Destination: Lake Geneva, Wis.

Your Chic Travel Guide: Tracy Clifford , buyer for Marissa Collections


Who would have thought Hugh Hefner’s first Playboy Club Hotel would transform into the family-friendly Grand Geneva Resort & Spa? Playboy bunnies and blackjack have been replaced by contemporary amenities like a Scandinavian spa and kids’ recreation center. Designed in vernacular prairie style as homage to regional visionary Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, the property celebrates its 45th anniversary this year with select, throwback prices to its 1968 debut, as well as the new Geneva Club, an exclusive, library-inspired lounge with concierge services and daily spreads from breakfast to afternoon high tea. Escape summer’s peak crowds with a fall visit replete with haunted hayride, or winter’s ski and snowboard access to The Mountain Top. Warm up around the fire pit on Embers Terrace before dinner at Geneva ChopHouse or Ristorante Brissago.


Climb aboard Gage Marine and Geneva Lake Cruise Line’s Lady of the Lake, an iconic steamboat who’s celebrating her 50th birthday this year. The one-hour tour highlights the lake’s history and glorious mansions making up this “Newport of the West.” Clifford says the Wrigley Mansion, Alta Vista and the House in the Woods are not to be missed, whether by boat or foot.


Given the city’s traditional setting, Pier 290 is about as close to a hot spot as it gets. Gage Marine runs the restaurant, which explains its Captain Hook meets Tory Burch décor with an outdoor beach that’s the size of a sandbox but appealing none the less. In between table hopping, locals tuck into Wisconsin white cheddar cheese soup, chilled, poached lake trout and crispy duck with plum chutney. You’ll learn why its motto is good food for good people.

Bring an appetite to Popeye’s, a decades-old eatery that packs them in by the hundreds for its signature rotisserie meats. Besides straight-from-the-spit pulled pork, braised lamb and half chickens, locals lap up their lake perch sandwiches and line up for the Friday fish fry. Sip a Shipwreck Nick, a bloody Mary with citron vodka, while you wait.

More tips: Pick up America’s Dairyland delicacies at The Cheese Box and nurse Hogs and Kisses hangovers at Daddy Maxwell’s diner shaped like an igloo.,,