Photo courtesy Grand Geneva Resort & Spa
Anyone who has ever watched a Hallmark Christmas movie knows that there is nothing quite as special as spending the holiday season in a charming small town. That is doubly true for the small towns of the Lake Geneva area, which go all out every year to make sure that there are plenty of magical holiday experiences for locals and visitors alike. (Did you know that Elkhorn is known as the “Christmas Card Town”?) We’ve rounded up a list of the many fun, family-friendly holiday activities available in the Lake Geneva area this winter, from Christmas parades to brunches with Santa to holiday light festivals to classic Christmas theater. Whatever your family’s favorite holiday traditions, this year, you’re sure to find something fun for all ages at the lake.
- Friday, Dec 1: Burlington 41st Annual Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting. Parade viewing from historic downtown Burlington and a tree lighting ceremony afterward. Santa and Mrs. Claus, caroling and music will accompany the tree lighting. Parade begins at 6:30 p.m. in downtown Burlington; tree lighting to follow in Wehmhoff Square Park; (262) 763-6044 or experienceburlingtonwi.org.
- Saturday, Dec 2: 48th Annual Lake Geneva Electric Christmas Parade. Begins at 5 p.m., downtown Lake Geneva; (262) 248-4416 or visitlakegeneva.com.
- Saturday, Dec 2: Christmas Parade Train, Mukwonago to East Troy. A holiday tradition dating back to 1972. Spectators can catch a glimpse of Santa on the train from inside their heated vehicles along County Road ES. The parade train departs the Elegant Farmer at 5:05 p.m. and arrives at approximately 6:30 p.m. in East Troy. Call (262) 642-3263 or visit easttroyrr.org.
- Saturday, Dec 2: Elkhorn Annual Christmas Card Town Parade. Christmas decorated floats, novelty acts, music, animals and Santa and Mrs. Claus. 1:30 p.m., downtown Elkhorn; (262) 723-5788 or elkhornchamber.com.
- Grand Geneva’s Illumination Ceremony. 11/19, 4:30-8 p.m. Grand Geneva Resort & Spa flips the switch to start the season, with over-the-top holiday displays, lights, animated designs, grand Christmas trees, and plenty of photo opportunities to capture the holiday cheer. Featuring activities for kids, holiday cookies, hot apple cider, a dazzling fireworks display and an appearance from the big guy himself, Santa Claus! Guests are asked to bring an unwrapped, new toy for local children. The event will support Walworth County Deputy Sheriff Department and its Toys for Kids program. Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, Lake Geneva; (262) 248-8811 or grandgeneva.com.
- Brunch with Santa at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa. 11/20, 11/25-11/26, 12/2-12/3, 12/9-12/10, 12/16-12/17, 12/23. Seatings from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Cost is $55 for adults and $25 for kids ages 3-12. Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, Lake Geneva. Call (262) 394-4788 for reservations.
- Christmas Night Trains. 11/24-11/25, 11/30, 12/1, 12/7-12/9, 12/13, 12/15-12/16. Enjoy a magical experience on Santa’s Special Evening Trains riding in first-class dining cars, complete with cookies, hot chocolate, adult hot chocolate or a beer for the adults. Santa’s Special ride will take you from the East Troy Depot to Santa’s workshop located at the Elegant Farmer. Here children can visit Santa. Trips leave from the East Troy Railroad Depot, 5 p.m. Online advanced reservations required. East Troy Depot, East Troy;. call (262) 642-3263 or visit easttroyrr.org.
- Daytime Christmas Train. 11/24-11/26, 11/30; 12/1-12/3, 12/7-12/10, 12/13, 12/15-12/17. Ride the Christmas Train from the East Troy Depot to Santa’s workshop located at the Elegant Farmer. Here children can visit Santa. The total experience is two hours in duration, consisting of 30 minutes on the train to the Elegant Farmer, 1 hour at the Elegant Farmer, and a 30 minute train ride back to the East Troy Depot. Trips leave from the East Troy Railroad Depot, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Online advanced reservations required. East Troy Depot, East Troy;. call (262) 642-3263 or visit easttroyrr.org.
- Santa Cruise. 11/24-12/30. Embark on a magical Christmas cruise to Santa’s North Pole Hideaway. Along your lake tour, you will be enchanted by holiday lights and displays, plus an appearance by the Big Man himself. Through Dec. 30. Lake Geneva Cruise Line, Gage Marine – Winter Harbor, 1 Leichty Dr., Williams Bay. Call (262) 248-6206 or visit santacruiselakegeneva.com for tickets.
- Breakfast with Santa at Lake Lawn Resort. 11/25, 12/3, 12/16. Enjoy a fully stocked breakfast buffet, enjoy a wagon ride around the property and meet Santa himself. Tickets are $27.50 for adults or $14.25 for kids. Seatings at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., Lake Lawn Resort, Delavan. Call (262) 725-9214 for reservations.
- Santa’s Lighting Up Fontana. 11/25. Experience the beginning of the Christmas season when Santa Claus lights up Fontana. The Abbey Resort, Fontana; (262) 275-9000 or theabbeyresort.com.
- Brunch with Santa at The Abbey Resort. 11/26, 12/3, 12/10, 12/17, 12/24: Meet the man himself and get a photo during Harborside Sunday Brunch a la Carte at 240 West. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m, 240 West, The Abbey Resort, Fontana; (262) 275-9000 or theabbeyresort.com.
- Parade of Trees. 11/18-12/31. Admire Christmas trees decorated by local businesses and individuals while touring the museum. Geneva Lake Museum, Lake Geneva. Call (262) 248-6060 or visit genevalakemuseum.org/parade-of-trees.
- Gingerbread House Walk. 11/19-12/31: Explore artisan gingerbread houses at your own pace. 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, Lake Geneva; (262) 248-8811 or grandgeneva.com.
- Trolley Tour of Lights. 11/20-12/30. Hop aboard the festive Grand Geneva trolley for a memorable tour around the resort to see all of the outdoor holiday light displays. Enjoy the view with 3D glasses, transforming the vibrant lights into a mesmerizing spectacle, and sing-a-long to the 12 days of Christmas. Prepare to be entertained by Santa’s elves, who bring the holiday spirit to life. It’s not just a tour; it’s a joyous celebration of the holidays. Tickets for non-resort guests are $20/adults, $15 for children 3-12. Tours leave from 5-8 p.m. on the hour; advanced reservations are required. Visit grandgeneva.com.
- Fourth Annual Let It Glow Festival. 12/1-12/3. Free holiday festival, featuring whimsical light displays, Balsam Boulevard and Santa viewings. Friday 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Uncle Hunk’s Junk Building & Park, 203 E. Walworth St., Elkhorn; (262) 723-5788 or elkhornchamber.com.
- World’s Tallest Glass Tree. 12/1-12/3, 12/8-12/10, 12/15-12/17. Rob Elliot and glass artist Jason Mack are set to return to once again build the World’s Tallest Glass Tree using recycled glass bottles donated by the community. Fridays 4-7 p.m., Saturdays, 12-7 p.m., Sundays, 3-5 p.m. Free to attend; must park in Williams Bay High School parking lot. Yerkes Observatory, Williams Bay; worldtallestglasstree.com.
- Home for the Holidays at Old World Wisconsin. 12/2-12/3, 12/9-12/10, 12/16-12/17. Explore vibrant holiday traditions brought to Wisconsin by immigrant ancestors while creating new holiday memories. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Old World Wisconsin, Eagle; (608) 264-4848 or oldworldwisconsin.wisconsinhistory.orgfor tickets.
- East Troy Lights. 12/2-12/31. A holiday light show attraction timed to music to broadcast on 90.9FM. Shows begin on the hour from 5-9 p.m. nightly. Additional activities include the Candy Cane Adventure, light tunnels, hot chocolate, cookie decorating and holiday performances. East Troy Square, downtown East Troy; visit easttroylights.com.
- “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” 12/8-12/10. Performed by the Haylofters. Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tickets are $10. Malt House Theatre, Burlington; (262) 763-9873 or thehaylofters.com.