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Monday, June 11, 2018

5 Fabulous State of Michigan Parks!

A reader requested a list from me of the top 5 state parks in Michigan. We all have different thoughts about what makes a park great. I like parks with spacious campsites and recreation onsite or nearby. Following is a list of 5 of my favorite State of Michigan parks (in no particular order), and what makes them great. This list is based solely on State of Michigan campground parks, and does not include state forest, private, or national parks. I have been to about half of the State of Michigan campgrounds; mainly in west and northern Michigan. I have been as far south as Warren Dunes State Park and Fort Custer Recreation Area, as far east as Bay City Recreation Area and Harrisville State Park, and as far north as Copper Harbor in the Upper Peninsula.

Sunset at Fayette park from campground area 2015

Fayette Historic State Park, in Garden south of US-2 in the upper peninsula

We have visited this park by boat, and with two different campers. The park has 61 campsites with electricity, and 15 boat slips. The boat slips have undergone renovations since our last visit, and I assume they now have power. I could not find actual boat slip details on the state website; however, a few things have changed since we stayed in 2011: the rate has increased from $17 a night to $30 a night, and advance reservations can now be made for the marina, just like the campground. The campground rate is $25 a night.

Previous dockage in Fayette
Photo taken from edge of historic town in 2011
What makes this park great: The sunsets, historic town, visitor center, and hiking trails on 711 acres! 

Fort Wilkins State Park, Copper Harbor in the upper peninsula

This park is located at the northeastern tip of Michigan's upper peninsula. We have not visited since 2004, although I do not think it has changed much. The current photos and information online looks the same as I remember.
Secluded campsite #141 at Fort Wilkins State Park
Photo taken 2004

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Virginia / Dulles airport Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott

May 2018, Weekday, 1-night, Extended king guestroom 323

Gold perks and check-in

I checked in using the Marriott app, which was a first for me. I went to the front desk when I arrived, because I did not see my room number, or how to choose a room on the app. The guestroom number did not show because I needed to complete one more step after I checked in online. I think it was the "get key" step, which I mistakenly assumed I did not need to do until I was ready to enter the room. I had been pre-assigned a guestroom on the top floor, which was also an upgrade. No one told me the room was an upgrade; I realized when I entered the guestroom and saw that it is an extend king guestroom. I had booked a basic room when making my reservation. You can see the guestroom size difference in the guestroom diagram photo farther down in this post.

Guestroom 323

Guestroom 323

This is a spacious guestroom, which looked like it had been recently remodeled. The bathroom and beverage area were located at the entrance. The beverage area contained a single serve coffeemaker with supplies, an ice bucket, microwave, and small fridge.

Guestroom 323

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Frederick, Maryland / Hilton Garden Inn

May 2018, Weekday, 1-night, Guestroom 500

I checked in online the day before my arrival, and I had been assigned a guestroom that fit my profile and requests: top floor, end corner room. I stayed at the Hampton Inn in Grand Rapids the night before this stay, and when I tried online check-in for that hotel, the room assigned to me was on the bottom floor.

Gold perks and hotel check-in

The check-in process at the hotel was efficient, and I received the same room I had been assigned during online check-in. The agent told me there were two bottles of water in the guestroom for me.

View of guestroom 500 from entrance

Guestroom 500

The guestroom was comfortable, clean, and it is in a quiet location. I had an excellent night's sleep at this property.

Guestroom 500 across from bathroom
Two bottles of water were on the counter above a small fridge. A Keurig K-cup machine with coffee supplies, and a microwave oven were provided, as well. A closet with hangers, extra bedding, iron, ironing board, and a luggage rack was located between the beverage station and the entrance door, across from the bathroom.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Petoskey, Michigan / Casino, State Park, Wineries and Breweries, Bicycle Trail

May 2018, Weekday-weekend, 3-nights

We have visited the Petoskey area several times, and this brief post does not begin to cover everything the area has to offer. You can find many more details about the area in previous blog posts; just type what you are looking for in the search box above, or click on labels of interest at the bottom of this post. Additionally, I have two Facebook albums with more Petoskey photos from 2015 and 2016.

Sunset from inside Odawa Casino

Odawa Casino

We stopped at this casino mainly for the RV parking. Although we had been here once before, I did not recall how small the casino is inside. There is so much parking space on the grounds, that I am sure patrons would not all fit inside if the spaces were more than half filled. We parked in the RV lot, and we observed two other RVs in the main parking lot. There was plenty of room in all of the lots, so the RVs parked in the main lot did not cause a problem. We did not find any good promotions at the casino--a Player's Card did not give us anything extra, other than earning points, and there were no food or beverage specials on Thursday evening. Fortunately, we broke even at the slots!

Petoskey State Park campsite #168, 2-nights

There is a lot more detail in my previous blog posts and photo albums for this campground (photo links above, and labels at  the end of this post). We stayed on campsite 168 this time, which is a grassy, spacious site. It does not face the water like site 167, although it is still a nice site. Nothing in the campground had changed since our last visit. The water level along the beach was a bit higher than previous visits, and there were many more stones on shore than usual. My husband found four Petoskey stones on the beach this year!

Crostini with Mackinaw Trail Wine Tasting

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Cadillac, Michigan / Mitchell State Park, Brewvine Passport, Clam Lake Beer Company

May 2018, Weekend, 2-nights

The campground information in this post is brief, as there is already information available in my Facebook album, and in previous blog posts: May 2017May 2016, September 2014. Scroll to the bottom of this post for information about Michigan Brewvine Passport and Clam Lake Beer Company.

Sunrise from bedroom window - 
campsite 190 at Mitchell State Park

Campsites 175, 176, 177 and 190

Campsite 177 near the boat launch looks like a fabulous site; however, there are low hanging branches at the back of this site that would hit the top of our RV. You can enlarge the photo below to read the labels by clicking on it.

Mitchell State Park campsites 175, 176, 177

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Bay City, Michigan / State Recreation Area, Downtown, Trails

April 2018, Weekend, 2-nights, campsite 69

We had a late start to camping in Michigan this year, as it snowed several days in April! We still had a couple of small piles of snow in our front yard when we left for our camping trip at the end of April, which is quite unusual.

Sunset from campsite at Bay City State Recreation Area

Bay City State Recreation Area advance reservations and check-in

We were initially undecided about making an advance reservation once we decided we were going camping. There is an $8 reservation fee, and there was not really a need to reserve a site, as most of the sites were available. Also, we had never been to this park before, and some of the online information was inaccurate, so it was difficult to decide. Site numbers had been changed from 2017 to 2018, and some of the photos were obviously incorrect for the corresponding sites. On the other hand, it is always quicker and easier when we arrive, if we already have a reservation. I decided to call the campground to ask about a few of the sites we had been considering. By the end of the conversation, I learned that if we did not like our site after we arrived, we could call to have it changed, without having to drive back to the office. We decided to reserve site 68 online.

Check-in time is 3:00 PM, and we arrived in the morning. The campground was mostly empty, and we were allowed to check-in early. When we arrived at site 68, we saw that this is a lousy site (details under the campsite heading below). Site 69 is a good site, and we successfully got our site changed over the telephone.

Center sites looking east from bathroom.
Our RV on site 69 in distance.

Campsites 68, 69, 70, 71, 183, 185, and more

The ground is low in this campground, and more than half of the sites were underwater at the time of our visit. Some of the site descriptions say that the site is low; however, we observed many sites underwater with descriptions that did not describe the ground as low. The rainfall received in the area at the time of our stay was a bit less than usual for this time of year.

Same center section from opposite road.
Looking across sites 77 and 79.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Grand Rapids, Michigan / Breweries

April 2018

I am sharing some growler refill information, and Happy Hour menus I had not been able to find before our most recent visit to Grand Rapids. To see more details about the area and additional establishments, click on one of the labels at the bottom of this post.

Atwater Brewery in GR

Atwater Brewery in GR

Atwater has Happy Hour every day from 3PM - 6M! 😄 The Happy Hour menu above was on the table when we visited. Service was excellent, and the beer was even better (well...both were excellent). Atwater Brewery also carries Ice Box Brand ice cream bars. This is the second brewery I have been to that sells them. Beer and ice cream does not seem like a natural and complimentary combination, to me, although I have not tried it. The ice cream bars look delicious, and I am planning to try one on my next brewery visit. Since I will be visiting Muskegon before I get to Grand Rapids again, I think I will try one with a dark beer at Pigeon Hill in Muskegon.

The Knickerbocker Happy Hour menu

The Knickerbocker New Holland Brewing

One of my favorite dark beers is Dragon's Milk made by New Holland. I think Dragon's Milk Reserve flavors are amazing. My personal favorites are raspberry and cherry. If that is too sweet or fruity for you, try it mixed half-and-half with regular Dragon's Milk--delicious! Cherry was available during our visit; however, it was the only beer not included in Happy Hour pricing. Again, I am sharing the Happy Hour menu from our visit, as I could not find this information online. 

Decal and crowler from Perrin Brewing