Memorial Day Destination: Lake Geneva, WI

If you're still on the fence about next weekend's plans, look no further! Lake Geneva is an easy, 1.5-hour drive from Chicago -- and with a sunny weekend forecast, there will be plenty to do. Last month, Chris and I were there to celebrate our second anniversary, since it's the city where we exchanged "I do's." 

The Riviera sits prominently on the edge of Geneva Lake. This is where Chris and I held our wedding reception.

The Riviera sits prominently on the edge of Geneva Lake. This is where Chris and I held our wedding reception.

We stayed at the Mill Creek Hotel, a quaint cottage-style inn right in the heart of the city. It's the perfect location to take advantage of Main Street shopping and dining, along with the lakefront attractions just a few steps away. But if you're looking for more Memorial Day fun, surrounding resorts like The Abbey have full schedules planned.

Lake Geneva's been a well-known summer playground for Chicago's well-to-do for decades, with historic lakeside summer estates once owned by recognizable names like Rockefeller and Wrigley. While you're in town, check out the well-trimmed mansions with a stroll on the lakefront trail, which circles the entire lake and takes you into the backyards of each gorgeous retreat.

Just one example of the beautiful summer retreats sprinkled along Geneva Lake. Source:  Keefe Real Estate

Just one example of the beautiful summer retreats sprinkled along Geneva Lake. Source: Keefe Real Estate

When we were in town, we spent our time dining, drinking and lazily strolling through downtown -- but there's really so much more to do in this popular weekend destination. Here are some of my favorite things to check out if you happen to make it there next weekend.

Turn Valentine Weekend into a Five-Star Staycation

I'm in the camp that loves Valentine's Day. Flowers, cards and candy? Yes, please. 

This year, Valentine’s Day falls on the Saturday of a long weekend, for those who get President’s Day off. If you’re sticking around home like me, here are some ideas to turn your Valentine’s Day into a romantic staycation.

Valentine's Day last year -- spending a cozy night at home. For Valentine's gift ideas to feed a traveler's spirit, check out my 2015 gift guide  here . 

Valentine's Day last year -- spending a cozy night at home. For Valentine's gift ideas to feed a traveler's spirit, check out my 2015 gift guide here

Set the tone.

Our favorite macarons from the iconic French patisserie,  Laduree . 

Our favorite macarons from the iconic French patisserie, Laduree

Where’s the most romantic place you’ve been together, or somewhere you both dream of going? Think idyllic – places like Italy, France, Napa Valley. Surprise your significant other with a bottle of wine and treats from the region, like French champagne and macarons.

Elevate dinner and a movie. 

Who isn't seduced by James Bond's intriguing  romp through Jamaica  with Honey Rider? Source:  Collider

Who isn't seduced by James Bond's intriguing romp through Jamaica with Honey Rider? Source: Collider

There’s something to be said for the old-fashioned dinner and a movie. Give your typical date night a romantic upgrade by coordinating with the restaurant to have fresh flowers waiting at the table on your arrival. Or, make an elaborate dinner at home and pop in a classic film that inspires your wanderlust – think Dr. No, Midnight in Paris or To Catch a Thief.

Be a local tourist.

Chicago's  The Langham  was just named  TripAdvisor's  #1 U.S. hotel, and the   New York Times   calls it an "elegant, tasteful stay." Source:  International Housewares Association

Chicago's The Langham was just named TripAdvisor's #1 U.S. hotel, and the New York Times calls it an "elegant, tasteful stay." Source: International Housewares Association

Five-star hotel lobbies have an electric energy, even when you’re not staying there. Head to your nearest upscale hotel or resort, and spend the afternoon as a guest – without checking in. Grab lunch at the hotel’s café, followed by drinks at the lobby bar. Ask other patrons about their favorite things to do, and spend the rest of the day following their best suggestions.

  • Quick tip: Do your research to find a hotel or resort with accompanying restaurants, and keep in mind one or two after-dinner ideas in case you don’t get great tips from fellow tourists. 

Get out and explore.

Last summer, we discovered our favorite restaurant in Chinatown,  Lao Sze Chuan , through a fantastic  Chicago Food Planet  walking tour. 

Last summer, we discovered our favorite restaurant in Chinatown, Lao Sze Chuan, through a fantastic Chicago Food Planet walking tour. 

So often, we’re so busy going through our daily routines we don’t notice all our hometowns have to offer. Spend the day with your love uncovering new things to love about your city.

  • For inspiration: Seek out tours or classes you haven’t done yet, like a cooking class or walking food tour. Visit a museum and try to guess each other’s favorite displays. Hop in your car, put on a relaxing playlist and just start driving; stop periodically to grab coffee or lunch and explore new sights you come across.