Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Discovering Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, sounded like one of those classic resort towns that a travel writer, like me, ought to know. So, I hopped a flight and began to explore. I came home with plenty of reasons to encourage others to visit, and I’m seriously considering a personal return next summer. It’s my kind of place. 

Wadsworth Hall, one of the many mammoth mansions on Lake Geneva.

Lake Geneva’s grand waterfront awed me and felt so relaxing, yet the place initially was called “Maunk-suck” (Big Foot) for a Potawatomi chief. Later it was named Geneva after the quiet town of Geneva, New York. The destination eventually became known as Lake Geneva to avoid confusion with the nearby Geneva, Illinois. 

Stone Manor sits on a bluff overlooking the lake.

Attracted by the fresh air, clear lake and scenic vistas, the community prospered and grew. Chicago’s wealthy businessmen started going there to hunt and fish. The Midwest’s great moguls, like Wrigley, Kellogg, Maytag and beer baron Conrad Seipp, liked it so much, they built opulent summer homes. A rail line opened in 1871 bringing more people to the area, and it gained the nickname “The Newport of the West.” 

Part of the Wrigley Estate on Lake Geneva.

Then, in October 1871, Chicago suffered its Great Fire, an event that oddly benefited Lake Geneva. Numerous families escaped the burning city on the train and stayed through the winter waiting for city homes to be rebuilt. While life in the big city slowly resumed, the Chicagoans cherished memories of summering in Lake Geneva and kept returning. Even today, about 80 percent of the summer residents have roots in Chicago.

You’ll find Lake Geneva’s old-fashion main street about 80 minutes from Chicago, and 45 minutes from Milwaukee. Boutique shops, non-chain restaurants, coffee shops and bars do a brisk business. Fall foliage, Oktoberfest, a winter ice sculpture extravaganza, and of course, ice fishing keep the pace going year-round. 

Downtown Pier in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

No trip to the region is complete without a guided cruise showcasing the spectacular lakefront mansions. The script from the cruise line sounds like it was lifted from the show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. You need only look at the yachts and boathouses to see the owners’ rank among the country’s highest tax brackets. 

One of several Lake Geneva Cruise Boats used for tours and mail delivery.

The best way to work off those splurge- worthy vacation meals is to walk a portion or all the way around the scenic 21-mile lake path. I took a guided tour past some of the mansions and loved learning their behind-the-scenes stories. 

A section of the 21-mile lakefront path.

Touring inside the Black Point Estate, a fabulous high Victorian style mansion built in 1887-8 for beer baron Conrad Seipp, brings a taste of the bygone lifestyle. The property stayed in the family until 2005, much unchanged, until it was gifted to the State. (Group tours via ferry boar or motor coach only.) 

High Victorian style Black Point Estate on Lake Geneva.
I loved this dollhouse on display in Black Point Estate.

When I return, (I’m getting more and more positive) I’ll stay in either the Baker House or Maxwell Mansion, two historic downtown properties with plenty of character. They make ideal getaways for couples or a girls’ escape. The gardens of these boutique hotels feel magical, flaunting their Gilded Age glamour. The interiors include fire-lit parlors, period dining spaces and enticing bars- and beverages. A personal butler comes with your room in the Baker House. They hope you’ll get in the Victorian spirit and encourage guests to wear hats, chosen from many on display.

Trying on a hat in the Baker House.

The Baker House Dining Room overlooks Lake Geneva.

The main portion of Maxwell House sports a dark and moody Speakeasy Lounge in the basement. A drinking well that begs you to waste away a few hours. An on-property addition looks like a stable, but contains equestrian-style themed guest rooms. Even if you stay elsewhere, make reservations for Champagne brunch, high tea or dinner at one of these two historic inns. 

The gorgeous Maxwell House called to me.

Lake Lawn Resort, a few miles from downtown, is a family place where generations have returned to vacation in rustic style overlooking two miles of Delavan Lake shoreline. The 140-year old resort has seen additions and continual updates and renovations and offers a full array of indoor and outdoor activities. I stayed here and hated to leave the captivating property. Many guest suites include full kitchens, entertaining areas, lofts and patios with lake views, perfect for weeklong escapes. 

One of many lobbies in Lake Lawn Resort.

If you are headed toward Wisconsin, don’t miss dipping your toes in glorious Lake Geneva. For more info: visitlakegeneva.com.

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

I apologize that my photos lack sunshine. They were taken on a a few rainy days I encountered while visiting Lake Geneva. I am sure the sun shines often and gives the lake a lovely glow — just not during my visit!!

Osthoff’s Aspira Spa Ranks High

Candles and flickering fire light the Aspira Spa
Candles and flickering fires light the Aspira Spa

I wrote the story below for CityRoomStories.com over a year ago, but wanted to add it to my own website after seeing a 2013 spa report.  Conde Nast Traveler magazine ranked the Osthoff Resort as the third best spa in the United States.  In fact, Aspira scored in the hundredth percentile for staff knowledge and service.  Pretty incredible to have an award winning spa at Elkhard Lake,  a tiny town in Wisconsin.

Aspira: On the Banks of Elkhart Lake

Aspira means ‘infused with spirit’ and there’s no better way to describe the holistic, healing spa at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.  As soon as you walk in, you detect palpable energy while simultaneously sensing calm. The 20,000 square-foot spa was created as a place to take one’s journey – a place to move forward in nature and peace.

The Osthoff Resort in Winter
The Osthoff Resort in Winter

Lola Roeh, General Manager of the resort, was the force behind its creation and she is truly one of those special people who radiate enthusiasm, yet display elegance and dignity.  She quietly explained, “Aspira was borne on the banks of our lake, considered sacred by the Native Americans who lived here. Shaped like an elk’s heart, the lake bestows its powerful natural energy upon all who encounter it. Our logo, a three-spiral symbol from the ancient Uighur civilization, identifies this as a mind, body and spiritual journey.”

In my travels, I have been fortunate to receive treatments in a number of top ranked spas, but honestly Aspira reigns. The meditation sanctuary, designed with concentric circles and the elements earth, wind, fire and water, anchors the facility and evokes contemplation. Guests are invited to stay in the serene environment, the heart of the spa, as long as they wish.

Walk down the hall and your feet notice a softness that ebbs from the hand scraped wooden planks on the floor. Pass ancient fossils, tribal ornaments, symbolic artwork and trickling fountains before entering rooms that inspire an aura of self- care. I subconsciencously perceived my upcoming massage as an opportunity to heal instead of thinking it self-indulgent.

I began by entering the therapeutic chromatub which contains 260 underwater air jets and colored lights. Sound vibrations filled the air and reverberated through the water.  I was soon overcome with a feeling of bliss, soaking away my worries and muscular aches. I also received a deep tissue hydro-massage through a special pressurized hose. Next, I proceeded to a room with an adjustable massage table arranged beside a fireplace of glowing embers. My therapist placed hot deerskin bags filled with water drawn from Elkhard Lake on my chakra points. These remained in place while she gave me a soothing full-body rubdown. This, the signature Sacred Waters treatment, was repeated when I turned over. By the time my therapist was finished, I was profoundly relaxed, just a bowl of mush.

Elderberry Facial
Elderberry Facial

The next morning I returned to Aspira for an Elderberry facial. This special service incorporated macerated wild elderberries that were gathered from the hillsides and woods near the lake. My skin was gently scrubbed, exfoliated, treated with a nourishing mask and then infused with moisturizers. While the aroma-soaked mask penetrated my face and neck, I received hand, foot and scalp massage.  Aahh, these services are truly stress reducing.

Aspira professionals offer Reiki healing treatments, myofascial release, energy work, lymphatic treatments, chakra balancing and an array of other massages and facials. They introduced the concept of a SpaSuite: an all-encompassing spa experience with changing rooms, treatments room, showers and relaxation area in one large private suite.

Guests may also receive salon services such as manicures, pedicures, waxing and hair styling. Yoga classes are schedule throughout the day within the confines of the tranquil spa.

Aspira lies almost hidden within the vast Osthoff Resort complex, but it shouldn’t be. The spa is a world-class facility drawing local treatments from the surrounding land and lake, well worth a visit.

The Egg Lady of Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

The Egg Lady

Egg Harbor, a small town in scenic Door County, Wisconsin, is home to a local celebrity known as the Egg Lady. As you might expect, the Egg Lady or Kathleen Mand Beck looks forward to Easter with great egg-citment.  Actually, she becomes enthusiastic about anything involving eggs.

Kathy established an Egg Museum, located within the Dovetail Gallery, her shop, to share her love and knowledge of eggs with others.  Why, in little Egg Harbor, Wisconsin you can view a 70 million year old Hypselosaurus dinosaur egg formerly owned by Steven Spielberg.

Turn the corner and find glass cabinets containing a rare collection of over 70 species of wild bird eggs.  This egg-stra special display arrived in 2007 from a family from Appleton, Wisconsin. Seems youngsters collected these eggs decades ago and the specimens were hidden in an attic. A special mandatory permit had to be acquired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, to grant the public showing.

Kathy felt her museum was not complete until it included a Faberge egg and indeed she has one with cloisonné enameling, a trademark of Peter Carl Fabergé. He was a famous goldsmith and jeweler to the Russian Czars and European aristocracy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In addition, Dovetail’s Egg Museum also exhibits nearly 500 decorated eggs from around the world, including many crafted by Kathy herself. I was enchanted with an egg radio from Prague, a German zippered egg, a globe from New York and a Texas rhea egg purse.  Ethnic, antique, contemporary, and whimsical… all varieties of decorated egg styles are on display and for purchase in the gallery.

Kathy’s next big dream is to showcase an eagle egg. The only people allowed to keep an egg or feather from this awesome, symbolic bird are Native American Indians, but one could be displayed on loan in the gallery.

Should you be hopping around for an Easter present or unusual gift any time of the year, call upon the Egg Lady.  I’m sure you will discover Door County makes a delightful getaway for a multitude of seasonal recreation options and local farm fresh food.

If you go:


The northeastern Wisconsin location sits on a 70-mile long sliver of land that juts out into Lake Michigan and includes five state parks, eleven lighthouses and 300 miles of shoreline. Additional information on Egg Harbor and Door County at: www.doorcounty.com


7901 State Hwy 42 • Egg Harbor, Wisconsin,

Door County Peninsula