Hayward, Wisconsin: Toasted crumpets were once bloody hard to find in Hayward. But that changed when a pair of longtime London residents moved to the 3,000-person town and converted a former lumber baron’s mansion into a six-room inn where the basic package includes high tea, British bangers, and the chance to perambulate in a formal English garden. Posh amenities, such as feather-soft bathrobes, and more thoughtful touches, like nightly presentations of homemade ice cream, ensure that even Elizabeth II would surely feel at ease in Cheesehead country. (Marmite sandwiches available only on request.) –J.H.
Who you’re sleeping with: urbanite refugees, business travelers
What’s cooking: go native with flapjacks, blueberries, and Wisconsin maple syrup, or opt for the full English experience (eggs, back bacon, grilled tomatoes) with a side of buttered “soldiers.”
Don’t miss: afternoon tea in summer—replete with fruit scones and clotted cream
In your room: HD-TV, Frette linens, imported Molton Brown soaps
Royal appointments: Wedgwood china and Sheffield silver
Best activity in the event of English weather (i.e., rain): choose from a library of more than 200 DVDs.
Local attractions: the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum
Shopping options: a five-minute walk from McCormick House brings you to downtown Hayward. Periodical lovers will find a Shinders-sized selection at Book World. Ice-cream aficionados should sample the Almost Sinful mix at the West’s Dairy.
Seasonal distractions for sporting chaps: skiing, biking, croquet
10634 Kansas Ave.
Spider Lake Lodge
Hayward, Wisconsin: Whatever you might say about Al Capone, the man knew a good fishing spot. Legend has it that during the hottest weeks of summer, he repaired to the lake-dotted wilds of western Wisconsin, a shady Shangri-la where a crime boss could trade his trusty Tommy gun for a rod, a creel, and some bootleg thirst-quencher. There’s no hard proof that Public Enemy Number One ever visited Spider Lake Lodge, formerly Moody’s Fish Camp, opened by an auto mechanic who left Chicago in the 1920s—supposedly for health reasons (can fresh air heal a broken nose?). But the handsome resort, with its log beams, stone hearths, stuffed moose heads, wicker-filled porches, and Pendleton blankets, does recall a simpler time, an age when even a guy named, say, Bugsy might enjoy a bonfire and a night of listening to loons. Lodge proprietors Craig Mason and Jim Kerkow trot out plenty of amenities, but they also keep the mood relaxed and low-key, reminding visitors that the best vacations make you forget about the outside world. Leave the BlackBerry at home: there’s no Wi-Fi or cell-phone service here. Sometimes, a little prohibition is just what the doctor ordered. –J.H.
Who you’re sleeping with: thirty- and forty-something couples, the occasional European off the beaten track
What’s cooking: if you’re lucky, the day starts with broiled grapefruit, fried ham, and crème brûlée French toast.
Don’t miss: a nap in the Adirondack chairs on the beach
The scene: rooms are themed: cowboys, Indian princesses, Canadian Mounties—there’s something for everyone, really.
Nearby attractions: the Tally-ho Supper Club. It’s newly remodeled, but the classic ice-cream drinks remain.
Distractions: canoeing, cards, catch and release
Spider Lake Lodge
10472 W. Murphy Blvd.
Henderson House Bed & Breakfast
Henderson: You can emulate egg-o-centric Martha Stewart without violating urban/suburban zoning ordinances by reserving a room at the idyllic Henderson House Bed & Breakfast. Less than an hour from the Twin Cities, this sanctuary of serenity offers the experience of gathering freshly laid eggs (they’re warm!) before breakfast. (Better yet, let the amiable innkeeper do the dirty work while you soak in your standalone tub or repose in the airy sitting room. He’ll already have baked your morning bread.) The stately brick hilltop home owned by Jan and Ralph Herda of Edina (and run by Jan’s brother, Jeff Hayden) overlooks the Minnesota River Valley. Built in 1875, Henderson House was recognized for its recent renovation with a Preservation Alliance award. Period artifacts accentuate the architecture without overwhelming it—or you. A newly rebuilt log cabin out back serves as an antique shop. –C.R.L.
Who you’re sleeping with: an international clientele, primarily couples
What’s cooking: a full breakfast, including such house specialties as wild-rice egg bake, blue cheese omelet, and baked Victorian French toast
Bathing best: towel warmers
Don’t miss: stormy night in the two-room bridal suite on the top floor (formerly an attic)—if the thunder and lightning don’t draw you together, nothing will.
If you must leave your room: hiking, golf, antiquing, and even guided wild-mushroom hunting are offered
Take-away treat: every guest goes home with a dozen fresh ones from Raymond the rooster’s many hens.
104 N. Eighth St.
Hawks View Cottages & Lodge
Fountain City, Wisconsin: The Hawks View cottages are set on stilts into a hillside so steep it seems you’ll need rappelling equipment to climb it. Owners Brad and Laurie Nilles of St. Paul built the cottages just a few years ago to complement the two small lodges they also manage down the road. The two-story structures feel like luxury tree houses overlooking the bayou-like Mississippi River backwaters, and most guests are looking to do little more than perch on their porches. Each cottage features architectural elements salvaged from historic properties dating to the 1850s, such as antique wainscoting in every bathroom and old farmhouse flooring—a nod to Brad’s career in building renovation. –T.G.
Who you’re sleeping with: outdoorsy types, exhausted professionals, and anyone who appreciates the privacy of a place where the owners essentially leave you alone: lodge and cottage guests check in at the Monarch Public House, a friendly tavern in Fountain City.
What’s cooking: the kitchens are stocked with breakfast foods and a bottle of wine. Otherwise, you’re on your own for eats. Popular nearby dinner spots include Kate & Gracie’s, a cool but cozy restaurant located in Alma and co-owned by Ed Nagle, the raconteur who created the hip Minneapolis bar Eli’s. The Nelson Cheese Factory, in nearby Nelson, has a fine frommage, chocolate, and wine selection.
Diverse decor: the cottages mix spa-style sophistication with the raw timbers and exposed loft planking reminiscent of old cabins and farmhouses. The Blackhawk Lodge is modern, with carpeting, TVs, and rec rooms.
California dreaming: outside of Napa Valley, where else can you stay in the midst of a vineyard? The Nilles family recently planted grape vines all around the lodges, and they expect to begin bottling the bounty in the next few years.
Monarch Public House
19 N. Main St.
Fountain City, Wisconsin
Hungry Point Inn
Welch: The main fireplace, big enough to lie down in, is always lit at the Hungry Point Inn—one of the place’s countless anachronistic touches. The house itself was built in 1967 in true colonial style (right down to the broad floorboards) by a couple who sought to create a “New England of the West” on 480 acres tucked amongst horse farms in Red Wing’s bluff country. Merriam Last has run the house (along with a 130-year-old cabin on the property) as a B&B since 1988, taking the previous owners’ colonial concept nearly to full immersion. If you subscribe to Country Living—or if you order petticoats, wooden shoes, and the like from the Smoke & Fire Company catalog—this is your place.–T.G.
Who you’re sleeping with: book clubs, canoeists, bicyclists, and cross-country skiers availing themselves of the nearby trails and rivers.
What’s cooking: breakfast is served on a large shared table, amid candles, drying herbs hanging from enormous beams, and a massive loom, well, looming in the corner of the room. Cabin guests can choose to dine with others in the main house or have breakfast brought to them.
Don’t miss: visit the chicken coop where Last raises breeds popular in early America, including one that lays blue eggs.
Animal factor: besides the chickens, there are two sheep and a friendly dog named Sarah.
Doily count: high; Last wears an old-fashioned, white ruffled cap.
Get soaked: despite the Colonial aesthetic (even the roads in the area, such as Old Mystic and Windsor, smack of New England), the inn has luxurious modern amenities, including a heart-shaped whirlpool for two and a rain shower, which features a dinner-plate–sized shower head.
Hungry Point Inn
1 Olde Deerfield Rd.
Le Bourget Aero Suites
Bloomington: It’s fitting that the freeway exit for Le Bourget (Le Bur-’zhay) Aero Suites is Edina’s France Avenue. The French-inspired boutique hotel opened last winter, bringing Euro-style panache to a commercial corridor that has largely developed with American business travelers in mind, offering reliable lodging, chain restaurants, and easy access to the airport. Travelers wanting something less corporate can count on Le Bourget, with its swank interiors designed by Trellage-Ferrill, the arty architecture firm that styled the posh restaurants Zelo and Bacio. The hotel takes its name from the Paris landing pad where Charles Lindbergh completed the world’s first transatlantic flight in 1927 (the first business trip?), and has guest suites so luxurious that air travelers just might want to miss their flights. –C.L.
Who you’re sleeping with: sharp suits and trendy couples looking for a quiet respite inches from the action
What’s cooking? French crêpes three ways (strawberry, apples and walnuts, or ham and cheese) for breakfast, a classic sourdough Monte Cristo for lunch, or beef en brochette with teriyaki dipping sauce and Dijon-crusted Atlantic salmon for dinner. Enjoy your meals in the airy lobby bar or breakfast bedside.
Don’t miss: complimentary Evian and Perrier waters; L’Occitane bath products; eye-opening espressos
Nearby attractions: the Mall of America and the Water Park of America are just a freeway exit away.
Le Bourget Aero Suites
7770 Johnson Ave. S.
Water Street Inn
Stillwater: A picturesque small town set on rolling hills that descend to the St. Croix River shoreline, Stillwater is said to be the birthplace of Minnesota. History continues to be valued here, especially at the Water Street Inn. Under the guidance of the National Historic Trust, tin ceilings and other details of the 1890s inn were restored prior to the mid-1990s reopening. Some rooms are named after long-dead presidents (the Grover Cleveland Room), but thankfully the plumbing has been updated to 21st-century standards, with suites featuring double whirlpool tubs. Some of the 41 rooms include gas fireplaces and TVs, as does the bar. When you decide to tour the town, ride the Minnesota Zephyr locomotive, stroll by the river with umbrella in hand, or lollygag in a watering hole with a sarsaparilla. –C.L.
Who you’re sleeping with: everyone from venerable hotel-hopping couples to families looking for a charming recollection of Stillwater’s lumber days.
What’s cooking: the spittoon may be dry in the inn’s original eatery, Charlie’s Irish Pub, but the grill stays warm for burgers and barbecued beef. Renovations expanded the Water Street Inn’s kitchen space and dining rooms, which now include an extensive menu of pastas, sandwiches, and such entrées the as pepper-seared ahi tuna with roasted jalapeño-cucumber-avocado salsa.
Don’t miss: romantic packages include wine baskets, chocolate-covered strawberries, and in-room massages. Not surprisingly, the inn is a popular spot for weddings.
Antique alert: high. Enjoy high tea in the dining room before perusing the St. Croix River Valley’s many galleries and studios.
Water Street Inn
101 Water Street S.
A.G. Thomson House
Duluth: Duluth’s 1909 A. G. Thomson House, a stately Dutch Colonial perched seven blocks uphill from Lake Superior, may seem as serene as its quiet, residential surroundings. In fact, it has survived a deluge of drama: two fires and a corruption scandal involving former owner Duluth mayor John Fedo. There are four guest rooms in the main building and three in the carriage house, which served as the chauffeur’s living quarters until the 1940s. Rooms in the home are decorated with details of the previous century, such as four-poster beds and floral wallpaper. The most luxe accommodations are found in the recently remodeled buggy barn’s Lake Superior suite. Its walls are painted a soothing lake blue and paired with cherry wainscoting; given the suite’s living room, full kitchen, and mini-bar, guests could move in permanently. –R.H.
Who you’re sleeping with: summer travelers and business guests, along with lots of couples celebrating special occasions. When the current owner started renting rooms in May 2000, the first couple to spend the night got engaged on their visit.
What’s cooking: multi-course breakfast—quiche, crêpes, and French toast are mainstays—served at shared dining tables, or in-room continental breakfast. Cookies and wine in the afternoon.
Don’t miss: make calls with the replica 1920s desk phone in the sunroom (there aren’t phones in the guest rooms). Check your voicemail—if you must.
Designer digs: the home’s architect, Edwin H. Hewitt, was an apprentice of Cass Gilbert, and also designed the Minneapolis Club and the Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church.
Clawfoot credentials: find an original tub in the bathroom of the Litman Suite
Sox appeal: in the vestibule, baskets of black-and-white socks for loan remind guests to remove their shoes.
A. G. Thomson House
2617 E. Third St.
Two Harbors: Though Larsmont Cottages’ architecture may have been influenced by Scandinavian fishing villages, their amenities certainly were not. The contemporary townhouses, which opened last year, feature leather chairs, gas fireplaces, free Wi-Fi, satellite TV, and home theater systems controlled by no fewer than three remotes. (Even the North Shore isn’t immune to suburban-style development.) Guests can rent individual rooms or an entire cottage with private living and dining rooms, kitchen, and patio. The the main lodge contains a restaurant, bar, library, and indoor pool. Like the old North Shore resorts of yore, most of Larsmont’s cottages are clustered along the lake, where cool breezes blow off the water, squelching the summer heat and sending waves crashing against the rocky shore. –R.H.
Who you’re sleeping with: families arriving by minivan, honeymooning couples, and groups of friends
Don’t miss: a box of Table Topics cards on the dining room table spurs deep discussions with such questions as “Do you believe in coincidence or synchronicity?” and “What would you most like to ask God?”
Playthings: canoes, kayaks, bicycles, horseshoes, croquet, bocce ball, and even GPS units for geocaching. Once you’ve worn yourself out, relax with a Finnish sauna or a massage.
Journal jottings: guests wax about hiking Gooseberry Falls, watching ships on the Duluth Boardwalk, looking for agates, making s’mores, watching SpongeBob, and playing UNO.
596 Larsmont Way
Two Harbors, Minnesota
Sod House on the Prairie: No Snakes on This Plain
We have driven more than three hours in the rain, listening to a CD of On the Banks of Plum Creek, when my 9-year-old daughter asks whether we couldn’t stay at Nellie Oleson’s house instead of the considerably more rustic soddy that recalls the 1874 dwelling of Laura Ingalls’s family. Given the weather, we’ve taken to calling it The Soggy. Wasn’t the sun always shining down on Pa, Ma, Mary, Laura, and Carrie? While the television series Little House on the Prairie was filmed in California, the Sod House Bed & Breakfast is in Sanborn, just 18 miles outside of the real Walnut Grove.
In Laura’s day, a good rainfall could cause a soddy to leak for several days, and snakes would slither through the roof. Fortunately, Stan McCone installed a wooden roof and floor when he built the Sod House to homesteader’s specifications in 1988. (He later added a rudimentary pioneer soddy to the property along with a fur trapper’s cabin and a sod-cutting shed; all of the buildings are available for self-guided tours from April through October.)
Our party includes a Boy Scout who tends the woodstove and oil lamps, so this immersion in history is surprisingly comfortable. The Sod House is chock-full of period furnishings, including wooden toys and rag dolls. Bath amenities? It’s an outhouse, folks. Overnight guests are provided with prairie-style clothing, including bonnets to wear when snuggled beneath the handmade quilts on two full beds and a fainting couch.
In the morning, we awaken to what I at first believe is the sound of a cellular phone. It is a bird call. A short time later, the McCones’ son Charlie appears with a hearty breakfast tied up in brown paper. We restrain ourselves from asking whether his wife is named Caroline, though he cheerfully tolerates our calling the family dog Jack. (The dog’s name is Bailey.)
Later we drive into town to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum. It is still raining. We decline the opportunity to crowd into the museum’s primitive dugout along with the other visitors. We are beset with soddy superiority. Nellie would approve. –C.R.L.
$: $125–$180 (tours are $3 per person, under age 7 free)
Sod House on the Prairie
12598 Magnolia Ave.