September 18, 2018

Where To Eat & Where To Stay In Decorah

Decorah is a town tucked into northeastern Iowa. Found in the Driftless Area, its terrain is rockier than you’d expect for the Midwest. I visited this summer on a girlfriends getaway with the goal of enjoying outdoor pursuits like bike riding, kayaking and climbing a waterfall (not a big one, but still counts). I didn’t expect to encounter an abundance of great food and local beer. You just have to know where to eat in Decorah. I had plenty of tips to build the perfect itinerary for food and beer!

Dunnig Springs Waterfall in Decorah
We went to Decorah for the outdoor activities like seeing the waterfall in town, but it turns out, the food is as big a draw as the terrain.

Disclosure: My visit was hosted by Visit Decorah. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Where to eat in Decorah

For a town with a population of about 8,000, Decorah had too many great choices for dining to fit into one weekend.

Restaurant and brewery suggestions for Decorah, Iowa including pizza at Luna Valley Farm, beer at Pulpit Rock Brewing Co., and two places for breakfast #hosted #dining #Iowa

Decorah is proud of its Nordic heritage. If you want to try some Norwegian dishes, head to Ruby’s Restaurant and Catering.

Ruby's Restaurant in Decorah, Iowa
Ruby’s Restaurant and Catering serves the typical diner food you’d expect in the Midwest plus plenty of Norwegian options.

We went to Ruby’s for breakfast, and decided to turn it into a Norwegian buffet, ordering a variety of small plates to try. It was less breakfast and more Christmas desserts, but I’m not complaining. We tried a rosette, lefse, kringla and sandbakkal.

Plates of Norwegian food in Decorah
Among the Norwegian treats we tried at Ruby’s Restaurant were kringla (top) and lefse.

Ruby’s is also known for the Ronnie Roll. It’s basically a giant cinnamon roll. And yeah, we ordered one of those too. Of course, the typical American breakfast staples are available to order as well.

Ruby's Restaurant in Decorah is home to the Ronny Roll
Ruby’s Restaurant is known for their Ronny Roll, which I had to try because my dad’s name is Ron and I love sugar.

We stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Decorah, where we could’ve enjoyed a complimentary breakfast each morning. But, with limited time in Decorah, we opted to have breakfast in town. 

On the second day of our trip to Decorah, we wandered into Restauration, the restaurant located in the historic Hotel Winneshiek. My friends enjoyed a mimosa with brunch. I stuck to black coffee. Our filling entrees were delicious.

Restauration's brunch menu
Restauration was located inside the historic Hotel Winneshiek in downtown Decorah.

By far, the most memorable meal in Decorah was on our first night. I was so glad to be tipped off that Luna Valley Farm serves wood-fire pizza on Friday nights. What a memorable meal, dining on pizza, lights strung up from a barn and the green farmland in view! 

Woodfire pizza at Luna Valley Farm
Luna Valley Farm in Decorah has pizza nights every Friday from May through October. The pizza includes ingredients raised or grown on the farm. And there’s beer. And the night we were there, there was live music.

The atmosphere at Luna Valley Farm is welcoming where you get to know the people sitting next to you. It was a rainy night, but under the tents, we dined and chatted happily. There was live music the night we were there. When the rain stopped, we walked just a short distance to look at pigs. 

Luna Valley Farm in Decorah, Iowa
There’s usually a line at Luna Valley Farm – two, actually. You can order pizza and appetizers in one line, and get your beer, wine or non-alcoholic beverages in the other.

If you couldn’t guess, yes, they grow and raise some of the food you’ll consume on pizza night.

Some of the other restaurants we tried that I’d recommend:

  • Rubaiyat Restaurant – This was more of an upscale experience than the others. The food was delicious and served with warm bread. I tried a Kobe hotdog because, why not. It was not the most photogenic of entrees, but it was pretty good and very filling. Their brunch was recommended to us.
  • Pulpit Rock Brewing Co. – OK, not a restaurant. While there was a food truck parked by it the day we visited, this is a recommendation for the beer. With many options on tap to try, from a delicious amber to more unique flavors like an Oreo stout and a cider that tasted like Key lime pie, if you like beer, you’ll find something to like here.
Post-bike ride beers at Pulpit Rock Brewing Co.

We went to Pulpit Rock after our bike ride. It was a short walk from our bike rental shop, Decorah Bicycles. 

There is another well-known brewery in Decorah, if craft beer is your thing. It’s called Toppling Goliath. 

  • – Winneshiek Wildberry Winery – Since we were on a girlfriends’ getaway, we couldn’t resist the draw of a winery tasting room that was near our hotel. We got a flight of wine to taste. In all honesty, the wine was too sweet for my likes. But, that sweet wine was pretty good in a wine slushie, which I split with my sister. It was inexpensive, too. Also, This winery had probably the best photo opp in town – a giant gnome in front of the building. 
  • La Rana – I liked La Rana for its small, but cozy decor and fresh food. We had a few quibbles with the our meal, though, so it’s on the bottom of my suggestions for you.
  • – I had many friends familiar with town offer suggestions for meals, and due to limited time, we couldn’t make it to them. Here are what others say are great places to each in Decorah: Mabe’s Pizza and Whippy Dip (for ice cream).

Where to stay in Decorah

If you know anything about the area, you know there’s an abundance of outdoor activities, including great paved and mountain bike trails, the Upper Iowa River for tubing or kayaking, and even a waterfall. So, you may want to stay overnight.

Hotel and glamping suggestions for Decorah, Iowa - Whether you want a hotel near Trout Run Trail, a historic hotel downtown, or you want to try glamping at Luna Valley Farm, there are options in the small town that fits your needs #hotels #glamping

We stayed in the new Fairfield Inn & Suites, located conveniently near the Trout Run Trail. On the morning of one of days in Decorah, we biked the trail around scenic pastures, up to the fish hatchery, and along the river. If running or walking is your jam, this is a good trail for you, too.

Fairfield Inn & Suites in Decorah
The Fairfield Inn & Suites in Decorah, Iowa, was located near the popular Trout Run Trail and just a short drive from downtown Decorah.

Fairfield is a familiar chain for me and my family, so I like knowing what to expect, from a daily hot breakfast bar to a fitness center and pool. 

I’m loving the look of the lobbies in Fairfield Inns these days, too.

The colorful lobby at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Decorah, Iowa.

Our room was comfortable, with two Queen beds and a large bathroom. 

There are, of course, other options for hotels in Decorah, including the historic Hotel Winneshiek in the downtown area. We had breakfast at Restauration, the hotel’s restaurant, and took a quick peek around the lobby while we were there.

It’s a pretty hotel, and I’d look into staying there when we return. It was booked solid the weekend we were there due to Toppling Goliath’s big beer release weekend. Who would’ve guessed?

Another option that, alas, was also already booked the weekend we were there was at Luna Valley Farm. They offer glamping! 

Tips on where to eat, drink and stay in Decorah, a town in Northeastern Iowa known for outdoor adventures and popular craft breweries

More Decorah adventures

If you missed my previous post about outdoor adventures in Decorah, go check it out! I wrote about the bike ride along Trout Run Trail and a moonlit kayaking trip, both experiences were with our local guide, Amber, who recently started up Karst Adventures.

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September 12, 2018

Exploring Grand Rapids Public Museum With Kids

The surprise hit of our Grand Rapids weekend was the Grand Rapids Public Museum. A surprise because we almost didn’t go. If you’re in the city, with or without kids, this is a must-visit.

Streetcar inside Grand Rapids Public Museum
A streetcar, a sperm whale skeleton, and more at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Not knowing what to expect at the museum added to the adventure of discovering things at each turn.

Disclosure: Our visit was hosted by Experience Grand Rapids. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Grand Rapids Public Museum favorite exhibits

There are some can’t-miss things on display that you, literally, cannot miss since they’re in the main hall. The large sperm whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling comes to mind. 

Sperm Whale skeleton in the main hall in Grand Rapids Public Museum
You really can’t miss Finny, the sperm whale skeleton hanging over the main hall.

It’s name is Finny, by the way.

My favorite area was a replica of an old street scene, complete with stocked stores, street lights, and a unicycle photo opp. The scene is 1890s Grand Rapids.

Old streetscape inside Grand Rapids Public Museum
Storefronts from the olden days of Grand Rapids. There’s a full street of them at the Grand Rapids Public Museum – and don’t skip taking a seat on a unicycle while in the area.

We allowed such a short amount of time, so regrettably, we rushed through some things. And there’s so much to see! Exhibits on musical instruments, phones, history, animals…a little bit of everything.

Exhibit at Grand Rapids Public Museum
“Collecting From A-Z” is the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s way of showcasing a variety of items, some exquisite and beautiful as well as some bizarre.

My kids are 6 and 8 years old and they were fully engaged here. There’s even a space for them to learn about space.

The Carousel at Grand Rapids Public Museum

You can’t really go to the museum without stopping by the carousel. The 1928 Spillman Carousel is a little extra to ride, unless you have a membership, but it’s iconic and a kid-pleaser.

Old carousel at Grand Rapids Public Museum
You’ll hear the music before you see the carousel at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

If you go

Grand Rapids Public Museum

Where: 272 Pearl St. NW, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Hours may be found here


Grand Rapids Public Museum was a hit with kids and adults - History, hands-on exhibit pieces, and a carousel #familytravel #Michigan

More about Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids was the first stop of an epic road trip adventure through Michigan. Go ahead and check out where we stopped and what we did, or use this ultimate Michigan Bucket List to plan an awesome road trip.

Weekend in Grand Rapids

For Grand Rapids highlights, read these posts:

48 Hours In Grand Rapids With Kids

Where to Stay in Downtown Grand Rapids

Adventures At John Ball Zoo

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September 10, 2018

Exploring The Science Center of Iowa

My kids are starting to love visiting science centers when we’re traveling. When planning trips, I check if our destination has a museum or science center that’s part of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, or ASTC. Why? The four of us will get in free admission thanks to the reciprocal membership benefits we get with our Omaha Children’s Museum membership. Sweet, right?

This summer, we had a chance to make use of that free admission perk to visit Science Center of Iowa in downtown Des Moines.

A fun day for the family at the Science Center of Iowa located in downtown Des Moines

Highlights of the Science Center of Iowa

The Science Center of Iowa was a fun morning for my family on a day that looked like it might rain at any moment. 

We spent the most time in the room called When Things Get Moving, where the kids could make paper rockets to shoot, test egg cradles, and building LEGO race cars.

Ball exhibit inside Science Center of Iowa in Des Moines
When Things Get Moving is a popular permanent exhibit at the Science Center of Iowa in downtown Des Moines.

The space exhibit, Why The Sky, was also a great one to explore. This was probably the most entertaining exhibit for both adults and kids. After testing out several exhibits there, we found our way to the planetarium. Turns out, it was a great place to lay flat on the floor and rest while watching a show.

Space exhibit inside Science Center in Des Moines, Iowa
Why The Sky was an exhibit that explored space and spacecraft at the Science Center of Iowa.

The IMAX theater was another space to sit and rest for a spell. It was not very crowded the afternoon we went. The great thing is that planetarium shows are included with admission. Here’s a list of their programs at the science center.

There are a few other rooms, including one for natural sciences, a Makers Space, and one dedicated to LEGO building . If you visit with toddlers, there is also a separate room for that age group to explore.

Testing out circuits at the Science Center of Iowa in downtown Des Moines
My daughter liked building circuits while we were at the Science Center of Iowa.

You can easily spend two hours or more at the Science Center of Iowa. If you attend one of the science shows or a planetarium show, expect to spend a minimum of three hours.

If you go

Science Center of Iowa

Where: 401 W. Martin Luther King Jr Parkway, Des Moines, Iowa


Looking for a fun thing to do indoors with kids in Des Moines? The Science Center of Iowa was great for a few hours of playing and learning. #Iowa #sciencecenter

What’s near the Science Center of Iowa

Our afternoon at the Science Center of Iowa timed out well for us to visit the Des Moines Farmers Market in the morning. There are vendors practically at the front door of the science center. Strolling the market, you’ll find an abundance of samples (food and wine), plus tons of dogs, which are always a hit with my kids.

The Des Moines Farmers Market in the downtown area was one of the largest I’ve ever been to.

The science center isn’t too far from the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, with plenty of space for kids to run around and some pretty iconic photo opps.

Fong's Pizza's most well-known pie is the crab rangoon pizza. It's delicious and lives up to the hype.
Fong’s Pizza’s most well-known pie is the crab rangoon pizza. It’s delicious and lives up to the hype.

For food, I can’t tell you enough to go try Fong’s Pizza, which is walkable from Science Center of Iowa.

Plan a Des Moines Family Getaway

We visited the Science Center of Iowa on a weekend getaway in the summer. Read all about the fun things we did in this post. We spent a day at Adventureland and an afternoon at Blank Park Zoo during the trip.

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September 6, 2018

Best Small Town Coffee Shops In The Midwest

Coffee is very much a part of my life. I run on coffee. So, when I’m traveling, I start my day with coffee. These last few years of travel blogging, I’ve started noticing a trend as I seek out my coffee: Cute shops in even the smallest towns. It’s not just the bigger cities hogging all the Instagrammable coffee shops. I asked around among other Midwestern travel bloggers, and they all have come across the same thing – charming small town coffee shops.

Here's a roundup of favorite small town coffee shops in the Midwest, including charming cafes in Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, Kansas and North Dakota. #coffee #Midwest #coffeeshops

What made each appealing varied. Some of us liked the look and the atmosphere of the place. Others shared a place that had a good story behind it, like the coffee shop that’s in an old Episcopal church that Roosevelt once attended. And the coffee, the coffee was also a big reason to love these coffee shops in the Midwest. So, here’s a round-up of our favorite small town coffee shops in the Midwest.

Bean Broker Coffee House

Where: Chadron, Neb.

What makes it special: Bean Broker Coffee house is one of the most charming coffee shops to stumble upon in Nebraska (and I’ve been to quite a few). I liked it so much, I included it as a little tip to keep in mind if you’re visiting nearby Chadron State Park.

You just want to linger in this cafe housed in an historic building that’s filled with art and funky decor. The coffee is outstanding, and while I didn’t get to try any, the menu looked good.

On top of coffee, it’s also serves alcoholic beverages and has live music.

The Bodacious Brew

Where: Janesville, Wis.

Latte at the Bodacious Brew in Janesville, Wisconsin
The honey latte at Bodacious Brew in Janesville, Wis. Photo courtesy Stacy Brooks

What makes it special: The attention to detail—the honey latte is flavored with local honey made less than 10 miles away, and the vanilla syrup is made in-house with Mexican vanilla.  The Bodacious Brew serves Verve Coffee, which purchases directly from farmers to ensure that the beans are ethically sourced and environmentally sustainable.  There’s a menu of 12 different coffee varieties, each of which is described by flavor profile so that you can be sure to order something you like.

Stacy from Tangled Up In Food recommended this coffee shop. Read her write-up about Janesville and her visit to Bodacious Brew here.

The Brew

Where: Dickinson, N.D.

The counter at The Brew in Dickinson, North Dakota
The Brew is a coffee shop in a former Episcopal Church in Dickinson, N.D. Photo courtesy Alicia Underlee Nelson

What makes it special: The Brew is one of the most unusual coffee shops Alicia from Prairie Style File has ever seen. It’s housed inside what was once a tiny Episcopal Church where President Theodore Roosevelt worshiped when he lived and ranched in the badlands near Dickinson, N.D., in the 1880s. (You can see evidence of the building’s past life everywhere – a stained glass windows here, a wooden pew there…)

The coffee is fabulous (and ethically sourced), the loose leaf tea selection is impressive (black, green, herbal, oolong and gunpowder) and the salads and sandwiches on the menu are hearty and delicious. Save room for dessert – the staff bakes fresh goodies like gooey caramel rolls, scones and a selection of classic Midwestern bars every day.

This coffee shop was recommended by Alicia from Prairie Style File, who wrote about this unique place (check out the photos!) in this post.

Cause Coffee

Where: De Soto, Kan.

What makes it special: What sets the expertly-prepared craft coffee at Cause Coffee apart from most other coffee shops is that it’s prepared by an all-volunteer staff. From the baristas to the busboys, the team at Cause Coffee donates their time and talent to give back to the global coffee community. When you step inside the beautifully restored, 100-year-old building that houses Cause Coffee, look for a small blackboard sign to your left. There you will see the Cause Coffee cause of the month. So far the coffee house has helped a school in an impoverished area of Nicaragua, supported a home for abused children, donated to Kansas City’s homeless community, and established a clean water in Uganda.

Sage from Everyday Wanderer recommended this Cause Coffee, and really dives into it in her post about it.

Kahve House

Where: Clawson, Mich.

What makes it special: This coffee shop a few miles northwest of Detroit was recommended by Dominique over at Midwest Guest because it fit her need for being both indie and active in the community. It’s location is a plus – near other locally-owned restaurants – and there’s free parking. It sits on Main Street and has an outdoor patio. A quick glance at Kahve House on Facebook and I can tell it’s a very welcoming space. 

The Main Cup

Where: Milford, Ohio

What makes it unique: This unique and quaint place is located in the heart of Old Milford. Revamped by new darling owners they have incorporated a love of books, coffee and baked goods into one lovely coffee shop. The scones are to die for and the coffee is the best in town.

Stephanie over at Consistently Curious recommended this coffee shop. It’s not too far from her stomping grounds of Cincinnati.  

The Milady Coffee

Where: Fremont, Neb.

The dining area of Milady Coffee in Fremont, Nebraska
The Milady Coffee is housed in an historic building in downtown Fremont, Neb.

What makes it unique: Housed in the historic May Brothers Building in downtown Fremont, everything about the decor of Milady Coffee screams “Take my picture.” It’s Instagrammable, for sure, but it also has great coffee and locally made treats to back it up.

Prairie Grounds

Where: Broken Bow, Neb.

Entrance to Prairie Grounds Cafe & Gifts in Broken Bow, Nebraska

What makes it unique: Prairie Grounds Cafe and Gifts. Small town charm. Delicious breakfast and lunch items. Fun variety of hot and cold beverages. How can you go wrong when one seasonal option is “Lime in the Coconut Mocha”?

Gretchen from Odyssey Through Nebraska recommended this coffee shop and wrote about it (and shared some cute pictures) in her post about Relaxing Through Nebraska.

Roscoe’s Coffee Bar & Tap Room

Where: Richmond, Ind.

Counter area at Roscoe's Coffee Bar & Tap Room in Richmond, Indiana
Roscoe’s Coffee Bar & Tap Room in Richmond, Ind., serves both coffee and craft brews.

What makes it unique: Roscoe’s is located in Richmond’s revitalized Historic Depot District and is a favorite among locals and visitors. They feature organic and fair-trade coffee drinks, plus craft brews and sandwiches. The ambiance is cozy with original brick walls, wood floors, and tin ceilings. With their comfy chairs and couches, this is a place where you can relax, sip coffee and enjoy time reading, chatting with friends, or working on your computer.

Nancy from Visit Richmond told me the thing she liked most about Roscoe’s is the atmosphere!  

Royal-Tee: Tea With A Mission

Where: LeClaire, Iowa

What makes it special: OK, so this place is more about tea than coffee (but surprise – I also like tea). Cindy from Visit LeClaire told me about it, and it sounds pretty unique among this list. Royal-Tee is a shop next to a church that the minister and his wife run. It is in a quaint, old house and all their profits go to their ministries. They have great loose-leaf teas (84), coffee, and other items made in Africa for sale. They are very friendly and their helpers are all volunteers.

Three Story Coffee

Where: Jefferson City, Mo.

Coffee and a roll at Three Story Coffee in Jefferson City, Missouri
Three Story Coffee in Jefferson City, Mo., aims to connect customers to the farmers’  stories through the coffee they purchase. Photo courtesy Three Story Coffee

What makes it special: One of Three Story’s missions is to introduce coffee drinkers to the coffee producers. The shop works to connect customers to the farmers’ stories through the coffee they purchase. Three Story Coffee has two locations in Jefferson City. One is tucked into the backdrop of Missouri’s Capitol and the other location is in one of the historic districts. They have an impressive menu of cold brews, house-drip coffees, lattes, cappuccinos, and delicious scones.

To learn more about Three Story Coffee, visit their website.

Love coffee? Here are some charming small town coffee shops throughout the Midwest to visit on your next road trip. #coffee #Midwest #coffeeshops

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September 4, 2018

Adventures At John Ball Zoo

We visited one zoo during our great Michigan Road Trip – the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids. It was a great zoo for animal interaction and adrenaline adventure (for an added fee). I wouldn’t typically say zoos have adventure (well, there was that one time in Florida), but this place was a blast.

John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has add-on experiences including a zipline, ropes course, funicular, & bird show #USA #familytravel #zoos

Disclosure: Our visit was hosted by Experience Grand Rapids, though the add-on experiences were at not complimentary. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

The zoo is in a pretty setting, wooded with plenty of shade. It’s smallish, so families can visit for the afternoon and not be exhausted afterward.

Waterfall at the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan
A waterfall at the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Mich.

My caveat: I’m pretty spoiled with the Omaha zoo, so I didn’t seek out a lot of the animal exhibits. Instead, I sought unique zoo experiences I can’t find in Omaha.

Favorite Extra: Bird Show

My kids’ favorite part of the zoo, and, fine, MY favorite part, was the Realm of Flight Bird Show. It was only $2 extra per person and worth it. If you visit on a weekday, it is free.

Bird show at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan
The audience learned about 10 birds through demonstrations during the Realm of Flight Bird Show at the John Ball Zoo.

As part of the show, keepers introduced different species and we watched them in flight. Some were trained to do tricks, which delighted kids. Adult volunteers were included in the show, too, and I was called up to play the part. No bird landed on me, I just had to place a can on a side table.

At the end, families could get their pictures taken beside the bald eagle and donate money to the zoo by handing a macaw a dollar bill.

Ropes Course at John Ball Zoo

Until recently when the Venture Parks exhibits opened, there were no ropes courses in Nebraska, so I’m all for trying them out on vacation. In Grand Rapids, the zoo has a pretty stellar, four-story ropes course for families.

Ropes course at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan
My 8-year-old managed the ropes course with ease but my youngest child was nervous.

It is a big extra cost to do it, but if you’re an adventure-loving family, how can you not? It’s a course in a pretty space in the zoo, treetops and greenery.

Kids need to be at minimum age and weight to do it. My daughter was all talk about it, but then when we got out on the course, she froze up. Be extra sure your kiddos are ready for it before spending the money to take them on it.

Ziplining at the zoo

Following the nervousness my youngest had on the ropes course, I figured I should just do the zipline alone.

Ready for the zipline at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan
All set to zipline through the zoo.

It’s pretty tame for a zipline course—just two lines and not too fast—but the cool thing is that they go right through the zoo. 

You can buy combo tickets to save money on both the ropes course and ziplines.

More things to see at the zoo

We tried a few other add-ons, including the Budgie Aviary, where for $1 you feed birds with a stick dipped in peanut butter and covered in seed.

Feeding a budgie at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Feeding a budgie, or parakeet, at the Grand Rapids zoo.

There’s also a funicular ride in the zoo. For $3, it takes you the highest point in the zoo – saving you the walk up the hill. 

Funicular at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan
The funicular at John Ball Zoo takes passengers to the highest point in the zoo, making it an all-downhill walk from there.

So, you’re probably wondering about animals exhibits. We stuck to a lot of hands-on things on this trip. However, one of the more unique exhibits to check out is the Wild Way Trail. It’s a trail with animal exhibits dependent on weather, but the neat thing is that it incorporates ways for kids to try to move like the animals (climbing and crawling, for example). There a wallabies, lemurs, parrots and howler monkeys along this wooded path. 

TreeTops Outpost at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Playing in the TreeTops Outpost at the John Ball Zoo.

There are also fun play areas. One’s a natural play area where kids can get their hands dirty playing with sticks and stuff. The other, the TreeTops Outpost, is more about climbing and feeling adventurous. My kids loved it.

More about Grand Rapids

Weekend in Grand Rapids
48 Hours In Grand Rapids With Kids

Grand Rapids was the first stop of an epic road trip adventure through Michigan (more on that to come). To plan your own epic road trip through Michigan, I’ll be sharing a road trip recap soon featuring restaurant highlights, sights to see, and where to stay. You can start planning now with this ultimate Michigan Bucket List.

For Grand Rapids highlights, read these posts:

48 Hours In Grand Rapids With Kids

Where to Stay in Downtown Grand Rapids

Exploring Grand Rapids Public Museum

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August 31, 2018

Where To Stay Near Petoskey

Our summer road trip through Michigan was mostly in cities, except for the night in Alanson, a small town near Petoskey. Our stay at the Stafford’s Crooked River Lodge was unique to the trip. It was our one night in nature without really being too far into nature. Let me explain.

Disclosure: Our stay was hosted by Visit Petoskey Area. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Where is Stafford’s Crooked River Lodge

If you’re familiar with the Petoskey Area/Little Traverse Bay Region, you may have heard of Stafford’s Perry Hotel, the historic hotel in Petoskey. Owned by the same folks, Crooked River Lodge is outside of town on the Crooked River, about 10 miles away from Petoskey. And it looks like a lodge. The name suits it.

Dusk at Stafford’s Crooked River Lodge in northern Michigan. Shortly after I took this picture, staff made a fire in the hotel’s fire pit.

And the Petoskey Area, if you’re unfamiliar with the state of Michigan, is up in the northern part of the lower peninsula. Here’s a post about things to do in the Petoskey Area with kids to give you a better idea of the area.

Highlights of Stafford’s Crooked River Lodge

Stafford’s Crooked River Lodge is essentially a place to get away from it all without really needing to go too far away from “it all.” It feels secluded without being too far from conveniences like restaurants and craft brewery.

The entrance to Stafford’s Crooked River Lodge has a popcorn machine, which may have been the highlight of the entire stay for my daughter. Off to the right in this picture, below the stairs (you can’t see it) is a little playhouse for kids. That would be the second favorite thing at the hotel for my daughter.

The hospitality of the hotel was great. You’re greeted by staff as you walk in, and as you check in, my kids will point out that there is a conveniently located popcorn machine to help yourself to.

The waterfall in the Crooked River Lodge pool area impressed the kids. You can’t see it, but there’s a little tunnel to walk behind the waterfall.

This place is definitely a great one for families in that sense. From a pool (with a little waterfall) and hot tub, to the darling little clubhouse in the lobby, you can tell they welcome kids. There’s also a pool table.

A big draw to me was the location. Had we more time, we would’ve paddled along the Crooked River with the kids. The hotel provides complimentary kayaks and paddle boats. There’s a nearby trail, as well, among other things to do.

We didn’t get a chance to check it out, but there is also a fish pond where you can feed the fish.

The view of the lawn at Stafford’s Crooked River Lodge. Just beyond the lawn is the river.

If you wanted to just sit outside and enjoy nature, this is good place to so. Try it by the fire pit.

Or try doing it from your private balcony.

Speaking of that…

The rooms at Stafford’s Crooked River Lodge

The rooms at Stafford’s Crooked River Lodge range from standard hotel rooms to suites. And if you’ve been traveling in a car for miles and miles with your family, it’s rather nice to have one of those suites to spread out in.

The faux wood lamp in our hotel suite’s living room.

Our room was two rooms with two king beds. There’s a kitchenette, which is great for longer stays, plus as I mentioned above, a private balcony. The balconies all look toward the great lawn and river.

The balcony at Stafford’s Crooked River Lodge is a nice place to sip coffee in the morning (or a glass of wine in the evening).

They’re meant to feel like your own private cabin, I suspect. Ours did, at least, with rustic décor and all.

If you go

Stafford’s Crooked River Lodge

Where: 6845 US-31, Alanson, Mich.


The Stafford's Crooked River Lodge, a hotel near Petoskey, offers complimentary kayaking, and most rooms have a balcony! #hosted #Michigan #pureMichigan #upnorth #PetoskeyArea

Plan a Petoskey Getaway

Want to plan a getaway to the Petoskey Area? Search for Petoskey stones, shop the charming downtown Petoskey? Read on:

Things To Do In Petoskey With Kids

My Petoskey Area/Little Traverse Bay Bucket List

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