Words painted above the fireplace at Ye Olde Manor House bed and breakfast invite guests to relax, renew and rejuvenate.
The small inn north of Elkhorn provides room for that and more, offering a relaxing getaway less than an hour southwest of Milwaukee — with an indoor swimming pool to boot.
It's a great escape for those who haven’t traveled since the COVID-19 pandemic began. While bed and breakfasts might not be the first places that come to mind as safe travel spots during a pandemic, Ye Olde Manor House requires all visitors, regardless of age, to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and share a copy of their vaccination card prior to arrival. Plus the home is big enough to socially distance even outside your room, including at the large dining room table where breakfast is served in two seatings.
Owners Karen Fulbright-Anderson and John Anderson serve guests their choice of two entrees — typically sweet (French toast, for example) or savory (a vegetable omelet with homestyle potatoes might be an option) — alongside fresh-baked bread, fruit, coffee, tea and juice. Everything is plated on elegant china in the beautifully appointed dining room.
Karen and John took over ownership of the bed and breakfast in 2007. Originally from Chicago and St. Louis, they had been living in New York City for decades when they decided to move closer to home. John retired as a senior attorney for the New York State Housing Court. Karen, a policy program director at the Aspen Institute, worked remotely for about six years before starting her own evaluation and racial equity consulting practice.
While running a bed and breakfast might seem like a big project to take on in retirement, Karen said it's not all work, since it involves many of the things they love — gardening, cooking, decorating, etc.
"This has been a lot of fun," Karen said. "It is a lot of work, but we do have good people to help us."
The home, which Karen thought was built in the early 1900s, has been a bed and breakfast since the ‘80s. After they bought the property, Karen and John added four new guest rooms and an indoor heated swimming pool and renovated the kitchen and existing guest rooms. New vegetable gardens outside now feed the gourmet breakfasts the couple serves guests, and for a while fed a vegan food product company they ran. The Elegant Vegan is no more, but guests can enjoy vegan breakfast options if they like.
The inn's eight guest rooms range from the small Oak Room, with a double bed, to the multi-room Manor House Suite, with a king-size bed and day bed in one room, and another day bed in an anteroom. The Lake View Room has a small private balcony that overlooks the manor’s perennial gardens. Every room has a private bathroom, and there are televisions in the common spaces. Wi-fi is available throughout the home.
The entire bed and breakfast is available for rent (it can sleep up to 20), which is a popular choice for wedding parties that host their ceremonies under the arbor next to the English garden outside. The yard can also accommodate a tent for receptions of up to 50 guests, and an outdoor fireplace offers a late-night spot to relax.
Things to do in the area
It would be easy to spend an entire weekend not leaving the inn, especially with an indoor pool and dozens of books to captivate your attention. But if you do want to venture out, there are options, too.
The bed and breakfast is about 7 miles north of downtown Elkhorn, known as Wisconsin's Christmas card town, which has a handful of restaurants on its town square. Among them is Friends on the Square, a café that serves coffee, pastries, ice cream, breakfast and lunch paninis and soup. Around the corner is Someplace Else Restaurant, which serves up a tasty Friday fish fry.
About five miles west of town is Duesterbeck’s Brewing Co., which has a variety of beers from the Crop Duester, a cream ale, to Bentist Candy, a juicy IPA, and a line of hard seltzers. The Crop Duester is a nod to the property’s former life as a farm, in co-owner Laura Johnson’s family for five generations. The Bentist Candy is a nod to her husband, co-owner and brewmaster Ben Johnson, who is also a dentist. The couple built the brewery buildings, which resemble barns, using repurposed materials from the old farm buildings, and on the same footprint as those structures. The brewery also has a small gift shop on site, the Grainery, that sells home and garden decor along with brewery swag.
The bed and breakfast also is less than 20 miles north of Lake Geneva, which offers more options for dining and things to do, including the Ice Castles, which are back for their third year at Geneva National. The castles are expected to open sometime in January, depending on the weather.
Also in Lake Geneva is the Mountain Top, a small ski hill that’s part of the Grand Geneva Resort. The ski area offers rentals and lessons, plus trails for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and fat biking. Leinenkugel's Mountain Top Lodge offers a spot for après ski.
To the north of Ye Olde Manor House is the expansive Kettle Moraine State Forest’s southern unit. The John Muir trails, popular with mountain bikers in the summer and an increasing number of fat bikers in the winter, are just six miles away. The trails are also open to hiking. Just across County Highway H (Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive) are the Nordic Trails, which are groomed for cross-country skiing. The Ice Age Trail also passes through the forest, offering 30 miles for hiking.
More information: The Ye Olde Manor House is at N7622 Highway 12, Elkhorn. Rooms start at $176 per night. All guests must provide a copy of their vaccination card showing they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to arrival. For more information and reservations, call 262-742-2450 or see yeoldemanorhouse.com
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Elkhorn's Ye Olde Manor House is a relaxing getaway close to Milwaukee