Sunday, September 30, 2018

Mackinac to Saugatuck



It was a beautiful morning on Mackinac Island, where my friend, Lynn, and I were staying at the Grand Hotel.

Fortunately, we weren’t in a hurry to leave and could enjoy the hotel and the island until the afternoon.

We went to the main dining room for another breakfast with just about anything you could possibly want. We were always greeted with a fresh, warm basket of baked breads and pastries.

Everything was delicious and the service spot on.

  

We took our time and packed up our room at the Grand Hotel, enjoying a little time on the balcony taking in the spectacular view for the last time.

After we checked out, we took the horse drawn carriage to downtown, where our luggage would be store while we walked around.

Downtown Mackinac Island is filled with shops for souvenirs, clothing, and fudge. I certainly couldn’t leave without taking some with me.

We decided on the Pink Pony, a well-known bar and grill, for lunch before we got on Shepler’s Ferry back to St. Ignace.



The ride was smooth and quick and we were soon in the car driving to Michigan’s lower peninsula. I had arranged for us, rather than take an eight-hour drive home, to stay over night in Saugatuck, about halfway in between.

The Hotel Saugatuck is a beautiful property on the Kalamazoo River, just a few minutes from the shoreline of Lake Michigan.

It’s a bed & breakfast with attention to luxurious details. In addition to the rooms, there are cottages across the parking lot, for a total of 18 accommodations.

The entrance to the hotel is welcoming, with a fireplace and piano. We were taken to our suite, the Blue Star Room, which had its own fireplace.


One of the specialties of this hotel is that they bring to your room a homemade “sweet treat” each night. For our stay it was blueberry mousse).

I wasn’t feeling well after a long day and decided to stay in and rest. Lynn went on her own for a drive to check out the area.

I would still have the next day to see more of Saugatuck.  



Monday, September 24, 2018

The Best of Mackinac Island

It was a beautiful morning on a most amazing island.

I fell in love with Mackinac Island on my first trip and this time was no different. My friend, Lynn, and I had arrived at the Grand Hotel the day before and were ready to explore.


Most of the people who stay at this resort take the dinner and breakfast package, and that’s what the hotel had provided for us.

After taking some time to once again enjoy the view from our balcony, we headed to the main dining room.

The buffet at the Grand Hotel, from which I decided to take a little of a few different items to have with a smoothie and coffee, was extensive, as was the menu. 

Included were items such as Apricot Cream Cheese Brioche French Toast and steak and eggs. The basket of freshly baked breads was also always on the table.

After breakfast, we headed down to the front entrance. Mackinac Island does not have motorized vehicles. Instead of asking the bellman to get a cab, we needed to get a horse drawn carriage to bring us downtown.

We were going to spend the day with Mackinac Island Carriage Tours. I had done the tour previously and it’s the perfect way to get a real feel for the island.

The tour had changed some since the last time I took it as it had a stop in the middle for shopping and a carriage change. It still covered all of the highlights of this one-of-a-kind island.


We saw the sites on Market Street as Mackinac’s history came to life. We went to the Parade Ground, and saw some of the town’s Bed & Breakfast accommodations and stores. Then, we went to Mackinac Island State Park and Fort Mackinac for the most breathtaking spots in the Midwest.


After the tour, we checked out a few stores and picked up some fudge. Mackinac Island is famous for its fudge and you can get samples and purchase unique flavors at a dozen different shops.


When we returned to the Grand Hotel, we stopped at Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor, where we enjoyed local flavors, Mackinac Island Fudge and Michigan Deer Traxx (Peanut butter cup and chocolate fudge in vanilla ice cream).


It was time for a rest before another delicious dinner that included pork chops and filet, with all the trimmings and a delicious dessert.

Then, we headed out to the porch, enjoying some wine on our final night on Mackinac Island.



Thursday, September 13, 2018

Welcome Return to Mackinac Island


I was enjoying my time in the UP of Michigan and it got even better when my friend, Lynn, joined me. We have known each other for 30 years and have done many trips together in the last 10.

We woke up at the Alger Falls Motel in Munising and got ready to hit the road. Our final stop was one of my favorite places in the world, Mackinac Island.

Along the way, we veered off to a few places that had scenic overlooks. I couldn’t get enough of the beauty of the lake and the landscapes, which includes waterfalls everywhere.

We stopped for lunch in Grand Marais, once again overlooking the water. It’s a quaint town, home of the Pickle Barrell Museum, I’d like to visit again someday.

From there we drove to Ferry from St. Ignace to take the ferry to Mackinac Island. This was my second trip to the Island I had so greatly loved a few years ago.

It’s hard to describe Mackinac Island to someone who hasn’t been, though you can get a good idea by watching the Christopher Reeve movie Somewhere in Time. It’s a place that has remained back in time, with no motorized vehicles allowed.


Mackinac Island is in the middle of Lake Huron and surrounded by natural beauty. You can only get there by boat. There are ferries from Mackinaw City in addition to the one we took from St. Ignace. The ride is only about 15 minutes.

I had made arrangements for us to stay at The Grand Hotel and its name says it all. It’s on the list of Historic Hotels of America and certainly deserves to be there.

There was a horse and buggy waiting at the pier when we arrived. We climbed inside and they put our luggage on another horse drawn cart to take us to the hotel.

We were immediately mesmerized by the longest porch in the world, sparkling white and adorned with flags. You can also see the Straits of Mackinac and the Mackinac Bridge from the hotel.

Inside, we were greeted and taken to our room, which was beautifully decorated. Each of the 397 rooms has its own personality. There was a box of Mackinac Island Fudge waiting for us, a reminder of the dozen different fudge shops on the island. We also had a beautiful view from our balcony.

After a rest, we dressed for dinner, which is a must at the Grand. Most of those in the dining room adhered to a semi-formal attire for the white glove service.

The waiters were very attentive and we had a spectacular five-course dinner. It started with a grilled pineapple and ham appetizer, continued with salads, had cream of mushroom and gazpacho soups, included Beef Medalions and Spinach Asiago Ravioli, and ended with a delicious Marshmallow Nutella Bread Pudding for Lynn and cheesecake for me.

The menu changes every night, with choices in every section. It reminded me a bit of staying at the Catskills when I was younger. This was a lot more formal and I didn’t mind at all. It’s nice to dress up and be waited on once in a while!

After dinner, we went outside to see the sunset. It was too cloudy, but it was a warm night and we sat on the porch and listened to the music played in the parlor inside.

It was the perfect way to end our first day back on Mackinac Island.



Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Birthday Along Pictured Rocks

It was my birthday and I planned to spend it enjoying the beauty of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I was staying at the Alger Falls Motel in Munising. The tourism board had arranged a two boat rides for me the day before and I had another one to go. It was a beautiful day for it too.


The Pictured Rocks Cruises is the one I was looking forward to the most because it highlights the most beautiful rock formations in this area.

I had the tour scheduled for the morning and it did not disappoint. The sites are just breathtaking, from Miners Castle to Painted Coves and Lovers Leap. It reminded me a lot of some of the things
I saw in Los Cabos, Mexico.

There were kayakers below us seeing Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore from a whole different angle. I have to admit I was a bit jealous that I wasn’t able-bodied enough to join them.

After I got off the ship, I decided to take a drive around town. Munising is a fairly small town considering it has one of the most spectacular spots in the Midwest.

There are local shops and restaurants along the main road. I looked around a little and stopped at the Frozen Flamingo for ice cream.




Before I headed back to the motel for a rest, I went to Horseshoe Falls. I heard it was one of the most accessible of the many waterfalls in this area and that was true.

Horseshoe Falls has an easy to follow walking path to and around the falls. I loved the signs along with way with Native American sayings, as well as information about the falls. There is also a large spring that comes into the area.

I picked up my friend Lynn from Escanaba airport in the evening. I had looked around for a restaurant for a nice birthday dinner and found one not far from there in Gladstone.

The Freshwater Tavern had both atmosphere, overlooking Lake Michigan, and delicious food (even the rolls).

Before we headed back to the Alger Motel in Munising, we took a scenic drive along Lake Superior for the sunset.  

Although my time in this town was coming toward, there was lots more Michigan to come.



Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Lakes of Beauty in Munising


My first trip up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan was in the wintertime. I took a ride to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and, even in winter, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. 


I vowed to come back and explore this area more and it seemed like an ideal way to spend my birthday.


I left Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee and drove through Wisconsin to the UP. I had decided that Munising was a base for me to start and it was the right choice.

It was near sunset when I arrived at the Alger Falls Motel. The Munising tourism board had set me up there for two nights. The rooms were large and the location was central.

 


I was a bit hungry and decided to go for something local. I drove down to Muldoon’s and had my very first Pastie, a local favorite they were known for.

 A pasty is a hand pie looks like a cross between a turnover and a calzone, or for those who have been to the U.K., a meat pie. I decided I was not in a beef mood and got one vegetable, and one apple for dessert.



I took my pasties down to the Munising dock. It was a beautiful scene of boats and glistening water, and the perfect way to end the day.

After a full night’s sleep back at the motel, I was ready for an extremely full day in Michigan. Lake Superior was the center of it all and the turquoise water was waiting for me.

 


First up was a fairly new attraction, the Munising Pirate Cruise. It was a warm, beautiful day for this family filled cruise.

It was a nice combination of pirate fun for the kids and adult sightseeing. I enjoyed watching and photographing both as we went up Grand Island and back along the cost of Pictured Rocks.

 


It was even more beautiful than I had imagined. I saw the Grand Island lighthouses, old and new, and rock formations that could only be made by nature.

I grew up near the ocean. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about enjoying life on Long Island, but the idea of these calm, clear, colorful, hurricane and shark-free waters of the great lakes appeals to me much more.

 


After the boat ride, I had most of the day free until another cruise in the evening. I headed back to the motel for some rest and then out to a late lunch/early dinner.

I decided on a local favorite, Dogpatch, for the salad bar and delicious pulled pork.


Despite rain in the forecast, it was ideal evening weather for the Shipwreck Tours with a glass bottom boat.

The boat was going in the same directions as the morning one, but the itinerary and purpose was different. We were going to see many of the shipwrecks left in these clear waters of this Great Lake.

 


The windows on the bottom of the ship were large and clear and it was easy to see the wrecks. The boat went in and out of some of the Grand Island caves, even stopping in one for us to get a closer look, as well as selfies.

The formations of these caves were a work of art. I was looking forward to seeing the ones on the other side, at Pictured Rocks, the next day.

 


I was extremely relaxed on this amazing body of water and had another peaceful night sleep. I was excited that I had more days to explore the wonders of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.



Monday, August 20, 2018

Gurnee Fun: Great Wolf Lodge to Six Flags


It was the end of the trip to the new Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee,Illinois, but it was far from the end of fun for the weekend.

The day started with a farewell breakfast for the journalists and their families. In my case, it was with Brittany, Shaun, and Kyler.

The buffet filled with delicious food was in one of the resort’s convention rooms. In addition to the writers, the public relations staff, and the hotel’s management, we were greeted by Wiley the Wolf, who took the time to visit with all the kids.

After breakfast, we had a chance to enjoy one of the cabana’s (which guests can rent) as we did our last round in the waterpark. (I stuck with the lazy river.)

Then we headed around Great Wolf Lodge to see if there were any spots we missed.

We never did make it to Ten Paw Alley. With just two lanes of bowling, there was always a wait and there seemed like so much else to do without waiting.

We walked through the Build-A-Bear Workshop without a purchase but couldn’t resist picking up some goodies at Candy & Company (the dipped marshmallows were delicious).

Great Wolf Lodge also has its own Ben & Jerry’s and Dunkin Donuts, where we grabbed some coffee for the road. 

We never did make it in to Freshwoods Market, which sells all types of snacks.

I have to say that I definitely recommend the Paw Passes at Great Wolf Lodge Illinois. There are a couple different ones to choose from, depending on your family. 

They can save you a lot of money on the attractions, and even food and drinks.

We checked out and said goodbye to the staff for hosting us on such a fun trip. I also said goodbye to my friends as we were heading in different directions.

I was going up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for some exploration of that area, while they were heading down the road to Six Flags Great America.

It’s almost always a great time to go to Six Flags (and an even better family vacation combined with Great Wolf Lodge).

The amusement park is open weekends all year. Summer fun includes its waterparks.

This year Six Flags Great America started something new, Holidays in the Park, weekends November 23-December 23, and daily from December 26-31. It includes rides, light displays, shows, and activities such as arts and crafts in Santa’s Workshop.



Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Fun, Fun, Fun at Great Wolf Lodge Illinois

I have always enjoyed trips initiated by a resort. This has been especially true since I’ve been dealing with health issues and don’t do a lot of walking. I can bring my scooter into the place and use it wherever needed – without having to worry to get me (and it) in and out of the car.



Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee, Illinois, is made for those of us who like an all-inclusive experience in one place.

There is never a need to get into your car, whether it’s Band-Aids, lunch, or activities you are looking for.

A lot of the experience at the Illinois Great Wolf Lodge is about bringing the outside in – with the exception of the weather. The outdoorsy experiences and d├ęcor make you forget that you are inside a resort.

After a hearty breakfast, Brittany, Kyler, Shaun and I toured the lodge, checking out the various suites (they have ones that are even big enough for 12) with the management and those from the public relations firm.

Then we were off on our own. We were given one of Great Wolf’s all-inclusive packages, which included many activities, as well as credits for the Northern Lights Arcade and Magic Quest wands, for which there are spots throughout the hotel to check out.



You will not find any shortage of things to do here. We could have easily spread it out over three or four days.

I was able to enjoy the Howl in One Mini Golf and Oliver's Mining Co attractions with my friends, before we stopped at Hungry As A Wolf for a family-size special with pizza and salads.



I also loved the Coca-Cola Freestyle fountain in the Great Wolf food court for sugar-free flavored iced tea, while everyone else did a bit more experimenting with flavors.

We finished up the pizza and I watched a bit while they went through the Rustic Ridge Climbing Wall and the Howler Peak Ropes Course (definitely for older children).

I then headed to the waterpark, where I relaxed in the lazy river and then headed to our room for a nap.



Great Wolf's Barnwoods is a full-service restaurant that has everything from Wisconsin Cheese Curds to New York Strip Steak.

Their bar is also interesting, and I met some local friends there for some cocktails and a warm Bavarian pretzel, large enough to share.



I met back with my friends, who had been playing Magic Quest, and going down the slides in the waterpark, for dinner at the Campfire Kitchen.

This food outlet has different entrees each night. Their portions are large and side dishes plentiful. We were very satisfied with our BBQ Ribs.


In addition to attractions, Great Wolf Lodge has free activities for all its guests.

Although most are geared toward younger kids, we did stop in on the Yoga for Kids and Parents and the Nighttime Story Time.



As I had the night before, I spent some time with Brittany in the Whirlpool before bedtime.

It had been a very long, but extremely fun, day at Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee.