MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Hotels & motels

Where to stay in Door County

This tourist playground has a dizzying array of resorts, cottages, motels and inns everything but chains.

If you think it’s expensive to stay in Wisconsin's Door County, you haven’t looked very hard.

In early June, rates can be almost ludicrously low, cheaper than a Super 8. And even on weekends in July and August, it’s not hard to find a decent place for $100 or less if you book in advance.

The Door Peninsula's breezy beaches are the place to be when the rest of the region is sweltering. During one early June heat wave, temperatures there were 20 to 40 degrees lower, and lodging rates were low, too — I got three nights for the price of two.

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Mom-and-pop motels of Grand Marais

Cheapskates love 'em, but so do traditionalists and anyone who just needs a room.

In summer, when the cities start to sizzle, a lot of people suddenly realize they’d rather be in Grand Marais.

This village on Minnesota’s North Shore is awash in Lake Superior’s cool breezes, and it has everything else a tourist could want – restaurants, shops, galleries, nightlife and scenery.

But it doesn’t always have enough room for all of the escapees, especially on festival weekends.

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Inn retreats

If you don't like the weather, spend a weekend where everything is under one roof.

In winter, not everyone wants to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

Many people would rather enjoy down comforters, hot toddies and a massage. Many people don't even want to look at snow and ice.

And that's possible at many inns and resorts. Some include a spa or dinner theater, others shops and restaurants, and a few offer a whole weekend's worth of entertainment under one roof.

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Where to stay in Chicago

Want to visit the Windy City? So does everyone else. Here's how to find a place.

Chicago is a fun, fun place to be.

It's popular with conventioneers, families, students, girlfriend groups and couples on a romantic getaway. Everyone wants to join the festive mobs at Millennium Park, Navy Pier and, at Christmas, the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza.

There are nearly 40,000 hotel rooms downtown, which you'd think would be enough. Except in summer, when vacationers from around the world flood in. And whenever there's a big convention or event.

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Perry's palace

In central Iowa, a gorgeous Arts & Crafts boutique hotel welcomes guests.

In 1997, a small-town damsel who married a prince — well, an heir — waved a silver wand over her hometown of Perry, Iowa, and unusual things began to happen.

She took the dowdy Hotel Pattee, built in 1913 and on the brink of demolition, and filled it with terra-cotta tile, Persian rugs and so much Honduran mahogany she cornered the market for it.

Artists moved in and painted murals and whimsical folk-art lamps, bedsteads and armoires.

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How to find a great place to stay

If you want a room you can afford, you might need to widen your search. Here's how.

If you've ever been shocked by the price of a hotel room, join the club.

You may have barely heard of Duluth, Minnesota, but rooms there will cost you at least $200 on summer and fall weekends, $350 if you wait until the last minute. Don't forget to add nearly 14 percent in taxes.

Hotel rooms cost about the same in Chicago, except tax is 16.4 percent. And in both towns, you'll pay closer to $500 during big events.

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Happy deals

For rock-bottom hotel rates, learn how to use Priceline.

When reserving a hotel room, there are deals, and then there’s Priceline.

Five years ago, I tried the on-line bidding service, which has a big catch: You don’t know what hotel you’ve reserved until you’ve paid for the room. We got a hotel in Miami’s South Beach that had a decent location but was noisy, had an unfriendly staff and charged an extra "resort fee.''

After that, I’d had it with Priceline – until friends made me reconsider.

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