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Fall Color Report

A Dazzling Autumn by Design

The secret behind Lake Geneva's magnificent fall color display

Every year, the Fall Color Report issued by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism predicts when trees will hit their peak of color in cities across the state. Yet, due to a little known secret, Lake Geneva has always been the place for the most dramatic, longest lasting autumn display. The next time you take a drive in Lake Geneva in the fall, you can thank America's foremost landscape architects for the spectacular view.

Lake Geneva Mansion
Among these are Stone Manor (officially Younglands), the 18,000 square foot magnificent Italianate palace with a 250' veranda and an expansive lawn visible from downtown Lake Geneva

When many of Chicago's elite built estates on Lake Geneva beginning in the late 1800s, they didn't stop with just their mansions. Several went on to hire America's foremost landscape architects to design the grounds. For estates like Wrigley's Green Gables, a top request was to have the longest lasting color display possible.

According to John Notz, Jr., a Chicago lawyer and amateur historian, these "artists" who help paint the area with beautiful fall colors include John Charles Olmsted son of the founder of American landscape architecture; Jens Jensen, Danish landscape architect of Humboldt Park in Chicago's West Town neighborhood; and Olof Benson, designer of Chicago's Lincoln Park North Pond. Projects include:

  • ·Grommes' Allview estate—Danish landscape architect Jens Jensen designed enchanting woods on the lake side of the residence with a mile-long "maple alley."
  • ·The estates of Hutchinson, Harris, Swift, Bartlett and the Yerkes Observatory—designed by John Charles Olmsted.
  • ·The famed "Wychwood" estate, a country home for then president of the Art Institute of Chicago, Charles Hutchinson and his wife—the Olmsteds left many of the native trees undisturbed. The estate is prized for its flower and wildlife sanctuary, is named for the witch hazel that grows wild on the land. The bright green foliage becomes magenta in the fall.
  • ·Black Point Estate—an 1888 Victorian home landscaped by Olof Benson; named for its black walnut trees
There are many ways to enjoy the fall colors rail, bicycle or air. One of the best drives in the area is Snake Road, a three mile-long, wooded, winding road off of Highway 50 on the northeast end of Geneva Lake. Another leisurely ride is the Rustic Roads in nearby Lyons.

If you prefer an even slower pace, a hike on the 21-mile Geneva Lake shore path affords up-close views of fall foliage along with a peek at grand estates on the water. Great hiking can also be found in nearby conservancies, preserves and Big Foot Beach State Park. In addition to foot paths, biking trails are plentiful, with routes both to and from downtown on the Lake Geneva bike path.

For those looking to kick back while enjoying the scenery, the Lake Geneva Cruise Line continues daily water tours through October. Signature cruises that complement the fall palette include a Sunday morning champagne brunch or a sultry, jazz dinner cruise every Friday night. Other slow-rolling tours include horse and carriage rides and a vintage trolley that operates 10-mile round trips from its East Troy depot.

And, for a single glimpse that says it all, catch a bird's eye view in a hot air balloon ride. Daily tours glide over the area at sunrise and two hours before sunset.

No matter how you choose to enjoy Lake Geneva in the fall, it's bound to be a picture perfect escape. To learn more, visit

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