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Exploring Wisconsin's Lake Geneva - Summer Breezes

Fun Times in a Grand Sport Convertible

Walt Thurn Feb 21, 2012
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As we've noted in the past, a Corvette is the ultimate conveyance for taking extended driving trips and visiting scenic locations throughout the country. Wisconsin in summertime is a perfect place to take such a trip, thanks to its thousands of impressive lakes and scores of quaint towns that beg to be explored.

Recently, Team VETTE had a chance to visit the City of Lake Geneva in a Supersonic Blue six-speed Grand Sport convertible. The popular vacation destination is nestled on the shores of Geneva Lake in the southeastern part of the Badger State.

During our stay we were guests of Pat and Bill Palicka. The couple owns two Corvettes, an Inca Silver '57 and a '10 Machine Silver convertible. The Palickas have lived in Lake Geneva for years, so they were able to and provide us with some historical details about this beautiful city and its surroundings.

Geneva Lake is 21 miles around, three miles wide, and the second-deepest (152 feet) lake in the state. It's well-stocked with fish, making it popular with anglers and recreational boaters alike. The city of Lake Geneva is a summer resort that was established after the Civil War. Wealthy Chicago residents began building waterfront mansions here after the Great Fire of 1871 consumed much of that city.

A great way to view these impressive homes--and enjoy your Corvette's handling in the process--is to take a drive on the curvy roads that encircle the lake. Another way is to hop a ride on the Walworth II, a 75-foot mail-delivery boat. This service began in 1870, and it continues to be a popular tourist attraction from April to November each year. The two-and-a-half-hour cruise takes you to various docks in front of many of the lake's mansions. At each stop, the mail carrier jumps off the boat, delivers the mail, then leaps back onboard. The Walworth II never stops, so athleticism and timing are key.

As an added bonus, when not delivering mail, the carriers provide visitors with a history of the area. One of the highlights is the famous Stone Manor. This is the largest mansion on the lake, and it was built by Otto Young during 1900 and 1901. Young made his money in real estate along State Street in Chicago after the Great Fire. Today the mansion is divided into six 4,000-plus-square-foot residences, each with a prominent view of the lake.

The families behind Wrigley, Montgomery Ward, Sears, Pinkerton, and other business empires also built beautiful estates on the lake. The historic pedigree of these mansions has earned them a designation on the National Register of Historic Places. Hugh Hefner even chose Lake Geneva as the home for the nationally acclaimed Playboy Club & Resort, now known as the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa.

The Walworth II departs from the Riviera, a major landmark in downtown Lake Geneva. It was built in 1932 and was the summer home of many famous Swing Era bands such as Louis Armstrong and Tommy Dorsey. The site was completely restored in the '80s and now houses many shops and businesses on the lower level. A civic center and ballroom are located on the second floor. Another famous downtown landmark is the Baker House, a 17,000-square-foot, 30-room Queen Anne Mansion built in 1885. Over the years, it has served as a summer home, a school dormitory, a sanitarium, a speakeasy (during Prohibition), a lakeside hotel, and the St. Moritz restaurant. Today it is once again a private residence as well as a luxury inn.

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The city of Lake Geneva features many fine shops and restaurants. One of our favorites was Simple, a café that serves food made with locally grown ingredients. It's just one of the many highlights that make this picturesque region an ideal summer travel destination. Thanks again to Pat and Bill Palicka for showing us their hometown, where cool summer breezes are a way of life.




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