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St Paul Pioneer Press Article
Sunday 3/18/2007
  Courtesy of  www.twincities.com
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Hosts with the most

At small inns, a knack for hospitality makes

a few stand out. Here are 12 that do it right.

Pioneer Press
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Beth Gauper, who writes about regional travel, can be reached at 651-228-5425, bgauper@pioneer press.com.


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, if requested.

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. 1-715-934-3339, www.mccormickhouseinn.com.

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. 1-800-322-8327, www.littleollielodging.com.

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 — canoeing, bird-watching, moose-watching, snowshoeing, skiing — and proprietor Jo Kovach lends equipment, arranges permits and gives tips to her guests. There’s a small restaurant in the five-room inn, and delicious breakfasts are included in the rates, $122-$157.50. 1-218-365-4720, www.blueheronbnb.com.

11. White Fox Inn, Thunder Bay, Ontario: This inn at the foot of the Nor’Wester Mountains, built in 1962 for the president of the 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 I was there on a Sunday, the hosts upgraded me to the largest of the luxurious rooms; that’s typical Canada Nice. 1-800-603-3699, www.whitefox.com.

12. Washington House Inn, Cedarburg, Wis.: This restored 1886 cream-brick inn and 1870 annex on Cedarburg’s main street is big, with 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, www.washingtonhouseinn.com.

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