With a menagerie of performing animals in tow, circus pioneers Edmund and Jeremiah Mabie set up camp here in the winter of 1847, the year before Wisconsin became a state. Some of Americas earliest circus tents were first pitched along the forested lakeshore where Lake Lawn Resort now stands. Nestled amid 275 wooded acres overlooking Delavan Lake, the resort is situated within a modest drive of Milwaukee and Chicago, but affords a pleasant retreat from the hustle, bustle, and shifty stoplights of the outside world.
The warm, wood-paneled confines of the cabin-style luxury loft rooms complement the resorts woodsy surroundings. Crackling campfires and a heated indoor pool beckon after 18 holes on the Dick Nugentdesigned championship golf course, which typically stays open into November, depending on weather. Should any balls hook into the drink, players can launch reconnaissance missions from pontoon boats rented at the resort's marina. When the lake freezes over, fishermen set up huts on the ice, and snowshoers crisscross forest paths as snowmobilers rev through the woods.
Lake Lawn Resorts two on-site restaurants present atmospheres both elegant and casual. Frontier Restaurant and Lounges chef David Ross artfully flame-grills steaks before sending his culinary creations to the crimson-tinged dining room, where each table offers a panoramic vista of Delavan Lake. Mocha martinis accompany dijon-garlic-crusted pork as glasses of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc pair with lobster spaghetti. At Lookout Bar & Eatery, a 50-inch TV telecasts sports games, and a terrace hovers above the outdoor pool, basking in afternoon sunshine.
More than a century after it blossomed into a circus headquarters and hosted dozens of acts, including P.T. Barnum's legendary Greatest Show on Earth, the town of Delavan proudly exhibits its distinctive past. Big-top tributes can be seen at Tower Park, where statues of circus animals such as a giraffe and an elephant savor their amnesty from mini-golf courses. Delavan's early days live on through Greek Revival architecture that dates back to the mid-1800s, including the Allyn Mansion and the Israel Stowell Temperance House, originally an alcohol-free safe haven that eventually served as a government meeting center.
Delavan's quaint downtown district, lined with old-fashioned lampposts and brick-paved walkways, boasts an assortment of antique stores and small cafes. Throughout the rest of the town, well-manicured parks and 13 miles of forested shoreline along Delavan Lake create a scenic backdrop for horseback rides, hiking, water recreation, and composing haikus on the ground with leaves.
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