The Reviews Are In
It's a land of nostalgia where adults can recharge, relax and enjoy a night or two away, say the owners of Serenity Springs. Located at U.S. 35 and Interstate 94, the 85 acre retreat includes a serene 10 acre lake with two water channels running through it. Rich and Laura Ostergren, LaPorte, owners of the retreat, think they have hit upon the right combination of what they believe over-worked adults need. Time alone. Rich calls Serenity Springs an "adult retreat/getaway and escape." Laura said she and Rich, whose main work has been in real estate, "knew if we did it (Serenity Springs) we wanted to offer more than rooms. We wanted to make it a little more unique." Everything about Serenity Springs is done with unique in mind. Laura said the experience begins from the time guests arrive to check in at the carriage house. Guests park their vehicles there and are taken to their bungalows by a porter and horse drawn carriage. At different times of the day, guests may be able to see teams of draft horses doing work on the property, such as plowing or mowing. Rich said as much work as possible is done by the draft horses to both bring back the nostalgia and romance of the past, but to also reduce disrupting sounds of motorized vehicles. "That is why we only use horse-drown carriages to take people to the bungalows," Rich said. Modern, log cabin-style bungalow buildings have wooden deck balconies which face toward the lake, only feet away. Rich said he has taken to setting up feed for the numerous deer on the property so when guests get up in the morning they can see deer feeding near the lake. The porter gives guests a tour of the bungalow and how to use all of the amenities, such as a sunken whirlpool bath for two, gas campfire grill on the outside wooden deck, and surround sound stereo and television system inside. There also is a microwave oven, gas fireplace, stocked refrigerator, and a radiant heated floor to keep those toes warm. Rich said he designed each bungalow to be different in overall shape and architecture, so repeat guests would have some variety. The Ostergren's, who are parents of three children, based much of the Serenity Springs concept on what they thought would be nice for a couple doing a one or two night escape. That led to the incorporation of horses into the heavily wooded setting. The price of the stay also includes snacks and all beverages in the refrigerator, Laura said. Dinner/snacks are delivered with quiet in mind, Laura said. The horse-drawn housekeeping wagon goes to each bungalow and a worker puts the food into a Butler's Pantry in the wall between the outside and inside. A breakfast basket is served the same way. When the goodies have arrived a light is activated by the pantry to show the food is there. "We didn't want the guests to be disturbed and we figured this was a nice way to do it," Laura said. "That way they can take it out at their convenience." But, guests also get to take a carriage ride around the 85 acre grounds. The carriage trail winds past water areas and through woods on a path just big enough for the carriage and draft horses to maneuver. The intimacy of the woods is what Rich had in mind when he added the carriage trail, he said. During winter months, when there is enough snow, the carriage rides will become horse-drawn sleigh rides, he said. Rich said guests can come over to the stables and see the draft horses, or feel free to walk the trails. A nice, restful evening by the lake works, too, he said. For night-time communing with nature, insect repellent and a flashlight are available to keep guests smiling, Laura noted. Labor Day Weekend was the first full operational weekend for Serenity Springs, Laura said. "All the bungalows were booked full. "We had one guest who had reserved one night and as soon as he saw what was here he immediately booked a second night." Rich and Laura have great dreams for Serenity Springs. Currently they have five bungalows constructed. Rich hopes to eventually have a total of 36 constructed around the lake and along the water channels. Plans for next year include introduction of personal paddle wheel boats to cruise the lake. Rich wants to add cane fishing poles for those wanting to do some catch-and-release fishing at the lake. Rich believes the target client for Serenity Springs will reach from area residents wanting the quick get-away to Chicago area residents looking for that special escape. Laura said the facility will be evolving during the next few years. "A guest who visits us today will find things different next year. "We bring things together that are nostalgic and romantic that people don't have to time to do anymore and let them enjoy being together. Including part-time workers, the facility employs 14 people and has plans to expand. Linda and Russ Coules are the bulwark of the equestrian team handling the horses, Laura noted. Laura said the facility is for adults only and no children or pets are allowed. Reservations are strongly recommended because of scheduling of horse rides and other amenity services. Customized guest surprise packages are given to guests who make reservations. Laura said Serenity Springs is having a 50-percent off sale for the next month or two as a way of getting people acquainted with them. Rooms Sunday through Thursday nights are $149. Friday through Saturday the rates are $199 a night. The regular rates will be $299 and $349, respectively. For more information on Serenity Springs, see their website at www.serenity-springs.com, or call them at (219) 861-0000.