Bridget Gleeson Travel Writer

Mini-break in Lake Geneva

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Much as I adore my friends, I loathe the phrase ‘girls’ getaway.’ I like ‘mini-break,’ as the Brits say – or better yet, the Spanish word ‘escapadita’ (little escape.) At any rate, I was off again this weekend, this time to Lake Geneva (about two hours away from Chicago by train) with two girlfriends – both flown in from opposite coasts for the occasion.

Oh, Lake Geneva. Home of Hugh Hefner’s historic Playboy Club & Resort (now the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa – yep, I tried to get reservations, but they were booked.) Birthplace of ‘the Young and the Restless,’ if you can believe it – the writers dreamt up the long-running daytime soap while living here.

Thanks to a recent Groupon frenzy, some of Lake Geneva’s more glamorous accommodations were full, so we found ourselves at the sprawling Abbey Resort on the other side of the lake. As my friend said, it was like being on a cruise ship – there were several restaurants, bars, a spa, fitness center, pools – except we were parked at the edge of the water instead of floating on the sea to the sound of marimba drums.

To be fair, the place had what they call ‘regional charm.’ We had dirty martinis under the gaze of a faux stuffed moose head and watched snow flurries fall while reading our books (ahem, I had an actual book, my friends have moved onto Kindles and Nooks) by a roaring fireplace. We laughed as we dragged an overstuffed suitcase through a labyrinth of underground passageways to finally reach our room.

Of course, from a traveler’s perspective, the area’s highlights are all found at the shops and eateries in the upscale resort town of Lake Geneva.

The greatest hits?

Old-fashioned soaps and potions at the apothecary-style Scents & Sensibilities on Main Street.

Farm-fresh omelets at the chic, eco-friendly Simple Cafe.

Vintage-inspired cocktails at Baker House (see photos above.) This antique lakeside home has so much character; the lovely hostess, Casey, offered us a free tour and encouraged us to try on pillbox hats from the costume closet.

Naturally, my head was too big for any of the hats.