An hour west of Chicago by car, bus, or train, Geneva, Illinois is a historic hamlet along the scenic Fox River Trail.
History is the grounding wire for human settlement and Geneva promotes history through preservation, celebration, and planning. Cultural and natural history experiences abound for the daytripper.
Cultural History in Geneva
Illinois and Potawatomi tribes settled the area in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The central historic district of Geneva dates from the 19th century when New Englanders established homes and businesses. In 1853 the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad opened a line that brought Chicagoans to reside and commute to work by train.
The railroad also brought Swedish immigrants to Geneva. By the late 1800s, half of the population was of Swedish descent. Swedish Day Festival, celebrated in June each summer, commemorates Geneva’s Swedish heritage. The second-largest immigrant group to settle the town was Italians.
Walking tours of the historic district reveal stately architectural styles including Italianate, Greek revival, Gothic revival, and Queen Anne.
In 1907 Frank Lloyd Wright brought prairie school architecture to the renovation of Fabyan Villa on Riverbank in Geneva. The Villa with Japanese Garden and Dutch windmill are open for tours from mid-May through mid-October.
Many early homes were constructed of locally quarried limestone referred to as ‘Riverstone’ from along the Fox River.
The Geneva Garden Club’s mission to encourage home gardens and community beautification is evident in the well-designed and maintained gardens surrounding homes and businesses.
The Geneva History Center is the heart of the historic district with excellent exhibits and resources for the history enthusiast.
Shopping in Geneva
Some homes became thriving businesses. The Little Traveler is a 36 room Italianate mansion selling treasures from around the world.
The Gift Box opened in 1947 to offer the finest Scandinavian imports from clothing, jewelry, linens, crystal, china, flatware, to antiques, tree ornaments, and foods.
The Geneva Antique Market in the Berry House is a trip back in time to your childhood or your grandmother’s day. Read a childhood schoolbook or try on antique jewelry. Lift a sad iron used by your great-grandmother.
The Galena Garlic Company, a 2010 newcomer to the business block, features a flavorful inventory of BBQ rubs, spice blends, oils and vinegar.
Graham’s Fine Chocolates and Ice Cream is every visitor’s destination at some point.
Sample an extensive variety of specialty coffees and custom blended teas in the Coffee Drop Shop.
Dining in Geneva
The Mill Race Inn overlooking the Fox River has been a popular lunch or dinner dining destination since its opening in 1933. Ask to be seated at the window for a view of the river. Bikers, joggers, and strollers frequent the pathway along the waterway and you can watch egrets and herons on a nearby island. It is a tradition for diners to share a portion of freshly baked bread with the ducks outside.
The Little Owl Restaurant is Geneva’s oldest restaurant, founded in 1920. The atmosphere is casual and friendly.
Stockholm’s Scandinavian tavern features food and award-winning hand-crafted beers.
Nosh is a breakfast and lunch bistro with unique egg dishes, soups, sandwiches, and fruit smoothies.
Natural History in Geneva
The Natural Resources Committee of Geneva inspired locals to use rain barrels for water conservation by sponsoring a rain barrel painting competition, Rain Barrels on Parade. Residents and businesses purchased and the painted rain barrels. The artistic rain barrels
displayed throughout the historic district are auctioned off to raise funds for environmental projects.
Residents and visitors enjoy biking, running, or walking the Fox River Valley Trail throughout the year. In winter the trail is used for cross-country skiing. The trail allows access to fishing, picnicking, canoeing, the Fabyan Forest Preserve, and the Tekakwitha Woods Forest Preserve and Nature Center.
The Geneva Kayak Center schedules half and full-day river paddling tours and instruction.
Peck Farm Park is a 395-acre city park with a sensory garden, nature rooms, observation silo, picnic area, bike and nature trails, 19-acre wetland, and in the summer only, an outdoor butterfly garden.
Geneva provides a memorable day trip whether you like antiquing, window shopping, relaxed dining, touring historic district homes and gardens, or outdoor natural history excursions.