After a tolerable 75-minute drive from Chicago’s suburbs, we walked into the lobby where businessmen congregated with their laptops, parents corralled their young children, and even small groups of high school kids plunked themselves down on the leather coaches, focused on their cell phones.
During a recent stay as guests of The Abbey, I witnessed all of these different groups vacation together in harmony. Quite impressive.
Around The Abbey
Before I go into detail about the resort, and how it appeased all of these groups simultaneously, let me give you a little primer on the area.
Fontana, where The Abbey is located, is one of the little towns that dot the banks of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The lake itself is lined with historic old-money mansions, stunning new-money mansions, and an array of resorts. A tour of the lake on Lake Geneva Cruise Line will guide you through the area’s history (Tip for parents: take the mid-day Ice Cream Social Cruise, which is the same as the basic tour, but an ice cream sundae cart comes around).
The Lake Geneva area has always had a reputation for being the summer playground for wealthy Chicagoans, and that’s still the case to some extent. It’s not like everyone is walking around in plaid madras and pink polos, but that crowd is here. So are middle class families, retirees, and the college crowd.
The town of Lake Geneva is where the action is. Strolling along blocks of restaurants, bars, ice cream shops, and shopping -- mostly independent places selling everything from souvenir T-shirts to fine art -- makes for a nice post-meal activity.
The Abbey is about a 20-minute drive from Lake Geneva. It’s in a much quieter setting, but still on the lake. Naturally, when we arrived, the first thing my 4- and 7-year-old children said was (you all know what I’m about to say, so let’s say it in unison): “I want to go to the pool!”
Pools at The Abbey
The Abbey has four pools: one that’s adults-only, one for toddlers, one for kids and a large indoor pool.
We spent most of our time in the kids pool, which has side-by-side water slides which adults can fit into, too (good for races). The pool also has basketball nets, and those things that float in the middle of the water -- I’m not sure what you call them -- but several people can climb up on them and then struggle to stand before falling and splashing into the water. The teens at the hotel loved them.
Game Rooms at The Abbey
We hung out a lot in The Abbey’s cool game rooms. Yes, that’s rooms, plural. Expecting to find one or two video games, we discovered an entire arcade of games including air hockey, pool and foosball that our family played together several times.
There also was a long, thin window-covered room lined with tables that had a different board game on each one. You’d never think to sit down and play Yahtzee with your family on a vacation, but this game room turned into a fun place where we spent quality time together.
They also have a movie room full of couches, where popcorn is served or a Wii is set up, but we avoided that room because it seemed too much like something we do at home.
Other Activities at The Abbey
We never lacked something to do, and it was possible to never leave the resort and still be entertained for a weekend. Free planned activities -- like making s’mores at an outdoor fire pit, or movies in the pool -- were scheduled each day. Or, you could pay to rent a boat from The Abbey’s dock and take your family out for a private ride.
A concierge is always seated in the lobby (even at night) to help you book anything around the area you’d want to do. Sometimes discounts are offered to Abbey guests. But we found it fun to just walk around The Abbey’s harbor, look at the fancy boats, and chuckle at the amusing names people give their boats.
The Abbey just sunk millions of dollars into renovating its spa, and it shows. I saw a few women who were staying in the hotel for an attorneys' business conference walking around the spa in their comfy white robes. The spa offers a full-range of services as well as a nicely-appointed gym, which I used at no charge for a morning workout.
The Abbey has a kids club, giving parents the freedom to enjoy the spa or dinner alone. But we were having so much fun as a family, we didn’t feel compelled to use it.
Dining at The Abbey
The restaurants in The Abbey appeased every appetite -- a higher-end restaurant for the businessmen; a barbecue place along the water for the families with live music on weekends; and a carry out coffee-and-muffin place for the teens (and parents of little ones).
Even though we enjoyed our meals at The Abbey and in Lake Geneva, our favorite restaurants were actually outside of town.
We discovered Riga-Tony’s, on Hwy. 50 in Delevan, accidentally. It’s in a strip mall in the middle of a cornfield, and when you walk in, you find a real Italian deli and bakery, with an Italian family working behind the counter. Everything we ordered was authentic and delicious (try the lasagna and the homemade cookies).
At the Lake Geneva Pie Company, which is also just off Hwy. 50 in Lake Geneva, we snarfed down slices of award-winning blueberry and chocolate cream pie which made us say “mmm” out loud with each bite.
The key to the Abbey’s success is its layout. The spa wasn’t near the game room. The restaurant and bar wasn’t near the guest rooms. The business conference center wasn’t near the pool. But nothing felt far away, and our family felt close after a wonderful summer weekend.
Traveling without kids to visit The Abbey.