While having the world’s information stored in our phones keeps us constantly connected, a somewhat contrary benefit is that it also helps us escape. Information about the peaceful evenings and generous, farm-fresh meals found at the bed and breakfasts dotting Southern Minnesota’s landscape are a few taps on an app or travel website away.
We talked to a few local owners to get a taste of the delights, both culinary and cultural, they offer.
Contented Cottage – Northfield
Lisa and Steve Bolduc run the Contented Cottage, a B&B nestled into a woodland road that lies close to St. Olaf College in Northfield. It provides comfy accommodations for college-student parents, a getaway for couples, and even a piece of paradise for the owners themselves.
“With the summer flowers blooming on the hillside and the screened-in porch in the woods, the vision came to us to buy the house and create a relaxing place for visitors to stay,” Steve Bolduc said. “And so was born Contented Cottage.”
Guests can stroll through the farmers market by the Cannon River on Saturday mornings, tackle a bike trail or visit nearby Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. After they’ve breakfasted, of course—the Contented Cottage prepares a three-course meal that includes a fruit dish and muffin, a cheese, egg and spinach bake with sweet potato hash browns, and a seasonal dessert. This summer also featured ice cream with rhubarb sauce and granola.
“In the rooms we have extra little treats,” Lisa Buldoc said. “I make homemade chocolate truffles.”
The Contented Cottage also invites groups of up to 10 for luncheon and dessert teas, providing the multi-course spread without an overnight stay. Even the daytime meal gives visitors the chance to escape the everyday and enjoy the B&B experience.
“The atmosphere is more peaceful and warmer,” Lisa said. “It’s the extra details that go into it.”
Hutchinson House, Faribault
Despite the bright exterior of the Victorian-era Hutchinson House (its walls boast fuchsia and periwinkle), the vibe at the five-room B&B is one of calming, uncluttered comfort.
“I’m a minimalist, so everything is clean and sleek,” owner Tami Schluter said.
Now in their 10th summer, Hutchinson hosts everyone from honeymooners to parents of Shattuck-St. Mary ‘s students, often tempting Twin Cities dwellers to take the hour drive down to Faribault.
“We are close, but you feel like you’re worlds away from the pressures of city-life,” Schluter said.
Three-ring binders in every room inspire visitors to explore historic downtown Faribault and local wonders including the mill and cathedral. But the first order of the day, unquestionably, is Hutchinson’s breakfast, which changes daily.
“We do a communal breakfast,” Schluter said. “We build it based on the guest community.”
Served on the long table in the house’s gold-gilded dining room, guests start with a yogurt and fruit parfait. Next comes an egg course—variations include frittatas and egg sandwiches. Weekend guests get an added treat: a dessert course that rotates between indulgences such as seasonal bread pudding, cinnamon butter bread, and, if they’re lucky, Schluter’s award-winning scones.
Turning Waters, Wabasha
Guests at Turning Waters Bed and Breakfast are treated to something they can’t get anywhere else—complimentary beer flights from the B&B’s fledgling brewery.
Come this September, Brenda and Ford Pearson will be the first in Minnesota to own a bed, breakfast and on-site brewery. The brewpub, six years in the making, will welcome both guests and Winona residents with made-on-premises beer, ice cream, pizza, and a selection of local spirits and wine.
Until the brewery is licensed, the Pearsons can only serve beer samples. Turning Waters guests will eventually have the opportunity to return to a fresh beer after a day hiking or kayaking along the Mississippi River. Brenda recommends guests take advantage of the nearby state parks, tour the National Eagle Center, or sit and sip at the area’s local wineries and breweries.
The Pearsons approach beer and their five-course, family style breakfast with a similar philosophy: seasonal, organic, and local. They source meat from a local farm, make dishes from scratch, and craft beer based on what’s in the garden—a recent brew combined strawberry and rhubarb they grew themselves.
“We’re big on farm-to-table and cooking from scratch,” Brenda Pearson said. “I just started making my own granola; there’s no gluten-free granola that’s also nut free. We do a lot of research to make sure the food is tasty and we do the same with our beer.”
Alexander Mansion, Winona
Alexander Mansion, Winona’s bed and breakfast, is open 365 days a year, but innkeeper Richard Grabow loves it most in winter.
“In winter we have three wood-burning fires every day,” he said. Guests can go cross-country skiing or just cozy up to read, sip wine (the B&B hosts a daily afternoon wine reception), and watch a classic film screened on location.
From bicyclists to guest lecturers visiting one of the town’s three universities, the mansion hosts a wide range of visitors, including those returning to reconnect with fellow former guests.
“You’re sitting at the same table,” Grabow said, “It really gives people a chance to meet and make new friends. I can’t tell you how many people have stayed in touch.”
Guests typically spend two hours at that table, Grabow said, sharing stories as they sup on a four-course meal.
The first course layers Watkins vanilla-infused cream with fruit, yogurt, and craisins. Homemade banana bread comes next, and then a baked egg dish—a recent variation included artichokes and mushrooms served alongside a Watkins spice-seasoned Mediterranean salad. Ice cream sundaes, a signature of the bed and breakfast, cap off the meal.
Grabow recommends guests explore Winona’s other edible delights, including the Hillside Fish House and Il Luigi in nearby Rushford, as well as local landmarks, notably the Minnesota Marine Art Museum and Lake Winona, which rents out kayaks and canoes free of charge.
Trying to decide between a hotel or B&B? Here’s what you should know.
- Contrary to common expectations, a B&B isn’t necessarily more expensive than a hotel. – Tami Schluter, Hutchinson House
- Breakfasts are often communal, so bed and breakfasts are ideal for people interested in getting to know their fellow guests. – Rich Grabow, Alexander Mansion
- Bed and breakfasts owners are conscious of every aspect of their guests’ experience: expect a cozy, comfortable stay. – Lisa Buldoc, Contented Cottage
- Bed and breakfasts may look quaint, but you shouldn’t expect outdated amenities. Turning Waters’ rooms have central heat and air, along with incidentals and toiletries. – Brenda Pearson, Turning Waters
Historic Hutchinson House B&B
Turning Waters Bed, Breakfast & Adventure
Explore more bed and breakfast options at www.minnesotabedandbreakfasts.org.
By Isabelle Wattenberg