Alright, NYC-ers and LA friends: The Midwest is giving y’all a run for your money when it comes to design-minded hotels and resorts. Embarking on a bachelor or bachelorette party? Looking for a fun new city to check off your list with your yogi crew? How about a long-weekend with a few couples and a booze-filled agenda? Whatever your inclination, we rounded up seven of our favorite properties from Michigan to Missouri. Get excited to hop on the highway for your next best vacation — or in these parts, should we say, expressway?
Travel some 75 miles south of Chicago or 100 miles north of Indianapolis and you’ll arrive in the lovely community of Fair Oaks, a popular agri-tourism hub in the Midwest. Fittingly, the hotel sits inside a contemporary barn design. When staying on this private farm campus from November 10, 2023, through Valentine’s Day 2024, you can book a private dining experience in the heated Farmhouse Igloos in The Farmhouse Restaurant’s backyard. And if you and your posse are into the whole holiday lighting scene, from November 17 through New Year’s Eve the Forest of Lights is a heck of a multi-hued marvel. Along with the Fair Oaks Farms Nature Trail morphing into this immersive display, you can also enjoy bonfires for making s’mores, warm drinks, and adult beverages. (FYI: Fair Oak Farms is a private, working dairy farm; all of the above attractions are within walking distance of the hotel on the Fair Oaks Farm campus.)
There’s a lot to love about the Freehand Chicago, from its 217 Roman and Williams-designed rooms to the fact that it’s housed in a 1927 art deco building for some built-in historic allure in the Windy City. After a day of exploring the city, regroup at the award-winning bar Broken Shaker, where the G&T(ea) (as in, made with a honey-tea cordial) will become your new favorite sipper. Bonus: Expect live music performances on the regular. Walk off the night before in the hotel’s buzzy River North neighborhood which has plenty of art galleries, boutiques, and trendy restaurants and bars with the North Branch Chicago River running through it.
You’ll feel instantly at home from the moment you check into the 154-room Cambria Hotel Detroit Downtown, an adaptive reuse of The Walker-Roehrig Building, a famed art deco building that was once the HQ of WWJ-AM’s studios. It was unveiled in its new incarnation in May 2023, and showcases local design and décor flourishes throughout as well as two restaurants, a rooftop bar, a fitness center, and multiple entertainment options including Five Iron Golf, a high-tech golf experience, and Duckpin bowling. Meet you at the on-site Detroit Taco Company bodega for a walk-up bite.
Okay, so it’s not technically a hotel but the three Airbnbs at this wedding venue (that’s also home to a wine and whiskey bar) were too cool not to include. During your stay, try a wine tasting or cocktail making class at the bar, an on-property scavenger hunt, group yoga class, and more. The wine bar is also open to guests for dinner Wednesday through Sunday and brunch on Sunday, making use of fresh, seasonal ingredients (some of which are grown on the estates’ grounds). For a memorable experience in colder months, book a meal in the outdoor dining igloo. Split the check on Zelle® so your group can fairly divvy up payment among several parties.
New as of August 2023, artsy friends are going to love this STL property that displays a regularly changing collection of exhibitions and 173 eclectically designed rooms, all with works from artists with strong ties to the city. Then there’s the 10,500+ square foot Locust Street Athletic and Swim Club, Spanish-inspired Idol Wolf restaurant, and Good Press coffee shop to start your day on a good (read: caffeinated) note. Around town, delight yourselves with everything from Gateway Arch National Park to the World Chess Hall of Fame. Keep the conversation rolling about the stellar exhibits you saw at either or both of those locales back at the hotel’s Idol Wolf Bar or in the Billiard Room.
Wait, you can stay in a historic Coca-Cola bottling plant from the 1930s in the heart of downtown Indianapolis? Yes, you can. Without leaving the grounds of this storied spot, you can have a photoshoot in a vintage photo booth, host an event in the room where the secret Coca-Cola recipe was concocted, or nurse a nightcap in the lobby bar. The hotel is the centerpiece of the Bottleworks District, an on-the-rise neighborhood with easy access to restaurants (try the Garage Food Hall with 20+ indie eateries a stone’s throw away), shops and entertainment options like duckpin bowling, a movie theater, a food hall, and VR experiences. Design and history nerds will take solace in the fact that the property ensured that the original exterior and terrazzo floors were preserved during the renovation. Meanwhile, R&R buffs will take solace at the Woodhouse day spa, which has a dry salt sanctuary and quite the massage menu.
Nestled in Southwest Missouri’s Ozark Mountains, Big Cedar Lodge sits on 4,600 acres overlooking Table Rock Lake. Groups of up to 16 can enjoy private log cabin or cottage accommodations (order a backyard basket to the cabin with ingredients for a hearty cookout if you’ve booked digs with a grill) and spend their days devoted to waterspouts, boating, golf, spa time, or taking a golf cart ride on the Lost Canyon Cave & Nature Trail through an Ozarks cave system. For a winter getaway, check out the impressive holiday lineup of activities and events from self-guided light tours to creating a charcuterie board with wood-burning tools and then learning how to assemble your perfect grazing board.