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Minnesota can put you up in a lighthouse, jail cell

By Cliff Terry, Special to Tribune Newspapers

8:39 PM EDT, September 19, 2013

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Looking for accommodations in Minnesota that aren't part of a same-old chain? You can stay in an island treehouse, for example, or in a railroad boxcar or even a jail cell. Here are some oddities worth considering. But hurry if you're looking for something before winter, because some of these close for the season in October.

The Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast: A unique overnight experience on Lake Superior's Agate Bay is available through the Lake County Historical Society, featuring four rooms with a common bathroom. The society also operates the adjacent Two Harbors Light Station Museum. The B&B is open year round, and the museum is open for tours May through October (depending on the weather) or by special arrangement. The now fully automated light station, on the National Register of Historic Places, is still in use. Its light has been burning since 1892, and the current light apparatus, installed in 1969, can be seen about 17 miles across the lake. 1 Lighthouse Point, Two Harbors, 888-832-5606, lighthousebb.org

The Jail House Inn: At this charming establishment, originally the Old Fillmore County Jail and Carriage House (built in the 1870s) one can sleep in a onetime cell or stay in a room called The Drunk Tank. (Others include the Detention Room, Processing Room and Cell Block.) Asked if the jail held hardened criminals, the B&B hostess smiles. "No. It was a Mayberry kind of jail." 109 Houston St. NW, Preston; 507-765-2181; jailhouseinn.com

Northern Rail Traincar Suites: Peter Greenberg, CBS News travel editor, has called this "one of the world's 10 most unusual hotels." Ninety percent of guests come from the Twin Cities, the other 10 percent from every major country, from Ireland to Russia and New Zealand. With a depot-style main building, including a lending library, it features 17 themed guest rooms, with names like Porter Suite and Queen Conductor Suite, housed in actual train boxcars (complete with exterior graffiti) and connected by an enclosed platform. Added bonus: It's near Betty's Pies, a legendary eatery. 1730 Highway 3, Two Harbors, 877-834-0955, northernrail.net

The Naniboujou Lodge: Named after the Cree Indian god of the outdoors, this was first opened in the late 1920s as an exclusive private club whose charter members included Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and writer Ring Lardner. But it fell on hard times during the Depression and has now been revitalized. The lodge is home to Minnesota's largest (200-ton, 20-foot-tall) native-rock fireplace, which stands in the dining room. Moreover, there are marvelous painted Cree Indian designs on the dining-room walls and domed ceiling — the North Woods' answer to the Sistine Chapel, one writer noted. Naniboujou is open through the weekend of Oct. 18-20 and reopens in May. It's also open the week after Christmas and weekends through March 14 for two-day packages. One caveat: There are no phones or TVs, and alcohol is not allowed in the public rooms. 20 Naniboujou Trail, Grand Marais; 218-387-2688; naniboujou.com

Ludlow's Island Resort Dreamcatcher: This entire resort, open May to Oct. 6, is on a private island and features 20 cabins, including The Dreamcatcher, a four-story treehouse, built in 2000, that provides panoramic views of the lake. The name was chosen to reflect the Ojibwe tradition in the North Woods. The resort also has an Amphicar, an operable amphibious passenger car built in Germany in the 1960s. This is 1 of 500 or so remaining in the world of about 4,000 built.) Lake Vermilion, Cook; 877-583-5697; ludlowsresort.com