Best Midwest Places to Get Snowed In
Grand Marais, Minnesota: Snowed in by the lake
Tuck your toes into the folds of a brown furry blanket, settle on the leather sofa in a two-bedroom, two-bath condo at East Bay Suites and listen to the buzzing outside. Chain saws? No. Those would be snowmobiles zooming through the one-stoplight town of Grand Marais, Minnesota.
Locals in this fishing-village-turned-artists' enclave of 1,350 cheerfully tell you there's no bad weather, just bad gear. East Bay's concierge is happy to guide guests with dogsledding tours, snowmobile rentals, dinner recommendations, even moose-sighting tips.
In the evening, pull on your boots and walk to Gun Flint Tavern, which has a surprisingly diverse menu promising 12 microbrews, organic ingredients and an array of ethnic dishes. Then trek back to East Bay and watch the lake ice crinkle from your balcony -- until it's time to climb under a white duvet and welcome a deep vacation sleep. (800) 414-2807; eastbaysuites.com
Pictured: The steel-skeleton Grand Marais lighthouse has stood over the harbor since 1922.
More lake lodgings
Blacksmith Inn on the Shore Enjoy harbor views after a soak in a big tub at this cozy Door County, Wisconsin, spot. Blacksmith Inn on the Shore
Big Cedar Lodge Ozark cooking (blackberry cobbler!), attentive service and upscale pine cabins along Table Rock Lake make this resort near Branson, Missouri, an ideal place to snuggle up by the fire. Big Cedar Lodge
Grand View Lodge Choose from rooms, suites, cabins and townhomes in Minnesota's Brainerd Lakes region. Huge stone hearths, the Glacial Waters Spa and massive windows overlooking Gull Lake beg visitors to unwind. Grand View Lodge
Harbor Grand Cozy guest rooms offer views of the harbor in New Buffalo, Michigan. Hike along the nearby sand dunes, then sate a guilty craving with 24-hour Ben & Jerry's delivery. Harbor Grand
Canal Park Lodge Couples looking for an upscale city retreat love this Duluth hotel. Balconies face Lake Superior's waves, and restaurants and shops fill a weekend. Canal Park Lodge
Pictured: Warm up by the fireplace at Blacksmith Inn on the Shore in Door County, Wisconsin.
Boyne, Michigan: A place to play
Austrian ski instructors cheerfully work with inexperienced skiers: "Pretend you're holding a tray. Now lean to the right, then to the left." With a little practice, even novices can swoop and swish across the runs at Boyne Mountain before safely landing in the snow-covered village below.
Boyne (15 miles south of Petoskey) is home to the 60-plus-year-old grand dame of Midwest skiing. Boyne's Mountain Grand Lodge and Spa marries North Woods knotty pine with alpine luxury. The result: big rooms with fireplaces, plasma TVs and silky bed linens--plus the 18,000-square-foot Solace Spa and Avalanche Bay, a huge indoor water park.
At a steamy indoor-outdoor pool, gusts of lake-effect snow powder guests' hair. The Solace Spa, scented with sandalwood and rosemary, promises hours of relaxation. You could just appreciate winter from an indoor seat, but the rush of skiing may lure you into another run down the mountain. boyne.com
More play lodgings
Spearfish Canyon Lodge (pictured) Guests at this upscale resort in South Dakota's Black Hills can rent sleds and travel the 350 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. When you're done, warm up by the massive hearth in the lobby and rest on pillow-top mattresses. spfcanyon.com
Louis Penfield House Twenty miles east of Cleveland, a three-bedroom Frank Lloyd Wright home rests on 30 acres of wooded property. Spend the evening by the fire appreciating Wright's Usonian style after a hike along the Chagrin River, which cuts through the property. penfieldhouse.com
Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa Nearly 30 miles southwest of Traverse City, this resort offers a classy attention to detail ski enthusiasts could easily get used to. And the 18,500-square-foot "green" spa promises head-to-toe pampering and wellness. crystalmountain.com
Minneapolis: Art in the city
Bring a healthy dose of curiosity about art and time to take it all in when you visit Chambers Art Hotel in Minneapolis, a boutique lodging with 60 rooms and suites just off Nicollet Mall.
At the mall, spend the afternoon browsing at art galleries, bookshops and Macy's (and return in the evening for live music at Dakota Jazz Club). Back at the hotel, stroll the lobby and halls to view dozens of pieces of contemporary artwork. Even if you haven't heard of the artists on display, you'll like reading the placards created by the hotel's full-time art director.
Original art also appears in each of the stylish black-and-white-decked rooms. Outside, a courtyard holds a massive fire pit, heated cabanas and an ice bar, where bundled-up servers offer drinks from behind another piece of art--this one made from ice. lemeridienchambers.com
Pictured: The ice bar at Chambers Art Hotel is made from 300-pound blocks of ice. Fur throws lie over the ice-carved seating.
More city lodgings
Mansion on the Hill (pictured) Guests who force themselves to leave this luxe, exquisitely updated 1857 mansion in Madison enjoy a short walk to Wisconsin's capitol. mansionhillinn.com
Warwick Allerton Hotel A renovation gave this historic destination on Chicago's Mag Mile a stylish update. It's a steal for the price, and a perfect home base for exploring the city. theallertonhotel.com
Wisconsin Dells: Right for romance
The real world can't get past the front gate of Sundara Inn and Spa. The resort, named for the Sanskrit word for "beautiful," hides among tall pines on a winding side road outside Wisconsin Dells. You'll be reminded how great a show sunlight, fire and grazing deer put on when you have nowhere else to be.
Float through a seamless series of hot tubs, steam rooms and heated towels. Flute music and earthy oil scents fill the halls. Fireplaces radiate from seemingly every corner, leaving no tension unmelted. Privacy is as complete as you want to make it. You can eat breakfast in the quiet atrium, but there's always room service in the 26 suites and 12 villas.
Couples can take massages in the candlelit "Spa Together" room, featuring two massage tables, two hydrotherapy tubs and yet another fireplace. Waiters carry champagne to couples at the poolside fire bowl. And while Sundara provides free chauffeur service to area entertainment, you might not choose to leave. sundaraspa.com
Pictured: Sundara's pool and fire bowl stay open all winter.
More romantic lodgings
Inn at Irish Hollow (pictured) Get breakfast delivered to your plush cottage in the woods near Galena, Illinois. A two-night package includes breakfasts and a seven-course dinner. irishhollow.com
Canoe Bay This couples-only resort on 280 acres in northern Wisconsin exudes luxury and privacy. Two-person whirlpools are lovely. canoebay.com
West Baden Resort A $500 million renovation restored the enormous glass-domed lobby at this southern Indiana spot. Guests love the spacious rooms, plus the spa, restaurants and hiking. frenchlick.com
Hocking Hills, Ohio: Cooking getaway
Cooking with six strangers at the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls--then serving the meal to 40 other guests--may not seem like a relaxed winter weekend at first. But Executive Chef Anthony Schulz and owner Ellen Grinsfelder are experts at running the rustic inn's culinary weekends.
Guests tackle recipes such as charred tomato salsa, fire-roasted red-pepper salad with vinaigrette and sauteed pineapple with coconut cream and caramel in phyllo cups. Schulz circulates through the kitchen, offering techniques and tips and refilling wineglasses. Pretty soon, the cooks are chatting in the kitchen like it's their own. And for the night, it is.
When the meal is done, you take a seat in the dining room, and the waitstaff serves each course. Then lean back in your chairs and relax -- happy, full, and eager to do it again someday. innatcedarfalls.com
More places to cook
Chateau Chantal (pictured) North of Traverse City, Michigan, this winery and resort has luxe rooms, a lake view and cooking classes (handmade Italian pastas and sauces and winter soups and stews). chateauchantal.com
Yates House Bed and Breakfast An 1850s-style roadside inn in Rocheport, Missouri (115 miles east of Kansas City), blends historical touches with modern amenities. Culinary weekends include a food/wine chat, Saturday prep, winery tour and dinner. yateshouse.com
Kansas City, Kansas: Winter escape with kids
At the Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City, Kansas, tweener girls in pajamas giggle while others dash to their bunk-bed suites to change into swimsuits. This is their weekend, a romp through a 281-room kids' Club Med with T-shirt-making, bedtime stories at the lobby fireplace and the Scoops Kid Spa, where girls get manicures and pedicures on a bench shaped like a banana split.
Families who wander outside find Village West, a sprawling complex with a movie theater, kid-themed restaurants and dozens of stores. But the key draw at every Great Wolf is the cavernous water park.
The 49,000-square-foot space holds a spaghetti bowl of eight waterslides, a lazy river and an enormous tree fort. And parents may have to admit: Kids aren't the only ones who take great joy in standing in a swimsuit and thumbing their nose at winter outside the window. greatwolf.com
More kid lodgings
Lied Lodge and Conference Center Story time and movies entertain at this Nebraska City retreat. Outside, Tree Adventure has hiking, a 50-foot tree house and skating. liedlodge.org
Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark Suites at this Dubuque, Iowa, lodging offer river views and a great location near the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. grandharborresort.com
Pictured: Ice skating at Lied Lodge and Conference Center.
(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® January/February 2010.)
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