2006: Our roundup of good, unusual lodging

It is time to stow away another stack of notebooks and prepare to explore a new year, but not without reviewing a few highlights from 2006. This week, the topic is notable lodging. Next week, it’s a recap of exceptional meals.

If “Roads Traveled” already has mentioned a great place to sleep or eat, you likely won’t find it in these roundups. This year’s exception is the unique Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa, an extraordinary 40-room inn that turned an ordinary town of 7,500 people into a tourist destination.

After 10 years of business and substantial operating losses, the Hotel Pattee closed this month. Still to be determined is the fate of spin-off businesses, a lovely tearoom to classy gift shops and boutiques; all are vital to the local economy, but none seems strong enough to pull in long-distance travelers.

Independently owned lodging dominates our annual “best of” list. Regardless of how far from home you travel, try to support places that keep cities distinctive instead of homogenous.

Copperleaf Boutique Hotel, Appleton – A spa with complimentary glasses of wine as well as a whirlpool makes this tranquil downtown hotel a particularly good match for girlfriend getaways. It’s $84 for the Women’s Night Out spa service: 90 minutes of pampering (a massage, a facial, then manicure or pedicure).

Accommodations are homey: refrigerator and microwave in the sitting area, 300-thread Italian sheets and comfortable robes in the bedroom, roomy and granite showers. Breakfast is included. On the premises are a small bar and restaurant.

Room rates: $84 to $249. For more: www.copperleafhotel.com, 877-303-0303.

Inn at Wawanissee Point, Baraboo – In the middle of the rolling Baraboo Bluffs is a 42-acre estate that works well as a romantic getaway, a wedding site or a small-scale worksite for corporate team building.

Owners Dave and Trudy Holdener rent a part of this dream home. He is president of Nicolet Forest Bottling Company.

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: $199 to $269. The inn has four rooms; a nearby lake house also can be rented. For more: www.innatwawanisseepoint.com, 608-355-9899.

The Ambassador Hotel, Milwaukee – The recent restoration of this 1928 downtown property retained the art deco architecture and décor for which it originally was known. Two especially nice touches: classy brass elevator doors, a marble floor in the lobby.

Room size is generous and parking is free, as is shuttle service in the immediate area. Although management continues to work out kinks in quality, and can’t change the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time neighborhood, the foundation exists for a nice and distinctive lodging experience.

Room rates: $119 to $239. For more: www.ambassadormilwaukee.com, 888-322-3326.

Blue Moon Guesthouse, LaFayette, La. – In daylight, it’s a nondescript neighborhood. Then the Cajun and zydeco dancing begins, right outside of this no-frills but colorful B&B. Lively, quality music comes from under the tin roof of the back porch. There is room to dance, beer is plentiful, and seating is on wooden planks.

An overnight stay includes one drink at the saloon, no cover charge and use of the house’s Wurlitzer organ “til someone screams.” Another amenity is a used book exchange.

Room rates: $18 for a bunk bed in a room shared with others to an average of $40 for a private room. For more: www.bluemoonhostel.com, 877-766-2583.

Milford Plaza Hotel, New York City – We headed to Manhattan in summer, during the height of chatter about how bedbugs were being found in even the city’s finest hotels. That made us jittery about staying at this budget priced (by NYC standards) property.

Our nervousness was unfounded, and the Milford’s quality was as satisfactory was its heart-of-Broadway location. Pay an extra $30 for the club level; that means a room upgrade, continental breakfast, free local calls, and access to newspapers and free Internet computers in a comfortable/private lounge.

Room rates: $159 to $189. For more: www.milfordplaza.com, 800-221-2690.

Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans –This Literary Landmark is known for its patronage by authors Faulkner, Hemingway, Capote and others. The French Quarter location makes it easy to monitor the pulse of the city. Also attractive is the knowledge that the hotel is in its fourth generation of family ownership, having survived the Depression as well as Hurricane Katrina.

Rooms are well-appointed, and service is gracious. A mark of distinction is the hotel’s Carousel Piano Bar, which revolves and has a bold circus design.

Room rates: $169 to $3,000. For more: www.hotelmonteleone.com, 800-535-9595.

The Suites Hotel, Jeju Island, Korea – Asians know of Jeju as “the honeymoon island” and a popular filming site for Asian movies and soap operas. Exquisite scenery, lush vegetation, 100-plus lava caves and 18,000 “stone grandfathers” (comic-like guardian gods) are tourist lures.

This small luxury hotel is one of several in the Jungmun resort complex. Rooms overlook Halla Mountain or the Pacific Ocean. A winding walkway with a gentle but persistent decline cuts through vibrant gardens and ends at beachfront.

Room rates: $200 to $1,290. Modest island lodging exists, too, including hostels and home stays. For more: www.tour2korea.com, 800-868-7567.

EcoCamp, Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia – Near the bottom of the Earth, with glacial mountains as a backdrop, is gourmet dining and domed tents with wooden floors, cozy mattresses and fleece bedding.

The trip is too amazing to sum up in a couple of paragraphs, so you’ll read more about it in 2007. Stay tuned.

Rates: $823 and up, depending upon type and length of stay. For more: www.cascada.travel, 800-901-6987.

Room rates are subject to change; some properties offer specials. Observations are the result of independent travel, conferences of travel writers and press trips. Recommendations include, but are not limited to, subsidized and complimentary accommodations.