2007: the year in review, regarding lodging

We didn’t pack snow gear when visiting Oregon’s Mt. Hood in early October because the ski season doesn’t kick in until mid November. So we were astounded to watch, on the morning of our drive to the mountain, befuddled TV newscasters reporting on an untimely 16-inch snowfall there.

Driving on I-84 and following the Columbia River Gorge, which divides Oregon and Washington, is a dazzling and safe way to begin the trip to Mt. Hood from Portland. The climb begins at Hood River, on Hwy. 35, and our destination was Timberline Lodge, elevation 6,000 feet.

This National Historic Landmark, built during the Depression, is a sturdy and cavernous relic of fine craftsmanship. That doesn’t mean plush: Room amenities include earplugs, just one channel worked on a tiny television and the feather bed was cozy but creaky.

You can wear a sweatshirt and jeans to eat a nice dinner of crabbed stuffed prawns at the lodge’s Cascade Dining Room and (too) easily spend more than $100 per couple.

Who cares? You also receive amazing, above-the-cloud views of pure mountaintop – and that makes Timberline my top lodging experience of 2007.

Rates start at $99. For more: www.timberlinelodge.com, 503-272-3391.

Here’s what else makes the list:

Harborside Villas, 650 South Pier Dr., Sheboygan – This new near-downtown development overlooks the Sheboygan River’s south pier and the rehabbed fish cleaning shacks that today are shops and restaurants.

Six of the eight villas have three bedrooms; ours had enough beds to sleep up to 10 people, making it a bargain for a family or group of friends. Also expect a gas fireplace, whirlpool tub, equipped kitchen and multiple TVs.

Rates start at $95, when booked through www.visitsheboygan.com. For more about the property: www.harborsidevillas.com, 877-348-4552.

Four Seasons Resort, N16800 Shoreline Dr., Pembine – This 55-unit, all-suite property is elegant but not associated with the urbane hotels of the same name.

The resort’s 100 manicured acres are amid patches of pine trees, cedar swampland and twists of the Miscauno Creek. The only way to arrive is by crossing a one-lane bridge to Miscauno Island.

A nine-hole golf course butts up to the Menominee River. Nearby is whitewater rafting. On the premises are an indoor pool, spa services, an old-fashioned soda fountain and refined bistro with Italian fare.

Rates start at $89. For more: www.fourseasonswi.com, 877-324-5244.

InterContinental Milwaukee, 139 E. Kilbourn Ave., Milwaukee – The former downtown Wyndham Hotel has changed personalities. The bar is called Zen Den, and a Chocolate Bar of sweets appears on weekend nights, near an eight-TV media wall.

The indoor water fountain has been yanked out. A gallery, whose exhibits change every six weeks, has been added. A goal is to provide a “total sensory experience,” which begins with scooping into a bowl of jellybeans at the check-in desk.

Lemon-scented soap, citrus shampoo, anise lotion: Very nice, but what I liked best was being assigned room 812 with two friends; we shared that house number as college students. Also excellent: the view from our room of a downtown parade, on a day full of drizzle.

Rates start at $172. For more: www.intercontinentalmilwaukee.com, 888-424-6835.

Canal Park Lodge, 525 S. Lake Ave., Duluth, Minn. – This 116-unit hotel also has had other lives, but now it is locally owned, and that gets our attention immediately. A lounge and many rooms have sweeping views of Lake Superior port traffic; a two-story stone fireplace means the lobby is an inviting place to linger.

Significant attractions – the Aerial Lift Bridge to Leif Erikson Park’s rose garden – are a brief walk away. Use the scenic, 4.2-mile Lakewalk; the path is in front of the hotel.

Rates start at $99, including breakfast. For more: www.canalparklodge.com, 800-777-8560.

Le Chateau Frontenac, 1 Rue des Carrieres, Quebec – Old Quebec, a United Nations World Heritage Site, feels like in a quaint part of France. The narrow, curved streets are cobblestone. The shopkeepers speak French. Delicate crepes and croissants seem to be everywhere.

The most impressive building in this walled district – hands down – is one that looks like a monstrous castle with turrets, and it looms atop a bluff near the St. Lawrence River. This is the 618-room Frontenac.

Look for Santol, the canine ambassador. Order a Winston Churchill martini at the St-Laurent Bar. Nibble and sip during high tea.

Rates start at $189, and this is a good year to visit. Quebec turns 400 years old, and it’s one big party. For more: www.fairmont.com, 800-257-7544.

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.