Odd lodging: Staying in caves, igloos, under the sea, treehouses

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2002

Ever dream of sleeping under the sea? Or reliving your childhood up in a tree? How about a fantastical winter wedding in an elaborate igloo? Or spending a week as lighthouse keepers? These unusual lodging establishments offer something special for travelers in search of a little whimsy:

Jailhouse Inn Bed & Breakfast, Preston, Minn.: Built in 1869 as the Fillmore County Jail, this restored Victorian now welcomes a more honest clientele. The Cell Block room offers accommodations ''behind bars'' complete with a 2-person whirlpool bath. Some rooms have fireplaces, and all have private baths. The Inn can accommodate up to 30 guests for group retreats or family reunions. Prices range from $49 to $149 on weekdays; $75 to $189 on weekends and holidays. The town of Preston is located in southern Minnesota, near a large Amish community and the south branch of the Root River. Popular activities include canoeing, tubing, hiking, trout fishing and cross-country skiing. Information: (507) 765-2181 or click on http://www.jailhouseinn.com.

Jules Undersea Lodge, Key Largo, Fla.: Once an underwater habitat for aquanauts, this lodge is said to be the only underwater hotel in the world. Operated as a bed-and-breakfast since 1986, this former research vessel is located in a natural mangrove lagoon in 30 feet of water. The Luxury Aquanaut Package includes unlimited diving for certified divers, a gourmet dinner prepared by a ''mer-chef'', and a gourmet breakfast. If desired, guests may spend multiple days underwater without surfacing. Aquanaut certificate also qualifies certified divers for participation in an optional Underwater Habitat Aquanaut dive specialty rating (fully described in instruction section).

The European Style Package allows guests to experience underwater life from 5 .m. until 9 a.m. with unlimited diving for certified divers, and a light dinner and breakfast. The Ultimate Romantic Getaway Package offers all of the amenities of the Aquanaut package, but with exclusive use of the inn. Extras include mood music, fresh flowers, caviar, and the mer-chef service for breakfast. $1,050 per night. The Lodge is also available for underwater weddings. Guests must scuba dive to enter the hotel. A three-hour Discover Diving class is available to qualify guests who are not certified divers. Complete dive certification and specialty training programs are also available.

For details on pricing, scuba diving rules and regulations, and reservations, go to http://www.jul.com or call (305) 451-2353.

Ice Hotel Quebec, Quebec: Building began in early December at the Ice Hotel Quebec, which will be open for three short months until it melts away. Crafted from more than 11,000 tons of snow and 350 tons of ice, the hotel is 2 1/2 times larger than its 2001 incarnation, offering 31 rooms and suites. Like its counterpart in Sweden, the Ice Hotel Quebec has two art galleries, the Absolut Ice bar, a movie theatre, a spa, a driving range, a skating rink and a wedding chapel. Tempera-tures inside the hotel range from 21-28 degrees, and guests sleep on ice beds covered with deer pelts. Winter activity and wedding packages are available. Information: http://www .icehotel-canada.com or (877) 5050-ICE.

Kokopellis Cave Bed & Breakfast, Farmington, N.M.: A flagstone hot tub, waterfall-style shower, and more than 1,600 square feet of well-appointed living space in a cave? Not surprising when you realize that it was originally designed to be a home for a geologist. Built 70 feet underground and 280 above La Plata River, this bed-and-breakfast offers all the comforts of home, plus unparalleled views of southwestern sunsets in the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah. No meals are served in the cave, but the kitchen is well-stocked with foodstuffs for breakfast. Nearby attractions include Mesa Verde National Monument and Anasazi ruins. Details: http://www.bbonline. com/nm/kokopelli or (505) 325-7855.

Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast and Museum, Fall River, Mass.: The house where Lizzie Borden allegedly ''took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks'' is now a bed-and-breakfast and museum. Although Lizzie was acquitted of the crimes, the legend has lived on for more than 100 years. Guests are treated to a breakfast similar to the one the Bordens ate on that fateful morning in August of 1892, including bananas, jonnycakes, sugar cookies and coffee. The museum is comprised of the owners collection of memorabilia from the Borden family and the City of Fall River. The City of Fall River is located just 50 miles south of Boston, 15 minutes from Providence, R.I., 30 minutes from Newport, R.I. and serves as the gateway to Cape Cod, Mass. Information: http://www.lizzie-borden.com or (508) 675-7333.

Out 'n' About Treesort, Takilma,Ore.: A number of inns in the United States bear the name ''Treehouse,'' but this resort in southern Oregon offers the real thing: family and couple accommodations in one of 14 different treehouses. For $130 per night for a family of four, the ''Swiss Family'' treehouse offers separate kids quarters that are linked to the adults section by a swinging bridge. Couples can roost in Peacock Perch for $90 per night. Some of the treehouses are open year round; the main season for 2002 is March 15 November 15. A full breakfast is served in the main house daily. Activities include horseback riding, rafting, pottery, blacksmithing and tile mosaic classes. The Treehouse Institute offers training in the basic engineering, design and construction of treehouses. Details: http://www.treehouses.com or (800) 200-5484.

Rose Island Lighthouse Museum, Newport, R.I.: Many find the incomparable view of Narragansett Bay and the romance of lighthouse keeping well worth the ''no frills'' aspects of this unique getaway. There's no running water -- guests use a pump to fill a washbasin with rainwater. Guests are required to change their beds and restore their quarters to ship-shape by 10 a.m., when tour groups arrive.

Seekers of light adventure might enjoy the ''Keeper for a Week'' program. A good program for families with older children and teens, this program requires guests to perform a couple of hours of chores and light duties each day, including raising the flag, recording the weather, polishing brass, making small repairs and performing housework and yard work. The ''Keeper for a Week'' program ranges from $750 per week (November-March) to $1,600 per week (July-August), and includes two adults and children under 18. Rose Island Lighthouse is open year-round. Information: http://www.roseislandlighthouse.com or (401) 847-4242 (9 a.m.-1 p.m., Monday-Friday only,



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