Beth Gauper, who writes about
regional travel, can be reached at 651-228-5425, bgauper@pioneer
INNS THAT DO IT RIGHT
1. Arbor House, Madison,
Wis.: This inn is renowned for its
"green" practices and calls itself An Environmental Inn. It's on Monroe
Street, not far from very good shopping and restaurants. It offers the
use of mountain bikes and a canoe pass for nearby Lake Wingra. It has
eight very attractive rooms, $110-$175 weekdays, $125-$230 weekends.
Under Madison's Spring Getaway program, annex rooms are $350 for two
weekend nights, a $110 savings, through May 6. 1-608-238-2981, www.arbor-house.com.
2. McCormick House, Hayward,
Wis.: The proprietor of this
gorgeous, newly restored 1887 manor knocks himself out to such an
extent that when I was there, another guest warned him to pace himself.
English-born Dean Cooper dotes on his guests, offering to upload the
house iPods with their favorite music, providing ice cream and popcorn
for DVD screenings on each room's flat-panel TVs and offering evening
treats and a nightcap by the fire in the library.
In the morning, he prepares a
made-to-order English breakfast, with
freshly squeezed orange juice and selections that include rashers of
bacon, grilled tomatoes and toasted crumpets — or Cheerios,
Outside, there's a hot tub and formal
garden with reflecting pool,
where afternoon teas are served in summer. Cooper sometimes shows
movies there, too, with popcorn and Jujubes. Through April, the inn is
offering packages that include massages and wine tastings.
3. The Inn at Maple
Crossing, Mentor, Minn.: This northwest
Minnesota inn is a prairie gem. Built around an 1872 homestead, it
became the Buhn Hotel, then Hotel Maple Lake resort, drawing guests
from the Great Northern Railway. It was deteriorating when Crookston
native Nancy Thomasson, a Virginia antiques shop owner, and her
theologian husband, Jim, bought it and, in 1996, reopened it as the Inn
at Maple Crossing. Now, it has 16 bedrooms and inviting common rooms,
including a library and sunroom.
The Thomassons uncovered the old
cabin during renovation; now, it's
the breakfast room, where they serve a large, hot meal daily. The inn
also serves lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday, as well as a
Sunday meal of chicken and lemon-meringue pie, in tribute to the old
hotel, "Home of Famous Chicken Dinners.'' Very attractive rooms go for
$79-$125; one has two of everything, for friends traveling together,
and one is handicapped-accessible. Recollections gift shop is in the
inn, and Rydell National Wildlife Refuge and the Nature Conservancy's
Glacial Ridge are nearby. It will open for the season in May,
1-218-637-6600, www.innatmaple crossing.com.
4. Whiteley Creek Homestead,
Brainerd, Minn.: This tranquil
inn in the country outside Brainerd "takes you back to a time when
laundry flapped lazily on a clothesline in the breeze.'' Lively
proprietor Adrienne Cahoon loves the simpler days of the past, and she
has furnished her inn with all kinds of homespun treasures. In the
evening, she serves treats on a screened wraparound porch, which
features twig furniture and a gigantic fieldstone fireplace built
around the bed of an old dump truck; in the morning, she serves such
old-fashioned entrees as sausage gravy over biscuits in an 1890 rail
car decorated with mobiles of old kitchen implements. Three comfortable
cottages are $115, and two rooms in the inn are $90. It will reopen in
May; 1-218-829-0654, www.whiteleycreek.com.
5. Solglimt, Duluth:
This inn on Park Point, just across the
Aerial Lift Bridge, has a fantastic location on the beach and arty
rooms with exceptionally comfortable beds; I got to stay in Kandinsky's
Loft, named after one of my favorite artists. But the most memorable
thing about it is breakfast; attentive proprietors Mary and Brian
Glover are magicians with a paring knife, turning pears and pineapples
into all kinds of decorative art. The three rooms are $135-$185 through
May, then $155-$205 through October. 1-877-727-0596, www. solglimt.com.
6. Poplar Creek Guesthouse,
Gunflint Trail: It's worth
staying at this attractive inn just to hear Ted and Barbara Young's
stories about life in the far north. Barbara cooks the big breakfasts,
and Ted sends guests out canoeing, hiking, snowshoeing or skiing, along
the Banadad Trail or into the Boundary Waters. A room with two beds is
$85-$104, depending on season; the other has a double whirlpool and
goes for $110-$135. There's also a housekeeping suite, $90-$115.
7. Maplelag, Callaway, Minn.:
The hosts of this western
Minnesota cross-country ski resort practice the kind of genuine
hospitality no marketing seminar can teach. It doesn't take Jim and
Mary Richards long to turn guests into friends who come back year after
year; their son, Jay, and his wife, Jonell, are following in their
footsteps. The varied rates include three bountiful meals a day,
including a Sunday-morning Scandinavian smorgasbord, and the cookie
jars are never empty. 1-800-654-7711, www.maple lag.com.
8. Alexander Mansion,
Winona, Minn.: This 1886 manor was a
labor of love for Lynn Ihrke, who restored its Victorian grandeur and
reopened it last year. She and her husband, Fred, serve evening wine
and hors d'oeuvres and an organic five-course breakfast, and guests get
a quartet of Watkins bath products to take home. Four tastefully
decorated rooms go for $149-$179. 1-507-474-4224, www.alexandermansionbb.com.
9. Creamery, Downsville,
Wis.: The Thomas family are experts
at hospitality, having run this western Wisconsin inn and restaurant
with quiet competence for more than 20 years. The renovated rural
creamery just off the Red Cedar State Trail has 12 rooms, 10 with
double whirlpools, that go for $125-$160, including breakfast brought
to the door. Four rooms are above the excellent restaurant, and eight
are in a newer adjoining building; there's a bakery and gift shop that
shouldn't be missed. It will reopen for the season March 30.
1-715-664-8354, www.creameryrestaurant-inn. com.
10. Blue Heron, Ely, Minn.:
There’s a lot to do around this
cozy lakeside inn on the edge of the Boundary Waters —
bird-watching, moose-watching, snowshoeing, skiing — and
Kovach lends equipment, arranges permits and gives tips to her guests.
There’s a small restaurant in the five-room inn, and
breakfasts are included in the rates, $122-$157.50. 1-218-365-4720,
11. White Fox Inn, Thunder
Bay, Ontario: This inn at the foot
of the Nor’Wester Mountains, built in 1962 for the president
paper mill, really spoils its guests. Nine rooms, all with fireplaces
and whirlpools, include a hot breakfast delivered on fine china and
crystal; movies also are delivered to the door. Rooms go for $110-$219
Canadian; with a candlelit four-course dinner in the top-notch
restaurant and a split of champagne, they’re $180-$299. When
there on a Sunday, the hosts upgraded me to the largest of the
luxurious rooms; that’s typical Canada Nice. 1-800-603-3699,
12. Washington House Inn,
Cedarburg, Wis.: This restored 1886
cream-brick inn and 1870 annex on Cedarburg’s main street is
34 rooms, but service still seems personal. There’s a daily
wine-and-cheese social hour and a large breakfast buffet that includes
freshly baked muffins and breads, a killer homemade granola and as much
freshly squeezed orange juice as guests can drink. Rooms go for
$95-$245; through May, a midweek package includes the best room
available and a $25 dinner certificate. 1-800-554-4717,
Many inns are offering specials this
time of year; call or check Web sites.