Cabins & Cottages

  • What to bring to a rented cabin

    There’s a surefire rule that applies to rented houses: Anything you really need but don’t bring is exactly what the house won’t have.

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  • Staying in a state park

    When you stay in a state park, you can't expect a lot of nightlife. Unless you count all of the stars. And the candlelight skiing. And the hot-cocoa cocktails. There's a lot to do in a state park, night and day. When friends and I rented a guesthouse in St. Croix State Park, we became part of an exclusive club — people who get to stay in relative luxury while being right in the middle of the action.

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  • Adventures in renting

    If you’ve always wanted a second home – or a third, or a fourth – you can acquire one, at least for a weekend. Many people who bought beach houses and country retreats rent them out, to help pay the mortgage. Browsing vacation-rental listings is like going on the Parade of Homes, except you get to stay in the house you like best.

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  • A cottage of one's own

    It's not every inn that makes a guest feel like a Rockefeller. But when my husband and I walked into the Wilson Schoolhouse Inn, we figured we had really risen in the world. "Hey, for once I feel like a millionaire," Torsten said, bounding around the restored Prairie-style school. "This is unbelievably cool."

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  • Ensconced in Ely

    In Bear Head Lake State Park near Ely, there are three places to spend the night: a tent, one of five rustic camper cabins and a modern split-level. On a subzero day in winter, one is better than the others.

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  • A cabin in Iowa

    What a way to spend a weekend: hiking up and down ravines, clambering on rock, admiring views of water from ridgelines. “It’s like hiking on the North Shore,’’ my husband said. But it wasn’t Lake Superior’s North Shore. It was Iowa. And everyone knows Iowa is one big, flat cornfield.

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  • Michigan's great lake cabins

    On a summer day in Holland, Mich., all roads lead to the beach. When we were there one June, people streamed toward this broad swath of sand until the sun fell low on the horizon, making the fire-engine-red harbor beacon glow like an ember. They ate ice cream, they strolled on the breakwall, they took a last dip in Lake Michigan. But at 10 p.m. sharp, a police cruiser started flashing its red lights to shepherd everyone out of the park.

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  • 20 perfect cabins

    It's not easy to find the cabin of your dreams. My friend Ellen knows, because she's been looking for years. "I want a cabin with a big stone fireplace, a pine floor and an old-fashioned bed, nestled in the woods with really tall pines or near a lake where you can go out skiing during the day,'' she says. "Not at a big resort with a ton of things to do, necessarily, but with some ice skating, can you picture that? "Something like Little House in the Woods,'' you know, with a braided rug. It doesn't have to be all fussy and brand-new. So many cabins are so modern, kind of like a hotel. I like rustic.''

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  • Cabin on a waterfall

    In Minnesota’s state parks, the goodies go way beyond hiking trails, picnic sites and fishing piers.

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  • Heirs to a hideaway

    Every week, a few dozen people join an exclusive club high above Minnesota's North Shore. To get there, they lug all their food and gear 1¾ miles up and down a steep hill. They draw their own water and make their own fires. They clean and then lug their garbage over the same hill. And they consider themselves lucky.

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  • Renting a vacation house

    My niece loves a large Rottweiler named Rza, so her travel opportunities are limited. But one October, I rented a lake house near Cable, Wis., that allowed dogs, and both of them came. And we all had a great time: When Rza's happy, everyone's happy. "This is probably the best weekend of her life,'' said my niece, after we’d spent the day romping on the lawn and in the nearby forest.

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  • Lodgings in Minnesota state parks

    Some really are cabins, but others are houses, complete with two-car garages, like the one at Bear Head Lake State Park, previously occupied by the park manager.  Some were private houses that have been renovated, like the Illgen Falls Cabin in Tettegouche State Park.

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  • Snug on the St. Croix

    In the middle of Minnesota's Wild River State Park, a ski’s length from 35 miles of groomed trails and a 10-minute trek from the St. Croix River, sits a cozy little house surrounded by forest. For one winter night, the two-bedroom, carpeted house, a private residence built not long before the park was established in 1978, belonged to me and my children. We arrived at dusk, and my children swarmed over it as only children can do, giving a running commentary: "Boy, this is a nice cabin,’’ said my son Peter. "Wow, a nice shower. Isn’t this great? And oh, look’’ — he peered out the window at a big thermometer — "you can tell the temperature.’’

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  • Finding a cozy cabin

    This may sound strange, but I've heard that some people aren't that wild about winter. Go figure — they'd rather burrow into a cozy cabin with a good book and a glass of wine than go skiing or snowshoeing in freezing temperatures.

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