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Garth Woodside Mansion
11069 New London Road, Hannibal, MO 63401

Garth Woodside Mansion Home Page

September 2009

Welcome to www.weloveourlife.com. This is our page dedicated to our experiences while staying at Garth Woodside Mansion in Hannibal, Missouri.

Accommodations Amenities Food Bar/Lounge Service Attractions Dining Nightlife Weather Tips


We chose the Dowager House, a separate stone cottage. It looked charming on the website and we were not disappointed. John Rolsen (he and his wife Julie are the owners/innkeepers) greeted us upon arrival. He was friendly and showed us around the main floor of the inn. He asked us what time we wanted breakfast served as well as what time we wanted dinner (one free dinner came with our reservation). He then walked us to the cottage and went through it with us, patiently explaining everything. It was definitely nice to be greeted this way and shown around. The cottage was in a beautiful setting, on the edge of the woods. Although it was separate from the main house, it really was only a very short walk to the inn.

The cottage had a kitchen with a full-size refrigerator, microwave, and Flavia coffeemaker. There was also a table and chairs, as well as dishes. There was water and soda in the refrigerator and microwave popcorn. One thing that was missing was a bowl for the popcorn.
The bedroom stretched across the back of the cottage on the main floor. It was a large room with plenty of windows towards the back (and the woods). There was a king size bed with a night stand on each side, and thoughtfully, a clock was on each side of the bed. There was a bench at the foot of the bed. On the opposite side of the room was a gas fireplace surrounded by stone. There was actually a window above the fireplace, which was unique. There were two comfortable chairs by the fireplace.
The bathroom was incredible – it was actually four rooms. There was a corner whirlpool that faced a gas fireplace. We did use that fireplace both nights when we took baths. The lights in there dimmed, which was a nice feature. The shower was actually a room walled by glass block on one side. There were multiple showerheads in the shower room as well as a rain forest shower head. You could practically bathe an entire family in there! There was a small separate room containing a toilet and a bidet. Finally there was yet another compartment with a long vanity and two sinks. Really this bathroom is every person’s dream. Not only did it include a hairdryer but also a curling iron, make-up mirror, toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss – you name it!
There is a loft with a circular staircase going up to it from the sleeping area. The loft contains a table with games, comfortable sofa and chair, and the entertainment center.
There was a deck out back off the sleeping area that contained some metal furniture as well as a hot tub. It was private and the perfect setting.

Inn Amenities

Regarding the amenities, they are mostly all the things in the accommodations. Besides the cottage we stayed in there were an additional two cottages, both with hot tubs outside. There are an additional eight rooms in the main house. The inn offers plenty of DVDs. A particularly nice feature is an on-site restaurant.

The inn has two pet llamas in a fenced area that are quite friendly and very cute. We asked innkeeper John Rolsen why they chose llamas and he said his wife wanted horses and he thought llamas would be easier. He also mentioned they were hoping the two llamas were pregnant which we take to mean they must have had a play date.

Inn Food

There is a restaurant on-site and while we were there, one dinner was included in our two-night reservation (it included the food, while we paid taxes, liquor, and tip). Their menu changes daily and features several entrees. The restaurant is sort of a large sunroom addition to the back of the house with lots of windows that overlook the grounds. The restaurant offers a full bar and we chose a bottle of Cakebread white wine to accompany our meal. The dinner began with warm rolls and garlic butter. We were then served salads. Lori chose a pasta dish with chicken and Keith had a large stuffed chicken breast. Dinner was a wonderful pastry stuffed with brie and accompanied by some vanilla ice cream. After dinner, we got glasses of sambuca to take back to our cottage. This was the one sour note – when we sipped the sambuca it had turned and was undrinkable. Our guess is it was sitting there in an open bottle at the bar for some time and perhaps not many people order sambuca in Hannibal!

Because we stayed in a cottage, breakfast was brought to us. There was a pocket door that we pulled shut to our bedroom. In the morning shortly before 9, they would enter our cottage and set the table with breakfast. They would then flick a switch that turned on a little red light in the sleeping area indicating that breakfast was ready. What a neat idea! You get served a warm breakfast but don’t even have to see anyone – we could sit there in our robes.

On our first morning we were served a vegetable frittata that was quite delicious, accompanied by muffins and fresh fruit. On the second morning we had pecan French toast and more fresh fruit. They served a carafe of a delicious fruit juice – not your typical orange juice but more of a purplish color – we’re not sure what it was; perhaps some sort of guava berry concoction, but we both liked it.

Our guess is John’s wife Julie is the cook (she seemed to be the chef at dinner) and she is very good.

Inn Bar/Lounge

There is a full bar in the restaurant but it’s more of a place where the alcohol comes from – the place isn’t meant to be a bar scene where people hang out. That just wouldn’t fit in with the peaceful, laidback atmosphere.

Inn People/Service

The innkeepers and the servers in the restaurant were unfailingly pleasant and friendly. John and Julie obviously are doing something they love and they seem to relish it. We would recommend this place – based on what we saw, we think it’s the nicest place in the Hannibal area.


We went to Hannibal to see where Mark Twain grew up. There were several attractions we visited – check out our Missouri travelogue for details.

Mark Twain Cave - 300 Cave Hollow Road Hannibal, MO 573-221-1656
Mark Twain Cave Home Page
We actually had a bit of difficulty finding this; it didn’t show up on our GPS. Finally we got lucky and saw a sign, turned around, and managed to find it. The cave is located off highway 79, one mile south of Hannibal. It was well worth it. We bought tickets for a tour and it ended up being a small group, just another couple and us. Our guide, John, was really good, personable and funny (there is a photo of him on the cave’s website). We learned he used to drive for a living but a health issue forced him to retire and he’s been leading guided tours through the cave for 12 years. The tour was supposed to be an hour but ours was actually a little longer. The cave is very walkable but be sure to wear good shoes (such as sneakers). There are no steps – it’s actually in a hillside. It is a constant 52 degrees Fahrenheit in there so if you go, you may want to take a jacket. There are bats but we only saw one. What was fascinating was all the people who left their names and the dates they visited – a practice that stopped in the early 70s. There were names and dates that went far back into the 1800s and it was fascinating. Jesse James even hid out in the cave for a few days and left his signature. This is the cave that young Sam Clemens (aka Mark Twain) played in as a child and mentioned in his stories. We definitely recommend this. There is also another cave – Cameron Cave – but this is a bit more arduous and is not electrically lit. Since Lori is a bit claustrophobic we didn’t visit this cave.

Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum - 208 Hill Street Hannibal, MO 573-221-9010
Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum Home Page
If you’re going to Hannibal it only makes sense to go to the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum. You purchase the tickets and then walk through a small interpretive center. You walk through assorted buildings within a block (it is a self-guided tour). Be sure to walk a couple blocks down Main Street to the actual museum, which has a number of hands-on things on the first floor that kids will like. It’s quite a fascinating repository of all things related to Mark Twain.

Mark Twain Riverboat - Center Street Landing Hannibal, MO 573-221-3222
Mark Twain Riverboat Home Page

When we were initially planning our trip to Missouri we were hoping to ride a riverboat on the Mississippi River. Unfortunately the cruise lines that did that had all shut down, so we opted for a one-hour tour on this boat. The boat itself was built in 1964, is 120 feet long, and 33 feet wide, with a 6-foot draft. It can accommodate up to 400 passengers and is inspected annually by the US Coast Guard.

We took a one-hour cruise that departed at 1:30 p.m. Guests could sit inside on the main deck, inside or outside on the second floor, or outside on the top deck. Drinks and snacks are available on the main deck and we each had a glass of wine. We initially planned to sit on the top deck and get a little sun but the boat moves slowly and it was simply too warm, so we treated down one deck where we sat at a table outside that was covered. The crew was super friendly. The cruise is narrated and when the captain isn’t speaking, beware – they play banjo music. They also offer dinner and jazz cruises that are longer in duration (our cruise was one hour). We were glad we did this although we have to admit that the Mississippi is easily the muddiest river we’ve ever seen!

Dining Breadeaux Pizza - Street Hannibal, MO 573-221-1500
We stopped into this place for lunch. We had some nice fresh subs and chips.

Lulabelle’s Restaurant – 111 Bird Street Hannibal, MO 573-221-6662
Lulabelle's Home Page
We had dinner here on a Thursday evening. We stopped by earlier in the day to check out the menu and to ask if we needed reservations and we were told we didn’t need reservations since it wasn’t a weekend. Supposedly this place was originally a brothel. It was nice enough inside, cozy with printed wallpaper. It is an excellent value as you really get a lot of food.

Every entrée comes with peel & eat shrimp, Caesar salad, fresh bread, and baked potato topped with butter, sour cream, green onion, bleu cheese crumbles, and bacon bits (or whatever combination of those toppings is desired). Guests can also substitute steamed broccoli, fettuccine alfredo, or twice baked potato. Keith doesn’t do shrimp and Lori happily scarfed up his. Keith had a pasta dish with sausage – there had to be at least a pound of pasta in it! Lori had shrimp scampi and was thrilled to discover it was simply shrimp in scampi sauce and not over a bed of pasta or rice. We had a chilled bottle of white wine with dinner. Service was good and it was a nice upscale (yet relaxed) experience. We definitely recommend this place.


There are bars along Main Street but we didn’t stay to see if there was any real nightlife. Before we went to Lulabelle’s we sat outside a bar along Main Street having a couple drinks and watching the people go by.


We visited Hannibal the first week of September. It is usually hot and humid but we had unseasonably cooler weather – although it still got warm during the day.


We realize Hannibal attracts people because of Mark Twain and there are places to stay in town. Garth Woodside Mansion is only a couple miles from town but miles away in atmosphere – you feel like you’re out in the woods. Stay here!