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A free cup of coffee and advice from a local

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February 01, 2011 | 12:48 PM
So you're in Lake Geneva for Winterfest.

You heard there were some neat snow sculptures. They're really cool, but so is the weather. So now you're wondering what else to do.

When I go to a new city, I dream of running into some local resident, someone in a little coffee shop maybe — someone to serve as a tour guide.

Usually, that only happens in the movies. But today's your lucky day. I'll play the role of that mythical guide, and the coffee is on me. You already know what I look like because my face is next to these words. So pull up a chair and order a cup. You'll find that this local is never at a loss for words.

I've lived here for three years — just enough time to get to know the place, but not so long that I take the city's wonders for granted. I work at the newspaper, I go to meetings, and I sometimes walk to work. So I notice things.

So you only came here for the snow sculptures and now you want to go home? That would be a mistake. Contrary to popular belief, Lake Geneva is not closed for the winter. A lot of people really believe that. Really. I don't know if they think there's a rope across downtown or what. Those who work here, those who try to keep their businesses vital until the spring thaw, wring their hands over that myth. Hopefully, by the end of your stay you'll know that there's a welcome sign here all year round.

Yeah, I know. You didn't come here for a Chamber of Commerce speech. I'll cut to the chase. You want specifics. People mention Door County. I like it there, but the more I'm here the more I ask myself, what does it have on us? We have the lake and we have the shopping, too — shopping a lot of people don't know about. Our stores are just as unique, especially now, and unlike Door County they're all within a few blocks.

What's that? You say that's the problem — the downtown is only a few blocks long?

Maybe that was the case the last time you were here but not now. Now there are some new shops and restaurants down the streets that intersect with the main drag. Some of them just appeared over the summer. Check 'em out. They're all within walking distance.

You noticed the bridge was out and you're wondering how to get to the other side? It's a bit of a nuisance, I agree, and a bit of a controversy, too. No one likes the bridge out during Winterfest, but it's better than it being out in the summer when even more people are here. So choices had to be made.

How are you supposed to get to the other side? If you'd try swimming you'd probably turn into a snow sculpture yourself and get in the paper for the wrong reasons. Not to worry. If you're leaving the Riviera, where Winterfest is located, get back on Main Street and turn right. A block down you'll see the Post Office. Turn right.

What will you find? Well, besides the lake itself, you'll find parking spots. And food. The one block detour is worth it because there are a slew of new or revived restaurants. They're all fighting for business, so you can't go wrong."

What? You've heard enough. You're anxious to get on your way. That's fine. I know there are a lot more interesting things to do than talk to a local guy in a coffee shop. Just to show we're friendly, I'll pick up the tab.

If lose your way and need more other advice, I'll be walking around town most of the weekend handing out papers. If you see me, I'm good for another cup of coffee. I love talking to people, even if I have to pay them to listen. I only have one request.

For the cost of a cup of coffee, you'll have to agree that you'll get the word out. Lake Geneva is open for winter and darn well worth the journey. And it's open the rest of the winter, too. This isn't a one-season city any more.

Take it from a local who moved here not because he had to, but because he wanted to.

P.S. Our sister publication, The Resorter, has a map of downtown and directions around the bridge closing. The Resorter is inside the Regional News and free at newsstands.

Halverson is the general manager of the Regional News, Resorter and www.lakegenevanews.net.

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