Mist rose from Delavan Lake as I sipped my coffee and rocked, back and forth, back and forth. A lone man standing in a boat cast a line and waited for something to bite.
The water was so calm, the morning so quiet, I imagined I could see the concentric rings and hear the lure hit the water, even though he was several yards away.
This is the life, I thought. I could get used to this.
Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan, Wisconsin, was the perfect place to wind down after an intense summer involving multiple cross-country trips and eleven weeks of travel, much of it solo.
It was the end of August. I finished up one last summer press trip and drove towards Lake Geneva, where my husband would meet me for a couple days of relaxation and romance.
I arrived at Lake Lawn Resort early, pleased my room was ready several hours before check-in time. I had expected to spend a few hours working in the lobby or at The Lookout Bar + Eatery.
Instead, the receptionist handed me my keys, my wristbands for the pools, and a map of the property.
Lake Lawn needs a map. Sprawling across two miles of shoreline and 250 acres, it’s a full-fledged resort with golf, water sports, and more.
It’s the kind of place that can either keep you busy or invite you to kick back and not do much of anything except spend time with your loved one.
You can also, as we found out, do a bit of both.
Despite being just ten minutes from all the things to do in Lake Geneva, Mr. TLT and I didn’t leave the grounds for a whole forty-eight hours.
Like I said, perfect.
Table of Contents
Disclaimer: our stay was hosted by Lake Lawn Resort and spa treatment by Calladora Spa at Lake Lawn Resort, but all opinions are mine and are completely influenced by Adirondack rocking chairs and Spotted Cow-battered fish.
History of Lake Lawn Resort
One of the reasons I wanted to stay at Lake Lawn Resort was because of its extensive history. Their water tower proudly proclaims “Est. 1878,” but the story of this place goes beyond the late nineteenth century.
The area around Delavan Lake has been inhabited since at least 1000 B.C. Between approximately 600 and 1200 A.D., Mound Builders, descendants of the Woodlands culture, thrived in the area.
According to Images of America: Lake Lawn, there had been around one hundred effigy mounds on the grounds. Delavan Wisconsin Historical Society puts the number of mounds in the area close to two hundred.
Most of them have been destroyed, but several remain. If you walk around the resort or play a round of golf, you can’t miss these remnants of an earlier civilization.
Other inhabitants included the Ho-Chunk, descendants of the Mound Builders. Later, a small number of Potawatomi lived on the shores of Delavan Lake at the same time Anna Mary Phillips opened a guesthouse she named Lake Lawn Park.
Anna Mary was Jeremiah Mabie’s widow. Jeremiah and his brother, Edmund, arrived at Delavan Lake in 1847.
They didn’t move to the area by themselves; they brought a veritable circus.
No, literally. They brought a circus.
The U.S. Olympic Circus, founded by the Mabie brothers, was the largest show in the country. Wisconsin wasn’t even a state when Jeremiah and Edmund moved their act to Delavan.
It would prove to be an ideal location for their traveling summer shows, and before long, over 25 other circus companies would call Delavan home, including “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
In 1870, William Coup and Dan Castello partnered with a man named Phineas Taylor Barnum, and P. T. Barnum Circus was born.
Anna Mary’s guesthouse quickly became a popular vacation retreat, especially with people looking to escape the cities of Chicago and Milwaukee during the summer heat.
Her sons, who began managing the hotel in 1896, added a new dining room, golf course, and electric lights.
Anna Mary died in 1914, and the resort stayed in the Mabie family until 1921 when proprietor James Ellis bought it.
He didn’t hold on to it for long, though. A couple of years later, the Commonwealth Edison Company, led by Samuel Insull, bought Lake Lawn as a perq for their employees.
The resort continued to grow and cottages dotted the acres. During Com Ed’s tenure, they built the main hotel building, a portion of which still exists, a ballroom, and a lakeside PGA golf course.
During the Great Depression, Commonwealth Edison Company could no longer justify the expense of the resort. That’s when George Borg, the inventor of the automobile clutch, stepped in and reopened it to the public.
In 1922, the Drake Hotel in Chicago earned worldwide recognition because WDAP, which would later become WGN, broadcast from the hotel.
Similarly, after Borg’s purchase, Lake Lawn hosted live performances, and listeners from coast to coast could hear big bands like Lawrence Welk on the Mutual Broadcasting System.
Over the next several decades, Lake Lawn Resort underwent multiple changes in ownership until closing in 2010.
Fortunately, the next year, a group of locals saved the historic property, investing over four million dollars to renovate and improve.
Lake Lawn Resort Today
Today, Lake Lawn Resort is a thriving vacation getaway. With two miles of shoreline, the lake is the centerpiece.
Things to do at Lake Lawn Resort
You can do as much or as little as you’d like at Lake Lawn Resort. One of its prime attractions is Majestic Oaks Golf Course, originally opened in 1929 and redesigned by course architect Dick Nugent.
The course is open to guests, members, and the public.
Lake Lawn takes full advantage of its lakeside location. The onsite marina offers plenty of opportunities to get out on the water.
You can rent kayaks, paddle boats, paddleboards, as well as tritoons, power boats, and wave runners. They’ve even got toys like kneeboards, skis, and inflatable tubes.
We elected to let someone else do the driving and took the Lake Lawn Queen Scenic Lake tour, but first, we took advantage of the Friday night reception featuring wine, Wisconsin cheeses, sausage, and pink lemonade.
Why pink lemonade? Legend has it that Pete Conklin, a star clown in the Mabie Circus, made lemonade in a container previously used to dye an equestrienne’s tights red. Lo and behold, pink lemonade was born.
Aboard the the double-decker Lake Lawn Queen, Mick, a longtime resident of the Delavan area, narrated stories of the lake.
The one and a half hour cruise highlighted beautiful mansions, including five designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Of particular interest to me was a beautiful clock tower. It’s a relic from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, which is mentioned frequently in my book, Living Landmarks of Chicago.
They also offer sunset and wine dinner cruises, a Fall colors cruise, and themed holiday cruises.
Our suite was in Lakewood Lodge, a separate building that has its own pool and hot tub. With such easy access, we had to spend at least a little time in the refreshing water.
There are two additional pools at the resort. One is also outdoors; located next to Lookout Bar & Eatery, it’s got a kiddie pool with daily games, and you can get poolside service from the restaurant.
Inside, Timber Indoor Pool and Hot Tub sits in a glass atrium adjacent to a lobby area with a fireplace. There are also private showers, in case you don’t feel like traipsing around the resort in your swimsuit.
Timber is next to Calladora Spa, a serene oasis. I was invited to experience one of their services and elected a facial.
This fifty-minute experience was more than much-needed attention for my neglected skin. It forced me to lie still for nearly an hour and partake in that elusive concept called self-care.
Lauren looked at my skin, and after telling me it looked great (always good to hear from an aesthetician), she selected the Antioxidant Anti-Aging Facial.
It involved a massage of my arms, hands, and shoulders while the Vitamin C-infused products worked their magic. I left feeling fresh and relaxed.
There are plenty of family-friendly activities, too, including an arcade, laser tag, and fitness center. You can play pickleball, tennis, and basketball, and you can also rent bicycles. They’ve even got miniature golf.
During our getaway, encountering a bonfire during a stroll along the lakefront path after a lovely cruise made for a picture-perfect romantic evening.
Food and Drink at Lake Lawn Resort
While nearby Lake Geneva is known for its restaurants, the dining at Lake Lawn Resort meant there was no need to leave.
The Isle of Capri Café is a quick-casual grab-and-go concept. For breakfast, you can be all healthy and get fruit and granola, or you can do like we did and go for the steak breakfast burrito.
They’ve also got danishes and other baked goods, made-to-order pizzas, and after 11am, wings, sandwiches, and salads.
The Lookout Bar & Eatery has inside, outside, and poolside seating. The menu is a good mix of traditional bar food with lots of burgers, cheese curds (because, Wisconsin), wings, and other sandwiches.
We loved the Leg Horn Lawn Bird, a pickle-brined chicken sandwich with aged white cheddar, arugula salad, black pepper, garlic, and moonshine aioli.
They’ve also got entrees, including fall-off-the-bone ribs and seared maple chili salmon.
Our second night was a Friday, so after our cruise and lakeside stroll, we took advantage of “Walworth County’s Best Friday Night Fish Fry.”
You select the number of pieces of Spotted Cow-battered cod you’d like and they’re served with house made chips and apple sauce, hush puppies, coleslaw, and a roll.
We ordered four to share because I also wanted to try the wings, which we took back to the room after indulging in a $1 Mystery Shot. Pick a “color” and the bartender pours you a red, green, orange, or blue dose of secret liquid.
They’ve got New Glarus’ Spotted Cow on tap and daily drink specials. If you see mango margarita on the board, get it.
You can also get a more traditional breakfast at Lookout, and they’ve got waffles, pancakes, and French toast.
Their third dining option, 1878 on the Lake, will open soon. And don’t miss The Hut, a seasonal outdoor bar near the Lake Lawn Queen docks.
Lake Lawn Resort offers a variety of accommodations. All of them come equipped with refrigerators, microwaves, and spa bath products.
Rooms and suites in the historic Lodge have a “cozy ambience.” The decor is rustic and the bathrooms are deluxe, with Kohler BubbleMassage tubs.
Lakewood’s rooms are more contemporary, with tiled bathrooms and a coastal theme.
If you want more space, their suites provide a sitting room and wet bar. We stayed in a Lakewood Suite and loved the fireplace, two full bathrooms, and the lovely view of the lake (and those relaxing Adirondack rocking chairs).
For larger groups, there are loft rooms with additional beds. To really pamper yourself, rent the Lake House, a lakeside three-bedroom ranch ensconced in a quiet tree-filled area of the grounds.
When to visit Lake Lawn Resort
While Lake Lawn Resort is a popular summer getaway, it’s a great place to visit year round.
Upcoming fall activities include the Fall Colors Lake Tour and the 4th Annual Craft Brew Open, an Oktoberfest-themed Ryder Cup-style tournament benefiting Open Arms Free Clinic.
Winters at Lake Lawn Resort offer igloo dining, snowshoeing, ice skating, and cross-country skiing.
In 2022 – 2023, they also have the following packages:
- Girlfriend Getaway Spa Package: overnight accommodations, a $200 spa credit per guest, a 20% discount on spa retail products, and a $75 dining credit.
- Winter Escape Package: one-night accommodations plus a $50 resort credit to be used anywhere at the resort – perfect for people going to any of the Lake Geneva’s events.
Getting to Lake Lawn Resort
Lake Lawn Resort is located in southern Wisconsin on Delavan Lake. It’s twenty minutes from the town of Lake Geneva, less than two hours from Chicago, and less than an hour from Milwaukee.
Delavan, Wisconsin, is an easy and short road trip from Chicago, and Lake Lawn Resort is a delightful place to call home during your visit, no matter what time of year.
It’s relaxing and romantic for couples, a great spot for a trip with friends, and will definitely keep families with children busy.