The Best of Living in Geneva
If you thought a city couldn’t be quaint, charming, warm, and welcoming, then you’ve never been to Geneva, IL. It is a small but spectacular city situated in the western Chicago suburb of Kane County IL. It’s without a doubt one of the best places to raise a family and enjoy life in Illinois, and not to mention one of the most instagrammable.
Geneva is part of the tri-city area along with Batavia and St Charles and is within easy reach of Chicago, less than an hour to the east along I-88 and I-290. The small town that grew up alongside the beautiful Fox river has blossomed into a prosperous, vibrant community boasting a population just shy of 22,000 people over 10 square miles.
You could say that it started off small enough to fit on a postage stamp and wound up big enough to feature on one, because Geneva’s Fabyan Windmill, an authentic Dutch mill from the 1800s, was chosen to feature on a 1980 postage stamp! It’s one of the many cultural destinations that put Geneva firmly on the map as a place to visit. Tourists and visitors flow through this city all year round, enlivening Geneva’s downtown and keeping local trade booming.
You are sure to be charmed by Geneva’s downtown district too, with its 100+ impeccably maintained historic homes and businesses offering a wide variety of retail and hospitality for residents and visitors alike. Its idyllic riverside setting forms an ideal backdrop to the architectural beauty and historic richness of the area. It's 5-star rating on TripAdvisor echoes the feelings of the people who live and work here, who all consider Geneva such a desirable place to call home.
What’s the history of Geneva IL?
Anyone who lives in Geneva, IL is part of a long, rich history. The story begins long before the arrival of the first settlers with some of the earliest signs of civilization left by prehistoric tribes from the pre-Columbian Mound Builder era. Geneva is part of the Fox River Valley, where archaeologists uncovered great mounds known as Tumuli. These mounds were ancient burial grounds dating as far back as 950–1100 CE, where archaeologists excavated everything from skeletons and jewelry to tools and weapons.
Though Mound Builders may have arrived in Geneva first, the Potawatomi Nation are credited with establishing large villages just south of the areas that later became St Charles, Batavia, and Geneva. By the 17th century, the Potawatomi were 3,000 strong and their territory spanned from Door County, Wisconsin, to South Bend, Indiana. Two main Indian trails ran through the Geneva area; the Waubonsee trail, which now roughly equates to Route 31, and a second trail along what is State Street today. The Potawatomi fished in the Fox River and cultivated parts of the prairie lands. At the beginning of the 19th century, Big Foot became their most famous chief.
Around this time, many white settlers were arriving in Illinois. Some of the earliest settlers to Geneva, Christian Bowman Dodson and Archibald Clybourn, founded a trading post at Mill Creek to barter goods with the Potawatomi Nation. But, between the Greenville Treaty of 1795, the 1832 Black Hawk War, and the Chicago Treaty of 1833, the Potawatomi were eventually forced to cede the land to the US Military. From here onwards, the fertile soil of Geneva was open to an influx of development by pioneers, homesteaders, and settlers.
Although they weren’t the first, James and Charity Herrington were the most prominent settlers in founding early Geneva. Shortly after they arrived in 1835, they created Kane County and established their settlement as the county seat. The area was originally known as the Big Springs, and after a period of debate (in which the town was almost named Campbell Ford!), the settlement was designated as Geneva. Like most towns in Western Chicago, the building of the first railroads kickstarted their growth and Geneva saw a big influx of Swedish immigrants in the 1890s, followed by a wave of Italians. The town is a haven of European-inspired architecture today and still honors its Swedish influence with the yearly Swedish Days festival.
The Geneva Historical Society has preserved much of Geneva’s vibrant history to date, including jaw-dropping historical photographs, artifacts, and exhibitions on display at the Geneva History Museum.
What are the best schools in Geneva, IL?
Geneva is served by School District 304, which is respected as an outstanding district for education. According to niche.com, it’s an A-rated district and the second-best in Kane County. That means that your child is guaranteed a great education, no matter what school they go to in Geneva. The district includes six elementary schools rated A-, B+, two A-rated middle schools, and Geneva Community High School; an A-rated public high school located on the Northside of Geneva just west of the Fox River.
Elementary education schools
- Harrison Street Elementary School
Rated B+, located in Eastside Geneva
- Williamsburg Elementary School
Rated A, located in Northside Geneva
- Heartland Elementary School
Rated A, located in North-central Geneva
- Mill Creek Elementary School
Rated A-, located in Westside Geneva
- Fabyan Elementary School
Rated A-, located in Southside West Geneva
- Western Avenue Elementary School
Rated A-, located in Southside Geneva
Both middle schools are located next to Peck park and have an A rating on niche.com. They have 632 students in grades 6-8 with a student-teacher ratio of 12:1.
There is only one high school serving teenagers in Geneva, but you couldn’t wish for a better one to send your children to. Geneva Community High School has come a long way since opening with two students in 1876, and now has 1,831 students in grades 8-12 with a student-teacher ratio of 15 to 1. 64% of students are at least proficient in math and 59% in reading. The school is rated A by niche.com and ranked as the 6th best public high school in Illinois.
Students from Geneva High School particularly benefit from its athletics facilities. The school boasts impressive outdoor baseball and softball fields, multiple indoor contest gyms, a fitness center, a gymnastics room, tennis courts, and a wrestling room! Budding sports students will have the chance to compete in the DuKane Conference and Illinois High School Association.
If you dream of Fall evenings spent cheering your children on from the stands, then you better get familiar with the Vikings’ chant “You do your best, we'll do the rest! On the sidelines cheering you. Geneva, let's go! Geneva, let's go! 'til victory is ours!”
What are the best districts in Geneva, IL?
Geneva offers a sparse suburban feel, while you can find a more urban atmosphere downtown. Whether you’re looking for a single-family home, condo, or townhouse, you can find it in Geneva. There are also many spectacularly pretty homes on offer here, with the chance to live among the tourist-attracting European-inspired architecture. Geneva is a desirable community to be part of and the high standard of life is reflected in the price tag. The median home value is $338,300 but the most upmarket areas are valued from anywhere between $535 - 780K.
As a small city, Geneva doesn’t have distinct districts – but there are still general areas to know when house hunting.
Geneva, Illinois Market Report
Includes average property values, inventory, market changes, and demographic data.Homes for sale in Geneva
This is currently one of the most frequently bought real estate areas in Geneva. It’s a pre-planned, picturesque, and popular suburb just west of downtown Geneva. It boasts more than 900-acres of open outdoors, a community center and swimming pool, and plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, and amenities on South Randall Street, less than a ten-minute drive away. You can find beautiful condos and single-family homes around the $300 - 450K mark.
Just west of downtown Geneva, Pepper Valley is a prime location with homes frequently available to buy. You can find single-family homes and condos from as little as $230K and as much as $650K, as well as lots and land often found for sale. The neighborhood was built in the 1970s but you can find a wide variety of architectural styles there today.
Of Geneva’s more upmarket housing districts, Eagle Brook is one where you can frequently find nice homes to buy. The average selling price is $485 - $575K for single-family homes.
Arguably Geneva’s most expensive neighborhood, homes in Herrington Trails average at $787K. This small and competitively priced community is found just a stone’s throw from the station in downtown Geneva. Homes here are scarcely available, but why not have something to daydream about?
What's happening in Geneva, IL?
One of the best examples of Geneva’s renowned community spirit is the rapid development of the Geneva Park District. Since its formation in 1953, it has grown from just 4 parks to over 50, encompassing 7,000 acres and offering residents over 3,000 recreation programs each year. Their aim is to cater to all ages and interests with special events and regular activities.
During the summer, the whole family can enjoy the popular ‘Movies In The Park'. These free events are a sure-fire hit with the kids... And the grown-up kids will love them too. Just turn up with your chairs and blankets to marvel at the stars on the big screen and in the skies above.
Maybe you will get to see some stars of the future at one of Geneva’s many events showcasing local talents, such as Concerts In The Park, the Folk Festival and their very own Geneva’s Got Talent.
As a resident of Geneva, you may be surprised to find yourself becoming familiar with words like ‘rosemaling’ and ‘smorgasbord’. That’s because every June, the city embraces its Swedish heritage with a 6-day festival called Swedish Days. Geneva’s church community organizes the event that showcases the exquisite displays of traditional floral folk art called rosemaling. But that is just one of a dizzying array of entertainment on offer, including a carnival, arts and crafts exhibits, a flea market, music competition, kid’s day, evening entertainment, and a parade. Many of the participants dress up in traditional Swedish outfits and local businesses join in with special offers and in-store events. And, of course, there is indeed a smorgasbord of traditional Swedish food on offer throughout downtown.
As July rolls around, you can look forward to one of the city’s most popular events, the prestigious Geneva Arts Fair. Third Street, in the historic downtown, hosts this annual outdoor fine arts show. Established artists and exciting newcomers rub shoulders to bring an eclectic mix of visual delights to the streets of Geneva.
If you are a fan of rare and classic cars or exciting modern supercars, August is the month for you in Geneva. Each year, the Concours d’Elegance Car Show wows visitors downtown. You don’t have to be an automobile buff to appreciate the vehicles on show here. As well as offering coveted trophy prizes to the owners of the cars, this event raises funds for a nominated charity each year.
September is a beautiful time of year here in Illinois. It is also a great month for foodies and wine lovers in Geneva, who come together to enjoy the annual Festival Of The Vine. Although it began (as the name suggests) as a celebration of produce from the vine, it has expanded since 1982 to become a festival of food too. Once again, the historic downtown plays host as visitors enjoy a delicious mix of culinary delights as well as stalls selling local arts and crafts.
As Summer turns to Fall, the community events continue. The annual Autumn Fair has more than enough to keep the whole family entertained for the day, with pony rides, pumpkin painting, hayrides, raffles, games, and much more.
One Fall event you really won’t want to miss is the highly entertaining and aptly named ‘Howl O Ween’ dog parade. Bring along your pooch in their finest fancy dress outfit or just enjoy the fun of watching the canine antics on show. There are prizes to be won and much fun to be had!
The year would not be complete without one of Geneva’s most beloved events. The Christmas Walk heralds the start of the festive season as families gather at the Courthouse lawn, beautifully lit with twinkling festive lights. The sound of Christmas Carols and the aroma of roasted chestnuts fills the air as Santa Claus and Santa Lucia arrive to the delight of the excited children in this charming family tradition.
What are the best things to do in Geneva, IL?
Geneva is one of those rare places where just wandering around, enjoying the elegant beauty of the place, is a great day out in itself. The historic downtown is renowned for its interesting architecture and authentic preservation, such as at Elizabeth Place, a fine example of a Mission Revival style house, with parapets reminiscent of Spanish churches and Palladian windows on 3 sides. Nearby, there are hidden treasures such as the Sacred Heart Seminary Shrine on Batavia Avenue, hewn from rock and decorated with intricate glass mosaics.
Further along Batavia Avenue, south of downtown, you can visit the Fabyan Villa, a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie-style house which he remodeled from a traditional farmhouse in 1907. The house sits in the Fabyan Forest Preserve, which is also home to a Japanese Tea Garden designed around the same time as the Fabyan Villa by the renowned Japanese landscape architect, Taro Otsuka.
Another not-to-miss at the Fabyan Preserve is the historic windmill – a handsome 5-story wooden smock mill that sits proudly atop a hill on the eastern side of the Fox River, attracting tourists with its reputation as the finest example of its kind in the entire U.S. This authentic dutch mill was restored in 1979 by the Kane County Forest Preserve District and puts Geneva firmly on the map as a tourist destination today.
To the east of the Fox River, you can visit Good Templar park for a tour of delightful Swedish stugas (cottages) from the 1920s and 1930s. The park is also home to a Viking ship, the oldest surviving artifact from Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.
To learn more about Geneva’s rich history, head over to the award-winning Geneva History Museum on 3rd Street and take one of their fascinating Architecture tours or get to know the residents of days gone by with a guided tour of Geneva’s cemeteries.
Just down the street at the Little Traveller, you can broaden your horizons by traveling the world in 36 rooms! It all began in 1922 as the showcase for a local resident, Kathryn Rafferty’s collection of Oriental treasure, sent to her by a friend in China. She displayed them on her grand piano at her popular afternoon ‘tea and sale’ events. Soon, Kathryn’s friends were sending her antiques from across Europe and her Little Traveller shop was born. Today you can browse beautiful items from across the world in the 36 rooms of this Victorian mansion. You will be pleased to hear you can still enjoy a cup of tea here in the Little Traveller cafe.
Shopping in Geneva
What malls and shops does Geneva IL have?
Within Geneva’s other historic buildings you will find upwards of 160 places to eat, drink and shop.
A store that exemplifies the Geneva downtown retail experience is Harvey’s Tales Bookstore on James Street. When Roxanne and Chuck Osborne decided to channel their love of independent bookstores into their retirement project, they knew it would fit perfectly with the community vibe of the historic downtown area. Since they opened their doors in 2018, they have established a thriving, welcoming retail space with a sense of fun promised by the giant scrabble game that adorns one of the walls!
On W.State Street nearby, around the same time as the Osbornes’ embarked on their retail adventure, another couple with a strong community vision realized their dream by opening Scentcerely Yours. Susi and Rob Brucato have created a beautiful store, where customers can blend their signature scents from over 100 different fragrances to make candles, lotions, body mists, and more. The couple is also passionate about providing community fundraising opportunities for local schools and organizations through sales and events.
The suburbs of Geneva are equally well served, thanks to the Geneva Commons mall a few miles west of downtown on Commons Drive. Here you will find all the best known national retail outlets, centered around a central open-air park area ideal for meeting up with friends.
Geneva Outdoor Activities
What are the best parks in Geneva, IL?
A leisurely stroll from downtown across the picturesque Fox river will bring you to the popular family destination of Island Park. The setting is a unique combination of a serene place for the adults to relax by the river, while the children burn some energy in the treehouse-themed playground complete with slides and a zip-line!
Runners, walkers, and cyclists can enjoy the 30 miles of scenic Fox River Trail that runs through Geneva, following the course of the river through Kane County
Swimmers are spoiled for choice with both indoor and outdoor facilities spread out across the city. The Sunset pool and cafe on Western Avenue is one of the most popular, featuring climbing walls, slides, and an aquatic playground.
Swimming is just one of the ways Geneva residents embrace a healthy, active lifestyle. As well as the many park activities on offer, there are several yoga studios and fitness centers, including FIT4MOM on W.State Street, where moms can bring their babies along to a variety of classes and make new friends in a welcoming, supportive environment. W.State Street also happens to be home to Good Cents Children, the biggest resale outlet for children’s clothes, toys, and specialty outfits in the midwest. They have built their reputation on a model of sustainability, selling quality items and brand names at a fair price.
Food and Dining
What are the best places to eat in Geneva, IL?
If you are a fan of authentic Mexican food, you are sure to enjoy Bien Trucha on W.State Street in downtown Geneva. Their menu is inspired by the street food and local markets of Mexico. They are committed to using locally sourced ingredients in their food, which is complemented by their quality range of tequilas, mezcals, and Mexican beers.
Insider tip: Try one of their signature cocktails!
Fancy a pizza? Head on over to Doughocracy on 3rd Street. Their motto: is ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of pizza!’ and they pursue that aim with skill and charm in this cafe-style family-focused restaurant and take-away.
They offer over a dozen hand-tossed signature pizzas or you can build your own pie with more than the usual run-of-the-mill toppings on offer. Vegetarians should try the Green Mile pizza, a taste sensation of garlic, red onion, zucchini, and eggplant, on a pesto base, topped with mozzarella and pecorino.
Inside tip: Wash it all down with one of the delicious craft beers on offer.
Atwater Restaurant at the Herrington Inn and Spa
One of Geneva’s most popular riverside spots for fine dining and cocktails is the Atwater restaurant at the Herrington Inn and Spa on S.River Lane. The original building began life as a dairy creamery back in 1874 and, after extensive redevelopment, has gone on to become a top-rated boutique hotel, spa and event space. The restaurant serves fresh, farm-to-table American cuisine for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. Their seasonal menus ensure a varied selection that never gets boring.
Inside tip: If you need pampering, head to the spa before visiting Atwater for a high tea – the selection of finger-sized cakes is divine.
Riganato Old World Grille
To the east of the Fox River on E.State Street, you can expect a warm welcome at the Riganato Old World Grille. The Nicolaou family pride themselves on offering delicious and comforting food, freshly cooked every day with locally sourced, preferably organic ingredients. Of course, you will find family favorites like spaghetti and meatballs but they also spice things up with more unusual offerings like jalapeno gnocchi.
Inside tip: Nic’s Calamari, served with green peppers and garlic, is the best in town.
Drinks In Geneva
What are the best bars in Geneva, IL?
If you are meeting up with friends for drinks in Geneva, the only difficult part will be choosing which of the many excellent establishments you should go to. So, here are a few you can put at the top of the list.
Wine lovers need to look no further than Geneva Wine Cellars and Tasting Room on S 3rd Street. Their certified sommeliers not only ensure a varied and interesting wine selection, but they are also on hand to share their knowledge and experience with you. Take a seat on the patio and take one of their themed ‘Wine Flights’ - three specially priced 2oz pours of their featured wines. Visit on a Sunday for live music on the patio.
Discerning beer drinkers should make their way to the Taproom at the Penrose Brewing Company over on Stevens Street, where you will find beers from around the world as well as across the U.S. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and although they don’t have a kitchen they are happy for you to bring food or order in while you enjoy a beer with your buddies.
For cocktails in the heart of downtown, a firm favorite is 1910, a family-run bar on W.State Street specializing in hand-crafted whisky, tequila and vodka cocktails. The vibe is hip and urban with beats from the house DJ on Friday and Saturday nights. Perfect for pre-dinner cocktails or make it a night and order a selection of their Mexican-themed appetizers.
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