Looking to take a step back in time and enjoy a nice getaway? Visiting Lake Geneva provides locations that will do just that. From historic lakefront estates, to open an open-air museum, and a world-famous telescope, there are several ways to interact with the rich history of the area.
The story starts 18,000 years ago when the glaciers retreated north and left the basin of the lake and a moraine, deposits of stone and sediment, which shaped the landscape. The Lake Geneva area abounds in natural beauty and rolling hills, making it a scenic vacation destination.
At the end of the Civil War, Lake Geneva became a destination for wealthy families from Chicago. As these families began building their mansions on the shores of Geneva Lake, the town of Lake Geneva became known as the Newport of the West. After the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, many families moved to their summer homes in Lake Geneva as the city was being rebuilt. Several new businesses formed to assist with the construction, maintenance and household employment for these lakefront mansions. Today there are still several historic estates along the shores of the lake. Visitors can get a closer view of the estates while walking the shore path. Hop aboard a boat tour with Lake Geneva Cruise Line to learn more about the history of the great estates while observing from the lake.
To dive deeper into the history of Lake Geneva, visit one of the many landmarks that tell the story of our town.
Geneva Lake Museum (Founded in 1983)
Stop by the Geneva Lake Museum to find out even more about the area with artifacts and exhibits from the archaic period through present day. Exhibits range from native peoples to the great estates, and the maritime history of Geneva Lake. One unique way that the museum captures this history is through "Main Street" which transports visitors back in time to see and feel what life was like from 1830-1930. Geneva Lake Museum is a one-stop shop for anyone looking to learn about the area's history and those that have shaped Lake Geneva into a vacation destination.
Old World Wisconsin (Opened in 1976)
A short 30-minute drive from the Lake Geneva area, Old World Wisconsin is an immersive open-air museum with 60 restored historic structures in over 600 acres of gorgeous Wisconsin landscape. This unique museum provides an immersive experience full of history as you travel through the time of the 1840s into the early 20th century. Some new additions include "The Brewhouse,” an immersive brewing experience, a 1930's tavern, an outdoor Biergarten, a pavilion, and a tram stop. These improvements will add another layer of experiences for visitors to dive into the great history of Old World Wisconsin.
Yerkes Observatory (Built in 1897)
Making a triumphant return, Yerkes Observatory has reopened to the public after undergoing renovations to restore and preserve this historic site. Yerkes Observatory is considered the birthplace of modern astrophysics as it was the first observatory created with the primary purpose of research. Yerkes is home to a 40-inch refracting telescope, the largest in the world at the time it was dedicated in 1897. The observatory was at the center of astronomical research for more than 100 years. Over this time, Yerkes housed great scientists, astronomers, and Nobel Prize winners. Yerkes has now reopened for public tours. Tours include information about the observatory, those who worked there, and the surrounding lands. Yerkes is an international treasure situated just 15 minutes from downtown Lake Geneva and is a piece of living history for visitors to enjoy and admire.Lake Geneva has something for every age to enjoy when learning about our community’s rich history. For those looking to have a memorable stay in a historic staple of the Lake Geneva area, look no further than the Grand Geneva. Steeped in history, Grand Geneva has been a cornerstone for visitors of Lake Geneva since it first opened its doors in 1968. Complete your stay with the fantastic amenities and picture perfect views with the Grand Geneva during your next Lake Geneva getaway.