Americana Charm, $$ (from $275)
They say still waters run deep, and that's certainly true in Stillwater. The town where Minnesota was born in 1848 sits along the St. Croix River on the state line with Wisconsin, 25 minutes from Minneapolis. This is the home of Lora, which opened in 2018 and immediately started raking in accolades for its design. The hotel could also earn a few history and geology credits, as it is built on what originated 150 years ago as the Joseph Wolf Brewery, carved into limestone bluffs connected to sandstone caves the brewery used to store its beers and source its water. (Minnesota is home to hundreds of miles of such caves.) If the walls could talk around here, they would tell of a tragic fire, of renewed life as a steam-power facility, of another brewery, and — moving into the 20th century — of surviving temperance and Prohibition. Portland-based Provenance Hotels has transformed the four buildings into a charming boutique hotel, retaining such original features as brewery walls, vaulted warehouse ceilings, and cave entrances that may lead nowhere but are nonetheless striking. Specially commissioned contemporary artwork fills the lobby, hallways, and guest rooms, and collaborations with local artisans can be seen in details like leather coasters, blankets, candles, and, of course, the beers.
At a Glance
The Vibe: Down-home Midwestern with a contemporary Scandi hook, a nod to the Germans and Scandinavians who originally settled Minnesota.
Standout Detail: The historic brewery caves and architectural touches.
This Place Is Perfect For: A relaxing, nature-filled Americana getaway.
Rooms: Lora's 40 rooms come in varying layouts and sizes, the grandest of which is the Empire Suite. Local touches abound, from Minnesota-made Fairbault Mills blankets and bathroom tiles evocative of St. Croix river rocks to original contemporary artwork reflective of the folklore of the region’s indigenous people and immigrants. The furniture, both simple and cozy in shades of blue and grey provides a warm counterpoint to the rough brick and sandstone walls.
A good night's sleep should be easy given the menu of speciality pillows, down comforters, cotton sheets, and pillow top mattresses. Here's one for the tidy travelers: Guest who say more than two nights and go without housekeeping get a $5 per day credit for the honor bar, which is stocked with local snacks and drinks.
Provenance Hotels' Well+Fit program makes it easy to keep up with workouts through more than 300 barre3 videos that you can stream in the room. The hotel can provide a workout kit with a yoga mat, fitness ball, and an iPad preloaded with videos.
Do bring four-legged pals, though be warned that they may return home spoiled, because this place sounds like pet heaven. They'll get a bed, bowl, toys, and treats — though make them do a trick for you while you order from the pet-friendly room service menu, scan the list of local pet resources, and leaf through books on dog massage and pet psychology. There's a one-time pet fee of $45 per stay.
On Site: The hotel doesn't have a gym, but offers day passes to River Valley Athletic Club. The stairs adjacent to the hotel are the free version of a kiler workout. The hotel has bikes available for exploring the area.
Food + Drink: Feller restaurant (open breakfast, lunch, and dinner) serves a hunt-and-gather-menu inspired by Great North cuisine: smoked trout ceviche, wild nettle spaetzle, wild boar with fried cornbread dumplings, venison chop with pickled wild onion. The Long Goodbye serves craft cocktails, many featuring Minnesota-distilled spirits in a menu of "libations and salutations" with catchy-cutesy names like Don't Mind If I Do and Old Fashioned Feller. MADE is the street-level cafe that serves coffees and fresh-pressed juices.
What to Do Nearby
Stillwater is a charmer, regularly named one of the prettiest towns in America. Credit the town itself, filled with historic buildings and antiques, and the natural surroundings — the bluffs, the river, the countryside. Depending on the time of year, days can be spent hot air ballooning; visiting nearby wineries; cruising the river on paddle wheel riverboats, pontoons, or gondolas; skiing; and watching curling on the lake. Lace up your boots or grab a hotel bicycle and hit the miles of hiking and biking trails nearby. Brown’s Creek/Gateway Trail leads all the way to St. Paul.