Today the road has brought me to Wausau, WI.
After 4 months, I was more than ready for a relaxing return to the road. I’m currently in the midst of my regional play reviewing season, but my Fourth of July weekend was open so I decided it was time to partake in my 70th B & B review. My choice: Stewart Inn, owned and operated by Randy and Sara Bangs.
I couldn’t have asked for a better road trip. I had to deal with a little rain, but also got to enjoy lunch with my best friend, Josh, when I made a brief stop in Fort Dodge, IA. I had a peaceful layover with a comfortable suite at the Holiday Inn Express in Albert Lea, MN and then took a more scenic and circuitous (by 15 minutes) route to Wausau.
Mid-afternoon on Saturday found me in Wausau and I soon found myself outside the impressive edifice of Stewart Inn. A quick text to Randy gained me entry into the mansion. As the first arriving guest, Randy gave me a thorough tour of the inn and its rooms.
Stewart Inn is designed in the Revival style by George Maher, a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright. This is a big house, but it’s very wide as opposed to being tall. It has the biggest commons area of any inn I’ve visited with a mammoth living room area, a library where one can curl up with a good book while seated in a comfy chair in front of a fire, and a TV room that could seat 6 people.
Architectually speaking, everything in the house is original: the wood, the fixtures, the fireplaces. The furniture is not, though some of it is period. After showing me around, Randy brought me to the Foster Room which would serve as my home away from home for a few days.
The Foster Room is very intimate with a working fireplace, a cozy chair, a small library, a desk, a queen-sized bed, and a TV mounted in the far wall. Stewart Inn actually has a pillow menu, but the soft, squishy pillows set on my bed fit the bill just fine.
Each room of the inn contains two unique amenities: a steam spa shower and an Amazon Echo Show. The Echo Show is voice activated with Alexa and you can get weather reports or enjoy some music. The steam spa shower lets you turn the shower into a steam bath.
It was a perfect day (perfect weekend, for the most part) with very comfortable temperatures and very little humidity. So I decided to walk to church to worship at Church of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. At least, that was the plan.
When I arrived, I was puzzled that no cars were in the parking lot and I found the doors locked (a fact that saddened me as, once upon a time, churches were unlocked all the time). Someone connected with the church appeared and asked me if I needed help and I befuddledly answered that I was hoping to attend the 4pm service. The helpful stranger told me that the 4pm service was at St Michael which I would never make.
As I walked back to the inn, I pulled up the church’s website and there it was: 4pm service. Then I read the rest of the line “at St Michael”. It turns out the website was for all the Catholic churches in Wausau and not just Resurrection.
So I enjoyed a leisurely walk around the neighborhood and downtown area before returning to the inn where I worshipped via a streaming service performed by Fr. Jack Sheaffer.
As it happens, Wausau is the hometown of my brother-in-law, Scott, and his mother, Pam, suggested I have a meal at the Pinewood Supper Club. So I made a reservation.
If you want to enjoy fine dining, I recommend giving this club a try. It’s located by Half Moon Lake so you can dine with a view of the water. It also has a well-stocked bar for those who would like to enjoy a pre-dinner drink. I was seated by the window where I enjoyed viewing the lake while noshing on a relish tray.
My dinner consisted of a salad with a dill ranch dressing and a main entrée of Blackened Salmon Oscar served with jasmine rice, fruit salsa, and grilled asparagus. The salmon was exquisite and I spent over an hour savoring the meal and even indulged in a post-dinner cordial of a grasshopper.
I drove back to the inn and took in another constitutional before retiring to my room for the night.
I awoke from a great night’s sleep and made use of the steam shower (very relaxing) before heading downstairs for some breakfast.
Down in the commons, I met Jodi and Brian with whom I enjoyed some conversation during the meal. Randy had promised some really great coffee. Now I don’t drink the stuff, but Jodi does and the self-professed “coffee snob” said it was really great coffee: very dark and rich. So consider that a recommendation from a connoisseur.
Breakfast was served in 3 courses. The first was a tasty yogurt served with grain-free granola. The second was fresh strawberries from the Farmer’s Market with homemade whipped cream. The final was biscuits and gravy. All of it was wonderful and I truly appreciated the portion sizes as they didn’t leave you feeling stuffed to the gills.
If you’re into nature and outdoor activities, Wausau has a number of parks and is famed for skiing. Given that it was summer, I decided to visit the Monk Botanical Gardens.
I was somewhat disappointed by the gardens simply because nothing seemed to be in bloom. However, I did enjoy walking the trails and got to play around with a flower kaleidoscope.
I returned to Stewart Inn where I took a longer walk around the downtown area where I looked at the famed Grand Theater and the 400 Block which is an outside concert venue that plays host to many summertime concerts.
It started to mist a bit as I walked back towards the inn so I ducked into Sweets on 3rd where I nibbled a cup of Ultimate Oreo ice cream while I waited for the weather to clear up. Once it did, I returned to the inn where I organized photos and then headed out for a tour of Yawkey House.
Yawkey House was the home of Cyrus and Lisa Yawkey. Cyrus was a lumber baron and had the house started in 1899 and it was completed in 1901 at a cost of $35K ($1,000,000 in today’s numbers). Six years later, Cyrus had the house completely remodeled to keep up with the Joneses due to the popularity of the work of Frank Lloyd Wright whose revolutionary designs made Yawkey House’s original design seem passe.
Cyrus was part of what was known as the Wausau Group. They were a group of powerful businessmen who pooled their resources to bring a massive economic boost to Wausau (known as Big Bull Falls at the time). So massive was Wausau’s growth as a result of their efforts that Wausau nearly took over as the state capital.
Yawkey House is definitely worth a tour, especially at the low cost of $7. The house has had some restoration, but the woodwork is all original (most of which is no longer commercially available) as is most of the furniture.
After my tour, I came back to Stewart Inn where I did some prep work on the article until dinnertime.
And my evening meal was eaten at Milwaukee Burger Company. Now I rarely partake of a truly junky meal, but allowed myself to do so on this night. I tried a Spicy Curd Burger with a side of chili cheese fries. Everything about this burger screamed spice. Aside from the two pieces of spicy curd, the burger also brings the heat with a spicy chipotle spread and jalapeno infused bacon. The burger was nice and juicy and it definitely had a lingering heat as I very nearly broke out into a sweat. The service wasn’t quite up to snuff and that’s even making allowances for the Great Resignation.
After dinner it was back to the inn to begin writing and just relaxing for the night.
Breakfast the next morning consisted of a delightful Almond Joy Crustini, cantaloupe, and polenta with chicken sausage. Conversation ran the gamut from music, to pets, to fitness, to employment. As we left the table, Randy gifted us with discount coupons for stays at Inns of Choice (11 best B & Bs in WI), future stays at Stewart Inn, and a last one for any B & B in WI.
A very wonderful and relaxing inn experience and I was sorry to see it end. But if you find yourself, up Wausau’s way, take in a night or two at Stewart Inn. It’s a haven.
Have a fun Fourth and, until the next time. . .happy travels.