Today the road has brought me to Hudson, WI.
December has arrived which means it’s time for the annual Christmas review here at the Corner. This year’s selection was Hudson, WI which is located right across the St Croix River from the Twin Cities and is home to Phipps Inn, owned and operated by Maryellen and Rich Cox.
Weather wise, I had a considerable amount of good fortune as no snow had fallen in the region so I had a clear and safe drive over to Hudson. I arrived in town about 4:30 and was blown away by the activity in the downtown area. I mean the joint was jumping!! Very surprising for a small town. Later I was to learn that Hudson is considered part of the Twin Cities metro area and receives a lot of visitors in the downtown area due to its plethora of restaurants and shops.
As my car slowly creeped through the heavy traffic, I could already tell that Hudson was a Christmas kind of town with the beautiful Christmas decorations hanging over the main drag as well as the colorful displays in the shop windows. Once past the main drag, I was able to turn off into the historic district where I found Phipps Inn.
Phipps Inn is an 1884 Queen Anne Victorian mansion that had once been owned by, you guessed it, the Phipps. They were a wealthy and philanthropic family which, regrettably, has died out though smatterings of their history still exist, both in the form of the inn and in at least one local museum.
I was greeted at the door by Maryellen Cox who gave me a quick, socially distanced check-in and led me to the Peacock Chamber which would serve as my headquarters for a few days. The inn was lovingly decorated for the holidays and Maryellen told me normally they have even more decorations out, but kept things a little simpler this year due to the pandemic. Personally, I thought it was just right.
The Peacock Chamber is located on the third floor of the mansion and the floor was once the ballroom before renovations. The chamber itself is just perfect for a writer. A half canopy queen sized bed is at the center of the room. The room contains lush wood paneling, a gas fireplace and a massive two person jacuzzi tub with waterfall faucets. A small table is located in the corner for breakfast in the morning or, in my case, a place to get some writing done.
After leaving me to my own devices, I did a quick exploration of the house, getting photos of all the Christmas goodness before donning my coat and hat and walking around the neighborhood to get photos of Christmas lights.
After a brisk walk, I decided to get some dinner and ordered some takeout from a popular local bar/restaurant called Paddy Ryan’s and ordered one of their house specialties, Irish Stew. The stew was right on the money with a lightly spiced broth filled with lamb, bacon, and vegetables. After dining, it was time to give my Christmas itch a serious scratch so I visited the nearby town of Somerset to take in Sam’s Christmas Village.
Sam’s Christmas Village is located on a 40 acre piece of property by the Apple River in Somerset and boasts a series of displays with a total of over 6 million lights. Two of the hallmarks of the Village are its 500 foot light tunnel and 50 foot animated Christmas tree. The property also boasts an onsite restaurant, gift shop and S’mores cabins (cabins that contain fixings and means of making s’mores). The lights are all outside so social distancing is a snap. A series of firepits along the path will help ward the chill out of your bones and a mask also makes for a dandy face warmer. Sometimes Santa Claus can be found wandering the property spreading Christmas cheer.
This place truly awoke the kid in me as I marveled at the intricate light displays. I honestly could have spent hours there, but, man, it was a frigid night.
I returned to the inn where I reviewed a new album by Omaha musician, Billy McGuigan. You can read that review here. At that point, I curled up under the triple sheets of my oh, so soft bed and put out the room lights shortly before my own went out.
The next morning, I rolled out of bed, turned on the fire to warm the room and proceeded to fill my tub.
Now this jacuzzi is a bathing tub, but you have to have the jets turned off when you want to scrub. The tub has a very interesting effect when the jets are on. A second waterfall faucet cascades water while the jets are going, but, somehow, doesn’t seem to add any extra water to the tub. I’m not sure what the trick is, but it’s a neat effect. After a good long soak, a knock at the door let me know breakfast was ready.
Normally you can have breakfast either in the dining room, your room or the front porch. For social distancing, breakfast is currently only served in the room. I found a basket with food and cutlery waiting for me and I enjoyed orange juice, milk, a Pecan French Toast cake or souffle for lack of a better word, raisin scone, sausage, fruit and a couple of chocolate chocolate chip nuggets.
With breakfast put away, I took another walk around the neighborhood for some exercise as well as to get photos of houses with Christmas decorations that can only be viewed in daylight.
At noon, I stopped at the Octagon House Museum for a private Christmas tour. The house had once been home to the Moffatt family and for Christmas the theme is the Christmas of the late 1800s. The tour guide, Linnae, admitted that they embellish the theme a bit. The Moffatts were from Scotland and Wales during the Victorian period and Victorian Christmases are very flashy. However, the Moffatts were devout Baptists and lived very austerely and so would not have had the flash and sizzle of a traditional Victorian Christmas.
It was a pleasant way to see how life was lived in yesteryear. Photos were not permitted inside the house, but I did buy and photograph some postcards showing the home’s interior so you can get an idea of what the interior looked like.
When my tour was done, I listened to the Iowa Hawkeyes put a beating on Illinois in football. Admittedly, it took a couple of quarters for Iowa to kick it into gear, but it’s how you finish that counts.
My stomach started to rumble so I ordered some dinner from the Milwaukee Burger Company and picked up their Jalapeno and Smoked Cheddar Infused Burger with a side of Tailgater’s Chili that I enjoyed in my room. The burger was just right. Perfect kick. Smoky. And the chili really stuck to your ribs.
I did another walk around the neighborhood and visited the downtown area to get photos of their lights. I thought about working on this article when I got back and decided I was taking the night off. The instant I did, my body said, “You got it, boss” and I felt my adrenaline shut off and the toll of a long drive and the running around I’d be doing hit me all at once. I drew a hot bath and let the jets massage my lower back for about 20 minutes before crawling into bed and reading myself to sleep.
I tell you there’s nothing like a full night of sleep. I awoke ready to write and breakfast arrived about 9:15am.
Today’s repast included a sticky bun that had an apple cinnamon sauce and sliced pecans (I think), a baked apple with a cherry on top, a tiny square of mint cake, a casserole of eggs, sausage, cheese, potatoes that came with a brown, spicy salsa and my milk and OJ.
Another fine meal was tucked away and left me time to finish writing and begin the trip home. But a stay at Phipps Inn in the quiet town of Hudson can be a restful retreat for you and if you like Christmas there’s always Sam’s Christmas Village and the Twin Cities are just a short drive away.
Until the next time. . .happy travels. . .and happy holidays!