All Aboard the Holiday Santa Cruise in Lake Geneva

The Santa Cruise is a festive experience for the entire family. This lake cruise is a fun way to see holiday lights, visit Santa, and experience a family Christmas outing on the beautiful Lake Geneva. Just a quick hour and a half from downtown Chicago, you’ll find the adorable town of Williams Bay, home to Pier 290 and Gage Marina which hosts their annual Santa Cruise from Thanksgiving weekend through December 30th. From how to buy tickets to what to wear, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about the Santa Cruise Lake Geneva. 

For more holiday travel ideas check out our Guide to Holiday and Christmas Activities for Chicago Families.

The Santa Cruise is a festive experience for the entire family. Photograph courtesy of Lake Geneva Cruise Lines.

What to Expect on the Santa Cruise

Before your cruise, you’re welcome to check in at the Christmas Tree Building located adjacent to Pier 290 restaurant. Inside the building, you’ll find a magical winter wonderland filled with cute family photo-ops, snacks, and drinks for purchase (cash only), craft stations for kids, and raffle items supporting local charities. You can also bring written letters for Santa to leave in his mailbox. 

Kids can bring a written letter for Santa to leave in his mailbox. Photograph courtesy of Lake Geneva Cruise Lines.

Once aboard, you’re in a fully enclosed cabin to keep everyone cozy. There are spaces to step outside and get a closer look at the lights as well. On the cruise, you’ll take a 40-minute boat ride to Santa’s Secret Hideaway. Along the way, you’ll find dazzling light displays that tell the story of Santa and your journey to see him. Once the boat reaches the hideaway, Santa is elevated on a stage that’s lit up for everyone on the boat to see. Listen carefully as Santa reads the names of all the children on the nice list. Parents enter the names of each child ahead of time when making the reservation.  

A view of Santa reading from the Nice List at his Lake Geneva hideaway - photograph courtesy of Lake Geneva Cruise Lines.


Children three and under are free, but you’ll need to include them for seat reservations and for Santa’s nice list. Adult tickets are for ages 18-64. Seniors are 65 and older and youth tickets are available for children ages 4-17. 

Ticket prices vary depending on the date. Reservations are highly recommended as the boat tends to sell out on the weekends leading up to Christmas. You can purchase your tickets online or over the phone (262-248-6206).

Allow for enough time to check-in and board the boat. Photograph courtesy of Lake Geneva Cruise Lines.

Arrival Times, Restrooms, and Additional Tips

The Santa Cruise suggests arriving 30 minutes prior to departure. This will allow for enough time to check-in and board the boat. You can also drop off your letter to Santa, grab refreshments, and take in the magic at the Christmas Tree Barn before you board the boat. Santa’s helpers will assist all passengers in boarding the boat as a group. 

Restrooms are available in the Christmas Tree Barn as well as Pier 290. Restrooms are also available on the boat. 


Strollers are allowed on the boat as well as in the Christmas Tree Barn before departure. If the boat is too crowded, your stroller can be used to get on the boat and then stored for the ride. 

Remember to dress warmly! Photograph courtesy of Lake Geneva Cruise Lines.

How to Dress 

While the boat is heated and indoors, you’ll still want everyone dressed warmly. You’ll be going in and out from the Christmas Tree Barn, down the pier, and at the marina which can be chilly. There are also outdoor areas on the boat for you to sit and take in the lights. 

Parking and Shuttle Information

Parking is limited at the marina. There will be some available, however, people are encouraged to park at Williams Bay High School and take the free shuttle to the Christmas Tree Barn for check-in. On busy weekends before Christmas, there will be almost no parking at the marina. You can drop off members of your group, park at the high school, and take the shuttle back. 

Lake Geneva brings tourists year-round with its lovely scenery, photo courtesy of the author

Dining and Hotels

The Santa Cruise departs right from Pier 290 restaurant. You can make a reservation before or after your cruise for a festive dinner on the lake. The kid’s menu features pizza, chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers, and other kid-friendly staples. A cash bar is also available in the Christmas Tree Barn. You’re able to bring drinks on, however, you won’t be able to purchase anything once you’re on the boat. 

Nearby hotels include The Grand Geneva Resort, The Cove, and The Abbey Resort. Each hotel has an indoor swimming pool and a full lineup of holiday events to keep the fun going all weekend. 

Youth Chorus of the North Shore Karaoke Singalong
Evanston Public Library - 1:00 PM Pick
Disney On Ice Presents Frozen and Encanto
Allstate Arena - various times Pick
Downers Grove Ice Fest
Downtown Downers Grove - various times Pick
Elmhurst Art Museum Mini Art Show
Elmhurst Art Museum - various times Pick
Morton Arboretum Chocolate Weekend
Morton Arboretum - 9:00 AM
Neighborhood Guides
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