by Diana Lambdin Meyer
Covering nearly 1,300 acres of rolling Wisconsin countryside, the Grand Geneva Resort and Spa is certainly one of the most scenic vacation settings you could choose for your family, no matter what the season.
If it’s a clichÃƒ©, we apologize, but the Grand Geneva really has something for everyone throughout the year: There’s water sports and golf in the summer months; downhill and cross-country skiing in the winter, along with an ice terrace; horseback riding and a petting zoo almost all year long; a spa, tennis, and a spectacular kids club. What else do you want?
The property includes two lodging accommodations: The Grand Geneva and the Timber Ridge. Both are family-friendly and guests may move back and forth between the two properties with little distinction. Both facilities are very pet-friendly, offering special bedding, food dishes and treats for your dog, so don’t even think about leaving that member of the family at home.
Students of architecture know that you are in Frank Lloyd Wright country when you are in this part of Wisconsin, and the low-rise buildings that make use of natural stone and woods of the region are a direct compliment to Wright’s influence in the region.
The original lodge dates back to the 1960s when Hugh Hefner opened it as a Playboy Club. And yes, there are still bunny images found here and there.
Our Editor Loves
- Horseback riding, sleigh rides and skiing
- Convenient trolley services around property
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The 355 guest rooms at Grand Geneva come in four different arrangements: Deluxe, which is a basic room with a king or two double beds, Junior, King and Premiere Suites. All units feature mini-refrigerators and balconies overlooking the golf course or the rolling Wisconsin hillsides. The suites offer a selection of microwaves, wet bars and refrigerators.
The bathrooms have either separate tubs and showers, or shower and tub combos so bathing little ones is not a concern. The coolest thing in the bathrooms is the TV embedded within the mirror, so it'll be easy to get kids to brush their teeth and wash their face while watching their favorite cartoons.
The rooms are situated in a meandering array of low-lying buildings. Parking is convenient, but only one elevator is available and it is in the main building. Of course, bellmen are available to help with luggage, but if traversing stairs is a problem for your toddlers, ask for a room in Building 4 to be closest to the elevator.
Adjoining rooms are available throughout all seven buildings. Kids stay free in all rooms and there is no additional charge for cribs.
Movies and video games can be rented from your in-room television. All TVs are equipped with Jack Packs, which basically allow for input from external portable devices like video game players, MP3 players, laptops and more.
Here's a nice little safety feature for parents who may leave age-appropriate children alone in the room for a while: Peep holes in the doors located about four-feet high so children can check on who's knocking before opening the door.
The resort property is beautiful and the staff is attentive. Food and beverage at the Chop House was tops. A table of ten for late dinner received phenomenal service and the food was wonderful!
Attended a corporate golf outing which was well organized by the golf staff - not a detail was missed - the continued to elevate the guest experience!
Do not waste your money. Period. My husband and I booked our honeymoon night here because we didn't want to drive too far and from all the pictures and the summary we thought it would be worth the money. Not even close.
We arrived on a Monday afternoon and had booked a Lakeview room. My heart started to sink when we arrived at our room. It was the absolute farthest room away, on the first floor, but I would call it the basement since we had to walk through dark hallways with dirty carpeting, past stairwells with folded up rollaway beds stuck under them. The golf course view was simply the path where maintenance and staff walked / carted by. For $300 I was expecting a room with a great view, a room that we wouldn't want to leave. Instead we got a room at the end of a dark, musty hallway. Within the first couple of hours being there, we had to call maintenance to come fix the sliding door because it didn't lock and an hour later for the fridge because it did not work.
We had dinner at the Chop House and that was fantastic. The food was great.
Upon checkout, the front desk clerk did not ask how my stay was, but I politely brought up how disappointed that I was and the reasons why. She did apologize and reimbursed the $20 for the resort fee. I would have expected a better type of reimbursement since we spent close to $700 for an overnight stay with the room, eating and one massage at the spa.
The Spa itself was a disappointment as well. The massage therapist was great. But the ladies at the front desk with not very warm and welcoming, and they ask you to get there 30 minutes early to check in, but it only takes you five. They then leave you sitting the waiting room of the spa that looks like a funeral parlor.
We made the best of it, but we couldn't believe the experience we had and how much it cost us. We had even told them in advance that we were coming to spend our wedding night / honeymoon.
We wished that we had rented a condo on Lake Geneva, with an actual lake view and just gone to the Chop House for dinner.
Save your money and go elsewhere.
It would be easier to write about what activities the Grand Geneva doesn't have, because the offerings here include just about everything for just about every season.
Let's start with the Children's Program called Kids Are Grand. Located in a separate building from the guest rooms, the center is bright and spacious and designed to keep kids engaged. The program is ideally suited for 4 to 12-year-old kids at a rate of $10 per hour for the first child and $5 for the second child. However, 2 to 4 year olds are welcomed in specified hours only. If it's not too busy, even infants can be accommodated as long as parents are nearby to change necessary diapers. Lots of board games, arts and crafts, Wii and PS2 are available.
For warm weather months, a kids' clinic is held on one of the two 18 hole golf courses. Of course, miniature golf courses can be just as fun. There's horseback riding, hot air balloon rides, and indoor and outdoor tennis. A petting zoo is as close as a trolley ride to the Dan Patch Stables.
Bicycles are available on property, and many include carts and seats for little ones. The blacktopped roadways are spacious and relatively free of traffic, but the wooded pathways are equally fun for some outdoor exercise.
The indoor and outdoor pools at Grand Geneva are relatively tame, but families who wish to swoosh down tubes and tunnels may ride the trolley to the Moose Falls Water Park inside the Timber Ridge Lodge, located on the same property. It's a 50,000 square foot waterpark with whirlpools, lazy rivers and splash pools with games for those of all ages.
The fitness center at Grand Geneva is open to those 16 years old and up, but here you'll find all sorts of fitness classes, machines and instruction. Indoor and outdoor volleyball and basketball courts are available, along with a nice playground near the fitness center.
A focal point of the indoor fitness center is a 35-foot high rock wall that is open to those who are 8 years old and up, as long as the harness fits the child. Friendly competitions between siblings and families are always a lot of fun.
In the winter months, an outdoor ice skating rink comes with skating lessons for little ones. A terrain park for snowboarders and cross country trails and downhill skiing keep everyone busy. Nighttime skiing is another fun option for the family, followed by a bonfire to roast marshmallows. Snowshoeing is also available.
The autumn corn maze is several acres large and has two paths -- one for smaller children and one for teenagers. That, along with hayrides and pumpkin carving, makes for fun fall getaways.
For serious shopping, you'll want to head into downtown Lake Geneva, but you can pick up anything you might have forgotten at onsite White River Gifts & Sundries. Hillcroft's offers high-end clothing and accessories for men and women, but nothing too exciting for kids.
Families visiting the Grand Geneva Resort have a choice of ten dining options, although three of those are open outdoors only in the summer months and others are at the Timber Ridge Lodge and Waterpark, which is accessible by the trolley.
The Grand CafÃƒÂ© is perhaps the most family-friendly and casual of the restaurants at Grand Geneva. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served here, with a la carte and buffet options. The children's menus, presented with a selection of crayons to connect the dots and other educational and entertaining tasks, include plenty of child-size fruits and vegetables served as sides. Gluten-free options are available.
The Geneva Chophouse is open only for dinner and has a little more mature setting, although well-behaved children are welcomed. The kids' menu, which includes mini-pizzas and pasta, is identical to that next door at the Grand CafÃƒÂ©.
Ristorante Brissago is a classic Italian restaurant that's been recognized as one of Wisconsin's top restaurants overall. Your older children may enjoy a mature dinner out with adults.
Cafe Gelato in the lobby may be your family's favorite stop. Milk, coffee and pastries for breakfast, and ice cream and milkshakes are available all day long. Grab a bottle of water or juice before heading out for the day.
Planning & Tips
Don't be surprised at the $15-per-room nightly resort fee. That covers things like the continuously operating trolley, wireless Internet throughout the property, free parking, and a number of other services that some resorts charge for.
All About the Extra
Each season offers new programs for kids -- from summer golf clinics to winter skiing and ice skating lessons. The autumn corn maze and hayrides are a lot of fun for everyone.
The Well Spa is sure to be a hot spot for the women in your family. Lessons on make-up application, along with facials that teach lifelong skin care are among the services offered.
The gym, too, offers classes for teens, like Yoga, and packages that include time with a personal trainer and instruction for climbing a rock wall.
In-room babysitting is available at $20 per hour for up to two children, and then $5 per every child after that. A 24-hour notice is really appreciated, especially on busy weekend nights.
The Art of Smart Timing
The Grand Geneva Resort is extremely popular for families during the summer and certainly during winter and spring breaks from school. The bargain times, therefore, are mid-week during the school year.
Air travelers to Lake Geneva have two choices: The General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee (MKI) is just about an hour to the northeast. Chicago O'Hare (ORD) is about 90 minutes to the southeast. If you happen to have a private pilot in the family, the Grand Geneva has its own 4,100-foot asphalt runway.
The hotels in the Lake Geneva area partner with GoRiteway.com to coordinate transportation from the airports. However, if you truly want to explore downtown Lake Geneva and the Wisconsin countryside, you may wish to rent a vehicle for your family.
For Mom and Dad
An intimate evening, or even a few moments, under the stars and beside an inviting fire, is available just a few steps from your room. The Embers Terrace, certainly the most romantic setting on the property, is a prime spot to enjoy a glass of wine, a cocktail, or share a yummy dessert.
The golf courses are open to those of all ages, but mom and dad will certainly enjoy some time on one of the two 18-hole courses. In the winter, cuddle under the blankets during an evening sleigh ride.