MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Rooms for romance

Here's where to go for the perfect getaway with your sweetie.

52 Stafford Irish Inn in Plymouth.

Beth Gauper

In Plymouth, Wis., the boutique hotel 52 Stafford includes a lovely Celtic-theme bar.

When anniversaries, birthdays and Valentine's Day roll around, swains everywhere wonder where to take their sweethearts to celebrate.

Of course, it has to be somewhere romantic. But what's romantic? To many, it's the floral Laura Ashley look, with lots of lace, patterned wallpaper and antiques.

To others, it's a rustic cabin in the forest, minus the heart-shaped whirlpool but with loads of privacy and atmosphere.

Some prefer a sleeker, more contemporary place, such as the Arts and Crafts-style Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa, or the Bernard Schwartz House in Two Rivers, a Life magazine "dream house'' designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

And there are inns with classic Victorian exteriors but modern interiors, such as the McCormick House in Hayward: "You can breathe in there,'' says Hayward shop owner Molly Otis, a friend of the proprietors. "Sometimes, those painted ladies wear me out.''

In the end, however, decor has very little to do with romance, because romance is what you bring with you.

Here are a few places likely to aid and abet l’amour.

History and architecture buffs

If the Hotel Pattee were anywhere but the central Iowa town of Perry, it would be mobbed.

One of the National Trust's Historic Hotels of America, it has a drop-dead gorgeous Arts and Crafts interior, 1913 bowling alley, spa, restaurant and 40 rooms, each elaborately decorated to honor a particular person or ethnic group.

Check for specials. Arts and Crafts fans will want to reserve the William Morris or Gustav Stickley rooms. 

In north-central Iowa, Mason City has opened the world's last remaining Frank Lloyd Wright hotel. Now called the Historic Park Inn, it gleams with Wright-designed art glass, sconces, skylights and polished wood.

In a quiet neighborhood of the Lake Michigan town of Two Rivers, Wis., the brick and cypress Bernard Schwartz House was designed in 1938 by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Big Bay Lighthouse B&B in Michigan.

Beth Gauper

Near Marquette, Mich., the 1896 Big Bay lighthouse now is a B&B.


Wright called the four-bedroom house Still Bend for its site along a marshy stretch of the East Twin River.

And on a bluff overlooking Mirror Lake, in Mirror Lake State Park just south of the Wisconsin Dells, the 1958 Wright-designed Seth Peterson Cottage sleeps four.

Bar crawlers

If you want to stay up late and mingle with the beautiful people, book a room at Graves 601, a boutique hotel across from Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.

There's a martini lounge and first-class restaurant downstairs, and the beds are like clouds.

If you'd like some live music with that martini, book at one of four Irish inns. In the eastern Wisconsin town of Plymouth, 52 Stafford is an 1892 hotel renovated into a Irish inn with a beautiful restaurant and pub that feature cherry millwork and Celtic-themed stained and etched glass.

It has two sister inns with pubs, St. Brendan’s in Green Bay and County Clare in Milwaukee.

And in Galena, Ill., the Irish Cottage Boutique Hotel features Frank O'Dowd's Irish Pub, where the live entertainment includes a short set by Irish dancers every Friday and Saturday night.

Artistic types

If you'd rather have an art gallery than a bar downstairs, rent an art loft. In the southeast Minnesota village of Lanesboro, the Art Lofts occupy the floor above Cornucopia Art Center in an 1870s brick building.

Each suite has a living room and kitchen and sleeps six.

In the northeast Iowa town of Decorah, the two-bedroom Loft on Water Street is rented by Agora Arts, an artisan gallery in the Hotel Winneshiek. It has a full kitchen and living room.

In Galena, the Gallery Guest Suite includes a living room, kitchen and private entrance above Carl Johnson's Gallery on Main Street.

Outdoorsy folks

In the northwest Wisconsin town of Hayward, the elegant McCormick House attracts many cross-country skiers in winter, but its proximity to shops makes it the perfect compromise for mixed-sports couples.

Both the champagne and sore-muscle crowds appreciate the outdoor hot tub. For more, see Seeking an outdoor hot tub.

Sauntry Mansion in Stillwater.

The Sauntry Mansion in Stillwater is a classic painted-lady Victorian.

If you like luxury as well as that rustic north-woods atmosphere, head for historic Wisconsin lodges and Minnesota lodges.

To be truly close to nature (and save money), rent a cabin in a state park. In Minnesota's Wild River State Park, there's a guesthouse with a wood-burning fireplace, and Tettegouche State Park rents a large modern cabin at the top of Illgen Falls.

They book up a year in advance. For more, see Lodgings in Minnesota state parks.

Fans of Victoriana

If you like the turn-of-the-century look, you're in luck — that's pretty much all you can find in the B&Bs of Stillwater and Dubuque, Iowa, river towns where lumber barons built mansions filled with the best parquet and carpenter's lace money could buy. 

For more, see Summer in Stillwater and Destination Dubuque.

Galena, Ill., also has many Victorian inns. So does the southeast Minnesota village of Lanesboro, where the 1889 Scanlan House is perhaps the most over-the-top traditional Victorian B&B in the state.

Duluth, which in the 1910s had more millionaires per capita than any other city, also is a trove of Victorian B&Bs.

And in Door County, Sturgeon Bay claims more B&Bs than any other city in Wisconsin.

To find inns in other areas, see How to find a bed-and-breakfast.

Bernard Schwartz house in Two Rivers.

Beth Gauper

Architecture fans will love a weekend at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Bernard Schwartz House in Two Rivers, Wis.

Lighthouse lovers

For some reason, many people think inns on desolate, wind-whipped points and cliffs are romantic. 

On moody Lake Superior, five B&Bs occupy old keepers' houses from Two Harbors, Minn., to the Shipwreck Museum near Sault Ste. Marie.

Mystery aficionados

The Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers of Galena hold a Murder Mystery Weekend in February, and Madden's Resort on Gull Lake near Brainerd, Minn., holds a Murder Mystery Weekend in September.

Many B&Bs offer murder-mystery dinners, including the Spicer Castle in Spicer, Minn., and the Mont Rest on the Mississippi River in Bellevue, Iowa.

If you'd like to play a part in a murder mystery, book at room at Fitger's Inn in Duluth and walk down to the hall for an audience-participation dinner-theater show.

For more, see Under one roof in Duluth.

And in Sturgeon Bay, the Governor's Suite at The Barbican bed and breakfast is reached through a hallway bookcase, a la Agatha Christie. 

Privacy seekers

Many inns and B&Bs rent carriage houses or cottages and bring breakfast to the door, so guests needn't be sociable if they're not in the mood. For a list of good ones, see A cottage of one's own.


There are also hundreds of private homes available for rent. For tips, see Renting a vacation house.


Last updated on February 5, 2014
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