"The genteel town of Lake Geneva may be in southern Wisconsin, but with its location just 10 miles north of the state line, Chicago-area residents have long laid claim to this popular vacation area. Geneva Lake, a deep, spring-fed beauty some 21 miles in circumference, sits right on the town's doorstep, while three other smaller lakes add to the region's resort-like feel, luring legions of boaters, golfers, and multiple-generation vacationers.
The railroad first carried Chicago's elite north tot he cool waters and woods of Lake Geneva in the mid-19th century, where they built elaborate summer homes along the lake shore. But it was the great Chicago fire of 1871 that established Lake Geneva as the "Newport of the West" or "Hamptons of the Midwest." Having lost their homes and businesses, leading industrialists with names like Wrigley, Maytag, and Montgomery Ward sought refuge here, building even more palatial estates and commuting back and forth to Chicago.
You can enjoy a casual view of the mansions and their vast emerald lawns on foot thanks to a 26-mile Shore Path that wends along the lake shore, traversing parks and estates. Longstanding tradition rather than law keeps this former Indian footpath open to the public, so be sure to respect the generosity of the owners and stay on the path itself when strolling to your heart's content. The greatest concentration of mansions lies along the north shore, so Lake Geneva's Library Park is a good starting point.
Lake Geneva Cruise Lines offers mansion tours, which provide informative narration about estates like Green Gables (the original gateway for the shewing gum Wrigley's) and Stone manor. Or sign on for the company's Mailboat Tour, one of the last such marine postal services in the country."
Here's some more info about the marvelous mailboat tour I'm so glad I took: "Featured over the years in People Magazine and the Wall Street Journal and on NBC'S Today Show, CNN News, CBS Sunday Morning with Bill Geist and most recently on the Travel Channel's Bizarre World with Andrew Zimmern, the US Mailboat carries on a tradition that began back in 1870. The Walworth takes passengers on this one of a kind tour which is the only marine mail delivery of its type in the country. Loaded with 150 passengers, mail, a very brave and agile Mailperson, and a steady handed Captain, the crew delivers mail to about 60 homes around the lake. The tour operates every day at 10am - including Sundays when they deliver newspapers - from June 15 to September 15.
Our Mailperson leaps off the bow of the boat onto the pier, places the mail into the box, grabs outgoing mail, and jumps back aboard. The only hitch is the boat never stops!
The "hazzards" our Mailperson faces are a little different than the ones your mail carrier faces. Things like wet paint on piers, rafts and floating toys to dodge, an the occasional prank of someone tying the mailbox shut, can delay the Mailperson's return to the boat just enough to make the return trip a wet one!"
For more info on Lake Geneva mansions click here: http://www.lakegenevawi.com/Discovery/Mansions.aspx
After the wonderful, unique 2 1/2 hour tour of the gorgeous mansions of Lake Geneva I stolled Main Street lined with shops and eateries, and tried a delicious shrimp and brie dish!
View video of a home modeled after Jefferson's home:
Watch the mail carrier jump to and from the boat:
View video of another mansion:
View video of Stone Manor, the largest mansion on Lake Geneva: