For generations, Lake Geneva in Wisconsin has been a magical summer getaway for Midwesterners, and the same holds true for me: Our family lake house has been the setting for so many of our best memories. I am happiest when I am here, spending time by the water and watching the sunset over the lake at night—there is nothing else like it. Just 90 minutes northwest of Chicago, Lake Geneva offers many family-friendly activities and restaurants to ensure a great vacation experience. Here are some of our favorite family spots that I grew up with and have now become special traditions for my children as well. Hope to see you on the lake!
Family-Friendly Activities Near Lake Geneva
Grab coffee & check out the park
We have been enjoying coffee from The Coffee Mill for years, but they recently opened a second location that just happens to be steps away from the lake and directly next to Reid Park. Reid Park is a fantastic playground with equipment for kids of all ages including a huge tower to climb, pirate ship, swings (one ADA-compliant), sand diggers and more. Grab a muffin and coffee to eat at one of the shaded picnic tables at the park, then before you leave, scour the Little Free Library for a new-to-you book.
Watch a movie on the beach
Plan a family night under the stars for just $1! Head to Fontana Beach to catch a movie on a portable theater-size screen through the local park district. Encanto and Sing 2 are on the agenda this year, as well as many other family favorites. Grab a treat from the concession stand and you will have all the makings for a Summer night to remember!
Get out on the water
There are endless ways to enjoy the lake while you’re in town: Rent a boat, try kayaking, walk the gorgeous lake path or even do yoga on the water! But, where else can you hitch a ride on a boat that delivers the mail? With nearly 100 years of mail service, this tour still delivers mail to about 75 homes around the lake on a daily basis. The best part? At each dock, the mail attendant must jump from the boat, sprint to the mailbox and make it back to the boat which, in the meantime, has never stopped moving. Talk about taking a leap of faith! You can check out the Mailboat schedule, as well the other boat rides (including an Ice Cream Social) available during the Summer.
Hit the road
Get some Family exercise by renting bikes from Avant Cycle Cafe, located in downtown Lake Geneva. Rent one of their pedal assist e-bikes to explore the town and enjoy the scenery on a nice day. Make sure grab one of their locally roasted coffees and pastries before you head out!
Go on Safari
Only five miles from downtown Lake Geneva is an adventure for all animal lovers! This family-owned safari is a unique wildlife preserve that is home to animals from around the world. Drive your own vehicle through as many times as you like on the same day and have fun feeding the animals. This outing is sure to be a family favorite for all ages! Please note, online reservations are required. (Check out Katie’s review of the drive-thru safari.)
Pearce’s Farm Stand
Pearce’s is a staple for us every fall. Not only is it a great stop for pumpkins and cider donuts, they also have some great activities for the kids including a 12-acre maze and hay obstacle course. But Pearce’s isn’t just a one-season wonder. From July through October, you can enjoy their selection of locally grown produce and seasonal items including fruits, veggies, jams, jellies, and locally harvested honey. They also offer fresh donuts and kettle corn made every weekend on site! All their vegetables are hand picked, cared for, washed and then sold by their family and a few close staff members. My kids LOVE coming here in the summer, just to sit in the huge John Deere tractor and run in the giant hamster wheels. It’s a great place to burn energy AND get a tasty snack—an unbeatable combo!
Hop aboard a train
The East Troy Railroad Museum is located in East Troy, WI, just 20 minutes from Lake Geneva. Visit the museum and then take a 10-mile round trip excursion on the Electric Railroad from its historic depot to the terminal, located at the Elegant Farmer in Mukwonago, WI (they make the absolute BEST pies). The railroad and adjoining museum are home to over 20 rail treasures including open cars, locomotives, streetcars and interurban coaches. The railroad also operates the only electric dining car train in North America, recreating the luxury that passengers once enjoyed years ago.
Places to Eat Near Lake Geneva
This place is what summer dreams are made of! As Lake Geneva’s only on-water restaurant, Pier 290 is a welcoming family spot that provides opportunities for all guests to enjoy lake life all year long. The fire places and outdoor heaters provide a wonderful atmosphere come wintertime. The views here are second to none, and our kids love the white sand area where they can play or sit in a beach chair and snack while watching the boats go by.
Gordy’s Boat House
This has been a family staple of ours for 20+ years! Whether you are looking for a light afternoon snack or a delicious entree, there is something for everyone. It is a super casual spot (swimsuits and shorts welcome) located in Fontana on the west end of the lake and offers great views of the water whether you sit inside or out. They often have live music on the weekends during the summer. During the months of June through August, you can walk next door to Gordy’s Surf Shack for fresh deli sandwiches, salads, smoothies, ice cream and more. (Note, this is also right down the street from the Coffee Mill and Reid Park).
What family vacation is complete without pizza night? We love Oakfire for their Neapolitan style pizza and pretty lakeside views. The pizzas are made to order and cooked in their specialty ovens in just 90 seconds so when you’ve got hungry kids, this is ideal! Not to mention, it is located right across from the Lake Geneva Public Beach and the Riviera where the tour boats launch, so you can make your dining experience part of a whole day of fun.
This small family-owned cafe, bakery, and market uses ingredients sourced from the local farmers for their fresh food, pastries, and breads. The indoor decor is vibrantly colorful, and the outdoor patio is perfect for a beautiful summer day. You can always count on something different here since they have a rotating seasonal menu.
Enjoy a sundae funday
There are so many delicious ice cream spots in the Lake Geneva area, you would need multiple trips to try them all. Some of our favorites include the unique flavors at Blue Heaven Ice Cream, the flurries at Meggy Moo’s Dairy Ripple (an old school drive-up spot) and the Chicago Cone at Dip in the Bay.
Looking for some more fun family vacation ideas? Check out our guide for camping with kids!