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Although many may associate visiting Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, with warm weather months, winter is a fantastic time to visit. It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from major cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, or Madison. During the holidays and winter, Lake Geneva transforms into a winter wonderland offering plenty of fun including holiday activities, Winterfest, outdoor activities, and more. This winter will be extra exciting with the addition of Ice Castles, a structure built entirely of ice with slides, tunnels, and lighted features.
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Have you ever been on a boat to see holiday lights? From now through December 30, the Santa Cruise may be the most unique way you’ll ever see Santa. As you make your way from the pier to Santa’s North Pole hideaway, you’ll see lighted displays while singing cheery holiday songs for all to hear. The best part is seeing Santa at his house, and if you’ve been nice he’ll read off your name loud and clear.
If you’d rather stay cozy in your car, head to Grand Geneva Resort, the home to Christmas in the Country, which showcases over 2 million lights indoor and out. The free drive-thru holiday lights show takes you through the resort grounds and highlights the 12 days of Christmas.
See Old St. Nick
Riding the East Troy Railroad train is already a fun experience in itself but becomes extra special during the holidays. The train drops you off at The Elegant Farmer where Santa will be waiting along with cookies, hot chocolate, and a small gift. Meet the jolly old man while enjoying your snowman breakfast buffet at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa. After filling your belly, head down the hall to find your favorite gingerbread house. If you’re in downtown Lake Geneva shopping, make sure to make a stop at Santa’s Workshop. Kids can share their wish lists with Santa, while Santa’s helpers can wrap gifts (free!) That’s what I call a win-win for both parents and kids.
Catch a Show
The holiday season (now through December 23) brings Elf The Musical to The Fireside Dinner, a theatre-in-the-round which also includes a delectable dinner. Sing along to your favorite Christmas classics while eating farm-to-table cuisine at Rosewood Music Theater’s Christmas Remembered show from now until December 23. Believing in magic is always in season at Tristan Crist Magic Theatre.
Experience the Old World
Do you want to show the kids how holidays were celebrated pre-technology? Visit Old World Wisconsin to participate in traditions that immigrants brought to Wisconsin. Tour the Yuletide Village on a horse-drawn carriage, meet a Victorian Santa Claus, or make traditional Vanocka braided bread. Imagine life as it was around the 1800s as you sip on tea and nibble on tea sandwiches during the Victorian Tea at the historic Baker House.
Visit Lake Geneva Winterfest
From January 26th – February 3rd celebrate all things winter at Lake Geneva’s grand-daddy of all winter festivals, Winterfest. For nine days, visitors will find more than a dozen events and activities to keep them busy so they can forget about those chilly temps. Ever been on a hovercraft? Here’s your chance to give it a try during the Lake Geneva Hovercraft Challenge. Other events include Human Dog Sled Races, helicopter rides, a cocoa crawl, and a winter carnival.
Channel your inner Elsa as you explore these amazing Ice Castles. Not only will it be totally Insta-worthy, but you’ll be able to go down ice-carved slides and crawl through tunnels. If you’d like to see blocks of ice being transformed into art, don’t miss the United States National Snow Sculpting Championship from January 30th – February 2nd.
Skate away at the ice rinks located at The Abbey Resort, The Ridge Hotel, Lake Lawn Resort, Grand Geneva Resort, as well as the new rink at Flat Iron Park in downtown Lake Geneva. Is ice fishing more your thing? Lake Geneva offers plenty of places to find fish biting under the ice. Look to Geneva Lake Bait & Tackle and Lake Geneva Fishing Guide for guides and equipment rental.
More Winter Outdoor Fun in Lake Geneva
Bundle up and head outdoors. How amazing would it be to go ziplining through the trees? Lake Geneva Canopy Tours gives you the opportunity to do so all winter long.
Imagine kites filling the sky as well as an airborne performance by kite teams at Lake Lawn Resort’s Sky Circus on Ice on February 15th – 17th. More hands-on kite making workshops, expert-led kite flying lessons, and family winter activities add to the fun throughout the weekend.
Got snow? Lake Geneva offers plenty of scenic trails as well as spots to go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling. Head to the Mountain Top at Grand Geneva Resort and nearby Wilmot Mountain. Insider tip: Find the best sledding hills at Big Foot Beach State Park and near the parking lot at Sage and Mill Streets in downtown Lake Geneva.
Disclosure: Many thanks to VISIT Lake Geneva and their partners for hosting us for the purpose of writing this article. I was not required to provide any specific review and all opinions are my own.
Lead image by: AJ Mellor