Patrons fill up on hearty breakfasts at Franks Diner, a Kenosha lunch car diner made famous on Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."

Patrons fill up on hearty breakfasts at Franks Diner, a Kenosha lunch car diner made famous on Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." Photo By Jerry Luterman

Day trip: Kenosha to Lake Geneva

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8:30 a.m. Fuel up for the day with a famous Frank’s Garbage Plate – eggs, peppers, hashbrowns, onions and your choice of up to five meats, five cheeses and veggies – at Franks Diner, the lunch car diner made famous on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Hauled to the spot by six horses back in 1926, Franks Diner has been popular ever since and is often packed, so plan plenty of time for breakfast and remember their motto: “Be nice or leave.” The menu is standard American fare, but know that everything is bigger at Franks.

10:15 a.m. For a quick and affordable tour of the city, walk two blocks north and hop on the Electric Streetcar. Loop along Lake Michigan and through downtown Kenosha aboard one of seven restored ’50s-era streetcars. Between the three museum stops, you’ll catch glimpses of a miniature Statue of Liberty replica, a Christopher Columbus statue, two lighthouses and more. The 15-minute roundtrip rides start at 10:05 a.m. on weekends and will set you back $1.00, 50 cents for those 12 and under – or get an all-day pass for $2.50.

11 a.m. If Franks' Garbage Plate is sitting heavy in your belly, hop off the streetcar at the intersection of 5th Avenue and 54th Street and take a .75-mile stroll along the lake to the free Kenosha History Center and Southport Light Station Museum & Tower. Those 8 and older can climb the 1866 lighthouse for a fee.

12:30 p.m. Back in the car, hop on Highway 142 to head for Richard Bong Recreation Area. Founded in 1974, the state’s first recreation area offers the first hint of fall color in these parts from Highway 142, which winds through the area, lined on both sides with stands of trees, swathes of wildflowers and touches of wetlands. Once you’ve had your foliage fill, head north on County Highway B, also known as Rustic Road 43.

1 p.m. It’s been a lot of eating but no drinking, so sit a spell at Aeppeltreow Distillery & Winery, south of Burlington. Open Tuesday through Sunday, $5 gets you a sample of all their wines, hard ciders and perry, or all their brandies and whiskeys. “Their perry is crisp, slightly sweet and bubbly,” says Tiffany Kenney, a recent Aeppeltreow visitor, who adds that the staff was very helpful in helping them settle on a libation. Guests can also visit the place where the magic begins, with a stroll through the orchard, or pick a quick peck at neighboring Brightonwoods Orchard.

2:30 p.m. Make your way south to Highway 50 and follow that west into Lake Geneva for a late lunch at Popeye's, a Lake Geneva favorite known for its fish fry and views of Geneva Lake.

3:15 p.m. Head to Riviera Docks on Geneva Lake for your Geneva Bay Tour. This hour-long narrated cruise aboard the Walworth is something of a “houses of the rich and famous” tour that passes the imposing estates on Geneva Lake’s east end, where you’ll see what it’s like to live like a Wrigley, Maytag or Schwinn. After all, Lake Geneva is considered the “Hamptons of the Midwest.”

4:30 p.m. Take in some shopping in downtown Lake Geneva. Kismet offers handcrafted gifts that are “meant to be” for every budget, including a large collection of items by local artists. A few doors down, I Love Funky’s is a treasure trove of unique gifts and wild oddities, offering everything from antiques to gourmet foods to leather furniture.

5:30 p.m. Settle into your lakeside room at The French Country Inn, a 33-room hotel in the style of European inns. The guesthouse and parts of the main house were transported from Denmark in the 1880s and displayed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago before coming to rest on the shores of Lake Como. Once a favorite of mobsters George “Bugs” Moran, Baby Face Nelson and their crews, the setting here today is Old-World romance, complete with complimentary breakfast or afternoon tea.

7 p.m. Before turning in for the evening, take a drive out to Grand Geneva Resort for a relaxing dinner at Geneva Chophouse or Ristorante Brissago. Afterward, snuggle up to the fire on the outdoor Embers Terrace and raise a glass to the grand finish of your dawn-to-dusk adventure.

Freelance writer Amanda Wegner thoroughly enjoys perry and hard cider from her writing roost in Madison. This article appeared in the September/October 2012 issue of Wisconsin Trails.

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