All eyes turn toward shore as the guide on the Lake Geneva Cruise Line’s Geneva Bay Tour points out impressive estates; you also can see them on the Sundowner cruise and the mail boat cruise, which features a sneak peek at “jumpers,” who deliver from a moving boat. (262) 248-6206; cruiselakegeneva.com
Walkers on the Geneva Lake Shore Path get up-close views of grand properties—even strolling across the front lawns. The 20-plus-mile footpath encircles the lake. (800) 345-1020; lakegenevawi.com
Admire the lake view from the second-floor porch at Bistro 220, which serves sake martinis such as the Long Island Saketini and Fruit Champagnitini, and enjoy sophisticated dinners Wednesdays through Sundays. (262) 248-4220; bistro220.com
In nearby Fontana, the spacious Avani Spa at The Abbey Resort and Spa offers a unique “bacial” treatment (a gentle exfoliating back scrub followed by a gentle facial). Cheery, lake-house-theme guest rooms start at $170 on weekends, with a two-night minimum. (800) 709-1323; theabbeyresort.com
Grand Geneva Resort is a Prairie-style masterpiece on 1,300 acres; its Timber Ridge indoor water park suits families. From $199. (800) 558-3417; grandgeneva.com
For dinner, chic Sopra: An American Bistro serves locally sourced cuisine, like grilled pork tenderloin with asparagus and mixed wild mushrooms. (262) 249-0800; soprabistro.com
Organic ingredients infuse the $1 fresh bagels at Boatyard Bagel Company; add-ins, such as Nutella-banana and hot giardiniera, flavor organic cream cheese. (262) 203-5391; boatyardbagels.com
Lose yourself in Brick and Mortar Home, where you’ll find candles, decorative throw pillows and kitchenware. (262) 249-0210; brickandmortarhome.com. Maple Park Antiques draws you in with an intriguing mix of items on the porch, including fat 1940s-era waterskis. (262) 248-1802. Global Hands sells fair-trade goods, including coffee, clothes and chocolate. (262) 248-6920; globalhandsfairtrade.com. The artsy basement shop at Refined Rustic Studio and Gallery carries a wonderful selection of home decor items made from artfully repurposed found objects. (262) 249-0940; refinedrustic.com.
Grab lunch at Simple Cafe, a funky, brightly colored restaurant featuring seasonal dishes, some of which have an Asian slant. On our visit, we loved a roasted pork sandwich served with pickled daikon radish and sesame-honey mayo on a French roll. (262) 248-3556; simplecafelakegeneva.com
The immense Cornerstone Shop and Gallery carries home and women’s merchandise from more than 350 vendors (cornerstoneshoppe.com) and for handcrafted items, Kismet’s one room has interesting clothing, jewelry, accessories, bath and body products, and home decor from 100 artists. (262) 249-0712; itwaskismet.com.
Open for lunch and dinner, Tuscan Tavern and Grill satisfies diners’ cravings for elegant Italian cuisine with artisanal pizzas cooked in a brick oven and vodka gnocchi. (262) 248-0888; thetuscantavernandgrill.com
Don a vintage hat and toast a stunning sunset over Geneva Lake with a bit of bubbly at Baker House. (262) 248-4700; bakerhouse1885.com Before you head home, stop at Studio Winery, where you’ll find fine wine, fine art and great live music; the winemaker is also a blues keyboardist. (262) 348-9100; studiowinery.com
(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® May/June 2013. Prices, dates, and other details are subject to change, so please check specifics before making travel plans.)