Mention the Lakeside Inn to the residents of this placid bed-and-breakfast hamlet on the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan, and you'll raise eyebrows. They all know the place--it's hard to miss the big, sprawling house perched on a hill overlooking the sandy beach. They've gawked at the strange sculpture garden. They've heard foreign languages wafting out of the windows of its cavernous dining room. They've been told it has no heat, for godssake.
But if you don't require luxury, you'll find the Lakeside Inn wonderfully eccentric. There are no keys to anything, the linens are studiously mismatched, the kitchen is communal, and artwork of every persuasion adorns the 28 guest rooms. (Ask for the Doris Day Room.)
Lakeside Inn has hosted an eclectic assortment of guests over the years. In the late twenties Al Capone used it as his summer playground (and perhaps his distillery, given the hundreds of bottles that owner John Wilson found in the basement). In the seventies a former owner housed gorillas, bears, peacocks, and big cats out back and reportedly made safari films in and around the inn. These days, guests tend to be international artists, who come at Wilson's invi-tation to live and work at the inn, and city dwellers from Chicago and Detroit, who come to bike the eightto 60-mile routes of the nearby Backcountry Bikeways system, hike in the serene Warren Woods State Forest just across Red Arrow Highway, or titillate the bourgeois neighbors with a little ukulele-playing on the beach.
Lakeside Inn is just off Interstate 94 in Lakeside, Michigan, 90 minutes from Chicago and four hours from Detroit. Double rooms cost $50-$110, continental breakfast (and the occasional lunch or dinner) included. The inn is open Memorial Day through late September; call 616-469-1337 for reservations.