Lake Geneva is less than 90 minutes from Chicago and even closer to Milwaukee, but it's a world away. The 9-mile-long lake is surrounded by a historic town, some of the best golf courses in Wisconsin, a four-star resort that began as a Playboy Club resort, and a string of enormous summer mansions built ín the 1800s by Americas most famous industrialists.
Lake Geneva's roots as a playground for the rich began after the Civil War with such illustrious visitors as Mary Todd Lincoln and Generals Sherman and Sheridan. The area's influx of the wealthy accelerated after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, when the Windy City's barons stayed at their summer homes in Lake Geneva while Chicago was rebuilt. Some never left and the area became known as the Newport, R.I., of the West.
Today, you can gawk at those mansions to your heart's content, thanks to the Geneva Lake Shore Path, a 20-plus-mile public access footpath that runs between the lake and the front lawns of those over-the-top mansions.
Wherever you stay, you're never far from some of Wisconsin's best golf courses. The Grand Geneva Resort has two 18-hole courses, including the Brute Course known for its overabundance of bunkers and enormous greens, and the Highland Course, which has been perfected over the years by Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye, Bob Cupp and Bob Lohmann. The Geneva National Golf Club at Geneva Ridge Resort offers a trifecta of designer courses, with one each from Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Lee Trevino. The Como Crossings course at Hawks View Golf Club is frequently mentioned as "must-play" Wisconsin course and Abbey Springs Golf Course tosses in gorgeous views of the lake.
If you're looking for a little adventure after golf, try the water park at Timber Ridge Lodge or Lake Geneva Canopy Tours for a dose of zip lines, sky bridges and crows nests. The Dancing Horses Theater and Animal Gardens features farm animals, wildlife and exotic creatures.
To make your golf trip complete, enjoy a meal at least a couple of these places: Popeyes on Lake Geneva for seafood and steaks (no, its not the chicken chain), Egg Harbor Cafe for breakfast, or Medusas Grill & Bistro for creative cuisine.
Also plan to spend some time wandering through some of the 100 shops in Lake Geneva, especially if you like antiques, art or one-of-a-kind apparel. If you can, spend some time on the lake itself, either on a tour cruise, fishing, sailing or windsurfing.
As they say, Lake Geneva "has always been the place," especially for a luxurious golf trip.
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