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Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008

Romeo's Retreats

Grab your valentine

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Romance is all about finding a spark and fueling it. There is no universal way to do it, but there are plenty of places to ponder it as Valentine’s Day approaches. Here are some ideas.

Kohler, Wis.
Inn on Woodlake, 705 Woodlake Road, Kohler: Can’t afford a room at The American Club, the Midwest’s only five-diamond resort? This mid-priced hotel, also part of the Kohler family, is a great place to land—and you’re still close enough to indulge in everything else that the area offers, from fine dining to spa services, free factory tours to industrial art walks.

Woodlake’s decor is classy, and beds are comfortable. Outside is a serene view of a small lake, which can be circled on a quarter-mile paved footpath. Guests receive an extended continental breakfast with at least one hot item (such as biscuits with gravy, or pancakes). Bakery comes from The American Club kitchens—another wonderful plus. Room rates begin at $116, including breakfast. For more: www.destinationkohler.com, 800-344-2838, ext. 700.

For a snack: Indulge at the new Craverie Chocolatier Cafe in the fashionable Shops at Woodlake, a short walk from the inn and a showcase for the growing line of Kohler Chocolates. For more: www.kohlerchocolates.com, 800- 778-5591.

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Eau Claire, Wis.
Fanny Hill Dinner Theatre, 3919 Crescent Ave., Eau Claire: It’s on the outskirts of the city and an especially good choice for lovers of Victorian decor. Teddy bears show up everywhere: little ones fill display cases, a large-as-life one sits with a drink at a table in the bar.

Lighthearted matinee and evening productions are a draw, and Last of the Red Hot Lovers opens Feb. 1. Another good reason to visit is the view: It’s a stunning eyeful of the Chippewa River and surrounding terrain. Room rates begin at $79, including breakfast. For more: www.fannyhill.com, 800-292-8026. Dinner, on night two: Indulge at Native Bay Restaurant and Lounge, 9504 Highway S South, Chippewa Falls, fine dining in an unlikely place. The property faces Lake Wissota and looks like an ordinary watering hole, but chef Nathan Berg gathers ingredients from Wisconsin farmers and works his magic. For more: www.nativebayrestaurant.com, 715- 726-0434.

Chicago
Hotel Sax, 333 Dearborn St., Chicago: The former House of Blues Hotel has had a makeover, including accommodations that it bills as “luxury” and the Crimson Lounge, which is classified as “exclusive.” Slightly less refined is the 10Pin Bowling Alley, where you can order mac and cheese with your 10PinTini between frames.

Biggest temptation: Live like a rock star, or another celebrity, by booking a room with amenities inspired by the contract demands of rich and famous guests. The Jennifer Lopez overnight includes a quiet room with white lilies, apple pie, chocolate chip cookies and in-room spa services.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers package means Heineken beverages, a juice bar, acoustic guitar and VIP access at the adjacent House of Blues concert venue. Room rates begin at $169. For more: www.hotelsaxchicago.com, 877-569-3742. For dinner: A helping of history as well as red meat at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse, 33 W. Kinzie St., next to Hotel Sax. The restaurant is a shrine to the legendary sports announcer and is a mini baseball museum in its own right.

For more: www.harrycarays.com, 312-828-0966.

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Baraboo, Wis.
Inn at Wawanissee Point, E13609 Tower Road, Baraboo: In the middle of the rolling Baraboo Bluffs is a dream home on 42 acres that the owners, Dave and Trudy Holdener, are eager to share. Dave is president of Nicolet Forest Bottling Co. The inn has four rooms; a nearby lake house can also be rented. Devils Head and Cascade Mountain are nearby, for downhill skiers. Expect private hiking trails, hand-carved woodwork, a two-story fireplace, wine/cheese upon arrival and a hot breakfast. An incredible view from the sitting room comes from a skybox-sized window. Elsewhere is a cozy bar and a high-tech conference room. Room rates begin at $229, including breakfast. For more: www.innatwawanisseepoint.com, 608-355-9899. For lunch: Jerk chicken or black bean burritos are big and divine at the Little Village Caf?146 Fourth Ave., Baraboo.

Order chocolate mousse torte for dessert, and a casual meal becomes stupendous. For more: www.littlevillagecafe.com, 608-356-2800.

Minneapolis
Nicollet Island Inn, 95 Merriam St., Minneapolis: The 24 room hotel almost fills a small island on the Mississippi River, between St. Anthony Main and the Guthrie Theater/ Metrodome/ Mill City Museum riverfront. So it’s a prime location. Check out the inn’s stained-glass and woodcarved bar, which is 150 years old. The charming inn’s restaurant is known for its extensive wine list. In-room amusements include a Comfort Sleep Number bed. You wouldn’t guess that this was a Salvation Army men’s shelter for 60 years. Room rates begin at $209. For more: www.nicolletislandinn.com, 612-331-1800.

For dinner: Nye’s Polonaise, 112 E. Hennepin Ave., is an odd-looking Polish-American supper club that has been around since 1949. Adults of all ages polka, order pierogi and sip martinis. It offers reasonable prices and is a quick walk from Nicollet Island. For more: 612-379-2021.

Two Harbors, Minn.
Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast, 1 Lighthouse Point, Two Harbors, Minn.: Overnight guests become assistant lighthouse keepers at this 1892 structure. The workload is light, but it’s not a game: This is a working lighthouse. A halfblock away is the 205-mile Superior Hiking Trail, which ends at the Canadian border and is maintained all year.

Each of the four guest rooms has a Lake Superior view, and the location is 25 miles northeast of Duluth. Rates begin at $109 per night, including breakfast. For more: www.lighthousebb.org, 888-832-5606. For dessert: Head to Betty’s Pies, 1633 Highway 61, Two Harbors. Pie lady Betty Lessard has been at it since the 1950s, helping to bake 300 pies a day at the peak of summer.

Call first, because business hours are shortened in winter. For more: www.bettyspies.com, 877-269-7494.

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