Rediscover A Healthy Lifestyle at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa

Crystal Smith Hammon

For Midwest travelers who want to establish or renew healthy habits, a Wisconsin wellness vacation may be just what the doctor ordered. The Badger State is esteemed for its beautiful all-season resorts and spas. A perennial favorite is the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva.  

Anticipating your best instincts, this alluring resort plays host to Innovations in Wellness, a two-day retreat that focuses on key health factors such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress management. Slated for October 19 and 20, the retreat pairs the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa with Milwaukee-based Golden Rey Integrative Medical Center.  

The center’s founder, Kristen Reynolds, M.D., is the retreat’s keynote speaker. Reynolds hopes to infuse your wellness plan with knowledge from her tri-fold training in family, integrative, and functional medicine.  

If the retreat doesn’t suit your schedule, aim for an alternate date at this AAA Four-Diamond resort. The property recently finished a major renovation of its guest rooms and suites, and it’s well worth the drive from central Indiana.  

The Grand Geneva Resort & Spa was one of Hugh Hefner’s first and most beautiful resorts, built in 1967. It’s been managed by five owners since Playboy Enterprises sold it in 1981. Current owners Marcus® Hotels & Resorts have things in admirable shape. 

Hefner’s influence is long gone, replaced by a contemporary vibe and winsome hospitality. Those traits collide with 1300 acres of picturesque grounds, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Prairie-style architecture, wellness perks, and innovative, all-inclusive packages. It’s an uplifting backdrop for a much-needed respite.  

Here are a few highlights from a recent visit

Splendid touches. Magical fountains at the entrance of the main lodge telegraph the pervasive harmony, order and peace found in every nook and cranny of the resort. I quickly secured bell staff and valet parking when we arrived. Five minutes later our luggage was delivered to a beautifully-appointed junior suite with a balcony overlooking the lake and the 18th hole of The Brute, one of two championship golf courses. (More on this later.) In the kitchenette we found a plate of handmade truffles, a bottle of champagne and a handwritten note. An endearing welcome deserves extra points. 

Focus on fitness. The timing of our visit was fortuitous. My first semester of a graduate program had just come to an end, and I was exhausted from balancing school and a full-time job. After my best night’s sleep in months, I gulped coffee, donned workout clothes and headed for the yoga studio at the resort’s Grand Geneva Resort Fitness Center, a robust 10,000 square-foot facility. 

During a challenging vinyasa class, my legs reminded me that jettisoning yoga during the pandemic had been a mistake. Yoga keeps you fit in every way—mentally, physically and spiritually. I vowed to resume my yoga and exercise routines, even if it means shoving work and school aside. 

Consider punctuating your yoga practice with CBD massage at the facility’s full-service WELL Spa & Salon located inside the fitness center. My masseuse escorted me to the inner sanctum, a hall of private studios where time stands still and bliss ensues. She reminded me that the next 50 minutes was all for me, that I should feel no obligation to talk.  

The massage came to an end at the appointed time, but much too soon for me. I walked away feeling light. The following day I had no soreness from practicing yoga—a reasonable justification to think of massage as a reward for the discipline of exercise. 

Notable 18-hole golf courses. We played The Highlands, one of two courses at the resort. Its sibling, The Brute, is a challenging 7,000-yard layout, well beyond my skill. Both courses have copious awards to prove their popularity among destination golfers. With true greens and manicured fairways, the more forgiving Scottish links-style Highlands still keeps you on your toes.  

On The Highlands, I misjudged a short par 3 on the third hole and lost a ball in the White River. Oh, well. Playing from the shortest tee on the eighth, I caught a saving grace: women don’t have to carry the ball over a long ravine between the blue, gold and silver tee boxes and the fairway. The club is revered for its junior golf instruction program. Bonus: friendly, professional starters. Ours volunteered to photograph us on the first tee.  

For the foodie in you. With five onsite restaurants, you won’t go hungry. Ristoranté Brissago® wowed us on the first night with contemporary Italian cuisine. A veteran server steered us toward one of the menu’s triumphant pastas, Truffle Sacchetti. We agreed to share it as an appetizer, saving room for two main courses, Mediterranean Sea Bass and an elegant Pettini di Mare, a corn and pea risotto crowned by four Diver scallops. Do order cheesecake; it’s among the best I’ve ever had. 

On the second night, the Geneva ChopHouse® introduced us to a carnivore’s guilty splurge, Wagyu beef. We split a steak and supplemented with salads, lobster bisque and dates wrapped in cherry-smoked bacon. No one should be expected to show restraint when bacon and cream are on the menu.  

Our Last Supper wasn’t supper at all. It was a healthy breakfast of avocado toast at the Grand Café. From spring to fall, you can dine alfresco under the restaurant’s pergola. The Grand Café is known for lavish Saturday brunches served alfresco with live music. All three dining rooms offer inspiring views of the tree-skirted landscape. 

Park your car and forget it. The Grand Geneva Resort & Spa has the world and everything adjacent to it. I noted the handicap-accessible indoor and outdoor pools for people with physical limits. Pickleball? Check. Archery? Check. Hiking, snow skiing, horseback riding, tennis, rock climbing, ice skating? Activities for kids? Yes. This Wisconsin resort is a place of Zen when you’re ready to recommit to an active lifestyle or simply need to unwind.