Designed by esteemed fairway forger Thomas Bendelow—whose prolific career as a course architect earned him the moniker “The Johnny Appleseed of Golf”—Country Club Estates Golf Course’s nine-hole course gently rises and falls over 3,011 yards of kempt greenery. Guests pass through a medieval-style arch to gain access to the course, entering a realm populated by sand traps, water hazards, and squirrels dressed as court jesters. The layout challenges golfers with many shots to blind targets, placing confident swings and sound course management at a premium. Before rounds, players can peruse the pro shop to upgrade aging golf gear or motivate underperforming clubs by introducing them their potential replacements.
Recurring dreams can often be brief and haunting. But 6 miles west of Lake Geneva at a large theater in the center of 40 acres of wooded trails, Dana Montana happily watches her lifelong dream unfold. Here, she takes center stage to introduce up to 300 guests to her beloved purebred Arabian horses that majestically trot out to join her. They entertain audiences alongside expert acrobatic performers and trainers, whose resumés include stints with the Ringling Bros. Circus, Walt Disney World, and Arabian Nights. Garbed in sparkling bridles and feather-plumed headdresses, the magnificent steeds wow the crowd with dazzling footwork and quotes from Shakespeare’s lesser-known horse plays. Montana’s park also presents guests with an exotic bird show, a petting zoo, and a wildlife trail that blooms with fiery colors each fall.
A tractor rumbles along the rolling hills of Green Meadows Petting Farm's back 40 as it pulls hayride passengers toward the farm’s animals' barns and pens. There, hands of all ages can snuggle on the fuzzy fleece of a baby goat or sheep, brush against the bristly hide of the 700-pound Patty the Pig, or comb fingers into the soft mane of Lad the Pony. Farmers on the staff also share insights and anecdotes on the farm and its four-legged friends as guests roam the farm at their leisure. For Charlie and Mavis Keyes, of all the sights and sounds on a farm that's been in the family since 1964, the ones they enjoy most watching and hearing are from the children and parents who come to visit. It's a thrill, Charlie says, to hear the kids say that they had "the best day ever," providing a happy counterpoint to childhood days that include trips to the doctor's and punishments to file and catalogue a sister's dolls' dresses.
More than a century after it blossomed into a circus headquarters and hosted dozens of acts, including P.T. Barnum's legendary Greatest Show on Earth, the town of Delavan proudly exhibits its distinctive past. Big-top tributes can be seen at Tower Park, where statues of circus animals such as a giraffe and an elephant savor their amnesty from mini-golf courses. Delavan's early days live on through Greek Revival architecture that dates back to the mid-1800s, including the Allyn Mansion and the Israel Stowell Temperance House, originally an alcohol-free safe haven that eventually served as a government meeting center.Delavan's quaint downtown district, lined with old-fashioned lampposts and brick-paved walkways, boasts an assortment of antique stores and small cafés. Throughout the rest of the town, well-manicured parks and 13 miles of forested shoreline along Delavan Lake create a scenic backdrop for horseback rides, hiking, water recreation, and composing haikus on the ground with leaves.
Lake Geneva Canopy Tours elevates tree trekkers 10–75 feet above the 100-acre park to zip along an aerial route surrounded by wildlife, mature forest, and tranquil trails. After gearing up, crews practice zipline techniques a few feet above the ground under the watchful eye of guides and judgmental eagles before implementing their recently honed skills on the canopy course. Nine ziplines navigate patrons across the park along with 18 platforms, five SkyBridges, three tree-based spiral stairways, and a double-helix stairway wrapped around an ash tree that holds the genetic code of Tarzan. Upon reuniting with terra firma, customers conclude their 2.5-hour eco adventure by gearing down and penning thank-you notes to hawks encountered on the expedition. Lake Geneva Canopy Tours begins its daily sessions at 8 a.m. and sends its last group skyward at 3 p.m.
Mrs. Robert Hall Baker built a lakeside summer residence in 1885 that she called “the Redwood Cottage.” Despite the humble name, Emily Baker’s residence was no quaint bungalow. She commissioned a Queen Anne mansion, now restored, that still houses 17,000 square feet of living space with a peaked turret, 30 lavishly appointed rooms, 13 fireplaces surrounded by hand-carved mantles, antique tiles, and a lakefront garden. Since its days as a summer retreat for Emily and her five children, the house has led a colorful life. It thrived as a Victorian sanitarium for wealthy patrons suffering from nervous disorders, a Prohibition-era speakeasy, and a boarding-house for Playboy Club burlesque dancers, before becoming a restaurant and lakefront hotel.
Today, renamed the Baker House in honor of its founder, the mansion is again a private residence that doubles as a luxury inn, restaurant, and portal through time back to the Gilded Age. Visitors can listen to the house's player piano in the music room, play backgammon in a game room, and sip glasses of wine fireside. In scenic settings lauded in USA TODAY as a romantic destination, guests enjoy dishes from a menu that features artisanal Wisconsin cheeses and charcuterie, filet mignon, and butter-broiled lobster tail. Rather than sitting in one central dining room, guests are seated throughout fire-lit parlors while lounging on wing-back chairs and overstuffed fringe couches overlooking Lake Geneva.
Visitors who want to indulge further in a Gilded Age fantasy can spend the evening in a luxury hotel suite decked in dramatic decor, working fireplaces, ornate woodwork, and SPA bathrooms with steam showers. A personal butler is continually on staff to tend to guests' needs.