The Pilgrimage – Lake Geneva, WI
I’ve been playing D&D for about 25 years. When we were still playing second edition, I would look at the TSR address on the back of my game books and think that Lake Geneva wasn’t that far away from my home in Illinois. I dreamed of visiting TSR, maybe pitching a few ideas and rolling some dice with the designers. This summer I was lucky enough to finally make the pilgrimage to the birth place of Dungeons and Dragons.
As I drove to the, I noticed that we were on county road DD, and that made me smile. I wanted to pull over and slap an ampersand sticker on every sign we passed. The area around Lake Geneva is beautiful, rolling hills, green fields, trees and lakes. It honestly reminded me of Tolkien’s descriptions of the Shire. It is an area that would spark anyone’s imagination.
Downtown Lake Geneva is an extremely cool town, beautiful lake front mansions, interesting shops, and dozens of great restaurants. Prior to my visit I inquired about what TSR era landmarks still existed on the GP Adventures Old School Roleplaying Group on Facebook and got several helpful responses immediately. Among other community members, Gary’s son’s, Luke and Ernie were especially helpful feeding me addresses and advice by FB message during my stay.
First Stop – Angel of the Waters Fountain
This fountain is a replica of one found in Central Park, New York. On the bricks around the fountain are messages from family and friends honoring those that have passed away. Gary has a stone here placed by his loved ones (pictured above).
Next Stop – Popeyes
Luke Gygax told me that if you visit Lake Geneva, you have to eat at Popeye’s (no, not the fast food place). The food is amazing, try the roasted chicken. Popeye’s has a small BBQ shed next to the restaurant where they rotisserie several chickens at the same time over charcoal.
The Horticultural Hall was the site of the first official Gen Con in 1968 (many gamers cite Gygax’s home as the site of Gen Con 0 in 1967).
Dungeon Hobby Shop
Now an ice cream parlor, the Dungeon Hobby Shop was a store owned by Gygax, served as the headquarters for TSR in the early days, and was managed by Ernie Gygax.
I was also able to see the Gygax family home, and Gary’s home at the time he passed away. Out of respect for the Gygax family and the current occupants I won’t post any images.
Lake Geneva is a great town, and I highly recommend it as a travel destination to gamers and non-gamers alike. One thing that did bother me though, there are no markers (with the exception of the stone pictured above), no plaques, no D&D shirts in the souvenir shops. Lake Geneva is the birthplace of role-playing games – an amazing, life-changing, innovative, and infinitely creative subculture, and it should be made more apparent to visitors. Luckily for me, the gamers in that community reached out with addresses, history, and even offers to personally escort me around town.