Excelsior, MN, USA ~ Hotel Excelsior

January 2023

In January in Minnesota, winter is still fun – a bit of a novelty after a hot, green summer and a cool, orange fall. And this winter has brought lots of snow, which can make parts of the Twin Cities feel like a ski resort town, sans the mountain views. To live happily in the “Bold North,” it’s important to get out in the cold and snow, and there’s more than enough to do. We may not have mountains, but the hiking, cross country skiing, snowperson building, winter beer gardens, ice fishing and snowmobiling (the latter two are not our thing, but still a big part of MN life) can make winter tolerable and even enjoyable.

During this three-day weekend in mid-January, we were determined to do all the winter things we love but also to get out of the house and try something new. The Hotel Excelsior, which we have had our eyes on since it opened in spring 2021, had a vacancy, and we saw it as an opportunity to see Lake Minnetonka in January.

The verdict: charmed.

All we needed and more

Hotel Excelsior is a small hotel – four rooms that sit atop a coffee shop and a Faribault Woolen Mills store  – without traditional guest services. On the day of arrival, guests receive a text (or email) with entry codes, check-in/out information, and a phone number with an offer to help with whatever is needed. We asked for some restaurant recommendations and got a prompt reply. We typically prefer hotels to VRBOs or Airbnbs, and Hotel Excelsior’s approach seemed a little more like a vacation rental than a hotel, but as we relaxed in our room with a cocktail after a seamless “check-in” and before heading out to one of those restaurant recommendations, we reflected on what we really need from a hotel. In this case, a lobby with 24-hour guest assistance and services like daily housekeeping didn’t seem important.

In our estimation, the best feature of our room – the Smithtown Bay Suite – was the six windows that run the length of the space; the view down to Water Street was terrific, and two suites in the hotel – ours and the St. Alban’s suite – have this orientation. (We did hear from another guest that she prefers the other two suites because they have a separate bedroom. To each their own.) Beyond the windows, our room had a full kitchen, a spacious seating area, a king-sized bed and a roomy bathroom with an even roomier shower. One of us described the room’s décor as “lakey.” It did, admittedly, have lots of references to Lake Minnetonka, including a few coffee table books that we had fun paging through. We also appreciated the “Hotel Excelsior” pillow on the bed, which, upon closer inspection, was a reference to Hotel Excelsior in Milan (maybe this one?). After recently returning from northern Italy, it was a welcome déjà vu.

In our short stay, we experienced just a few hiccups. We found only one robe in the room for the two of us. The hot water in the shower was only marginally hot. The kitchen sink was a little slow to drain. And the keyless entry to the room was a little hard to see at night. But these are minor quibbles and easily remedied. All in all, we appreciated the evident care and attention to detail given to the room since the hotel’s opening.

A new weekend getaway

For a getaway that feels much more “away” than it really is, we semi-regularly head east from our house to Stillwater, Minnesota, and stay in either the Lora or the Crosby. We more rarely go west from central Minneapolis, mostly because there seem to be fewer options. And while we’ve stopped by Excelsior on our way to other destinations, before this stay, we had never lingered for more than an hour or two. With Hotel Excelsior, we now have a new go-to when we want a change of scenery and a special treat within our hometown.

Stay details

What we did, where we ate

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