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Get away to Lake Geneva
By Kathleen Ostrander

Four hours from Springfield is a winter playland of ski slopes, snow sculpting, quaint and elegant shops, premium hotels and restaurants -- with dancing horses and a blizzard of holiday lights to top things off.

Wisconsin's Lake Geneva long has been the playground of the rich and famous from Chicago. It's also far enough to get away but close enough to be approachable for Springfield residents.

Think fresh snow, pristine slopes, companionable firesides, spas and a county that also boasts state-of-the-art snow removal equipment!

Christmas in the Country kicks off on Nov. 22 when the Grand Geneva Resort comes to light with 500,000 lights across the property's 1,300 acres. The six-week festival continues at the resort with holiday displays, teas and even a special Broadway-style musical extravaganza.

The first weekend in December is the citywide Festival of Lights, including a tree-lighting ceremony, the arrival of reindeer and Father Christmas, as well as activities in the downtown. The Great Electric Children's Christmas Parade is Dec. 5. In its 34th year, the parade starts at 5 p.m. and the downtown has shopping and restaurant specials following the parade.

If downhill and cross country skiing, snowboarding, horseback riding and shopping aren't enough, there's the Dancing Horse Theatre in nearby Delavan. Shows at the climate-controlled handicap-accessible theater include an impressive array of horse and trainer talent. There are lunch and dinner theatre performances.

Lake Geneva, in addition to numerous motels and bed and breakfast establishments, has four resorts. The Abbey Resort & Spa in Fontana sits on 90 acres on the shores of Lake Geneva and underwent a $40 million renovation in 2005.

Enjoy the Avani Spa or Chefs Weekends at the Abbey along with two eateries and a huge arcade.

Holiday Inn Club Vacations has one- and two-bedroom villas and includes access to the Grand Geneva Resort and Spa. The grand dame of resorts, Grand Geneva Resort and Spa, includes the Holiday Inn Club, Timber Ridge Lodge and Waterpark as well as the Grand Geneva itself.

Timber Ridge has an all-season water park that offers two gigantic indoor waterslides as well as two activity pools. A Kids Activity Center has 60 arcade games.

It is an all-suite resort with one- and two- bedroom suites including kitchenettes, fireplaces, whirlpool tubs and private balconies.

Grand Geneva Resort recently completed a renovation. Additions include guestrooms with built-in TVs in the bathroom mirrors as well as a re-designed spa. Kids of all ages can enjoy the holidays at the Grand Geneva. And the resort boasts an on-site, FAA-approved airport.   

In addition to the half-million holiday lights, the Grand Geneva goes whole-heartedly into the holidays with at least three months of activities. Beginning in November with the holiday illumination ceremony, there is a gingerbread house display with entries from both professional and amateur decorators.

Every Saturday in December until Christmas, there's a children's holiday song-fest show, and for adults, there's Jingle Bell Jazz Tuesday through Sunday afternoons in the Lobby Lounge.

The Geneva ChopHouse, one of the three main restaurants at Grand Geneva, offers brunch with Santa. In its 10th year, the resort's Christmas musical, "Hooray for Holidays," is a Broadway musical rendition of holiday fare.

If a getaway in November or December is impossible, consider February.

Winterfest in Lake Geneva is from Feb. 3 to Feb. 7. The U.S. National Snow Sculpting Contest is held in Riviera Park. The best snow sculptors from around the nation carve 10-foot blocks of compressed snow into stunning works of art.

During Winterfest, the historic Riviera Ballroom is open to the public, and there's food and entertainment with no cover charge. Winterfest also includes a Winter Carnival at the Grand Geneva. Held at the Mountain Top, the carnival includes the annual ski school, ski patrol demonstrations, snowboarding and ski competitions, children's games and activities and a torchlight parade that ends with -- what else? A Grand fireworks display.



Story published Friday, November 6, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 6 )

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