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OnMilwaukee.comFantasy suites bring exotic getaways close to home

In an ideal world, everyone would have the chance to jet off on adventurous vacations to wild and far away lands whenever the impulse struck.

This is the real world, however, where such ample time and money is hard to come by. Even when everything comes together, many are still afraid to step out of their comfort zones and into such exotic terrain.

Luckily, area hotels have found a way to close the gap between vacationers and their dream getaways via fantasy suites. Themed rooms offer a taste of everything from distant locales to exotic bygone eras. Best of all, they’re right here in Wisconsin.

Fantasy suites are not a new concept. The Don Q Inn in Dodgeville has been in business since 1974. Its original suites were joined by two-story deluxe and fantasy suites in 1989, bringing the total number of themed rooms to 24.

“The original suites are themed rooms, but they’re not whirlpool suites,” said co-manager Susan Stadler, who has been with the Don Q Inn for six years. “They’re not fantasy suites, but they all have a theme to them. The blue room, for example, is all blue, but it has a 300-gallon copper tub and not a whirlpool.”

Guests can choose to stay in one of four specialty fantasy suites: Caesar’s Court, Casino Royale, Jungle Safari and Sherwood Forest. The two-story deluxe suites include some fantastic experiences of their own — the Up, Up & Away! suite gives guests the opportunity to sleep in a hot air balloon gondola, and Tranquility Base lets aspiring astronauts catch some Zs in a re-created Gemini space capsule.

The inn also has standard rooms, which come in handy for families visiting area attractions like the House on the Rock just seven miles away.

For couples, though, the fantasy suites are a definite favorite. According to Stadler, visitors from all over the Midwest make the trip to stay in the inn’s signature suites.

“We get a lot of people from Illinois and Iowa. We get the locals, too, but it’s more people from out of town,” she said. “People come in a lot for the theme rooms. They all get rented out, but there are some, like Caesar’s Court, Sherwood Forest and the Jungle Safari room, that are more popular.”

The inn started as one of a collection of fantasy suite hotels in the Midwest owned by Michael Isabella and Roger Dehring. Their original FantaSuite hotel was built in West Bend in the 1980s and expanded into Minnesota and Iowa before losing steam.

Many of the hotels have since closed, but the Don Q Inn still does regular business and even gives tours of the themed rooms every Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Wisconsin still has a fair share of “getaway” suites even without the Isabella/Dehring hotel group. Visitors to Title Town can rest their cheeseheads in the Wild West or Paris rooms at the Settle Inn & Suites in Green Bay, and Milwaukee locals only have to travel minutes to snuggle up in a floor-to-ceiling beer barrel, 1957 Cadillac or Cinderella’s carriage at the Hospitality Inn & Suites.

The “recreational” aspects of these rooms are fairly tame. Aside from the occasional ceiling or bedside wall mirror, these rooms are built more for a fun weekend escape than a steamy romantic romp.

If romance is the goal, the amorous don’t have to search far to find Sybaris. Located in Mequon with additional hotels in Indianapolis and the Chicago area, Sybaris’ rooms offer more of a luxury tropical-themed getaway than fantasy suite.

“Ours are romantic suites that vary from the Country Whirlpool suite all the way up to the Chalet swimming pool suite,” said Sybaris’ marketing director, Dan Fahrner. “We’re one of only a few locations in the United States that offers your very own swimming pool in your bedroom or suite.”

Sybaris gives guests six suite styles to choose from, but the in-room pool suites are by far the most popular, according to Fahrner. The rooms can also come with steam rooms, an overhanging tropical waterfall and even a pool slide in the two-level Chalet suite.

The luxury hotels used to market mainly to married couples, but all couples are welcome. Proposals aren’t uncommon at Sybaris, either.

“We have a lot of requests for surprises for anniversaries and marriage proposals,” said Fahrner. “A lot of times they’ll want champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries or a dozen roses. If somebody is going to propose, we’ll spell out ‘Will you marry me?’ in rose petals on the bed.”

Fantasy suites obviously won’t replace the real thing, but getting the chance to travel around the world — and even through time — for the price of a Wisconsin hotel reservation is a pretty fun bargain.

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