
It's not cheap, and Oakfire doesn't take reservations for groups of less than six people – there was a long line on our Tuesday night – so be prepared to be patient. But it's worth the wait.
Where to drink: Thumbs Up
Lake Geneva has a decent nightlife scene – admittedly less decent on a Tuesday night – with about a half-dozen true bars located downtown. After asking the advice of a local dude – who looked like he knew what he was talking about and suggested either Fat Cats or Thumbs Up, two solid dives on Broad Street – we wandered over to Thumbs Up.
There were 20-30 people inside, most of whom were playing trivia, one of several regular events the pub hosts, along with karaoke, movie night, ladies and guys nights and other theme parties. Thumbs Up, 260 Broad St., also has pool, darts, pull tabs, bar dice, space for dancing (more common on the weekends) and a friendly staff who let us play beer pong on the back stage.
The drinks are cheap and the people are cool, the vibe is fun but laid back, there's lots to do and no one seemed to mind us trying to turn up on a Tuesday. Unsurprisingly, Uber and Lyft aren't as prevalent as in Milwaukee or Chicago, but even on a weeknight, we didn't have to wait too long to get one back to Lake Lawn.
What to do: Golf
Whether you're a serious golfer or a beginner, no guys' trip to Lake Geneva is complete without hitting the links. The region is home to 11 courses – including some of the best in Wisconsin, which last year was named by Golf Advisor as the top golf destination in the country – from championship-level to par-3 experiences, as well as numerous driving ranges, an indoor golf simulator and mini golf. Page 1 of 2 (view all on one page)
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