Located just a few hours from major cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison, Lake Geneva in Wisconsin makes for an easy-yet-fun family vacation. There are lots of things to do in Lake Geneva with kids, whether you prefer hanging out with animals on a safari or being out on the water.
Here are some of our favorite things to do on vacation in Lake Geneva.
Explore more of the state! here are our favorite things to do in Wisconsin with kids.
12 Best Things to Do in Lake Geneva with Kids
1. Get On the Water with Lake Geneva Cruise Line
One of the best ways of getting accustomed to the area is to get on Geneva Lake.
The Lake Geneva Cruise Line offers a few kid-friendly ways to explore, but their Ice Cream Social should be on the top of your list. Who can resist ice cream, after all?
While you are enjoying your ice cream sundae on this 85-minute tour, you can admire and learn about the beautiful estates that line the lakeshore, like the Wrigley Estate which is made up of six different homes.
They also offer brunch cruises, dinner cruises, jazz cruises, and just about any other cruise you can think of, so there really is something for everyone.
2. Enjoy Some Beach Time!
Looking for some fun in the sun? Riviera Beach is the place to be! Located close to downtown on Geneva Lake, the beach is the perfect way for you to catch some rays or watch the boats pass by. There are picnic tables and grills and a playground. They also offer concessions and water rentals.
Located on the lakefront in downtown Lake Geneva adjacent to Riviera Beach, Lake Geneva Public Beach offers a large sandy area for sunbathing and swimming. It is conveniently situated near restaurants, shops, and other attractions.
Big Foot Beach State Park is a mile-long sandy beach on the eastern shore of Lake Geneva that also has some hiking trails.
3. Play in the Water Indoors
Guests of the resort can enjoy the waterpark with over 50,000 square feet of splash-tastic fun. Thrill-seekers will definitely enjoy the two gigantic heated waterslides, but my family prefers lounging around on the lazy river surrounding the waterpark.
Little ones will busy themselves by splashing away in the Tiny Timbers area with zero-depth entry, little slides, swings, and mushroom fountain. The obstacle rope course is always a fun time.
4. Walk Along the Lake Path
Now that you’ve scoped out the estates the boat tour, you can get close up views of those drool-worthy homes by walking through the historic Shore Path along Geneva Lake.
The entire path is more than 20 miles so pick a portion and explore! The easiest way to access the path is from right behind the library. Plus you can peep the library’s cool architecture from Frank Lloyd Wright protégé, James R. Dresser.
5. Wild Animal Fun at Safari Lake Geneva
A safari in Lake Geneva? You bet! Take a guided one-hour tour aboard a wagon at Safari Lake Geneva and learn a little bit about the 50 animals including American bison, ostrich, giraffes, domestic yak, camels, miniature donkey, antelopes that roam freely on their 800-acre savanna.
The wagon stops every few minutes so you’ll have plenty of feeding opportunities. Afterward, spend time visiting the animals (including babies!) in the boma.
6. Believe in Magic
As the world’s smallest magic venue, the Tristan Crist Magic Theatre provides an intimate magic experience that will make you believe in magic again. The kids and (adults) were mesmerized from start to finish at the Tristan Crist Magic Theatre.
Expect to be wowed with classic magic acts like cutting a lady in half, card tricks, and levitation. Hang back after the show for a picture with Tristan and an autograph.
7. Watch Horses Dance
Initially created from one person’s vision and their love for horses, The Dancing Horses Theatre combines artistry, acrobatics, and horse training for an entertaining performance for the family.
Bur wait, they offer more than horses! Take in a bird show that features Echo the Singing Parrot from America’s Got Talent. They also offer behind-the-scenes tours to get up close and personal with their horses.
8. Learn About Geneva Lake’s History
At the Geneva Lake Museum, visitors are able to take a stroll through the brick-lined streets of Geneva Lake’s Main Street during the late 19th and early 20th century. Walk into a classroom as it was back in the days, sit in a fire engine, or compare kitchens with and without electricity.
The museum is well thought out and most of the artifacts are authentic. The kids are kept busy with an I-Spy worksheet. It was a genius way to keep the kids busy and entertained, while learning more about the history.
The newly reopened Yerkes Observatory just outside Lake Geneva happens to be the birthplace of modern astrophysics.
With three domes, the Observatory contains the world’s largest refracting telescope at 63 feet and 19 tons. The other two domes hold reflecting telescopes. The best way to really learn about Yerkes and its significance is to take a tour with a knowledgeable staff.
10. Hike at the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy
As Geneva Lake’s largest watershed, Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy is one not to be missed. Kishwauketoe in Potawatomi means “clear water” or “lake of the sparkling water” and after seeing the streams we no doubt agree with the name.
This hike offers a boardwalk, a climbing tower, a prairie, a kids play area, and more to make it an interesting hike for kids. There are five different loops to explore, ranging in length from one to three miles.
Visiting during the fall? Here are 14 of our favorite places to enjoy Wisconsin fall foliage.
11. Work on Your Golf Skills
Fore! Want to watch the kids work on their golf skills, while you relax and have a drink? Just five minutes away from downtown Lake Geneva, the Geneva National Resort & Club offers a drop-in clinic on Wednesdays where kids ages 7-15 can sharpen their golf skills, or learn the basics.
The gold club also offers three-day summer camps for kids as young as six. This is a great way to introduce your kids ot the sport or keep the kids busy while you head off to enjoy some adult time.
12. Enjoy Some Great Food
If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s never going hungry in Lake Geneva. They have plenty of family-friendly options to fill your belly.
Popeyes on Lake Geneva
We mostly frequent this hot spot because we always can count on good food here. At Popeyes on Lake Geneva, start with chicken nachos with wonton chips or the crab rangoon appetizer. Try their rotisserie chicken roasted on their very own outdoor rotisserie.
Their shrimp bisque is quite tasty as well. But seriously, everything you try will be good! It gets busy, but with over 600 seats, waiting is never too long.
Oakfire boasts outstanding lakefront views of Geneva Lake. But the real star here is their Neapolitan-style Pizza.
My little crew loved their Mickey Mouse pizzas while I devoured the Margherita di Bufala pizza. Everything else was pretty tasty, and we would definitely come back.
Simple Cafe Lake Geneva
Breakfast or brunch at Simple Cafe is the best way to start the day. The bright atmosphere is enough to pick you up, but it’s the food that will keep you coming back.
Sourcing from local farmers and producers, Simple Cafe also offers healthy, organic options with a twist on originals. Try the Croque Madame!
Avant Bicycle & Cafe
Love coffee? How about coffee and a bicycle shop? Skip the franchise coffee shops and trying something local.
I was happy to have found Avant Bicycle & Cafe in downtown Lake Geneva. Such a neat place to sit down and relax, especially after a run or bike ride! My coconut latte was just heavenly.
I love coffee, but even more so if its coffee with a purpose. Not only is Inspired Coffee Shop’s mission to “empower adults with disabilities to live with greater purpose and achieve their individual best in a thriving environment” inspiring, but their coffee is delicious. Tip: Try the Lake Geneva Coffee Roast sourced from a local roastery.
Next Door Pub & Pizzeria
We love ordering room service on vacation, but the next best thing is having pizza delivered to our room. Next Door Pub & Pizzeria has become our favorite go-to pizza delivery in Lake Geneva. We love their large cheese pizza along with their gigantic pretzel with 3 different sauces.
As Geneva Lake’s only restaurant on the water, Pier 290 is the perfect place to enjoy lakefront views with good food. Come for brunch on the weekend and indulge in housemade corned beef hash.
Lunch options include a variety of salads and sandwiches as well as fish tacos and burgers. Dinnner is more upscale with fish and steak entrees as the stars of the menu, but a kids menu is offered all day long so your picky eaters will be happy with grilled cheese or chicken fingers, too.
Where to Stay in Lake Geneva with Kids
Grand Geneva Resort
Newly renovated rooms await guests at Grand Geneva Resort. Take advantage of all the amenities including an indoor and outdoor pool, scheduled activities, the spa, golf courses, live music at the lounge.
Kids will want to climb their way up the 35’ rock climbing wall. With restaurants on site including coffee and ice cream, you’ll never want to leave.
The Villas at Grand Geneva Resort
For a home away from home, look no further than a stay at The Villas at Grand Geneva Resort. It was everything our family wanted – a gorgeous, spacious two-story townhome with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a living room.
Plus, it had a fully stocked kitchen with full-size appliances, a fireplace, and a laundry. Absolutely perfect! Since we stayed on the Grand Geneva’s property we could also take advantage of their amenities including Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark, spa, and fitness center.
The Cove of Lake Geneva
We loved staying at The Cove of Lake Geneva. Located a short walk away from downtown, the lake, the beach, lakeshore path, restaurants, and museums, the all-suite hotel’s slogan “center of it all” couldn’t be truer.
Besides its fabulous location, the rooms are spacious and nicely appointed with a kitchenette perfect for whipping up meals. Plus, who can resist their large pool? In the warmer months, their outdoor pool area is open along with the kiddie area.
The Abbey Resort & Spa
Located on the other side of Geneva Lake, The Abbey Resort & Spa is normally one of our go-to resorts in the area.
One of the best things about the resort is the number of family-friendly activities they offer. From watching movies at their small theater and splashing away at their indoor or outdoor pool to roasting s’mores at the bonfire and creating crafts, your family will always have something to do. Plus, when the weather’s nice you can take a short walk to Fontana Beach.
All photos by Cheryl Eugenio unless otherwise noted. Lead image by Flickr/Atramos.
Disclosure: A big thanks to Visit Lake Geneva and their partners for hosting us. I was not required to express a particular point of view. All opinions are my own.