Just a quick hour and a half outside of Chicago and a hop over the Illinois/Wisconsin border lies a playground of some serious proportions. 1,300 acres serious. Meet the GRAND GENEVA RESORT AND SPA, the glistening jewel of hotel properties in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. And this resort doesn’t sleep! While the summer season boasts a busy pool, a golf course and miles of sunshine, the winter is just as cool when it comes to weekend activities.
We drive to the Grand Geneva with big hopes and spending cash burning a hole in our pocket. The result? A grand old time. The extremely family friendly resort might not be at the top of the list as a getaway for the cosmopolitan set but a quick history lesson proved that the property is sitting on a legacy of F-U-N.
Constructed in 1968 as the PLAYBOY CLUB, the property was host to Hugh Hefner and his bevy of beautiful babes in bunny ears—say that ten times fast!—and for the next 14 years, the bunnies entertained hundreds of card-carrying clients and big name acts. Upon arriving, we catch up with Director of Facilities Jim Crothers and former Bunny Pegs Weber, who may have hung up her ears but still works on property at The Mountaintop ski slopes. The two talk about the Playboy legacy. WATCH THEIR INTERVIEW BELOW >>
See. You can take the bunny ears off the girl, but you can’t… you get what we mean. Armed with knowledge of this midcentury gem, we’re ready to take it all in.
One of the main draws of the Grand Geneva is THE MOUNTAINTOP—and with every good ski slope comes a great ski lodge. Grand Geneva boasts LEINENKUGEL’S MOUNTAIN TOP LODGE. The Ski Chalet—untouched since its Playboy days—is the perfect respite after a long day on the slopes. While lunch is in order, let’s get our priorities straight: drinks!
And Après Ski cocktailing is a time honored tradition. Even in Wisconsin.
Jamaica Fincher, Grand Geneva’s private party planner, talks us through two simple and tasty treats to warm us up after our bunny hill runs. WATCH US SPIKE OUR HOT COCOA BELOW >>
With a little extra boost of warmth—thank you, Jack Daniels—we’re ready to head back to the resort. THE LOBBY LOUNGE is alive. We stop for a quick drink and piano music before heading to our room to change for dinner. We feel much farther from Chicago than just 90 minutes. On property, there are three dining options—GRAND CAFÉ, RISTORANTÉ BRISSAGO AND GENEVA CHOP HOUSE—each sporting tasty Midwest portions. One thing’s for sure here: you won’t go home hungry.
While the Grand Cafe serves up stunning views with bright morning light for a breakfast spread to feed a family of four(teen), we loved the GENEVA CLUB upgrade to enjoy a quick bite in this private lounge. Newly renovated, the Geneva Club feels like a cozy library—a perfect intermission from wild weekend activities. Breakfast in the morning, snacks throughout the day, hors d’oeuvres at night and discounted pricing on drinks? Well worth the $45 per room per night charge.
Skating, snowboarding and sledding, oh my! If you have the winter sports bug, the Grand Geneva is your cure. With 1,300 acres of land, imagine the possibilities!
The main jewel in the winter sports category is THE MOUNTAINTOP. With three chairlifts, two wonder carpets and over 30 acres and 18 runs, it’s the perfect way to spend the day whether you’re an Olympic-hopeful or a mere novice. We are the latter. We hit The Mountaintop to take a SNOWBOARD lesson, lace up our skates and take a spin on the OUTDOOR ICE SKATING RINK and relax under a cozy blanket for a snowy SLEIGH RIDE. Next stop, the spa, please. WATCH US FALL DOWN MULTIPLE TIMES BELOW >>
See, Summer doesn’t get all the fun around here. In fact, Lake Geneva’s Winterfest Snow Sculpting competition draws hundreds to the area in early February each year. The Grand Geneva entertains accordingly with their Winter Carnival featuring fireworks, wish lanterns and more. It’s like 4th of July in February.
After a day on the slopes—and that unfortunate spill on the ice rink—the WELL SPA AND SALON is a welcome break. Just a brisk run from the main hotel, the surprising 42,000 square foot facility features two indoor courts, a rockwall, basketball court, pool, comped fitness classes and, our personal favorite, the spa.
We indulged in two heavenly treatments while on property—the LAVA SHELL MASSAGE and AROMAGLOW body treatment. With an invigorating sugar scrub that smelled like lavender and citrus, the AromaGlow treatment is a must. And we can’t help but giggle at the name of our masseuse: Odeta Hand. How apropos!
For lighter fare and more R&R, Grand Geneva’s WELLNESS RETREAT program sheds a different light on the weekend getaway experience. Totally custom, this three-day retreat pampers you in the best ways possible while upholding the three pillars of the program: Move Well, Be Well, Eat Well. We got a taste of the Eat Well menu during our stay and fell in love with the Golden Gazpacho—like serious love. SNAG THIS GRAND GENEVA WELLNESS RECIPE BELOW >>
Scheduled dates for the Wellness Retreats are mentioned on site and range from $1500 to $2000 for an all-inclusive three night stay. Find more information at GrandGeneva.com/Wellness-Retreat.
Lake Geneva and the surrounding areas have plenty to offer for a quick—and easy!—winter weekend getaway. The picture-perfect DOWNTOWN LAKE GENEVA shows off great shopping and ha-ha-ha-huge homes (most historic houses were constructed here after the Chicago fire when families relocated while their homes were being rebuilt). With one more day to spare, we found a few favorites to share:
SIMPLE BAKERY + MARKET
525 Broad Street, 262.248.3556
A perfect little made-from-scratch bakery and pastry shop for a quick bite before an afternoon of shopping? Yes, please.
THE CHEESE BOX
801 S. Wells Street, 262.248.3440
What’s a visit to Wisconsin without bringing home some cheese. Seriously. This 70-year-old establishment carries some weight when it comes to the best souvenir Wisconsin has to offer.
DELANEY STREET MERCANTILE
905 W. Main Street, 262.248.8008
Odds and ends—in the best way possible. Our favorite find? Beautiful French soaps. Stock up.
TUSCAN TAVERN & GRILL
430 Broad Street, 262.248.0888
This rustic restaurant is a great backdrop after a long day exploring Lake Geneva.
ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT ANTIQUES
26301 75th Street, Salem, 262.843.1786
We can’t pass up a 10,00 square foot Antique Mall. The wide, varied selection is a hunt—but well worth it when you find a gem.
FIRESIDE DINNER THEATER
1131 Janesville Ave, Fort Atkinson, 800.477.9505
Dinner and a show, anyone? Up next? Mary Poppins.
Grand Geneva Resort + Spa, 7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. 262.248.8811.
Winter rates at the Grand Geneva start around $200. Visit GrandGeneva.com for more information and booking.