Road Trips: Great Stays | Travel | Chicago Reader

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Road Trips: Great Stays



OK, hippies--sometimes the journey is the destination, but sometimes the destination really is the destination. These ten lodgings are attractions in their own right, though we've also included some ideas for if and when you decide to leave. --Peter Margasak


Abe's Spring Street Guest House

414 Spring, Galena | 815-777-0354 | $94-$129, packages available |

This brick and limestone bed-and-breakfast was once the icehouse for a brewery, which has been converted to the StoneHouse Pottery & Gallery, where owner Charles Fach is among the artisans. Fach's metalwork can be found in the inn's two suites, in the bed frames, light fixtures, and doorknobs, and his ceramic tiles depicting hops and barleys pave the floor of the entryway to the gallery. Albert's Glen, the larger suite, includes an enormous barrel-vaulted brick bathroom with a clawfoot tub; guests share access to a barrel-shaped cedar sauna and a hot tub that holds six. As part of a special "Glaze and Graze" deal, offered about once a month, guests decorate their own three-piece dinnerware set Friday and use it the following night at a dinner they prepare with chef Patricia Lehnhardt at the Great Galena Cookery. Galena, onetime home to Ulysses S. Grant, is known as the "outdoor museum of the Victorian Midwest," and more than a thousand buildings there are listed in the National Register of Historic Places; it also offers a range of arts and crafts galleries and antique stores; see for more.

Original Springs Mineral Spa & Hotel

506 N. Hanover, Okawville | 618-243-5458 | $59-$180, packages available |

The mineral springs in Okawville, about 40 miles east of Saint Louis, were discovered accidentally by one Rudolph Plegge, who lived and operated a saddlery and harness shop on the site in the 1860s. Suspecting that his well water was eroding his kettles, he had it analyzed and was advised of its medicinal qualities. Plegge opened a European-style spa and eventually sold it; in 1892 it burned to the ground, but the present spa and hotel were built immediately after. Room 28, the hotel's finest suite, has five large windows with original glass. The spa features a steam room and mineral bath and offers the usual treatments--massages, aromatherapy, manicures and pedicures. There's also an indoor pool, a white-tablecloth restaurant, and a game room. Guests can visit the nearby Schlosser Home, an unrestored turn-of-the-century harness shop, and the Dr. Poos Home, which was built as a bathhouse in 1888 but never opened to guests. The estate features a working windmill, Victorian furniture, and Dr. Robert Poos's collection of medical equipment.


Crowne Plaza at Historic Union Station--Downtown Indianapolis Hotel

123 W. Louisiana, Indianapolis | 317-631-2221 | $169-$309 for standard rooms; $209-$359 for a Pullman suite (rates vary according to availability) |

Yes, it's a chain, but this isn't your typical business hotel. This Crowne Plaza is housed in a former train shed of Indianapolis's Historic Union Station, the United States' first centralized railroad station, and trains still run through the back of the building on the second floor. In addition to a couple hundred standard rooms, the hotel has 26 suites in 13 Pullman cars still sitting on their original tracks. Each is named after an early 20th-century celebrity--Cole Porter, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill. Papier-mache "ghost figures" in period dress that once decorated Union Station are posed in the hotel's lobby and hallways; they're pretty creepy, especially the ones trying to sneak into one of the Pullmans. The city, being an actual midsize city, has plenty of official attractions: there's the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and the shrine to collegiate sports, the NCAA Hall of Champions. You could also hit the zoo or go deaf taking in a race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500.

Round Barn Inn

6794 N. County Road 600 West, McCordsville | 317-335-7023 | $72-$160 |

When I was a kid and my room was a mess, my mother would scold me by saying, "This isn't a barn." The Round Barn Inn, however, is (or at least was) a barn, so I guess you can go ahead and leave your skivvies in a pile--just don't forget to take them with you. Erected in 1916, it was one of approximately 225 round barns built in Indiana; it was converted into a house in the mid-1980s and became a bed-and-breakfast in 1997. The common area is dominated by thick wooden support beams and filled with quirky antique bric-a-brac. The 1,100-square-foot Hayloft Suite has three rooms, including a kitchenette and a hot tub. Guests can make the 20-mile drive to Indianapolis for a range of activities (see the Crowne Plaza listing for ideas) or keep it country and visit the Conner Prairie Living History Museum in Fisher, a sort of reenactment theme park where you can stroll down a 19th-century street and barter with a fur trader.


NettieBay Lodge

9011 W. 638 Highway, Hawks | 989-734-4688 | $120-$179, two-night minimum |

This secluded 2,000-acre Lake Huron resort, near the tip of the Michigan mitten, is ideal for those with a real appreciation of nature. You'll see plenty of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, coyotes, and snowshoe hares; hunting is allowed if you're the type, but if you're not the bird-watching sounds especially good. (NettieBay will even provide observation and photography blinds.) In winter you can go ice fishing or cross-country skiing; in summer you can rent paddle boats, get a manicure or massage, or take a yoga class. The resort offers workshops in nature photography and stone masonry, or you can even learn how to make your own split bamboo fishing rod or furniture from twigs. The seven cabins (two are duplexes), can house between one and a dozen people and include boat rental (a motor is extra); they all have indoor bathrooms and kitchens, but there's also a restaurant on-site, which is good, because outside of nature there ain't much here.

Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn

Five Mile Point Road, P.O. Box 298, Ahmeek | 906-337-1744 | $135-$200 | sandhillslight

One of the largest and last manned lighthouses on the Great Lakes, the Sand Hills Lighthouse on the Keweenaw Peninsula now functions as a bed-and-breakfast. Built in 1917, it was home to three lighthouse keepers and their families until 1939, when the Coast Guard took over. After World War II it stood vacant for years; current owner Bill Frabotta bought the property in 1961, using the fog signal station for a summer cottage and renovating the lighthouse starting in '92. Decorated in the Victorian style, Sand Hills has eight rooms, all of which feature a queen- or king-size bed and bathroom with a shower; a few rooms have fireplaces and whirlpool tubs. Isle Royal National Park, accessible only by boat, offers hiking, scuba diving, and canoeing as well as several guided walking tours and boat excursions. Also nearby is the Mendota Light Station, a working lighthouse in Bete Gris; and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Paradise, which houses the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald, whose wreck is immortalized in the Gordon Lightfoot song. The peninsula is a prime spot for stargazing and taking in the northern lights, which are best observed in spring and fall.


Don Q Inn

3658 State Road 23 North, Dodgeville | 608-935-2321, 800-666-7848 | $105-$224 for themed rooms, $49.95-$99.95 for standard |

At this outpost of the FantaSuite hotel chain, a collection of themed suites catering to lovebirds, the Arabian Nights room features a round, tented seven-foot bed surrounded by purple drapes that hide the Jacuzzi just a few feet away. The provocatively named Swinger room features a queen-size bed suspended from the ceiling by thick chains, a 300-gallon copper "cheese vat tub," and mirrored ceilings. You can also sleep in a queen-size water bed set into a "Viking ship" frame or Tranquility Base, a multilevel suite with a ten-sided water bed, a whirlpool housed in a "moon crater," and a replica of an old Gemini space capsule. The House on the Rock, the dazzling and peculiar temple of oddities built in the early 60s by obsessive collector Alex Jordan on a 60-foot chimney of rock overlooking Wyoming Valley, is seven miles away; for a different strain of outrageousness, drive 20 minutes north to Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin estate in Spring Green. If you're feeling more outdoorsy, nearby Governor Dodge State Park offers swimming, fishing, and boating, or you can view the crystal formations at the Cave of the Mounds ten miles away.

Earth Rider Cycling Boutique and Hotel

929 W. Exchange, Brodhead | 608-897-8300, 866-245-5276 | $70-$120, bike rental $10-$20 a day |

If you're an avid cyclist, this combination hotel and full-service bike shop in Green County might be your place. Each of its five rooms is named after a five-time winner of the Tour de France and is tastefully decorated with bike-related art, including recycled bike parts and posters of the famous cyclists. Downstairs the shop rents out a range of wheels, from tandems and hybrids to road bikes and recumbents. The surrounding region boasts 279 miles of bike-friendly country roads, your choice of flat or hilly, and the Sugar River Trail, 23 miles of dirt and crushed limestone running from Brodhead to New Glarus, is just a block away. (In New Glarus, aka "America's Little Switzerland," load up on that tasty New Glarus beer--it's no longer distributed in Illinois.) In Brodhead the former "Milwaukee Road" train depot has been restored and converted into a museum featuring a caboose, locomotive, and other railroad paraphernalia. All of Earth Rider's rooms have private baths, flat-screen TVs with a DVD players and cable, and high-speed Internet access.

Inn Serendipity

7843 County P, Browntown | 608-329-7056 | $105-$120 |

Inn Serendipity was named by Natural Home Magazine in 2005 as one of the top ten eco-destinations in North America. Located on a five-acre organic farm, this bed-and-breakfast is powered completely by renewable energy: the inn has its own wind turbine system and is one of a few demonstration homes for the solar-energy provider Real Goods. The linens in the two guest rooms--the Writing Room and the Music Room--are all-natural cotton and the towels are bleach-free; the water in the bathrooms is solar-heated. Guests can dine on vegetarian fare made in part from the farm's produce, feed free-range chickens, and stroll through the herb, fruit, and vegetable gardens. The 47-mile Cheese Country Trail and the Sugar River Trail (see the Earth Rider entry above) are nearby and good for hiking and biking. For more hiking and swimming, there are the Cadiz Springs and Yellowstone Lake state parks. Creative cuisine is available at the Dining Room at 209 Main in Monticello and good beer and a brewery tour are on offer in New Glarus.

Life O'Riley Farm & Guesthouses

15706 Riley, Boscobel | 608-375-5798 | doubles $85 a night or $150 for two; weekly rates available |

This bed-and-breakfast sits on 160 acres of land and was once the site of a dairy farm. Today it's home to chickens, pigs, beef calves, and laying hens and farmed primarily for corn, oats, and hay. A greenhouse and extensive gardens provide bountiful produce for guests who want to take advantage of the guest rooms' full kitchens. The proprietors also stock their freezers with meat from the farm's livestock. Dairy products and honey are available from neighbors. There are two guest houses, the Granary and the Schoolhouse, both rustically charming---they're clean, simple, and spacious with plenty of vintage touches. (The Schoolhouse includes old desks, maps, and chalkboards.) Guests are welcome to explore the farm's two rock quarries and 50 acres of woods; they also have access to the farm animals. The Wisconsin River offers fishing and canoeing, and there are plenty of trout streams for fly-fishing enthusiasts. Guests with kids might want to check out the nearby Fennimore Doll and Toy Museum, with items dating back almost two centuries. There's also the Fennimore Railroad Historical Society Museum, a former powerhouse and utility building redesigned to look like a turn-of-the-century depot.

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