Welcome to the Dollhouse

Driving the stretch between Fennville and the outskirts of Allegan, Michigan, you feel as though you’re in the dusty middle of just about nowhere. When the Castle in the Country suddenly looms like a giant, lavender dollhouse on this stretch of Highway 40, it seems like a mirage. It’s not. The 104-year-old Queen Anne Victorian mansion has five lavish guestrooms ($139 to $269) within its painted-lady façade. Ruth and Herb Boven bought the then-decrepit place in 1990 and spent a year-and-a-half evicting resident squirrels and uprooting vines that had snaked through broken windows and made a jungle of the interior. Today, the place is stunning, an elaborately detailed palace of picture-frame moldings, glossy hardwood floors, and heirloom antiques. The décor details are utterly charming from the tiny, vintage coin purses hanging from the boudoir mirrors to the century-old pump organ in the parlor. The 65-acre grounds include a hidden lake (with a dock that’s perfect for cannonballs) and walking trails through woods, lawns, and gardens (where the Bovens grow the herbs they use in cooking breakfast). “Castle Keep,” a contemporary building with five additional rooms ($139 to $269), is separated from the main house—and hidden from the highway. The Castle also has one of the loveliest spas we’ve ever seen: Facials, massages, and mani-pedis are available in a deeply shaded, screened-in gazebo overlooking a lily pond.

GO Castle in the Country, 340 M-40 South, Allegan, Michigan; 888-673-8054, www.castleinthecountry.com

Things To Do in Allegan and nearby Fennville

  • Eat dinner at Salt of the Earth. (And check out the fresh board menu, which features dishes made with same-day picked produce.) Entrees range from $17 to $24.
    GO Salt of the Earth, 114 E. Main St., Fennville; 269-561-7258; www.saltoftheearthfennville.com
  • Drink wine at the Fenn Valley Vineyards & Wine Cellar. The family-owned winery offers cellar tours, cookouts, concerts, and tasting.
    GO Fenn Valley Vineyards & Wine Cellar, 6130 122nd Ave., Fennville; 800-432-6265; www.fennvalley.com
  • Hit the antique market at the Allegan County Fairgrounds. More than 400 dealers will be at the Allegan County Fairgrounds on Sunday, July 25th.
    GO Allegan County Fairgrounds, 150 Allegan County Fair Drive, Allegan; 616-735-3333, www.alleganantiques.com

Best Deal of the Week

River North’s Amalfi Hotel is emphasizing the river by offering two free tickets from Shoreline Sightseeing for an architecture boat ride along all three branches of the waterway. Book a room (rates start at $189) and you’ll also get two free passes to ride Navy Pier’s Ferris wheel and a $75 gift card for dining at Navy Pier’s Riva. Tip: Reserve a Riva window seat around 8 p.m. for dinner on Wednesday or Saturday, and you’ll be in prime position for the evening fireworks display (9:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, 10:15 p.m. on Saturdays). To book a room, click here and use the code CHIMAG. The promotion is ongoing through September 6th.
GO Amalfi Hotel Chicago, 20 W. Kinzie St.; 312-395-9000, amalfihotelchicago.com