August 15, 2018

The Great Michigan Road Trip

Until this summer, I knew two things about Michigan: The state had some of the most Instagrammable lakes in the country and it’s home to Mackinac Island. Two good points, but there’s more to explore in the state. If you’re ready to road trip through Michigan, but have no idea where to begin, this post is for you.

This itinerary covers a little more than a week of exploring mostly the Lower Peninsula. The Upper Peninsula is going to be a trip in itself someday. Read my Michigan Bucket List to see what’s missing from this trip. 

A fun road trip through Michigan itinerary with details on where to stay, what to do, and where to eat. Stops include Grand Rapids, Ludington State Park, Traverse City, Petoskey, Mackinac Island, & Detroit

Disclosure: A portion of our stays and experiences were sponsored by convention and visitor bureaus and hotels. Many of our experiences were paid out of pocket, too. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Road Trip Through Michigan

What I loved about this road trip is that it provided a chance for city exploring with wonderful museums and restaurants, as well as plenty of outdoor adventures. And beaches, we got plenty of beach time. The places we visited were (in order of stops): Grand Rapids, Ludington State Park, Traverse City, Petoskey, Allanson, Mackinac Island, Frankenmuth, and Detroit.

Lakeside parking in Michigan. Traveling nearly 1,000 miles was pretty comfortable in the Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring.

We were fortunate to partner with Mazda for this road trip! The 2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD was a comfortable fit for our family of four.

In case you were wondering, we did not drive from Nebraska to Michigan. We took a direct flight from Omaha to Detroit. 

Grand Rapids

We spent two days exploring Grand Rapids. The highlights included the John Ball Zoo and Grand Rapids Public Museum (which we did not leave nearly enough time to fully explore). If you go to the zoo, you can pay a little extra to do a ropes course or zipline through the zoo. 

My whole family did the ropes course at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids. My youngest was 6 years old and decided it wasn’t as fun as she thought it would be.

Since our kids are still pretty young, we also visited the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. If your kids are younger than age 8, I’d say it’s good to include on your itinerary.

Where to eat: Grand Rapids is known as Beer City, U.S.A., so I thought it was pretty necessary to find one that was family-friendly just so I could be a part of that scene. Since we were staying downtown, the Grand Rapids Brewing Co. was an easy walk from our hotel. There were several families there, and while they didn’t have a kid’s menu, they did adapt the regular menu to our kids’ preferences (no fancy stuff in the mac and cheese, please).

Chez Olga was in Eastown in Grand Rapids. The restaurant serves Caribbean food.

We had dinner in a very unique restaurant called Chez Olga. While my kids were less than enthused by the flavorful Caribbean cuisine (it was SO good), they did like the unique look of the building. I wish we had more time to explore the neighborhood it was in. It was near the yummiest place for breakfast, too – Wolfgang’s.

Another great restaurant for breakfast is Anna’s. There was quite a bit of a wait because we had a late start to the morning. However, once seated, the service was quick.

The historic lobby of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel had a fountain my daughter liked to watch.

Where to stay: The Amway Grand Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids was a combo of great location and great amenities. This hotel has a historic side with charming lobby and a modern side with a huge tower and family-friendly pool.

Related posts:

Ludington State Park

Our next overnight destination was Traverse City, but on the way there, we decided to enjoy a pit stop at Ludington State Park.

Part of our hike around Lost Lake passed by campgrounds and a dock.

We enjoyed an easy hike around Lost Lake, taking a dip in the cold water about half-way. This park could easily be an overnighter (or two) for families.

If you want to swim in Lake Michigan, this has the beach you’re looking for (though the water was very cold when we were there in June). The beach by Lake Michigan Beach House is expansive.

Traverse City

Traverse City was our next stop, and we planned two days to explore the area. We ended up spending a lot more time around the hotel because of the view.

Pretty sunset at Cherry Tree Inn & Suites in Traverse City
Sunset at Cherry Tree Inn & Suites in Traverse City, Michigan.

Where to stay: Our hotel, Cherry Tree Inn & Suites, sits right on Grand Traverse Bay, and between the waves, the outdoor pool, and the pirate ship play set, our kids didn’t want to leave. 

But we did. 

Bike riding in Traverse City
We biked along the T.A.R.T. in Traverse City. There’s a great, family-friendly brewery known for its pizza on the route called The Filling Station.

There’s a trails system in Traverse City called the T.A.R.T. and it’s not far from our hotel. We walked to a bike rental shop, and then hopped on the trail. It did cross over some city streets, so I’m glad our youngest was on a tagalong bike.

The view of Lake Michigan from atop a 450-foot sand dune at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.

We also took a little side trip to Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. We allotted just enough time to climb a dune and take the scenic drive through the park. 

If you have more time, plan for more of it, because it is a gorgeous, scenic lakeshore.

Glen Haven Beach is picturesque but when we visited, the water was freezing cold and the waves were high (for a lake).

The kids really wanted some lake time while we were there, but the lake itself isn’t that accessible inside Sleeping Bear (unless you’re willing to deal with climbing back up a 450-foot sand dune). Instead, we drove just a few miles away to Glen Haven Beach on Sleeping Bear Bay. The water was extremely cold and the waves were high. But the kids got their chance to play in the water.

Where to eat: During our T.A.R.T bike ride, we stopped at The Filling Station Microbrewery for lunch. They’re known for pizza, and for having a family-friendly atmosphere – there are little sand boxes set up for kids. The beer was good too.

Food and drinks were ordered at the Filling Station’s outdoor bar. The family-friendly brewery/restaurant was located along the T.A.R.T. Trail in Traverse City.

The most memorable meal was at 7 Monks Taproom in charming downtown Traverse City (we did a little shopping before sitting for dinner). Even as a taproom, it’s a very family-friendly place with a kids menu. My husband ordered a burger that he says is a serious contender for the best hamburger ever. We stuck to the complimentary breakfast provided at the hotel. It was nothing special, but it was quick and convenient.

Moomers ice cream in Traverse City
You can enjoy Moomers ice cream while looking at dairy cows in the distance.

A trip to Traverse City is incomplete without a stop at the famous Moomer’s, an ice cream shop located on a dairy farm. We went there after our afternoon at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.

Related posts:

Petoskey Area

Our route to Petoskey along US-31 was dotted with roadside food stands, and on impulse, we stopped at one offering freshly-picked strawberries and strawberry donuts.

A fresh strawberry donut from a Michigan farm stand.

Properly fueled for the rest of the trip, we arrived in Petoskey in time for lunch. After a brief walk along the bay, we walked to the picturesque downtown area to find our next stop: City Park Grill.

The City Park Grill is an old Hemingway haunt in Petoskey, Michigan. He usually sat in the second seat from the end of the bar.

Where to eat: Petoskey boasts connections to Ernest Hemingway, so I wanted to dine where Hemingway once drank. If you go to City Park Grill, you can actually sit in the same barstool as Hemingway. I was with my family, so we got a dinner table, but it was tempting. 

We walked around the downtown area afterward, stopping in a bookstore and then venturing to a trail for a quick walk. The kids were preoccupied by a quest to find Petoskey stones, we so left the small town and headed to Petoskey State Park to search for them.

My son’s rock collection from Petoskey State Park. The two rocks on the far right are Petoskey stones, which are fossilized coral known in the area.

We lucked out and found a few small ones at the state park. The water was very cold, so there was no actual swimming at the lake. 

Petoskey Brewing Co. is near Petoskey State Park, so once we left the park, we headed there for a late afternoon snack. They have tasty little ice cream bars the kids liked, and the beers were refreshing for the adults.

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.

Where to stay: We stayed one night in the Petoskey area, in a lodge on a river called Stafford’s Crooked River Lodge & Suites. It’s a short drive from Petoskey, and feels a world away. The spacious suite was great, though we wanted to spend as much time as possible at the pool and, later, outside. 

Related posts:

Mackinac Island

Our only stop in the Upper Peninsula was on the tiny, car-free island of Mackinac Island. We had only 24 hours to explore it, and while that was sufficient time, it was so idyllic that we wished we had more nights to stay.

Soaking up the view of Mackinac Island while at Fort Mackinac.

To get to the island, most people travel by ferry. Time it right and your ferry may take you up close to the iconic Mackinac Bridge.

The best way to see the island, if you’re an active family, is by bike. It’s flat, the trail is wide, and you can’t beat the views.

We also spent time at the massive pool at the Grand Hotel, and had a very memorable experience at Fort Mackinac – we helped fire a cannon!

Where to eat: Our best dining experiences were at Grand Hotel restaurants (though we didn’t try the famous lunch buffet). Breakfast was a multi-course affair with multiple options to order, or a buffet to indulge in. 

Dinner was even more special – five courses, dress code enforced, and live music. The kids loved it – and they had a children’s menu. 

Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor had its own entrance in the Grand Hotel.

We had sweets while we were there, of course, There are several fudge shops to choose from on Mackinac Island, so you should try their famous fudge. Ice cream was also in order, so after our morning at Fort Mackinac, we walked back to Grand Hotel to have some cone at Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor. The kids earned their free cones by completing a kid’s fitness program.

Speaking of Fort Mackinac, Grand Hotel runs a little cafe there. The view is astounding, and while we only had coffee and hot cocoa, it was a memorable experience. 

The street that leads to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

Where to stay: The most famous hotel on the island is the historic Grand Hotel. We were fortunate to stay this all-inclusive resort. There’s plenty to do there for the entire family, from complimentary lawn games and kid’s programs, to more elaborate affairs like afternoon tea.

Related posts:

Frankenmuth

The plan was to make a lengthy pitstop in the very German town of Frankenmuth, located on our route between Mackinac Island and Detroit. We’d dine on some must-try fried chicken I’d heard about and we’d enjoy some German beer.

Frankenmuth was a town in Michigan that felt more like a German village.

However, we had a bit of a family medical emergency. So, while I strolled along one of the main thoroughfares with the kids, my husband visited their minor medical center.

Detroit

Our final stop was Detroit – a large city that that needs a few days to explore. 

The frescoes by Diego Rivera are one the highlights of the Detroit Institute of Arts. My kids stood still for about 5 seconds to let me admire them.

Given the oppressive heat of June, we stayed indoors mostly, visiting great museums like the Detroit Institute of Arts, The Motown Museum, and the Michigan Science Center.

I loved the picturesque Main Street at Greenfield Village. Guests can pay a little extra to ride around in in a Model T.

We also spent a full day at The Henry Ford, with just a couple early morning hours at Greenfield Village. Both could be a day in themselves. Both were big hits with the kids.

Where to stay: Detroit is sprawling and you have an abundance of choices. The place we stayed at is in Troy, Mich., a Fairfield Inn & Suites nicely located near the interstate, and a convenient drive to Beaumont Hospital (long story). Frankly, though, it would not be best for visiting all of the key Detroit attractions.

An awesome road trip itinerary through Michigan - Tips on where to eat, stay & play in cities like Grand Rapids, Detroit & Mackinac Island #roadtrip #vacation #familyvacation

Get travel inspiration in your inbox

Get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox twice a month. Subscribe to the FREE e-newsletter here.

August 12, 2018

Where To Stay In Traverse City

We had two days to explore Traverse City, Mich., this summer. The itinerary included dune climbing, drinking craft beer, and gazing dreamily at lakes (that last two things were just on my schedule – the kids had other plans). Given what we wanted to do, we wanted to find a hotel in Traverse City that got us close to the water but still had a convenient location.

Since we loved the idea of a place with a view, we ended up at at Cherry Tree Inn & Suites in Traverse City. What a view!

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

About Cherry Tree Inn & Suites

Cherry Tree Inn & Suites has a lot going for it: Private beach, themed play set, and an outdoor pool. Plus, their complimentary shuttle takes you all over the city (though, really, it’s pretty easy to navigate on your own).

There are more than 20 room and suite options at Cherry Tree Inn & Suites in Traverse City. Our room had two queen-size beds, a little kitchenette with fridge, and a balcony.

The hotel has several different room options. Whatever you pick, request water view. I spent more mornings on the balcony writing and watching the sunrise. 

And the sunset view was lovely too, though, it’s better to be down on the beach for them, in my opinion.

Pretty sunset at Cherry Tree Inn & Suites in Traverse City
Sunset at Cherry Tree Inn & Suites in Traverse City, Michigan.

Cherry Tree is located in a touristy strip of hotels on one side of the street, while on the other side, you’ve got chain restaurants, putt putt, and gas stations. We did find a bike rental shop within walking distance of our hotel, making for an easy bike ride excursion with the kids.

A complimentary hot breakfast at a hotel is always a nice amenity. It wasn’t the best complimentary breakfasts I ever ad, but it got the job done.

The hotel has a complimentary hot breakfast, as well as a little sweet shop where you can buy candy and pints of Moomers. Moomers, if you haven’t read about it, is a very well-known ice cream shop in Traverse City. I recommend going there since it is on a picturesque dairy farm, but if you can’t, might as well buy the ice cream at your hotel, right?

What the kids love at Cherry Tree Inn & Suites

They rope kids in with cookies on the counter and then from that point on, they have made fans of your kids. 

Cherry Tree Inn & Suites outdoor pool
The Cherry Tree Inn & Suites’ outdoor pool and hot tub had a nice view of the bay. My kids preferred it to the indoor pool.

The biggest hits for my kids were obviously the pools – one indoors and one outdoors. The outdoor hot tub is nice, too, especially at sunset.

The the second popular spot to find kids is on the pirate ship swing set. 

Pirate ship playground at Cherry Tree Inn & Suites in Traverse City
Cherry Tree Inn & Suites has a pirate ship playground on its private beach.

The kids attempted to play in the lake, but it was not the best experience. The water was cold and full of weeds that creeped the kids out. 

Cherry Tree Inn & Suites has a private beach. It’s not bad for playing in the sand, but my kids weren’t fans of the water. Too much seaweed, they tell me.

If we had more time, we would’ve considered renting some watercraft, which is available on the property (for a bit of a hefty price, though).

If you have older kids, try staying up late for the bonfire each night.

What’s near Cherry Tree Inn & Suites

Read up on our two days in Traverse City for a list of things my family did while visiting Traverse City. The closest thing on that list (besides the private hotel beach), was ride bikes on the nearby trail. 

From the hotel, you’re also within walking distance of Pirate Cove Adventure Park, which has putt putt, bumper boats and that sort of thing.

Front Street and the surrounding streets were my favorite places to window shop in Traverse City. Besides restaurants, the shops were almost all closed when we visited one evening.

For food, I’d recommend heading downtown for great dining and breweries. I talk about restaurants, breweries and the best place to get ice cream this post.

If you go

Cherry Tree Inn & Suites

Where: 2345 U.S. 31 North, Traverse City, Mich.

Website

Where to stay in Traverse City - Review of Cherry Tree Inn & Suites, a waterfront hotel in Traverse City #Michigan #review #famllytravel

Plan a Traverse City vacation

I started planning this vacation in the form of a bucket list. Check out the Traverse City Bucket List to begin your plans. This stop was part of a larger road trip through Michigan.

Family-friendly things to do in Traverse City, Michigan

Read more about some of the things we did in Traverse City:

48 Hours In Traverse City With Kids

Taking Kids to Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore (TBD)

Get Travel Inspiration Directly In Your Inbox

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

August 8, 2018

5 Things For Kids To Do At Fort Mackinac

Mackinac Island was one of our favorite stops on our Great Michigan Road Trip. There’s much to love about Mackinac Island–there’s natural beauty and zero cars. It’s a fun family vacation destination steeped with military history. And there’s one place on the island go that combines fun things for kids to do and military history: Fort Mackinac.

Disclosure: Mackinac State Historic Parks provided complimentary admission and a complimentary cannon firing session so that I can write about it. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

The view from one of the cannons at Fort Mackinac in Michigan.

Fort Mackinac is part of Mackinac State Historic Parks. Built in 1780, it served as a military outpost, home for soldiers and their families, and later, was the headquarters for Mackinac National Park. Now, it’s bustling destination for history buffs and families, featuring 14 buildings, costumed interpreters, and possibly the best view found on the island.

Things Kids Will Love At Fort Mackinac

Firing The Cannon

Each morning at 9:30 a.m. sharp, the cannon is fired from the bluff overlooking the City of Mackinac Island and Haldimand Bay. Usually, it’s costumed interpreters doing the daily task, but guests can reserve the chance to fire it, too.

The kids and I got a history lesson while we helped prep and fire the cannon at Fort Mackinac.

I got the chance to fire it on the morning we visited, and it was a thrill. It was actually quite a ceremony, and with my kids in tow, we learned a lot. They were too young to fire it–you must be at least 13 years old–but they were old enough to help clean, load and prime the cannon. 

While I was the only one who got to fire the cannon at Fort Mackinac, my kids (ages 6 and 8) were able to help prep the cannon.

By far, this was the highlight of our visit, as we felt that we became a part of a centuries-long tradition. It helped that we also got souvenir hats, to boot. The kids wore them for the rest of the day.

The experience is $50 for one person, which includes admission into the park and the souvenir hat. Only one person gets to have the experience each day. More details and reservations here.

The cannon is fired a couple times a day, but it’s only the 9:30 a.m. salute that could be fired by the guest.

Costumed Interpreters

It’s one thing to read about history on a sign while you pass through historic buildings. It’s something all together different to hear about history through a character from that era. 

There are demonstrations performed by costume re-enactors every day at Fort Mackinac. One of the most popular ones is the rifle firing demonstration, which is held several times a day during the summer.

Fort Mackinac has interpreters in the park who regularly perform demonstrations like a court martial, rifle firing, or a bayonet demo. The rifle firing is pretty loud, so be alert and cover ears.

It’s not just soldiers at the fort now, just as it wasn’t just soldiers back in its day. Look for ladies strolling in costume, as well.

Kids’ Quarters

The Kids’ Quarters is tucked inside the Officers’ Stone Quarters, built in 1780. Here, kids can touch exhibits meant to teach through play. They can pull a cord to fire a cannon, dress up like a soldier, practice morse code, and learn how to carry a rifle.

The Kids’ Quarters at Fort Mackinac includes interactive displays like this dress up corner where kids can dress up like soldiers and their families.

If your kids are under age 8 (probably even under age 10), they’ll like this place.

Walking through history

There are more than a dozen buildings to explore at Fort Mackinac. While some keep guests back from the exhibit to preserve items on the display, others are completely open. 

There are 14 buildings to tour at Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island, Mich.

Our tour guide pointed out the bathhouse, which dates back to 1885, as an example. 

Fort Mackinac is also home to the oldest building in Michigan. Use that fact to impress your kids.

Treats With A View

The Tea Room, a cafe operated by the Grand Hotel, is located in Fort Mackinac. Of all the places I had a meal on the island (or in this instance, had coffee), this place had the best view.

The kids loved the hot cocoa with whipped cream at the Tea Room, located inside Fort Mackinac. The view can’t be beat.

Most of the day, they serve snacks, desserts and beverages. Lunch is available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Fun things for kids to do at this historic Fort Mackinac #Michigan #MackinacIsland #familytravel #familyvacation #travel

If you go

Where: 7127 Huron Road, Mackinac Island, Mich.

Hours: Fort Mackinac is a seasonal state historic park, so it’s best to double check the hours before going. Here are the 2018 hours:

June 9 – Sept. 2, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (last admission 6 p.m.)

Oct. 8-28, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (last admission 3 p.m.)

Sept. 3 – Oct. 7, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last admission 4:30 p.m.)

Admission: $13, adults ($12 online), and $7.50, children ages 5-12 ($7 online). Note: Admission also includes The Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum during the 2018 season and the Historic Downtown Mackinac buildings through Aug. 25, 2018.

Beyond the fort

Your admission into Fort Mackinac gets you into the art museum on the island. It’s housed in the historic Indian Dormitory.

Kids can paint, cut, and draw art inspired by Mackinac Island history at the kids’ studio in the Mackinac Art Museum.

It’s three stories of permanent and temporary exhibits, though we didn’t get to explore much. We spend all of our time in the downstairs art studio. Kids could work on different types of art projects there and either take them home, or hang them up with others. The art studio is only open during the summer.

Through Aug. 25, there are four other historic buildings you can tour that are connected to the island’s history as a fur trading depot. Those buildings are the Biddle House, Benjamin Blacksmith Shop, American Fur Company Store & Dr. Beaumont Museum, McGuilpin House, and Mission Church. 

Read more about Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island inspired an entire road trip through Michigan (more on that to come). To plan your own awesome 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 Mackinac Island highlights, read these posts:

My Mackinac Island Bucket List

24 Hours On Mackinac Island With Kids

Family Guide To Staying At The Grand Hotel

Get travel inspiration in your inbox

Get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox twice a month. Subscribe to the FREE e-newsletter here.

August 6, 2018

Staying at Amway Grand Plaza With Kids

The Amway Grand Plaza is more than a century old and credited for revitalizing downtown Grand Rapids, Mich. Grand Rapids was our first stop on our epic road trip through Michigan. I had a lot of plans, and luckily, Amway Grand Plaza was centrally located for our adventures in the city.

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

What to expect at Amway Grand Plaza

Amway Grand Plaza has two sides to it: There’s a grand historic side and then there’s the modern luxury side. It really does feel like two separate hotels, where one tower (the tall, glass one) has modern amenities like the pool, outdoor tennis courts on the roof, and a restaurant by Wolfgang Puck. And on the other side (the historic hotel side), there are chandeliers, upholstered furniture, a fountain and dim lights.

The Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids was once the Pantlind Hotel, and its historic lobby has maintained the early 20th century charm.

When you check in, the lobby is modern, bustling and connecting the two sides. I mention this because I was envisioning entering the building and stepping back in time. Instead, I asked if I was in the right place.

Walk away from the modern lobby and you’ll step into the gorgeous lobby on the historic side. It’s dimly lit by grand chandeliers, and the centerpiece is a fountain. 

The historic lobby of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel had a fountain my daughter liked to watch.

The rooms at Amway Grand Plaza

There are options for rooms, and if it’s in the budget, you can opt for larger suites. We stayed in a room with two queen beds, which worked for our family of four. Understand that a room like that may feel small by modern standards.

A room in the historic Amway Grand Plaza was a little small by modern standards but was just fine for a family of four. The decor was beautiful and fit the historic nature of the hotel.

The bathroom, though, is updated and modern.

One thing to note: If you’re staying on the historic side, and you’re traveling with kids, a pool visit is inevitable. Know that you’ll have to cross through the lobby and take a lengthy walk to the other tower. Bring a cover-up.

Kids and the Amway Grand Plaza

It’s understandable to even wonder if this would be a good hotel for families given the historic nature of the hotel. It definitely is. We saw many families passing through the lobby while we were there, and the pool was a happening place each night.

Related Post: Favorite Historic Hotels For Families In The U.S.

My kids loved the pool area, of course, and I enjoyed the hot tub. There are two hot tubs, usually, though one was closed while we were there.

The pool and one of the hot tubs at the Amway Grand Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids.

If the weather had been nicer (and if I knew how to play), we’d take advantage of playing tennis there. How often do you get to play on a roof? There were other lawn games out there, too, like corn hole and that ladder golf game. I couldn’t get my kids out of the pool or we would’ve tested them out.

Adults will like that the fitness center also has locker rooms where the men can sit in the steam room and the women can enjoy the sauna.

As far as the rest of the hotel, both kids were fascinated by the Pantlind lobby, and wanted to take more photos than me. And just try to find me a little kid who isn’t fascinated by a fountain in a lobby.

The hotel has several restaurants ranging from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse to a Starbucks. We didn’t eat at any of them, though my daughter and I did peek at the breakfast buffet at Rendezvous. It was very tempting but a little out of my price range for breakfast. 

Rendezvous is a bar in the evening, but come morning, it’s a family-friendly place for breakfast. It’s located in the main lobby of the Amway Grand Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids.

If you want to know where we had breakfast during our stay, read this post about our weekend in Grand Rapids

What’s near the Amway Grand Plaza

One of the prime reasons to stay at this hotel is its location. It’s in a prime spot in downtown Grand Rapids, right near the river.

The view of downtown Grand Rapids, Mich., from the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

Two of the places we visited, Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and the Grand Rapids Public Museum, are about a half-mile from the hotel. It’s also near the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

Read about all the things you can do in Grand Rapids in the post 48 Hours In Grand Rapids With Kids.

We would’ve walked to them if our kids were a little older and a little less whiny. 🙂

It’s also near great restaurants and breweries.

Parking is expensive in downtown Grand Rapids, and while you can self-park at the hotel, note that that is also expensive ($29 a night).

Staying at the Amway Grand Plaza with kids #familytravel #grandrapids #michigan #experiencegr

Read more about Grand Rapids

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, check out this Michigan road trip recap featuring restaurant highlights, sights to see, and where to stay.

For Grand Rapids highlights, read these posts:

My Grand Rapids Bucket List

48 hours in Grand Rapids with Kids

Exploring John Ball Zoo With Kids (Aug. 22)

Grand Rapids Public Museum (Oct. 1)

Get travel inspiration in your inbox

Get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox twice a month. Subscribe to the FREE e-newsletter here.

August 2, 2018

Favorite Historic Hotels For Families In The U.S.

Historic hotels are unique places to stay on vacations, especially when traveling with kids. I’ve been lucky enough to stay at some Midwestern historic hotels that were very accommodating to families – some with a pool, one with a great kid’s program, and all with enough interesting details to encourage kids to explore more. Other travel bloggers have had similar experiences. So, I reached out to my friends and asked them to share their favorite historic hotels for families in the U.S.

Happy travels!

Top Recommended Historic Hotels for Families

The view of the Grand Hotel from the lawn. The Grand Hotel opened on Mackinac Island in 1887.

Grand Hotel

Where: Mackinac Island, Mich.

Why go there: Built in 1887, the Grand Hotel is a National Historic Landmark on an island that’s completely car-free. It’s a throw-back to another time, with dress codes for dinner, tea time, and an expansive porch that encourages you to slow down.

What kids will like there: This hotel has been ranked among the top all-inclusive hotels for families for a reason. There’s a large outdoor pool, daily kids programming, and kid’s menus at restaurants.

What’s nearby: Mackinac Island is small, so technically everything is nearby. You’ll want to rent a bike from the hotel to explore the island or take a horse-drawn carriage tour. Fort Mackinac is within walking distance, too.

Read more about Grand Hotel here.

The historic lobby of the Amway Grand Plaza had a fountain my daughter liked to watch. The hotel was built in 1913.

Amway Grand Plaza

Where: Grand Rapids, Mich.

Why go there: Construction of the original hotel, Pantlind Hotel began in 1913. In 1925, it was called “One of the 10 Finest Hotels in America.” Decades later, the hotel underwent serious renovations. The rebirth of the hotel as Amway Grand Plaza is credited for revitalizing downtown Grand Rapids.

What kids will like there: The grand lobby of the original hotel is stately and has a fountain that draws kids in. However, it’s what in the newer tower that is the biggest hit: The pool area. There are two hot tubs, and access to a rooftop area to play tennis, corn hole, and ladders.

What’s nearby: This hotel is nicely situated in the downtown area, within a short drive (or if you’re ambitious), within walking distance to several museums including Grand Rapids Public Museum, Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and Grand Rapids Art Museum. There are also a few great (family-friendly) breweries nearby.

Read more about taking kids to Amway Grand Plaza here.

The Millennium Knickbocker in Chicago is recommended as a unique and family-friendly historic hotel in the U.S.

The entrance to the Millennium Knickbocker Hotel in downtown Chicago. Photo courtesy Melissa Scwartz

Millennium Knickerbocker

Where: Chicago, Ill.

What makes it special: Originally opened in 1927, the Millennium Knickerbocker has maintained quite a bit of its 1920s elegance. During Prohibition, Al Capone’s brother Frank ran a speakeasy in the Knickerbocker and the stairwell the patrons scurried down during a raid still exists which is a fun element.

What kids will like there: Kids will love discovering the historic elements of the hotel making it pretty unique compared to more modern hotels. Kids have quite an eye for finding things like mail chutes that are not in modern hotels. If you have the opportunity, take a peek inside of the Crystal Ballroom. The crystal chandeliers, gold gilding and light up dance floor are awe-inspiring to all ages! Melissa, who recommended this hotel, said her daughter was totally in awe during our visit and felt like a princess.

What’s nearby: While staying at the Millennium Knickerbocker, you will be a block away from the excitement of Michigan Avenue! Nearby Water Tower Place is home to American Girl, the Lego Store, the Chicago Sports Museum and more. For older children, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago includes a rotating range of uniquely engaging exhibits some even with participatory elements. Of course, fun Navy Pier with its amusements and incredible view is nearby as is the Chicago Children’s Museum!

Read more about Millennium Knickerbocker in this post by Melissa from A Little Time and A Keyboard.

Beyond the hauntings, there are many reasons to visit the historic Stanley Hotel. Photo courtesy Megan Bannister

Stanley Hotel

Where: Estes Park, Colo.

What makes it special: While the Stanley Hotel is arguably most famous for its haunted happenings, its rich backstory and role in Estes Park’s development are equally fascinating. The hotel welcomed its first visitors in 1909 and helped spur much of the development of the town of Estes Park—it was even the first hotel west of the Mississippi River to have electricity.

What kids will like there: The Stanley Hotel has lots of nooks and crannies to explore! The original elevator and the hotel’s movie memorabilia are especially fun.

What’s nearby: There’s lots to see in the town of Estes Park. From shopping to restaurants, there’s something everyone is sure to enjoy. The hotel is also close to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is the perfect place to opt outdoors and explore all of the natural beauty Colorado has to offer.

Read more about Stanley Hotel in this post by Megan from Olio In Iowa.

The Hotel Boulderado opened in 1908 in Boulder, Colo. Photo courtesy Erin Klema

Hotel Boulderado

Where: Boulder, Colo.

What makes it special: Opening with an elegant New Year’s Eve gala in 1908, the hotel continues to celebrate New Year’s in style with an annual celebration. The first luxury hotel in Boulder, it is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Over the years, well-known politicians, entertainers, and other public figures—including Louis Armstrong, Robert Frost, and Helen Keller—have stayed at the hotel.

What kids will like there: Kids will enjoy riding in the original Otis elevator, sipping fresh water from the Arapahoe Glacier at the lobby drinking fountain, seeing the beautiful and colorful stained glass ceiling in the lobby, and seeing relics from years gone by on the self-guided history tour around the hotel.

What’s nearby: The Hotel Boulderado sits in the heart of downtown Boulder, only a short walk from the pedestrian-friendly Pearl Street Mall full of shopping and dining. Tea-drinking families can go on Celestial Seasonings’ free factory tour or sip afternoon tea at the Boulder Dushanbe Tea House. Boulder is also a very bike-friendly city, so families can rent bikes and peddle the Boulder Creek Path. Sitting at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder also offers visitors plenty of opportunities to get outdoors.

Read more about Hotel Boulderado in this post by Erin at The Epicurean Traveler.

The Millennium Knickbocker in Chicago is recommended as a unique and family-friendly historic hotel in the U.S.

The Hotel Julien

Where: Dubuque, Iowa

Why go there: The Hotel Julien is a historic landmark hotel that is not only decorated in the highest quality of finishes, but the small high-end touches will make any guest feel extra special.

What kids will like there: Kids will love the views of the Port of Dubuque from their room along with the impressive swimming pool in the basement. Ice cream across the street will make any kid happy too!

What’s nearby: Nearby, you’ll find the Fenlon Place Elevator, the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, and Eagle Point Park!

Read more about The Hotel Julien in this post by Katy from Katy Flint & Co.

The Black Hawk Hotel is a historic hotel in Cedar Falls, Iowa

The Black Hawk Hotel in Cedar Falls, Iowa dates back to 1870s. Photo courtesy Travel Iowa

Black Hawk Hotel

Where: Cedar Falls, Iowa

Why go there: Built in the 1870s, it retains its old world charm with new world amenities.

What kids will like there: Kids will like the old fashioned lobby and look of the hotel.

What’s nearby: Kids and adults alike will love the John Deere tractor museum in the nearby sister city of Waterloo.  

Read more about Black Hawk Hotel in this post by Cindy from Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl.

 

The Peabody Memphis has a twice-daily duck march through the lobby. Photo courtesy Peabody Memphis

The Peabody Memphis

Where: Memphis, Tenn.

What makes it special: In 2019, Peabody Memphis celebrates 150 years in business. It is THE place to stay in Memphis, and has hosted celebrities, royalty and American presidents. The rooms are luxurious, and the location can’t be beat. Thursday night rooftop parties offer the best view in town, plus live music, good food and cool drinks.

What kids will like there: Kids are the VIP guests of the twice-daily duck march at the Peabody Memphis. Adults will have a hard time battling the crowds, but kids get to sit right along the red carpet as the ducks make their way to the lobby each morning, and each evening as they return to the penthouse duck apartment. Kids will also love the consistent duck theme throughout the hotel – from cookies to soaps, there are ducks everywhere!

What’s nearby: Beale Street is just blocks away, with live music and the best barbecue in Tennessee. You can walk to the Mississippi River for a paddleboat or kayak cruise. The Civil Rights Museum is also nearby. Downtown Memphis is very walkable, and the Peabody Memphis is centrally located. 

Read more about the Peabody Hotel and things to do in Memphis in this post by Leigh from Campfires & Concierges.

Wentworth by the Sea

Where: New Castle, N.H.

What makes it special: This Victorian wedding cake hotel was built in 1874 and once hosted the likes of Gloria Swanson, Annie Oakley, Harry Truman and Prince Charles, as well as being the spot where the terms were hashed out to end the Russo-Japanese War. But by the late 20th century, it had been long abandoned and looked more like a ghostly set in a horror film (it was: 1999’s “In Dreams”). Thanks to the joint efforts of a nonprofit and local hotel group, the Wentworth was restored to its former glory in the early 2000s and now boasts a 8,500-foot spa wing, indoor and outdoor pools, standalone suites overlooking the marina, a private country club and “Scottish links” style golfing, and chef-driven, sea-to-table dining.

What kids will like there: The hotel has both indoor and outdoor pools.

What’s nearby: It’s an easy walk, bike ride or drive to downtown Portsmouth, a vibrant coastal town filled with family attractions, including the Strawberry Banke Museum, a 10-acre outdoor history museum that immerses children in four centuries of American history; live performances all summer long at the Prescott Park Arts Festival; G. Willikers, a beloved local toy store that’s been family-owned for 40 years, and the (ahem) udderly delightful Annabelle’s ice cream.

 

Arrow Hotel was built in 1928 in Broken Bow, Neb. Photo courtesy Gretchen Garrison

Arrow Hotel

Where: Broken Bow, Neb.

What makes it special: Arrow Hotel in Broken Bow has been primarily been a hotel since the building was constructed by the townspeople in 1928. Due to being apartments for a short time, the rooms are larger and all have kitchens. Parents will like the small town atmosphere and the small town prices for all of that space. Everyone will like the delicious home style breakfasts.

What kids will like there: Many are suites which means multiple televisions. This worked well for a family with two tweens and two teens who could all watch their own type of show.

What’s nearby: Across the street, there is a wonderful playground and the Custer County Museum where there is a display on one of America’s most prominent pioneer photographers. The hotel is right on the town square which has numerous local shops. The hotel also has its own restaurant which has a separate pub area.

Read more about Arrow Hotel in this post by Gretchen from Odyssey Through Nebraska.

Recommended historic hotels for families in the U.S. #familytravel

Get Travel Inspiration Directly In Your Inbox

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in the Omaha metro, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

August 1, 2018

Star Wars And The Power Of Costume

One of the most anticipated touring exhibits around is “Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume.” At least, I’ve been excited about it ever since I first heard about the tour launch in the U.S. a few years ago. This exhibit allows you an up-close look at “Star Wars” costumes, and explains the creative process of designing them and building character development through them.

What to expect if you take kids to "Star Wars and the Power of Costume" exhibit

I visited the tour at its stop at Detroit Institute of Arts. We were in Detroit as part of our Great Michigan Road Trip, and I brought my kids along to see the exhibit. If you want to see it while it’s still at DIA, you have until Sept. 30, 2018. I checked the exhibit’s touring itinerary and this may be the final stop of the tour.

Disclosure: I received complimentary admission in order to write this review.

What to expect at the “Star Wars” costume exhibit

This is strictly about the costumes and the thought that went in to designing them. You’ll see costumes from the movies, with informational signage explaining the concept behind the pieces. The first seven films are all represented, and all the iconic characters’ costumes are on display.

The Darth Vader costume on display at “Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume,” an traveling exhibit that’s at Detroit Institute of Arts until Sept. 30, 2018.

There are more than 60 character costumes, including Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, R2-D2, Princess Leia and Yoda.

Some of the more striking displays, for me at least, were the collection of Queen Amidala gowns, the droids, and the final room with Darth Vader waiting for us.

It’s an engrossing exhibit, and I enjoyed reading the story behind the costumes. Some of the inspiration for costumes was obvious, and others I would not have guessed.

“Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume” is at Detroit Institute of Arts through Sept. 30, 2018.

Your admission tickets includes an audio tour, an adult version and a youth version. If you ask me, try the youth version.

What kids will like at the “Star Wars™” exhibit

My kids loved, and I mean LOVED, the youth audio tour for the exhibit. I’ve never seen them so set on listening to each number on the tour. It turns out, the audio tour explains to kids that they’re training to be Jedi and, thus, my kids were determined to finish “training.”

My son listening to the audio tour in front of the droids display at “Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume.”

My kids’ ages are 6 and 8 to give you an idea of how young kids can be and still enjoy the exhibit. It helps that they are big “Star Wars” fans, too.

If your child is not into “Star Wars” this isn’t going to be as appealing to them. That’s not to say they won’t appreciate the artistic nature of the costumes.

If you go

“Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume”

Where: Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit, Mich.

When: Now through Sept. 30, 2018

Tickets: Tickets are $7 for children (ages 6-17) and $19-$24 for adults, and are available for online purchase here. Children ages 5 and younger are FREE. At the Detroit Institute of Arts, your ticket is timed, as well. There is a warning on the DIA website that time slots tend to sell out, so it’s recommended that you purchase your tickets in advance of your visit. Your ticket to the exhibit admits you into the rest of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

What to expect if you take kids to see "Star Wars and the Power of Costume" exhibit in Detroit #StarWars #Art #Costumes #Review

Make the most of your Detroit visit

Favorite family-friendly museums in Detroit

If you’re headed to Detroit, and museums are your jam, check out this post about family-friendly Detroit museums. My family had a few favorites, and DIA was definitely on the list. For more ideas, read My Detroit Bucket List.

Here are upcoming posts about Detroit:

Fairfield Inn & Suites In Troy, Michigan Review – Aug. 29

20 Things Kids Love At The Henry Ford & Greenfield Village – Sept. 7

What To Expect At The Motown Museum – Oct. 5

This was the final stop of an epic Michigan road trip, so check back for that post soon!

Get Travel Inspiration Directly In Your Inbox

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.