Technically a bed and breakfast, The Hillside Inn feels more like a quiet boutique hotel, or perhaps like staying in the manor house of a friend. The inn has five luxury suites, plus two cottages. It’s an ideal place to stay to explore the lovely Door County peninsula or for an event like a wedding.
My suite is, in fact, the bridal suite, as it has a separate entrance providing a dramatic walk down a staircase toward the vast lawn which is perfect for a wedding ceremony and reception. Technically called the Marsh Marigold suite — all suites are named after local flowers — I have two separate sundecks as well as a window seat ideal for soaking up the sun on a cooler afternoon. My bed is a comfortable king size awash in luxe linens, with interesting books placed thoughtfully on each bedside table. I have a gas fireplace with two easy chairs (a TV with DVD is hidden above the fireplace; it pulls out to be viewed from bed), plus a desk and ample storage space. The decor is in soothing whites and creams. I love my large and well-lit bathroom with its glass walk-in shower complete with seat and the plush terrycloth robes.
My windows face the back and side gardens, but I can also see the water from one deck. Three of Hillside’s five suites share the same water views of Eagle Harbor Bay as the massive front porch, which is, in fact, the largest porch in all of Door County. Each suite has a private bathroom and a balcony. Trillium comes complete with a wet bar and a separate bedroom.
Hillside’s two cottages are in the garden. One has three bedrooms and one bath, and the other two bedrooms with one bath. Both have fully-equipped kitchens and perfect front porches.
Breakfast is served in the elegant dining room. During my summer visit, there was an abundance of fresh berries with yogurt breads, plus fresh orange juice and very fine coffee. There’s a sunny library sitting area in addition to the front porch. Guests can also wander through the pretty gardens.
The welcoming Hillside has been hosting guests since the late 1800s, when it was a four-room log cabin. It’s now on the U.S. national register of historic places. The building received a remodel in 2002 to become a luxury historical inn, and was reopened in 2016 by new owner and real estate broker Diane Taillon.
Hillside Inn is in the charming village of Ephraim, overlooking Eagle Harbor Bay. Almost next door is the old-fashioned Wilson’s Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor, serving ice cream treats, home-drafted root beer, and casual meals for over 100 years. A pier with boat rentals is across the street. You could easily enjoy your time just in Ephraim, but you’ll want to explore all the little towns and highlights of the entire Door County peninsula.
In one of the United States’ best cities for those who love food, Ann Arbor’s Kensington Hotel is a modern boutique place to stay. The hotel is about a 10-minute drive to the college town’s downtown shops and restaurants and just seven minutes from the University of Michigan’s Big House, the largest sports stadium in the country (get an aerial view of it via a flyover in a WWII B-25 bomber from the Yankee Air Museum).
The Kensington’s light-filled lobby welcomes guests. You’ll find people soaking up the atmosphere — or the warmth from the fireplace — in the comfortable chairs and enjoying complimentary treats from the Viennese Coffee Bar. On the left when you enter is the hotel’s restaurant, Relish, with its international menu and craft beers from Michigan’s excellent selection. Go right for the hotel’s 200 rooms and for the indoor pool (the largest in the city), hot tub, sauna, gym, plus an outdoor patio area with a soothing water fountain and a bonfire.
The decor of the guestrooms and suites is in contemporary greys with pops of sunshine yellow. The king (or two doubles) bed is plush with very fluffy pillows, and bedside tables have easy access plugs. I spent my days and evenings exploring all over Ann Arbor and was grateful to have an excellent sleep throughout my stay. The carpeted rooms have a desk and a couch or easy chair with footstool. A microwave, mini-fridge and coffee maker make snacking easy. The flat-screen TV has oodles of channels, but note there’s no room safe. Dog-friendly rooms are available if you’re travelling with a fuzzy friend.
The marble bathrooms feature fabulous Beekman 1802 bath products (you may have seen the owners on the Cooking Channel or when they won The Amazing Race). The sink has a large counter for all your stuff; it’s in its own area with a large closet. There’s a separate room for the toilet and shower-curtained bathtub/shower. Some rooms have a whirlpool soaking tub too.
Executive rooms on the third floor have access to a club lounge which serves a complimentary light breakfast with muffins, bagels, pastries, cereal, yogurt and fruit, plus juices and coffees, teas and hot chocolate. It’s perfect for grabbing something to go or enjoying in the lounge. Hors d’ouvres are served at evening receptions, but I was too busy checking out Ann Arbor’s fabulous dining scene so can’t report on it.
I’m not sure which part of The Osthoff Resort I enjoyed most.
Was it my huge suite, complete with fireplace, jetted tub, sunny balcony, separate living room and kitchen? Was it the calm of the Aspira Spa and the massage I had in one of its fireplaced treatment rooms? It might have been the cooking class where I learned to make French onion soup, potato-crusted walleye, beef tenderloin and a chocolate caramel dessert. Or it might have been all the delicious food I ate, much of it coming from the resort’s organic gardens (my dinner at Lola’s on the Lake and my berry pancake one day at breakfast were real highlights). Was it the views of Elkhart Lake, both from within the hotel and out on the lake itself? High up there was the friendly feeling throughout the town of Elkhart Lake and the kind and professional service of The Osthoff’s staff.
The Osthoff Resort is the biggest property in tiny Elkhart Lake, a resort town with a surprising amount to do and an abundance of excellent dining. The Osthoff is busy all summer long with families and couples enjoying the atmosphere and services. It’s easier to find a quieter time to visit at other times of the year, and just as much — maybe more — to enjoy. There are special events throughout the year, like a Christmas market and a Mother’s Day jazz concert.
The resort is an AAA Four Diamond property 19 years in a row. It hosts conferences, weddings and events, as well as couples and families who want a relaxed lakeside vacation.
Motorsport enthusiasts will love visiting during nearby Road America’s vintage auto races, as the parade of old cars of all types is right outside The Osthoff (be sure to book well in advance).
This beautiful AAA Four Diamond Hotel is right on Lake Mendota and just a few minutes’ walk to Madison’s gorgeous State Capitol building and its Saturday farmers’ market. It’s an ideal place to stay to explore Madison’s local food scene, Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, local sports, and an exceptional array of activities for the young and young at heart.
The Edgewater is a member of Historic Hotels of America. It first opened in 1948 and has hosted celebrities like Elvis, Bob Hope, Bob Marley and the Dalai Lama. Its original Arte Moderne building now holds a large spa, two fitness centres, a small pool, meeting space, and some guest rooms, including longer-stay suites. Most guests stay in the newer main building, ingeniously constructed to be eight stories from the street and 15 stories from the water (the lobby is on the sixth floor). Both buildings have rooftop patios and gorgeous views of the lake. A $110-million renovation was completed in 2014.
The Edgewater prides itself on offering programming for the local community, much of it free. Friday nights often have live music, accompanied by a traditional Wisconsin fish fry. Other activities on the vast deck connecting the hotel’s two buildings include yoga classes, cheering on the Wisconsin Badgers, and winter skating on a specially-constructed outdoor ice rink. There are multiple dining options within the hotel, and it’s a short walk to local restaurants.
Many of The Edgewater’s 202 rooms and suites offer lake views, and feature all the amenities you’d expect in a Four Diamond hotel. My suite had a large shower room separate from the immense main bathroom. I appreciated the excellent lighting and double mirrors, the Green Natura bath products, as well as the lovely cheese plate and crackers which greeted me on arrival. Had I not been out enjoying everything Madison had to offer, it would have been great to work at the large desk with convenient outlets while enjoying the lake air from windows that open, or to relax in the easy chair watching the 47” HD TV. A rarity in hotels — there were no annoying lights from the smoke alarm, wifi router, TV, or anything else which necessitate an eye mask.