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Friday, 12 February 2016 10:06

Plan a romantic winter outing

Written by  Margaret Plevak
The ice skating rink is nestled among the twinkling lights of the Geneva Lake harbor at The Abbey Resort in Fontana. Ice skating is among romantic winter activities to enjoy around Walworth County. The ice skating rink is nestled among the twinkling lights of the Geneva Lake harbor at The Abbey Resort in Fontana. Ice skating is among romantic winter activities to enjoy around Walworth County. The Abbey Resort

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- You went the whole nine yards this Valentine’s Day: a dozen lipstick-red roses, dinner at a restaurant that doesn’t have a dollar menu, a movie with enough onscreen action and romance to make you forget the popcorn you’re holding.

Or maybe you stopped short on Feb. 14: the kids caught the flu, you pulled a weekend shift at work, the maître de laughed when you called for reservations yesterday, or you, um, forgot. 

Luckily, in love there are do overs -- and repeats. You don’t need a heart-encircled date on the calendar to dictate a romantic winter weekend. And why stop at just one? There are plenty of fun and flirty activities in Walworth County to fill your days and nights. Here are five to get you started:

Romancing the rink

You can picture it -- even hear the soundtrack playing in your mind. Snowflakes are swirling down as you and your love glide across the ice on a rink that overlooks scenic Geneva Lake at The Abbey Resort in Fontana.

The “picturesque harbor-side ice rink (is) reminiscent of a classic Currier and Ives print,” said Annie Andres, a public relations specialist for The Abbey.

The rink, now in its 10th year at the resort, was featured in USA Today last year as “one of the ‘must see’ ice rinks in the country” because of its beautiful setting, Andres said.

Both the rink and the nearby bonfires draw overnight guests and visitors alike, she said.

“Couples can take in the romantic, wintry harbor views as they skate hand in hand, snuggle up as they share a fireside s’more offered at the Friday and Saturday evening bonfires by the rink or head inside to warm up with a hot beverage, cocktail or meal at one of the resort’s bars or restaurants,” Andres said.

On-site skate rentals are complimentary for resort guests and $2 for visitors. The rink is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, weather permitting.

The Abbey Resort and Spa, 269 Fontana Blvd., Fontana, theabbeyresort.com 

Raise your glasses

Two by two, they come to Staller Estate Winery in the town of Richmond.

“The majority of our guests are couples,” said Joe Staller, who owns the winery with his wife, Wendy. “Couples come to Staller Estate for first dates, parents getting a day without the kids and celebrations of 30-plus years of marriage.”

He lists a variety of experiences those couples can choose from, including complimentary tastings at the bar, sit-down wine flights, wine by the bottle or glass and food pairings featuring Wisconsin artisanal cheeses, cured meats, freshly baked breads and a variety of chocolates.

Staller Estate also offers tours of the winery. Couples even can schedule a personal tour with winemaker Wendy Staller, who will “show you the entire process from ground to glass,” Joe Staller said.

He sees the dates and celebrations here as naturally romantic.

“Visiting a winery helps couples learn what they love about wine and share what they love about each other,” he said.

Currently, Staller Estate Winery is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. Reservations are not required, but suggested, especially to set up a personal tour.

Staller Estate Winery, W8896 County Highway A, town of Richmond, stallerestate.com, 608-883-2100

Starry, starry night

Star gazing is not only romantic, but fascinating, especially when it’s done up close through a 40-inch refractor telescope.

For the first time, Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay will let people view the moon, the surface of Mars and other celestial objects through the world’s largest 40-inch refractor (lens-type) telescope. The observing sessions are planned for six to 10 evenings each month through 2016.

The observatory also has public viewing sessions with its 24-inch reflector (mirror-type) telescope, although it is currently undergoing an electronics and computerization upgrade, according to Dan Koehler, director of tours and special programs at Yerkes. Those public sessions are scheduled to resume in mid-March.

Koehler said the sessions with a trained telescope operator offer a relaxed environment and interesting discussions. The 40-inch sessions, which cost $100 per person, are limited to 12, allowing each participant several opportunities to see three or four different objects, depending on the month, season and visibility.

“(P)articipants will see rugged craters, mountain chains, valleys and other fine details on the moon’s surface, details and colors in the cloud tops of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn -- including some of the divisions within the ring structure and surface details on Mars -- the only planet surface we can see from Earth,” Koehler said. “(Also) there are intricate details inside globular clusters that are made up of tens of thousands of old stars, beautiful scatterings of new stars that comprise open clusters, fascinating double or binary star systems, different types of nebulae that represent stellar nurseries, or in some cases, stellar deaths, and galaxies that are millions of light years from us.” 

Sessions often fill up quickly and are always weather dependent.

Yerkes Observatory, 373 W. Geneva St., Williams Bay, astro.uchicago.edu/yerkes/, 262-245-5555, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays; for information on the 40-inch refractor sessions only, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Scenic ride

Kim Krueger, owner of Dan Patch Stables of Lake Geneva, said nothing beats winter scenery viewed from the cozy confines of a one-horse open sleigh.

“After a nice snowfall, you’re riding through our large pine forest and the snow is just hanging on the branches of the pine trees,” Krueger said. “It’s so pretty, it’s breathtaking.” 

Krueger’s business is dependent on the weather, and, of course, you can’t have a sleigh ride without snow. In the winter of 2015, he remembered conditions allowed for about a dozen sleigh rides. The year before, the number was closer to 300.   

Fortunately, Dan Patch Stables also offers year-round trail rides.

Wait -- horseback riding in winter?

“You’re not dealing with mosquitoes and flies then,” Krueger said.

But you might be dealing with icy trails. Krueger has turned people away if conditions are bad, so call ahead.

Dan Patch Stables, at the entrance to Grand Geneva Resort, 7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva, danpatchstables.com, 262-215-5303

Food of love

Aphrodisiacs -- food, drink or drugs that reputedly enhance libidos -- have been around for centuries and include everything from rhinoceros horn to rose petals.

If you’d rather savor your aphrodisiacs, go out for a romantic meal. The Grand Geneva Resort offers an aphrodisiac-inspired meal, “Love at First Bite.” While the menu is offered only through Feb. 14, the resort’s restaurants will offer specials throughout February.

Looking for seductive ingredients? Try asparagus, oysters, pomegranates, almonds, honey, basil or figs. And while love might be all you need, a little chocolate now and then never hurts.

Grand Geneva Resort and Spa, www.grandgeneva.com, 800-558-3417

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