At least a dozen retreat centers are within easy reach from the Twin Cities. Most have no religious requirements and don't proselytize. Many offer spiritual counseling; some offer massage or body work. Some emphasize solitude, while others encourage guests to join in shared meals and prayers.
ARC RETREAT CENTER
The log retreat house houses up to 18 guests on 90 acres near Cambridge, Minn. The center also has a small hermitage and a cottage. ARC (Action, Reflection, Celebration) describes itself as "an ecumenical retreat center in the Christian tradition." Lodging with meals is $75 weekdays, $80 on weekends (1-763-689-3540; www.arcretreat.org).
Operated by the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, Minn., Clare's Well describes itself as a "spirituality farm," with guest lodging in three hermitages, which have electricity, but no plumbing. Body work is available. Clare's Well is near Annandale, Minn., about an hour northwest of the Twin Cities. Lodging with three meals a day is $50 (1-320-274-3512; www.fslf.org/clareswell.html).
On 120 acres about 40 miles east of Eau Claire, Wis., this retreat has 15 hermitages and a beautiful main building with an octagonal meditation hall. Body work and sauna. Rates, with meals, are $42 to $58 on weekends and $37 to $47 during the week (1-866-333-7507; www.christinecenter.org).
On 50 acres along the St. Croix River, the Dunrovin Christian Brothers Retreat Center has a bucolic setting and can accommodate anything from solitary retreats to groups as large as 50. There's a big retreat center with 45 rooms, as well as a cottage and a retreat house. Rates vary depending on number of meals, length of stay and time of week. Located 10 miles north of Stillwater (651-433-2486; www.dunrovin.org).
The Dwelling in the Woods has five hermitages and a larger central building with meeting space and three hotel-style rooms. Sauna and body work available. Rate is $85 per person with meals (1-320-592-3708; www.dwellinginthewoods.org).
HOLY SPIRIT RETREAT CENTER
Appropriately located on Lake Elysian, the Holy Spirit Retreat Center has a large main building and two small hermitages. Operated by the Sisters of St. Francis near Janesville, Minn., the center has a labyrinth and spiritual counseling is available. A $30 to $40 donation per night is suggested. 1-507-234-5712, www.rochesterfranciscan.org.
On 150 acres of prairie and woodlands about 30 miles south of the Cities, Mount Olivet Retreat and Conference Center accommodates large groups and individual retreats. Amenities include whirlpool, sauna, 5 miles of hiking trails and a large prayer labyrinth (952-469-2175; www.mtolivetretreat.org).
PACEM IN TERRIS
"Peace on Earth" is a Franciscan retreat center with 16 hermitages where "the hermit can more simply follow Christ's example of seeking 'a lonely place to pray.'" There is no electricity or plumbing. Guests are given a simple food basket daily and have a gas burner to heat water for tea or coffee. Donation of at least $55 a night requested. About 20 miles north of Anoka (763-444-6408; www.paceminterris.org).
ST. JOHN'S ABBEY
St. John's Abbey is a Benedictine monastery with a complex that includes St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn. The new guesthouse has 29 rooms and overlooks Lake Sagatagan. Visitors are encouraged to meet and pray with monks. The suggested room rate is $60 per night for a single, with meals $15 to $17 extra. It's about 100 miles northwest of the Cities off Interstate Hwy. 94 (1-320-363-2573; www.saintjohnsabbey.org, click on Guesthouse).
STONE LIGHT RETREAT
Described as "a place to meet yourself," Stone Light has four cabins and a main lodge in woods near Viroqua, Wis. The cabins are rustic, with battery-powered lights and outhouses. Massage therapist and psychic available. Rates are $68 a night (1-608-637-6917; www.stone-light.net).