Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Day Trip // Lake Geneva, Wisconsin


Lake Geneva Day Trip // Bubby and Bean

When I was a little girl, every summer my family would drive an hour or so north to a little beach and lake in rural Wisconsin.  I have the absolute best memories of these trips - they were sweet, simple day trips filled with all of the joys of summer (translate: swimming and ice cream).  As an adult, my husband and I try to take the same day trip once or twice a summer up to the Lake Geneva area.  It's close, it's easy, and it's a mini escape to a small town surrounded by beautiful pieces of nature.  We are big fans of spontaneous adventures and these excursions are never planned.  Usually we'll wake up on a random weekend morning, realize that we don't have any plans for the day, and proceed to hop in the car head north. 


This past Saturday, Robbie and I decided that it was officially the day to take our annual visit to the area.  It was actually a really dreary morning - which meant we'd have to skip our usual swimming experience, but also meant dealing with less crowd madness.  (Lake Geneva tends to be a pretty popular spot on summer weekends, and the parking and restaurant situations can be somewhat challenging during those times.) We quickly got dressed, grabbed coffees, got in the car, put on some Talking Heads, and drove out of urbanization into Illinois farmlands, along winding rural roads, until we arrived in town. (You can view a slightly amusing short video of our drive via my Instagram account.)


We decided to start off with an early lunch, and our first stop was a restaurant called Simple Cafe.  I'd heard great things about this farm-to-table restaurant and their fresh, local menu, and was excited to try it out.  There was a 20 minute wait for a table, so we headed next door to their bakery, which had all sorts of delicious breads, spreads and treats.  Back at the restaurant, Robbie ordered some sort of fancy omelet, while I opted for the grilled cheese and tomato soup (I have a thing for grilled cheese sandwiches).  We were not disappointed.  The multi-grain bread was insanely good and the tomato soup - which tasted of hints of Parmesan - may have been the best I'd ever had.  I washed my lunch down with a Sprecher Cherry Cola, which was also ridiculously good (I need to get my hands on some of that Door County cherry juice).  If you're ever in the area, I can't recommend Simple Cafe highly enough.  (For those of you in Milwaukee, apparently they own one there as well.)

After lunch, we decided to take a drive down Snake Road, which is a rustic road, dotted with historical, multi-million dollar summer estates.  Although you can only see the gates (and servant's quarters) from the roads, it's still a gorgeous drive, and fun to imagine what it was like when many of these massive homes were built over a hundred years ago.  The Lake Geneva area actually has a very rich history - it was a hugely popular resort town during the roaring '20s (and popular with Al Capone and his mob pals as well), Hugh Hephner opened the first Playboy Club ever there, and many noted Chicago celebrities owned mansions there, deep in the woods. 


We headed back to Lake Geneva, parked the car by the lake, and spent a couple of hours walking around and taking photographs.  Although small and often congested, the beach is still quite beautiful, and it's very peaceful to sit and stare out into the waves.  The shops downtown are touristy, but there are quite a few fun boutiques and antique shops.  Kismet is full of handmade gift items, many crafted by local artists.  Lake Geneva Antique and Art Bazaar is a newer shop that has a huge mix of handmade art, antiques, and vintage goods.  Geneva Jakes has cool outdoor goods.  For a wide assortment of gorgeously crafted fair trade goods, stop into Global Hands.  And for some of the most delicious ice cream in the midwest, pay a visit to Kilwin's Chocolates.


By late afternoon, the weather had started to warm up and the sun had finally emerged, so we decided to drive over to Williams Bay, a tiny town also on the shore of Geneva Lake.  When we're visiting the area specifically to go to swimming, we usual choose this beach, because it's a little more removed and slightly less crowded.  It was too cold to swim this time (at least for us), but we wanted to stop by Yerkes Observatory (the birthplace of astrophysics!) to take some photographs.  Yerkes is operated by the University of Chicago, and houses the world's largest refracting telescope.  I am completely fascinated by this place and am hoping to take one of their summer night courses/tours, but on this particular day we knew it was closed and just wanted to take pictures of the outside.  The building, which dates back to 1897, is really extraordinary, with all kinds of incredible detailing.  It's definitely worth checking out if you're in the area.


As the evening approached, we went on an unsuccessful hunt for fried cheese curds (I went to school at UW-Madison and have insatiable cravings for cheese curds whenever I visit Wisconsin), then headed home.  It was a great day - equal parts relaxation and spontaneous mini adventures.  For those of you in the Chicago area who want a quick escape (that still allows you the luxury of being back in your own bed that night), I highly recommend heading to Lake Geneva.  Although a popular weekend destination for Chicagoans (I swear 90% of the license plates I saw that day were from Illinois), it's also a fun getaway just for an afternoon.  If you've been to the area and know of any places we may be missing, please let me know!  I have a feeling we'll be back again before summer comes to an end. 

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21 comments:

  1. What a gorgeous town. And I love spontaneous trips like this... Martin & I often reserve our Sundays for such adventures - it's always the highlight of our week. Mmmm, and that ice cream. Now I want some, for breakfast!! ;)

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  2. Wow it looks great being there. Great post. (found you on etsy blogging buddies ;)

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  3. Thats cool that there is such a variety of activities all in one place. I hadnt really heard of farm to table until recently, but it is definitely the way to go now. I love that even though the weather was bad you two still found plenty of fun and time together!

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  4. What a lovely area and such a pretty town! I love simple farm fresh food and your lunch looks yummy! Love the photo of the fountain!
    I find that nature calms me down :) Glad you had a nice time out!

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  5. Looks like a lovely trip to a lovely town! I like that red and green restaurant sign. I love to eat tomato soup, but I still need to find the perfect recipe.

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  6. Looks like an incredible day trip, for sure! Simple Cafe sounds like a perfect way to start off too (my kids love grilled cheese too!). And, of course, your photos are amazing.
    ~Kim

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  7. sis these photos are absolutely breathtaking! im glad you had a blast, and im jealous i couldnt tag along!

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  8. looks like such a great day! I grew up in WI and your mention of Sprecher cherry cola made me thirsty...I miss Sprecher :).

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  9. Gorgeous photos and looks like a fun town! I wish I had a place like that closeby. Maybe I'll have to make the 8 or so hour drive to visit. =)

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  10. I love your photos! They're great.

    Christen
    http://christenlouise.blogspot.com

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  11. What a fun day trip!! My hubby went to UW-Madison (before you were born)-- during the turbulent 60s.

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    1. What an amazing time to be in Madison! I heard so many stories there about what an incredible time that was to be a part of UW. Such a progressive (and intense) piece of history.

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  12. Thank you for your comments everybody. Make sure you pay Lake Geneva a visit if you're ever in the area! xo, m

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  13. I love Lake Geneva! Now that my husband and I live in Milwaukee, we get down there on a semi-regular basis. I really enjoyed your little tour. What a fun day getaway.

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  14. Looks like an amazing place to visit! Great pictures.
    www.shannonheartsblog.com

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  15. That looks like such a fun day trip! That town has such an interesting history.

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  16. looks like so much fun, can't wait for another weekend!

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  17. We go to Lake Geneva quite often as it's only about a 30 minute drive! E Street Denim on Main St. is a cute shop to check out!!

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  18. oh melissa, i'm glad you had a nice spontaneous trip! i enjoy reading your adventures, and seeing the photos. it looks and sounds relaxing and divinely delicious. :)

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