Yesterday was a deliciously summer day. And by that I mean that it wasn’t humid, but still warm enough that you wanted to spend every minute outside. Bonus when you can spend every minute outside in Lake Geneva, staring out at Geneva Lake.
The distinction between the name of the city and the body of water is just one of the fun facts in this post. Get ready. I picked my friend Kelli up Sunday morning and both of us made the drive to Lauren’s place in the suburbs. From there, she offered to drive us the rest of the way to Lake Geneva. It was a gorgeous route with a lot of greenery, farms and animals. The trip worked up quite an appetite, so after walking around for a bit we decided lunch was first on the agenda.
Lauren and Kelli had been to Popeye’s Lake Geneva before (not to be confused with the fast food chain) and highly recommended it. We were able to be seated inside right away, complete with a lake view, and the menu looked amazing. We each ordered a Spotted Cow to start – you can’t visit Wisconsin without having a Spotted Cow!
For my entrée I chose the grilled chicken, mushroom and Swiss sandwich. I asked for marble rye rather than the white roll and sweet potatoes rather than regular fries. Both were delicious switches, in my opinion. This was a great dish!
We toasted at the end of the meal – you’ll notice I was ahead of the other girls in beer swigging talent. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing but I do know that it was one satisfying mug.
After lunch, we perused the shops, stopping in local grocery stores, antique shops and art galleries to check out all that Lake Geneva has to offer. Halfway through our excursion, we headed back down to the pier to board the Lady of the Lake .
The boat cruise took us on a one-hour tour of Geneva Bay that I would recommend to anyone visiting for the first time. Our guides were very knowledgeable about all of the gorgeous – and humongous – homes built by Chicago’s wealthy families. We saw the Wrigley estate – trust me when I tell you it’s impressive – as well as homes owned by Montgomery Ward and one of the families who founded Marshall Field’s , among many others.
There was also a golf course that hosts up to 200 members at one time. It drove me crazy when I heard that as a result, there are an average of only 50 tee times per week. Most golf courses receive 50 tee times in one morning! Looking at the empty greens made me want to sneak out on the course and see how far I’d get. Apparently some of the tour guides did just that but only made it three holes before being discovered. I believe their downfall was a result of parking in the owner’s spot…
By far the most impressive and largest house on the lake was Stone Manor , with seven levels and 50 rooms. It was built for nearly $2,000,000 (a lot of money now but even more so in 1901, when it was completed) by a man named Otto Young. Otto accrued his fortune in a pretty ingenious – but none too subtle – way that made for interesting tour talk.
The story goes that after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Otto took to buying up city property from wealthy people who feared Chicago was lost and had actually fled to their summer homes in Lake Geneva as a result. As it turns out, much of the Chicago property he bought makes up the modern-day Loop. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Needless to say, when the wealthy wanted to buy back their old land, Otto graciously sold it to them at 100+ times the original price.
Also needless to say, he was not very popular among the other residents of Lake Geneva.
The mansion has had a pretty exciting history since Otto’s family converted it into an Episcopalian private school for girls in 1939. The school was discontinued after a few years and in 1960 a developer purchased the land and home for just $75,000. He then spent several million dollars more to restore it. In the 1970s it became a French restaurant, but this too experienced financial problems. Then it became a Christmas Tree museum – somehow that did not do as well as expected, either. Today, it has been converted into six luxury condos with a pool on the roof.
It was an exciting tour, to say the least! Once we were on solid ground again, we made our way to Scoops for a sweet treat to end our adventure.
There were so many options, it was hard to choose! Ultimately I went with a scoop of the strawberry cheesecake on a sprinkle-coated sugar cone. This was Wisconsin’s Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream and it was awesome, with real strawberries and chunks of cheesecake in every bite.
Kelli made a stop at Kilwins for her treat – salted caramel! Lauren went with a peanut butter cup shake. The three of us were very happy with our selections. We had to eat quickly before it melted!
I had such a fun time exploring Lake Geneva with these two ladies. We will definitely be back!