B&B operators are busting stereotypes

The classic bed and breakfast inn – a lovely, looming Victorian house with antiques and lace in abundance – is becoming a smaller slice of the lodging pie in Wisconsin. More innkeepers are bucking stereotypes and defining this category of accommodations in diverse ways.

Consider these examples:

– A 1,000-foot driveway leads to the remote, stunning and window-filled prow of Artesian House, 84100 Hatchery Road, Bayfield, which gets its name from the artesian well on innkeeper Al Chechik’s 25 acres.

A wood-burning fireplace, influx of natural light and panoramic views make the Great Room a natural gathering spot. Unusual, modern architecture and décor are earth-friendly; the newest addition is solar power, to heat water. A rain garden thrives in summer.

For more: www.artesianhouse.com, 715-779-3338.

– A B&B tends to be framed as a cozy destination for couples, but accommodations at Sunnyfield Farm B&B, N6692 Batko Road, Camp Douglas, include adjoining bedrooms – one of which has twin beds, to easily accommodate a family.

Expect John and Susanne Soltvedt to provide down-home country hospitality at their farmhouse, which sits on 160 acres of soybeans, winter wheat and picturesque bluffs. The sense of serenity is automatic at this private location.

For more: www.sunnyfield.net, 888-839-0232.

Innkeepers say twin beds are becoming less of an anomaly at B&Bs because more traveling friends and older couples are expressing a preference for them.

– Each guest room has a whirlpool and gas fireplace at Canyon Road Inn, 575 W. Town Line Road, Turtle Lake, but that is where the similarity ends. Theme decorating means the aura ranges from barn board to Northwoods furnishings. Other rooms are ideal for gardeners and railroad buffs.

Innkeeper Judy Ahlberg says only 30 acres of woods separates her lakeshore property from the St. Croix Casino, which presents entertainment as well as gambling. Some guests come to shop at Louie’s Finer Meats, Cumberland, a family-run butcher shop with a fat list of sausages that have won international awards (see www.louiesfinermeats.com, 800-270-4297).

For more: www.canyonroadinn.com, 888-251-5542.

– A burbling stream runs right in front of Mecan River House, W11178 Cumberland Ave., Coloma, so fishing (in season) is easy and convenient. Innkeeper Agnes Breitzman says it’s most often an exercise in catch-and-release.

What might look like your neighbor’s duplex contains roomy accommodations, including a loft with mini-kitchen and gathering space. Look for the property off of Hwy. 21, between Coloma and Wautoma, where deer start to outnumber people.

For more: www.mecanriverhouse.com, 715-228-3283.

The 185 members of the Wisconsin Bed & Breakfast Association represent independently owned lodging that has one to 35 guest rooms. Wisconsin’s legal definition of a B&B is owner-occupied lodging with up to eight guest rooms.

The average Wisconsin B&B stay is increasing by at least one night, and the number of midweek stays also is increasing. The average stay was between one and two nights in 2007.

“We are the original all-inclusive getaway,” contends Kris Ullmer, the association’s administrator. She also has seen a steady increase in B&B lodging packages that involve themes and/or other local businesses.

One tantalizing example, which has become a pre-spring tradition: Chocolate March, in which a $25 ticket allows inn hopping along the St. Croix River Valley (in Wisconsin and Minnesota), for sweet food/beverage samplings as B&Bs are toured.

Stay at a participating inn in March, and your chocolate intake might soar higher. For instance: Guests at Escape by the Lake (www.escapebythelake.com, 715-381-2871) at 922 Sally’s Alley North, Hudson, get a Chocolate Survival Kit, which includes “Chocolat” (the movie), chocolates (to eat) and a recipe book (guess what ingredient takes top billing?).

For more about B&Bs statewide: www.yestobliss.com, 715-539-9222.

Thanks go to Mary Lou Campion of the Cobblestone Bed and Breakfast, Birchwood, for providing fun and beautiful accommodations when I judged the recent Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association recipe contest.

Spending a night in the Oriental Room at her inn means sinking into a deep copper tub for a leisurely soak, then nodding off in a beautifully carved, four-poster “rice bed” that sits a bit higher off the floor than a typical bed. Reminders of Asia – kanji calligraphy and delicate figurines to a five-foot-wide folding fan – were everywhere.

Expect house cats London and Paris to be as aloof or friendly as you desire (within the boundaries of feline reason). Don’t say “no” if Mary Lou offers a refreshing fruit frappe (smoothie). Invade her stash of homemade and other munchies; the innkeeper insists that you do what you need to feel content.

Anthony Wise Sr., grandfather of the guy who established the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race in 1973, designed and built the Cobblestone for himself. Despite the house’s century-old age, furnishings are much more homey than fussy.

For more: www.cobblestonebedandbreakfast.com, 800-659-4883. This year’s Birkie is Feb. 21, but festivities begin Feb. 19 in Hayward, about 30 miles north of Birchwood.