Take the best things about living in Chicago and put them in one place, and you’ve got Geneva. Bike trails along a river? Breweries? Lovely shops (that aren’t chains!) in a picturesque downtown? Frank Lloyd Wright houses? They’re all in this west suburban hamlet that has been the seat of Kane County since 1837. A day—or two or three—here feels like a true vacation, especially if you add a Kane County Cougars baseball game in summer or cross-country skiing through the Fabyan Forest Preserve in winter. Just don’t harsh your mellow by heading there during rush hour—on a good day, the drive time is a solid hour and a half from the Loop.
1. Fabyan Windmill
Moved from Lombard in 1914, this massive structure (six stories!) was featured on a U.S. postage stamp in 1980.
2. P.D. Hoyt House
Because of its atypical central front entrance, some suspect that this 1906 Frank Lloyd Wright home was actually designed by one of his underlings.
3. Jacques Brownson House
This minimalist glass-and-steel cube was built by Brownson, the designer of the Daley Center, for his Illinois Institute of Technology master’s thesis. He better have gotten an A.
4. Japanese Tea Garden
Inspired by the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, businessman George Fabyan and his wife commissioned one of the country’s first Japanese gardens on their estate in 1910.
5. Kane County Courthouse
Inside this classic 1892 courthouse, you’ll find a stunning rotunda, decorative ironwork, and 11 murals.
6. Country Naturals
Every nook and cranny of this Victorian house is packed with candles, housewares, soaps, and candles. Also: candles.
7. The Ombu Store
Nearly everything is from Argentina in this husband-and-wife-owned shop, which sells handmade purses, blankets, wallets, briefcases, and even knives.
8. Pelindaba Lavender
This isn’t your sister-in-law’s essential oil side gig: The owners grow their own organic lavender on San Juan Island and infuse just about everything (massage oil, candles, coffee, stuffed animals) with it.
9. The Royal Wren
Like a Pinterest board come to life, this gourmet grocery sells cheeses, olive oils, local spirits, and hand-painted ceramics. Tip: Snag a jar of the hickory-smoked honey.
Eat & Drink
10. All Chocolate Kitchen
From the pastry chef who built one of the world’s tallest chocolate sculptures (look him up in Guinness) comes this café with a name that tells it like it is.
11. Barrel + Rye
This newish pocket-size whiskey bar makes up for its small footprint with a massive menu that boasts 200-plus pours.
12. Bien Trucha
This teeny Mexican place doesn’t look like much from the outside—unless you arrive after people have started lining up down the block for dinner. Those in the know recommend the shredded swordfish taco with avocado and habanero salsa.
Come to this former post office for its expertly curated spirits, wines, and craft beers; stay for the double cheddar burger on a duck-fat brioche bun with applewood-smoked bacon.
14. Penrose Brewing Company
This widely praised brewery specializing in Belgian-inspired beers makes a visit to an industrial park worthwhile. (Note: No kitchen; BYO food.)
December 1:Santa lights the town’s massive Christmas tree and opens his house at the annual Christmas Walk.
December 3:Hear holiday classics when four of Geneva’s historic churches host music performances on the yearly Steeple Walk.
December 9:Pink Floyd meets Bob Marley when Dropped Once plays at EvenFlow Music & Spirits.
December 14:Break out the tricorn hat and dig into a heaping serving of corn pudding during the Colonial Williamsburg Dinner at the Oscar Swan Country Inn.
December 14 to 16:It’s a Wonderful Life becomes a live radio play as five actors perform dozens of parts at Playhouse 38.
Did You Know?
Geneva’s old-timey downtown was one of the primary shooting locations for the 2002 Tom Hanks gangster film Road to Perdition.