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Being from Wisconsin, when I think of a winter wonderland, I think of a quaint city filled with outdoor winter adventures and great food. Well, let’s say my family was not disappointed as there are so many things to do in Lake Geneva, WI.
Lake Geneva is located less than one hour from Milwaukee and 90 minutes from Chicago, it’s one of the most popular winter wonderlands in the midwest. As a Wisconsinite, born and raised in Milwaukee, I’m a bit bummed that this was my first time experiencing the beauty of a Lake Geneva winter. For this reason, I compiled 21 things to do in Lake Geneva.
1) Skiing and Snowboarding
There are multiple ski resorts in the Lake Geneva area including two of the most popular, Wilmot Mountain Ski Resort and The Mountain Top Ski and Adventure Center at Grand Geneva.
Wilmot Mountain Ski Resort, now owned by Vail Resorts, is one of Chicagoland’s favorite ski resorts. It offers 25 trails and 7 lifts perfect for any skier or snowboarder, from beginner to expert.
The mountain itself is on the smaller side compared to the west coast, which makes it the perfect family-friendly ski resort for kids. In addition, they offer ski school with staff well known to be very friendly and helpful. Make it an all-day event with tubing, an onsite restaurant, and night skiing.
Ski Lessons at The Mountain Top Ski and Adventure Center at Grand Geneva
My family and I took skiing lessons at Grand Geneva and they were absolutely wonderful. The teacher was extremely patient and broke down each movement to a level that a kindergartener could understand. As a group of seven, we fell a cumulative total of three times. I would say this is pretty impressive as I also took skiing classes in Breckinridge, Colorado, and let’s say our group of about the same size was dropping like flies.
2) Cross-Country Skiing
For those who love cross-country skiing or want to try their hand at the activity, it’s a popular thing to do in Lake Geneva during the winter. Two of the most popular locations are The Mountain Top at Grand Geneva and Big Foot Beach State Park.
The Mountain Top at Grand Geneva has a fee per person while Big Foot Beach State Park has an admission price per vehicle. Before heading out to either location, be sure to check the website to ensure the trails are open as it’s weather dependent.
What’s a winter wonderland without snowshoeing?
Snowshoeing is one of the popular things to do in the Lake Geneva area with both The Mountain Top at Grand Geneva and Geneva National offering it. The Grand Geneva trails are over 5 miles with passes for $10 and equipment rental for $20. Similarly, Geneva National offers snowshoeing during the day and evening with overnight guests receiving free admission and a $20 fee for the public.
Sledding is a popular winter activity for snow-covered towns and Lake Geneva is no different. So much so, that there are a handful of places that offer sledding, such as The Mountain Top at Grand Geneva, Big Foot Beach State Park, Rushwood Park, Rudy Lange Sledding Hill, and so many more!
We personally went to The Mountain Top at Grand Geneva where you can rent sleds if you do not have one. There were two hills for sledding, which were adjacent to the skiing area. They created a loop of sorts with the first hill being a relatively moderate decline and the second a bit steeper.
Everyone had a blast for about an hour or so, kids ranging from two years old to a few that were in high school.
Please note that there is an entrance fee at Grand Geneva. If you’re looking for a free experience, Rudy Lange Sledding Hill is a popular location as its hills range in size and steepness.
5) Ice Skating
In order to qualify as a winter wonderland, ice skating is a must. Right?
Lake Geneva fits the criteria as ice skating is a popular thing to do in winter with both parks and resorts offering this winter activity.
The great thing is ice skating is a free activity at multiple locations including Walworth’s Rotary Park, Lake Lawn Resort, and Library Park. You will need to bring your own skates at Walworth’s Rotary Park and Library Park while Lake Lawn Resort offers ice skate rentals.
Similarly, both The Ridge and Grand Geneva offers ice skating, along with rentals for a fee. However, if you’re staying at The Ridge, ice skating is complimentary.
6) Lake Geneva Winterfest
Lake Geneva Winterfest, scheduled February 1-5, 2023, is home to the US National Snow Sculpting Championship. This event is free and open to the public! This family-friendly Lake Geneva winter activity includes a variety of food options and entertainment, including bonfires on the beach and the opportunity for kids to try their hand at ice sculpting.
Looking for additional things to do in Lake Geneva during Winterfest? Be sure to walk downtown and view the insta-worthy ice sculptures in front of the businesses.
7) Visit a Spa
Going to a warm and cozy spa on a cold winter day has to be one of the best things to do in Lake Geneva if you’re looking to stay warm. Avani Spa Lake Geneva at The Abbey Resort, which was recently renovated, WELL Spa + Salon at Grand Geneva, and Lakeview Spa at Bella Vista Suites offer some of the best spas in Lake Geneva.
Ziplining, outdoors, in the winter. Is this a thing?
Ziplining is one of the most adventurous things to do in Lake Geneva in the winter outside of skiing and snowboarding. Lake Geneva Ziplines & Adventures offers two different courses- one with 9 ziplines, sky bridges, and more, while the other is 4 ziplines and lasts for under an hour.
Please note the weight requirements of 70-250 lbs; thus, it’s not a suitable Lake Geneva winter activity for most young and school-age kids.
9) Warm Up by the Fire
Want to enjoy the beauty of Wisconsin’s countryside? Plan to warm up by the fire and take in the beauty of winter in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
Embers Terrace, outside of Geneva Chophouse, offers the perfect firepit-lit ambiance to enjoy your time with family and friends.
10) Ice Fishing
Ice fishing is one of Wisconsin’s favorite winter pastimes. A fishing permit is required; however, January 21-23, 2023 is Winter Free Fishing weekend and a permit is not required.
Prefer to go ice fishing on Geneva Lake with a licensed guide? Reach out to Tom Billing and his group as they offer ice fishing with heated shacks and all the necessary equipment.
11) Lake Geneva Ice Castles
If you are in the Lake Geneva area during winter, visiting the Ice Castles is a must-do attraction! Ice Castles embodies the essence of a winter wonderland with the creation of must-see structures made of hundreds of thousands of icicles.
This breathtaking exhibit is only available in four states within the US – Utah, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin. Lake Geneva is home to the Wisconsin exhibit – the only one in the Midwest.
The Ice Castles is a pretty extraordinary experience, especially for kids. Each structure is interactive, from being able to crawl or walk through to actual slides and tunnels made of ice. At night, the ice structures are lit with various colored lights, making for an extraordinary experience.
Word to the wise, tickets sells out quickly. Therefore, if the Ice Castles is an attraction you want to do while in Lake Geneva during winter, purchase your tickets in advance. Personally, we went through a third-party vendor as tickets were sold out by the time we went to purchase.
Downtown Lake Geneva has one of the cutest Main Streets that’s lined with a variety of local businesses, boutiques, and shops. If shopping is one of your favorite things to do, you won’t be disappointed by Lake Geneva’s Main Street.
13) Watch the Dancing Horses Holiday Show
Love Vegas-style performances? Don’t miss the Dancing Horses Holiday Show, a top-rated, things to do in Lake Geneva attraction by TripAdvisor.
This 90-minute holiday show runs from November to January and is filled with acrobatics, dancing horses, and so much more. Be sure to bring the entire family as this Lake Geneva attraction is perfect for all ages.
14) Watch Tristan Crist Magic Theatre
You can’t miss the number one thing to do in Lake Geneva in Winter, Tristan Crist Illusion and Magic Show. This intimate Vegas-style magic show provides each guest with an up-close and personal illusion experience. What a fun, family-friendly experience!
15) Snow Globe Experience
Personally, I think one of the most fun things to do in winter in Wisconsin, especially in the beautiful Lake Geneva, is the Snow Glove Experience. Geneva National Resort offers a unique experience to enjoy delicious food and libations while creating memories with friends and family, in a heated illuminated snow globe.
16) Electric Christmas Parade
Each year during winter, Downtown Lake Geneva becomes home to its annual Electric Christmas Parade! Become enthralled by the spectacular floats and creative displays that bring to life the parade’s theme of the year.
17) Challenge yourself at an Escape Room
Up for a challenge while in Lake Geneva? Lake Geneva Clue Room, the only escape room in Lake Geneva, is the perfect thing to do for those who like a fun and thought-provoking experience.
There are four escape rooms with varying levels of difficulty that will challenge your ability to solve mysteries and escape the locked room.
18) Find Santa on the Lake Geneva Santa Cruise
On your way to Santa’s lakeshore hideaway, enjoy a magical 40-minute tour along the Christmas-illuminated shoreline on Lake Geneva’s Santa Cruise. The cruise runs from the day after Thanksgiving throughout the month of December.
Want to make this a family experience in Lake Geneva? Add a meal at Pier 290 as kids eat free until 6 pm and kids 3 and under can enjoy the cruise for free.
19) Visit the Indoor Waterpark
A waterpark in the middle of winter in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin? Sign me up!
We decided to stay at the Timber Ridge Lodge which is home to an indoor waterpark. The best part is that it’s located on the same property as The Grand Geneva. They offer a trolley between Timber Ridge Lodge and Grand Geneva making it very convenient to get from one location to the other.
Since we traveled with my mom and her husband, the boys were able to enjoy the various activities the waterpark has to offer, including an arcade and kid’s activity center, while my husband and I skied.
The next day, the family spent the morning at the waterpark, which the boys absolutely loved. There is a designated area for toddlers which includes activities, slides, and swings. The boys probably stayed in this area for over an hour.
Before we left the waterpark, we spent some time playing basketball in the big kid’s area and relaxing on the lazy river. The boys thought the lazy river was the coolest thing ever.
Does your kid have ear tubes or sensitivities? Be sure to grab a pair of one of the best swimming earplugs for kids.
20) Take a Cooking Class at the Lake Geneva School of Cooking
Love to cook?
Enjoy a hands-on cooking class at Lake Geneva School of Cooking. The classes’ menu changes month to month, to align with the seasonal foods and holidays.
21) Enjoy Delicious Food
Nothing screams vacation like delicious food. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by the yummy food we had while in Lake Geneva.
Tuscan Tavern & Grill
Tuscan Tavern & Grill, right off the main street of Lake Geneva’s downtown, offers delightful food ranging from steaks to seafood to brick oven pizzas. My husband and I both had seafood dishes which were absolutely delicious!
To my surprise, the seasoning was superb and everything was super fresh. If you’re in Lake Geneva and looking for a higher-end restaurant, look no further than Tuscan.
Turf Smokehouse is located on the same property as the Ice Castle, Geneva National Resort & Club. In fact, in order to exit the exhibit, you have to walk through the restaurant. Well, we’re glad that we did.
First, who would have thought of a higher-end BBQ restaurant in Lake Geneva? Not me.
Not only did the menu itself sound tasty but the food matched. We ordered the burnt ends appetizer along with three sandwiches. Every single thing was absolutely amazing. I mean lick-your-fingers good.
A must-try indeed.
Why Visit Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in Winter?
Not only are there a plethora of activities to do in Lake Geneva in winter but the quaintness of the town will also steal your heart.
There is something special about the charm of a quaint city, from the cute downtown filled with delicious restaurants, ice cream parlors, and boutiques to being within a short walk or drive from one destination to another.
Lake Geneva is no different, especially if you stay on the Grand Geneva/Timber Ridge Lodge property. There you are within a trolley ride of basically all winter outdoor activities and the indoor water park. In addition, you are within a five-minute ride to downtown Lake Geneva and less than twenty minutes from the Ice Castles.
Close to Major Airports
Unfortunately, some ski towns are located several hours from a major airport. One of the reasons Lake Geneva is so attractive to visit is that it’s only about a one-hour drive from both Milwaukee International Airport and Chicago O’hare Airport.
It’s the perfect location to fly in/out of one of these major cities and take a short drive up to Lake Geneva. In fact, it would be the perfect addition to your vacation when visiting either of these cities if you happen to not live in the area.
Planning to fly with kids? Learn how to master flying with babies and toddlers.