A gentle flame dances in the fireplace. High above, swaying ever so slightly from the A-frame, a fan silently spins, circulating the fresh air that wafts in from the open windows. Beyond, the Cedar River flows quietly as it curves out of sight. Occasionally the distant whine of passing traffic filters through the screens, but the rest is noise of my own making. A beautiful ribeye is on the grill, nearly ready to accompany the tomato-topped asiago focaccia that's broiling in the oven. There's a glass of wine at my fingertips and I settle in for a delicious dinner and a peaceful evening in my own, private retreat.

Cedar River flows by Red Cedar Lodge

Sound idyllic? It is. "It" is Red Cedar Lodge, a three-cabin getaway in Charles City, Iowa. Awarded Outstanding Lodging by Iowa Tourism, each cabin features wood floors and hand peeled lodge pole furniture, a spacious living room with a gas fireplace, and a full kitchen. The showers in the master bathrooms are big enough for two, complete with two showerheads. The decks host tables, chairs, and gas grills. The grills are used so frequently that they are replaced every year.

Red Cedar Lodge Great Room

The grounds feature spots for campfires, a hot tub next to an outdoor fireplace, and serene views that make you feel like you're miles from anywhere, yet Red Cedar Lodge is easy to find with quick access from Highway 218.

These cabins are perfect for everything from a romantic getaway to a corporate retreat to a friends weekend to a family reunion. Two of the cabins sleep ten people and the third sleeps eight, so you can host a sizable number of friends, coworkers, or family. With astoundingly affordable rates it can even be a secluded vacation for a couple or provide solitude for a writer's immersion. I dream of spending a week here, writing to my heart's content and uploading with the speedy wifi. 

Red Cedar Lodge

I was invited with a few other travel writers to experience this charming getaway. My "roomie" Cindy Ladage, author of Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl as well as contributor to several other publications, and I enjoyed early morning eggs and writing in Moonlight Bend. Then we'd meet up with Sara Broers of Travel with Sara, and Chrysa Duran of Thrifty Jinxy in their Sunrise Ridge cabin before joining owner Lorraine for a day of exploration.

Moonlight Bend at Red Cedar Lodge

Lorraine and Tom Winterink built Red Cedar Lodge in 2008 after Tom discovered the 28-acre parcel along the Cedar River. They had been looking for a change of pace, and with these vacation cabins they've found it.

"As soon as Tom saw the land was available we had to have it," said Lorraine. While the two had lived in multiple places around the country, Tom hails from Charles City, and their daughter is the sixth generation to call the small town home.

When they built the cabins they began from the ground up, hiring local carpenters. Inside each one, under the staircase to the loft, you can find their signatures. "All artists should sign their work," Lorraine said, "so we had them sign theirs."

Red Cedar Lodge carpenter signatures

This connection to the community was evident during our stay. Upon arrival we were greeted by Ginger Williams from the Charles City Chamber of Commerce and Randy Heitz, Regional Manager of the Iowa Farm Bureau. Both are intimately involved with developing Charles City and sharing everything the town has to offer.

That is sizable, and I was amazed by just how many attractions are available in the community. Despite a population of just 7,600 it hosts one of the largest county museums in the Midwest, a white water rafting park, an art deco theater that dates from the 1930s, a golf course listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the childhood home of one of the most influential women in the suffrage movement, and a mind-boggling art collection in, of all places, the public library.

Most of all, it offers hospitality and welcome, and Lorraine and Tom are gracious ambassadors. Over the coming days I'll be sharing more about the things you can do in Charles City when you stay at Red Cedar Lodge. In the meantime, visit their website for more information and to book your stay at this relaxing getaway.

Red Cedar Lodge is located at 1800 Gilbert St, Charles City, IA. 641-228-3444

TLG at Red Cedar Lodge