You’re all too well acquainted with the Midwestern winter no-man’s land: little snow and an abundance of bleak brown-gray as far as the eye can see. Seek some winter cheer at one of these drivable bed-and-breakfasts, where winter hikes, warm fires, and plenty of waffles await.
1. Eight Gables Inn, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Gatlinburg is magical in the winter: snow-covered rooftops, the scent of warm, fresh-made fudge, and the twinkling of thousands of Christmas lights on the trees that line the sidewalks. Eight Gables Inn sits at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains, just two miles from downtown Gatlinburg. The inn’s 21 rooms each offer different amenities, such as the king-sized bed and jacuzzi tub in the Orchid suite and a pair of full-sized four-posters in the Summer Whisper suite. Spend the afternoon hiking in the Smokies among the pine trees, waterfalls, and abundant fresh air, then head into town for a mountain man–approved slab of steak at Cherokee Grill, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, a tasting of Davy Crockett’s Tennessee whiskey at Gatlinburg Barrelhouse, or one of the Donut Friar’s hot, crumbly doughnuts. Rather spend the night in? Try out Eight Gable’s “INNdulgences,” such as a massage and chocolate-covered strawberries, or hold out for the sweet dessert that’s delivered to your room every night of your stay. Eight Gables Inn, eightgables.com
2. Victorian Vrooman Mansion, Bloomington, Illinois
Built in 1869 in the heart of Bloomington, Illinois, the Victorian Vrooman Mansion is a trip back in time, filled with period furnishings like clawfoot tubs, European-carved wooden beds, and marble-topped dressers. Head to the family dining table first thing to fill up on thick-cut bacon and orange brûlée French toast before touring the town. On the first Friday in February, Bloomington’s restaurants participate in Tour de Chocolat, so plan plenty of pit stops to taste test. In early March, drive 15 minutes southwest to Funks Grove to see how they process their pure maple syrup and grab a bottle of the good stuff to go. Finish the day curled up with a cup of something warm in front of the fire in Vrooman’s parlor room. Vrooman Mansion, vroomanmansion.com
3. Murphin Ridge, Ohio
Angle your car southeast and drive straight to Amish country, where you’ll find Murphin Ridge Inn, a 10-room bed and breakfast set on 142 acres in the Ohio foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Custom 18th-century and Shaker-style furniture from the local Workshops of David T. Smith fills each room, and many suites are equipped with fireplaces to warm them on cold winter nights. Wake in the morning for a country breakfast, including scratch-made biscuits and gravy, pancakes, fruit, scrambled eggs, and house-made granola. Bundle up for a stroll across the quiet grounds, or go shopping at local Amish businesses and antique stores—try Hillside Fabric and Books for housewares and greeting cards, or Miller’s Bakery, Furniture, and Bulk Foods for solid cherry tables and authentic Amish gliders. End the day dining at the inn’s restaurant for a seasonal meal of ingredients made in-house or sourced locally. Murphin Ridge Inn, murphinridgeinn.com
4. Lake Barkley, Kentucky
This lakeside getaway offers spectacular views—and a striking resemblance to Noah’s blue-shuttered white house from The Notebook. Built in the 1850s, Maple Hill sits on the shores of Kentucky’s Lake Barkley. Relax in one of the four rooms furnished with elegant four-poster beds, fireplaces, and clawfoot tubs, and take a seat at the formal dining table in the morning for freshly brewed coffee, French toast, four-cheese and ham omelettes, and pumpkin spice Belgian waffles. The inn is less than an hour’s drive from Land Between the Lakes, where explorers can go hiking or join a Bald Eagle viewing tour. Patti’s 1880s Settlement, just west of Maple Hill, merits a visit for their famous two-inch pork chops—and if that doesn’t entice you, perhaps the surrounding historical log cabin village and its colonial-garbed inhabitants will do the trick. Maple Hill Bed and Breakfast, maplehillbnb.com
5. Go Local: The Clifton House
Take a staycation at The Clifton House, a 1900s Classical Revival manor in Clifton’s Gaslight District. The elegant grand staircase in the foyer leads upstairs to six unique bedrooms, furnished with four-poster and wrought-iron beds, writing desks, and jacuzzi tubs. Breakfast is prepared each morning by Midwest Culinary Institute alum Brian Potter, who whips up creamy peppered polenta with caramelized onions and buttermilk biscuits with poached eggs. The inn is within walking distance of Esquire Theatre’s limited release films, Ludlow Wines, vintage goods at Lentz and Co., Indian and Moroccan food, and more—or you can simply spend the afternoon relaxing in The Clifton House’s parlor with a cup of tea and an always-available pastry from the butler’s pantry.
500 Terrace Ave., (513) 221-7600, thecliftonhouse.com
Originally published in the February 2015 issue.