This Wisconsin resort has long been booked up in the summers, but it’s becoming the ultimate wintertime destination for families looking for a quick snow-filled getaway
The sub-freezing temps have officially hit the midwest, and we get it: the desire to hitch a ride on the next plane out to warmer weather is as real as the frost building up on your windows. But before you go booking that pricy roundtrip airfare, have you considered leaning into the snowy season?
If you’re willing to brave a few extra layers (and a healthy supply of HotHands warming pouches!), the ideal wintertime getaway is actually not very far away at all. In fact, if you’re based in Chicago, it’s just a 90-minute drive away—which, let’s be honest, is barely longer than a commute downtown during rush-hour traffic. So, where is this dream destination? Along the rolling Wisconsin countryside of Lake Geneva.
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Of course, Lake Geneva is an obvious choice in the summer months—with its ample beaches, golf courses, orchards, and water adventures—but it’s become something of a sleeper sensation during the typical “off-season” months from January through April.
And perhaps most well-equipped for a wintry weekend (or week!) away is the Grand Geneva Resort and Spa, one of the most scenic spots you could choose for your family, no matter the season. Here’s what you can add to your all-ages itinerary this winter without ever even leaving the 1,300-acre resort:
5 Things to Do at Grand Geneva Resort in the Winter
1. Cozy Up In an Igloo
Looking for a picturesque dining experience you won’t soon forget? Book a reservation with one of the resort’s coveted igloos. These heated clear domes are adorably lit up (think: Instagram-worthy neon lights demanding you to “Stay Cozy”) and outfitted with comfy couches, chairs, coffee tables, and blankets.
The menu is filled with shareable plates and snacks, but we recommend jumping straight to dessert, in which guests can opt for a s’mores board that comes with a personal solo stove and sticks for fireside roasting. But if sticky campfire sandwiches aren’t your thing, fear not: in addition to jumbo marshmallows, graham crackers, and Godiva chocolates, this spread also features just-out-of-the-oven cookies, truffles, and strawberries alongside an abundance of dipping sauces—we’re talking caramel, peanut butter mousse, and Nutella.
And although kiddos can sip hot cocoa or spiced apple cider, the igloos offer an exclusive lineup of signature cocktails (the white peppermint martini is intensely refreshing!) and hot toddies.
Each igloo fits up to six guests, and on busy nights, advance reservations are kept to roughly 90 minutes. Instead of steep drink minimums or the required purchase of bottle service that comes with many urban Igloo experiences, Grand Geneva requires a non-refundable fee ($50 fee on weekdays, and $65 on weekends) per igloo. With only a handful on property, this is perhaps the hottest ticket in town, so book it as soon as you can.
Insider Tip: Every igloo experience comes with a portable Bluetooth speaker, so be sure to cue up your readied playlist and set whatever mood you’d like.
2. Hit the Slopes at The Mountain Top
Avid skiers and snowboarders will be shocked at how much shredding is possible in southern Wisconsin and among the 20 downhill ski runs at The Mountain Top. Grand Geneva’s official ski zone is designed for all ages and abilities, so guests can conquer the slopes—including a handful of jaw-dropping double-black and black diamond courses—or bop along the bunny hill.
The ski resort also boasts three chair lifts, two “magic carpet” lifts (think of them as those airport “people movers” on an incline!), and a six-acre terrain park perfect for cross-country skiing. But perhaps one of the most beloved aspects of the Mountain Top are its hours—and the opportunity to go night skiing until 9 or 10 p.m. any night of the week.
Another perk is that you don’t need to worry about booking lift tickets based on impossible-to-predict weather conditions. Grand Geneva’s snowmaking abilities allow the ski resort to remain open even when there’s no snowfall.
For those new to skiing or snowboarding, Grand Geneva is a perfect entry point—far less intimidating that monstrous mountain resorts out west. Not only can you rent all the gear you need, including helmets, at the ski chalet, but you can also sign up for a bevy of classes. For instance, with the popular 90-minute private or semi-private lessons, certified instructors will encourage beginners (young and old alike!) to build confidence and basic skills. Even advanced students can get trained on the latest skiing or snowboarding techniques with a refresher course.
Insider Tip: Affordable half-day sessions are available for children (three- to six-year-olds can enroll in Snow Cubs and seven- to 13-year-olds can join Mountain Mites) on weekends, and they provide a nice block of time for parents to get some runs in on their own.
3. Explore More Snow . . . and Ice!
The slopes are a major wintertime draw to be sure, but it’s wise to save some time for Grand Geneva’s surprisingly long list of other outdoor wintertime adventures. Consider snowshoeing throughout more than five miles of trails, or if you prefer to stay as close to apres-ski options as possible, there’s an outdoor ice skating rink and a dedicated sledding hill, both situated alongside the base of the Mountain Top’s ski hills.
The sledding area is ideal for children—big enough to provide thrills but small enough for even the littlest sets of legs to handle the walk back up.
Insider Tip: Although you may have luck just showing up, consider booking a 1.5-hour slot for ice skating or sledding in advance to be safe. And if you have room, pack your own sled. Otherwise, it’s a $10 rental fee on top of access to the hill.
Of course, Leinenkugel’s Mountain Top Lodge is the perfect place to put your feet up and still take in all the wintertime action. Truly, the lodge’s outdoor rooftop patio—complete with a fire pit and heat lamps—provides a front-row seat to some of the steepest slopes, and most impressive skiers and snowboarders, in all of Wisconsin.
4. Warm Up at Timber Ridge Lodge’s Waterpark
OK, OK, it might feel like a cop-out to plan a pool day during a winter-wonderland-style trip, but what better way to warm up than with a dip in Grand Geneva’s luxe indoor pool? Better yet, families are going to want to skip straight ahead to Moose Falls, the 50,000-square-foot waterpark located inside Timber Ridge Lodge, another one of Grand Geneva’s properties. At a balmy 86 degrees, it’s the ultimate reward for time spent outside in the freezing cold.
The waterpark features 35-foot-high slides that take you on an epic 300-foot adventure of twists and turns, eventually leading you to a—because it bears repeating—heated pool. For a more tame ride, unwind in The Lazy River for more than 500 feet of relaxation. There’s also a “Tiny Timbers” section, which offers swings, slides, spouts, and playful water tables to help babies and toddlers get adjusted to water.
Insider Tip: For parents needing a moment away, sneak off to the indoor-outdoor hot tub tucked away in the far corner of the water park. Children six and older are allowed in, but it usually serves as a serene sanctuary from the all-ages adventures just inside.
5. Enjoy Family-Friendly Activities Without Leaving the Hotel
Determined to stay inside and dry? There’s nothing an hour curled up by the fire in the Grand Geneva’s main lobby can’t cure, but families also have access to an action-packed schedule of activities. From complimentary trivia, bingo, and “Minute to Win It” mini-challenges to creative arts-and-crafts sessions, nearly every hour offers something to stave off boredom. Make your own snowflakes, paint a ceramic piggybank, build a stuffed animal (in which you add a heart and fill out its birth certificate!), or experiment with oobleck. The hotel even offers 6 p.m. movie nights, free of charge.
It might seem strange, but exploring the hotel itself is a worthy endeavor. And if you get lost once or twice (or, we won’t judge, a handful of times) while walking around the hotel, there’s at least a good reason for it: The resort’s layout is a tribute to the famous Frank Lloyd Wright, the patriarch of Prairie School-style architecture, which is more common in this part of Wisconsin. Wright’s signature designs influenced the look and feel of the low-rise buildings of Grand Geneva, from the stone and wood materials to the maze-like corridors to the fact that the property was literally built into the hillside.
And, of course, cozying up in your hotel room is as wintertime-approved as it gets. All units feature balconies overlooking scenic views of those very hills, and smart TVs that can be synced up with any of your favorite streaming services (the bathroom mirror even has a TV embedded in it!).
In particular, families with young kids will love the oversized bathtubs for washing away chlorine. And parents who may want to leave age-appropriate children alone in the room for a bit will appreciate an added safety feature: Peep holes in the doors are located about four feet high so kids can check on who’s knocking before opening the door.
Insider Tip: If you want housekeeping to freshen up your room during your stay, don’t forget to request “stay over service” upon check-in. To respect guests’ privacy following COVID, the hotel has made this an opt-in service for guests.
Editor’s note: This trip was paid for by Grand Geneva Resort and Spa, but all opinions belong to the writer.