Peek Inside the Midwest's Chic New Boutique Hotels
With Lederhosen-clad performers, maypole dancers and quilt shows, Iowa's Amana Colonies have never aimed for chic. This cluster of 19th-century villages near Iowa City has embraced its German heritage, luring visitors with antiques and craft shops, festivals, a brewery, and family-style schnitzel dinners (cottage cheese on the side).
But who says you can't do both, marrying tradition with trend? Enter Hotel Millwright, which opened in 2020 in the Amanas' rundown textile mill. "Without a plan to rejuvenate the site, a critical part of the Amana story may have been lost forever," says General Manager Keeley Degel. The hotel project helped preserve a slice of a National Historic Landmark, while instantly broadening the Amanas' appeal as a weekend destination. As Degel says, "It doesn't get much cooler than spending the night in a historic woolen mill." (Or than bringing home a striped apron or tea towel, fresh from the Amana looms.)
Boutique properties like Hotel Millwright fill a yawning gap in the lodging landscape—serving travelers who want a stay that's more memorable than a chain hotel, but more private than a bed-and-breakfast. For smaller towns looking to attract tourism dollars (and travelers looking to escape big-city crowds), that's a sweet dream, indeed.
Hotel Millwright, Amana, Iowa
Founded in the mid-1800s by German immigrants fleeing religious persecution, the seven villages of the Amana Colonies became one of the country's longest-surviving communal societies. Housed in the Amanas' historic woolen mill, the 65-room Hotel Millwright turns artifacts like yarn spools and looms into art. Book the Tapestry suite, outfitted in Amana textiles, and unwind at the restaurant and whiskey bar after a day of shopping. Visit on January 22 this year for Winterfest, an annual festival with competitive games like the Great Amana Ham Put—where you can put your pork-chucking skills to the test.
The Kindler Hotel, Lincoln, Nebraska
The first and only boutique hotel in Nebraska's capital pops with personality: Owners Brooke and Nick Castaneda named The Kindler for Brooke's father, the late industrial artist Ken Kindler, and filled the lobby with his signature copper pieces. Vibrant colors—emerald banquettes, cobalt velvet chaises—juxtapose with the building's grand Neoclassical architecture. The owners also called on Olympic figure skater- turned-celebrity chef Brian Boitano, whom they'd seen on Hell's Kitchen, to open his first bar inside the property—the upscale Boitano's Lounge. As one of the few places in town that serves small plates, it's a great spot to grab dinner ahead of a symphony at Lied Center for Performing Arts or after a Husker game at Memorial Stadium.
Jasper Hotel, Fargo, North Dakota
Named for Jasper Chapin, the Father of Fargo and the town's third mayor, the 125-room Jasper Hotel anchors Broadway Square, a new mixed-use development downtown that hosts a seasonal ice-skating rink, live music and cultural events. Staff don bow tie pins in Chapin's honor, and the 10th-floor halls are painted scarlet, his signature tie color. The rest of the design leans more natural and Nordic-rustic, with doses of wood, metal and handcrafted tile. Rosewild restaurant draws as many Fargoans as travelers for bison steaks, bacon-wrapped trout and desserts served with locally made Silver Lining Creamery ice cream.
The Brewery Lodge and Supper Club, Michigan City, Indiana
Not many breweries open hotels, but that's exactly what Zorn Brew Works Company did. Brewery Lodge, located in a 1930s building on 40 acres, serves as home base for exploring the region's craft beer and wine scene. During a four-hour guided limo bus tour offered by the hotel, you can visit up to eight area breweries and wineries (including Zorn, of course, which is 5 miles away in downtown Michigan City). To soak up the suds, feast on hearty Tomahawk steaks and elk burgers at the lodge's supper club before retreating to one of 12 guest suites outfitted with leather headboards and reclaimed wood from a local mill.
Hotel Retlaw, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
The name Fond du Lac translates to "bottom of the lake," a French reference to the town's site at the foot of giant Lake Winnebago, about an hour north of Milwaukee. But the vague evocation of murky depths couldn't be further from what you'll find at the Hotel Retlaw. A 2018 restoration transformed the interior of the 1920s building. (Think Greta Garbo glam.) The lobby features antique chandeliers, marble floors and striking black-and-white columns. That color scheme carries through to the 121 rooms and spacious suites. Guests will also find a stylish lobby bar and a new restaurant with farm-to-table dining—perfect for dinner before a show at the esteemed Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts, just a block away.
Many boutique hotels in big cities are actually owned by chains. Not these three.
Alma Hotel, Minneapolis
Wake up to the smell of fresh-baked pastries at Alma Hotel, a seven-room hotel above a cafe and James Beard Award-winning restaurant. A stay in the light and airy guest rooms includes a bakery breakfast.
Dubbel Dutch, Milwaukee
A former private home in East Town, Dubbel Dutch offers 17 rooms that balance modern upgrades with 19th-century relics.
Shinola Hotel, Detroit
In partnership with the luxury goods company of the same name, the Shinola beams city pride. Admire local art on display or slip into a cozy robe with "Detroit" embroidered on the back.