There’s beauty in not having to set your alarm when you’re on vacation. It’s a rare luxury to sleep in—especially when you have young children.
It’s even rarer for my husband Aaron and I to set the alarm when we don’t have to hurry up to get somewhere. But that’s exactly what we did one morning while staying at Larsmont Cottages near Two Harbors.
The beep-beep-beep of the alarm was a signal to get us up and outside to witness the sun slowly rising over Lake Superior. Oh, man. What an an awe-inspiring display of Mother Nature’s beauty. I’m not sure how long we sat there, taking in that magnificent view. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and I know when I return to Larsmont (because I will be returning one day), I’m going to request a lakeside room in order to do the same thing all over again, even if it means sacrificing a little sleep.
While Aaron and I were bundled up, sitting on a driftwood log on the beach, patiently waiting for the sun to touch the watery horizon, I kept thinking of the John Mayer song “3×5:” “I didn’t have a camera by my side that time, hoping I would see the world through both my eyes … you should have seen that sunrise, with your own eyes, it brought me back to life.”
Everything about Larmont Cottages “brought me back to life” and awakened my senses. I know it sounds cliché to say there was something for everyone, but there was something for everyone. During the weekend we stayed, there was a corporate retreat with planned activities for employees, young newlyweds roaming the grounds, hand-in-hand, clearly in their own little world, a group of girls laughing (and drinking wine) during their annual girlfriend get-away, and an active, cheerful retired couple staying in the cottage next door. While sitting around one of the communal firepits one evening, we met a newly engaged couple in their 30s (he was from the East Coast, she studied on the West Coast, and they chose Larsmont because she grew up in Minnesota and wanted to introduce her soon-to-be-hubby to the North Shore) and another couple in their 50s who discovered Larsmont a few years ago and return every year. We met a group of college friends who plunged into the frigid waters of Lake Superior before scurrying to the Finnish sauna to warm up, we met three retired women on an annual womens’ weekend, and when we were playing games on the lawn, we saw another family with kids pretty close in age to ours. Unlike some resorts I’ve been to, I didn’t get the impression that Larsmont catered just to couples or friends or families. It was as if they had perfected the utopian recipe of making everyone feel welcome; like we were all supposed to be there.
We felt welcome from the minute we checked in, when the friendly receptionist pointed out the full-sized heated indoor swimming pool to the kids, mentioned the free movies and games (and popcorn in the lobby), and encouraged them to come back for a free bag of s’mores fixins’ later. After receiving our room key, we walked over to the pool area (our kids could not wait to get in there) and saw a few couples soaking in the outdoor hot tub—just outside the pool area—looking completely zen (there wasn’t any snow on the ground when we went a few weeks ago, but I imagine it’s especially fabulous after a day on the slopes). A large sign in the pool area stressed the importance of relaxing, having fun, and not taking yourself too seriously while staying at Larsmont—good reminders for guests to flip the internal switch to “vacation mode.”
We were already feeling optimistic after seeing the lobby, and our excitement only built after arriving at our beautiful and modern lakeside cottage. From the gorgeous Cambria countertops in the kitchen to the double-sided stone fireplace dividing the dining/living room area to the expansive windows showcasing beautiful views of Lake Superior, it was obvious that no detail had been overlooked. Our 4-year-old must have felt the same way, because he immediately asked if we could live there. (Don’t I wish!)
In addition to lakeside cottages like the one we stayed in, there are guest rooms, two-bedroom villas, and entire condos that can sleep 10 or more. The units stretch along the Lake Superior shoreline for the ultimate North Shore experience.
After settling in, we went swimming, soaked in the outdoor hot tub, then ordered pizza before playing Twister and Scrabble in front of the fireplace—two games we borrowed from the main lobby. Apparently a game I consider “old school” has a timeless appeal, based on how much our 7-year-old loved Twister. And apparently my competitive side re-emerges when there’s a Scrabble board in front of me, just like old times, before Aaron and I had kids.
“When was the last time we did this?” I asked Aaron. “When was the last time we had the TV off, our phones off, the Kindle off?” It was fantastic. By unplugging, we were able to reconnect. It’s such a simple concept that so many of us (myself included) have a hard time remembering in our everyday routines, but so important to do.
Keeping with the “unplugged” theme, we woke up Saturday, had a big breakfast, then drove to Gooseberry Falls, just down the road from Larsmont. It was a warm, sunny weekend—ideal for doing some easy hiking. We walked around, admired the three waterfalls, threw rocks in the river, and tried to teach our kids how fortunate they were to live in Minnesota, a state with an abundance of natural beauty. We may not have the mountains or the ocean, but we have the North Shore, and that’s pretty spectacular in any season.
On the way back to our home-away-from-home, we stopped in Two Harbors to try the newly relocated Castle Danger Brewery, where I acquired a new favorite brew (the Cream Ale, mmmm), the boys had root beer, and Aaron tried the 17-7 Pale Ale. When we returned to Larsmont, we took advantage of the free lawn games—ladder golf, bocce ball, bags—and went swimming/used the hot tub again before Aaron prepared a wonderful dinner for us. (We heard rave reviews about the Ledge Rock Grill, the on-site restaurant—“fine dining without the fancy clothes”—but Aaron loves to cook so we chose to utilize the spacious kitchen in our unit instead). As the sun was setting, we joined two very nice couples at one of the communal firepits just feet from the water, where we enjoyed cocktails and complimentary s’mores.
After awhile we headed back to the cottage, where we played Twister (*note to self: Buy Twister for Christmas), Cadoo (the hilarious kids’ version of Cranium), and had an impromptu dance party in the living room. We laughed and laughed and laughed. A combination of fresh North Shore air, an abundance of indoor and outdoor activities, laughter, great food and drinks, and the completely relaxing effects of an indoor fireplace all contributed to one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time.
The whole weekend was filled with special memories, but the highlight of Sunday was, without a doubt, watching the sunrise with Aaron. That experience will stay with me forever. If you plan a getaway to Larsmont—or anywhere on Lake Superior for that matter—I can’t recommend this enough. If you do nothing else, do this. Set your alarm. You will not be disappointed.
After watching the sunrise, the kids woke up, we shared another big breakfast, then headed outside for more exploring. We walked along the trails throughout the property, threw rocks in the lake, peeked inside the wood-burning sauna at the water’s edge, and quietly walked past the quaint little massage cottage so as not to disturb the peaceful experience for the guest inside. We played more lawn games before reluctantly packing up for our 11 a.m. check-out time. Parting was such sweet sorrow.
As we were loading the car, an older woman loading the car beside ours smiled at us before gesturing at the perfectly manicured lawn, the main lodge to her left, Lake Superior to her right, the cottage behind her. “It’s going to be hard to leave this,” she announced. “This is about as good as it gets.”
We couldn’t agree more.