One-of-a-Kind Places to Lay Your Head
Where do you like to sleep? Grand old mansions, modern motels, cabins, Airbnbs and comfortable campgrounds are all part of the landscape here, and it is easy to create the perfect stay for you and your crew. Looking for something EXTRA special? Check out a few of our favorite and most unique places to stay in the Winona area.
1. The Maude King Alexander Suite: Alexander Mansion Bed & Breakfast in Winona, MN
The historic Alexander Mansion B&B is one of the most impressive Victorian homes you will ever find, and of the five jaw-dropping rooms available to rent year-round, we think the Maude King Alexander Suite takes the cake. (Pun intended—you’ll see why!) Originally built circa 1886 for local judge Thomas Wilson, the Alexander family lived in the home for 50+ years and had direct connections to the J.R. Watkins Company. Baking spices…vanilla…get it now?
Maude King Alexander was the stepdaughter of Watkins founder—J.R. Watkins; married to the Senior VP of Operations—Durand C. Alexander; and was a major stockholder of the company herself, as well as VP of sales/marketing and a member of the board. Maude even wrote Watkins cookbooks under her pen name of Elaine Allen.
“She was like the Martha Stewart of her day,” said Alexander Mansion owner and host Richard Grabow.
Books included traditional recipes of the 1930s, as well as etiquette, cleaning and party tips. Grabow uses recipes from these cookbooks as part of the extravagant 4-course-breakfast included with each stay at the B&B. His favorite? The cream cheese coffee cake.
The Maude King Alexander Suite truly is fit for a queen, boasting the largest bathroom in the house as it was used regularly for dress fittings. The original soaking tub and separate shower are surrounded by white subway tile—chosen by Maude when the couple renovated the entire house in the 1920s to reflect a more modern Tudor style.
2. The Warbler Lodge: Prairie Island Campground in Winona, MN
Anne Conway knows not everyone likes roughing it. When she and her partner Jamie Schell took over management of Prairie Island Campground along the Mississippi River four years ago, Conway said they had a desire to create a cabin-type experience that guests could rent. Interestingly, Prairie Island Campground is located on a floodplain, so a “cabin on wheels” was the ideal solution. The Warbler Lodge is one of two custom-designed and locally-built tiny houses now available for rent—no equipment required.
“As a result, we are attracting guests who may have never considered staying here before,” Conway said. “Visitors get to show up and have access to the backwaters of the Mississippi, fantastic views, opportunities with the arts community through live music events on weekends, bikes to ride into town, and more.”
Prairie Island’s first tiny house—the Potluck String Lodge—even received a nod in a featured Airbnb article that has earned the campground top billing in the tiny house community.
Building the tiny homes from the ground up was no daunting task for Conway and Schell; they both have backgrounds in design and unique craftspeople skills. Top priorities included built-in storage, private bathrooms, outdoor living areas and creating privacy in a public space.
Look out the large sliding glass doors and corner windows of the Warbler Lodge and you’ll feel the immediate calming effects of the river. All the benefits of camping without the setup? Yes, please.
3. The Jungle Room: Fountain Motel in Fountain City, WI
Motorcycles often line the parking lot of this classic 1960s-style roadside motel situated conveniently along the Wisconsin side of the Great River Road. Yes, the most popular room is Harley Davidson-themed, tastefully accented with black and orange throughout, but the owners of the Fountain Motel have shown their accommodations go beyond décor.
Travis and Christine Williamson took over ownership of the motel in May 2018 and have a unique perspective on the property, having been the motel’s previous owners from 1998-2009. Upgrades and renovations to the motel have kept the couple busy over the last few years. A handful of projects, including the installation of new windows and doors, remain, and will be completed soon; however, the room themes are ever-evolving.
“I love to shop,” Christine said. “You can’t put all of these themes in your own house, so we wanted to embrace it.”
Her friends have been known to send pictures of special finds in collectible stores and furniture outlets, and Christine’s Pinterest boards are covered in lodging theme ideas. The Jungle/Leopard Room was inspired by a single art piece that Christine had to have. There is also a secret to the theme’s success: Tapping in local talent. Christine works with a designer friend in Fountain City who chooses paint colors and even creates custom wreaths to tie every element together.
The Jungle Room is a crowd-pleaser, although you may be surprised to learn that there hasn’t been an increase in direct Jungle Room bookings since the viral Netlix documentary “Tiger King” aired in early 2020, according to Christine. We had to ask.😉
4. The Kids’ Suite: Holiday Inn & Suites in Winona, MN
Let’s be honest—traveling with kids is the same as parenting, but in a different location and without any comforts of home. That is, until the bunk bed suite was invented.
Nicci Golden, General Manager of Winona’s Holiday Inn, said that staff noticed a trend in bigger area resorts offering fun, family lodging options. When the Holiday Inn took on major renovations in late 2020-early 2021, they saw their opportunity to add a little something extra to their popular family suite.
“We knew bunk beds make kids just a little happier,” Golden said. “Parents love it, too, because the kids have their own space.”
The “Kids’ Suite” debuted in April 2021 and boasts a separate sleeping area with a bunk bed set, children’s activity table and chairs, and a Smart TV. The main living space includes a King bed, game table and chairs, a couch with a pull-out mattress, and a second Smart TV. The Suite sleeps up to six people with an additional rollaway also available. Golden said the room is perfect for birthday parties and small family gatherings. We can hear a staycation calling our names now.
5. The Sage Room: Goodview Haven in Goodview, MN
Step back in time through this one-of-a-kind property located just three miles from downtown Winona. Goodview Haven is a renovated retreat house that offers modern amenities alongside mid-century décor, original fixtures and loads of charm.
The Haven is owner Erik Brom’s childhood home. Erik and his wife Jodi hoped to create a second life for the home after the passing of Erik’s parents, which led to a comprehensive renovation project in 2016 to modernize the building while also maintaining the unique Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired style of the home.
Gatherings of all kinds and sizes are welcomed, from bridal and baby showers to graduation parties, to, most often, crafting retreats. Jodi is a gifted craftsperson herself and has ensured the Haven is equipped with workstations and gadgets for every hobby.
Five bedrooms include 9 single and 3 double beds, fully handicapped accessible bathrooms with original tilework, and additional amenities that you have to see to believe. The outdoor pergola and fireplace are so beautiful that the Haven has hosted several weddings specifically in these spaces.
“People who come here are surprised,” Jodi said. “They walk in and say, ‘Wow—I can’t believe we have this space in Winona!’”
The Broms have been extraordinarily thoughtful in choosing décor for the Haven, wanting to keep as many original touches as possible. Jodi did admit that while some fixtures are authentic, the furniture, including living room couches, is modern and comfortable, (unlike her parents’ from the 1960s!)
“When you come here, we want it to feel like you’re home,” Jodi said.
6. ’57 or ’59 Chevy Suites: Express Suites Riverport Conference and Event Center in Winona, MN
These rooms take drive-in movies to the next level. For decades, couples and families have delighted in the unique experience of sleeping inside a classic car at the Riverport Inn Express Suites.
The 1957 and 1959 Chevy Suites were a part of the original vision of hotel owner Mike Rivers when he built the property in the early 1990s. With the help of local car collector Elmer Duellman, Rivers purchased the retro cars and had the lodging property walls constructed around them—one on the first floor of the hotel and one on the third floor; a crane was needed for installation.
Riverport General Manager Ashley Rolbiecki said birthday parties and special occasions bring guests of all ages to the suites. Family members will also book a specific room for a father or uncle who used to own a look-a-like car years ago. Visitors and media representatives come exclusively to the hotel for photo opportunities and feature articles, even before the Instagram age. (And there are tons of Instagrammers sharing the amenities of these rooms now!)
The Chevy suites recently got a refresh, with new paint, retro décor, updated lighting and more. In addition to the car beds, each suite has a fold-out couch, wet bar, and a 2-person jacuzzi tub. Sleeping in the car never looked so good.
7. 1928 Giant Squid Discovery Room: Video Vision Airbnb Rentals in Winona, MN
Be kind: Unwind. Winona’s newest and quirkiest lodging option popped up on Airbnb in mid-May 2022, and owner Mike Onstad took care to maintain the integrity of the iconic building’s history while reimagining the space for its new use.
Locals and visitors alike have been intrigued by the tall, metal, nearly window-less property just off of Highway 61 for decades. The building is the former home of Video Vision, a home movie rental store that serviced the Winona area from the early 1980s through 2019. Its original exterior sign is still visible from the parking lot, although former Video Vision owner Dennis Darst was eager to keep the large red lettering formerly on the building’s facade. Onstad purchased the property and converted the space into four single-room rentable units, each designed to reflect Winona attractions, history and culture.
Onstad brought in local artist Sarah Johnson, Winona’s first Creative Laureate, to paint elaborate murals in each of the rooms depicting “Great Fictional Moments in Winona.” From Big Foot snacking on Bloedow’s donuts to giant squids in Lake Winona, the stories told in each piece are fanciful nods to what makes Winona surprisingly weird.
“Guests really like the balance between quirky and clean,” Onstad said.
Framed movie posters—including several featuring our very own Winona Ryder—and a custom neon Video Vision sign hang in the main hallway. The guestbook will feature a design copied from a Video Vision receipt found during renovations. And one final touch is still in the works: VCR units for each of the rooms.