The timing of our arrival at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa couldn’t have been more exciting if it were scripted. The property, originally constructed as the Lake Geneva Playboy Club Hotel in the late 1960s, is buzzing with bunny ears, vintage cars and attire revealing enough to make Cher blush. On this would-be quiet summer day, a corporate party and wedding are energizing this tucked-away lakeside resort.
In its heyday, the sprawling 355-room property was an entertainer’s haven, luring high-profile celebrities such as Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Liza Minelli and Sonny and Cher from the bright city lights to the quiet rolling hills of Lake Geneva. A present-day engineering office used to function as a recording studio—that, along with 1,300 meandering acres, a private airstrip, two championship golf courses and the promise of exclusivity set the stage for the 4-star Grand Geneva’s rise as a top Midwest resort.
There’s Gold in These Hills
During an Amazing Race-style scavenger hunt, we’re swept through grassy, tree-laden knolls to view some of the resort’s perks, including the WELL Spa + Salon & Fitness Center.
Himalayan salt lamps in treatment rooms emit ions that are said to neutralize the negative impact of modern technology—television, computers and other devices—on the body. The Himalayan ‘positivity’ session builds on this concept with a massage and salt scrubs. Though entirely unsure of the lamps’ success, the consensus is that it’s tempting to stay in the immediately calming atmosphere. Our Gran Race Team is soon whisked away, however, and harnessed up to climb a 35-foot-tall wall nearby. Other popular activities carried out here include yoga, cycling, swimming and indoor/outdoor tennis.
“Our Grand Race Team team building is customized to fit your group,” says Courtney Nobilio, director of marketing communications for the property. “We can add in more physical challenges, or activities to slow things down a little too.” Nobilio is excited to tell us about the new Clean the World teambuilding program, where groups assemble disease-preventing hygiene kits that are donated to the non-profit, Clean the World.
The Thick of It
Grand Geneva Resort & Spa’s campus-style offers 62,000 sf of state-of-the-art event space. Interiors are earthy, warm and airy, much like you’d expect from a Frank Lloyd Wright-infused design. Meeting rooms bring the elements indoors with built-in views of the meandering landscape.
After a quick trolley ride to The Mountain Top, a steep multi-use mountain, we arrive to cheers from the sidelines of the Gladiator Assault Challenge, a Navy SEAL-like mud run course with 36 grueling obstacles spread over six miles. The Mountain Top, anchored by the Mountain Top Ski Chalet, transforms into a ski and snowboarding hill the first week of December through mid-March. After a good Midwest snow, cross-country ski trails and snowshoeing, skiing and snowboarding lessons. An ice skating rink and sledding are offered nearby under an outdoor pavilion.
And Then We Eat
Grand Geneva’s culinary offerings are locally sourced—and it shows. All five of the resort’s restaurants use fresh herbs and vegetables from an on-site garden. One of our favorites was the Ristorante Brissago, with regionally made pastas, cheeses, olive oils and desserts complement a nice selection of Italian wines. For an authentic dose of Wisconsin’s culinary flair, book a beer and cheese tasting. A glass of Wisconsin Amber from Capital Brewery with a cranberry chipotle cheese pairing really hits the spot on a warm summer evening.