Hyatt Place Park City, UT

Hyatt Place, 4377 N Hwy 224, Park City, UT 84098

This is the one farthest from Park City and closest to Snyderville, but honestly the two cities are just one long city.

View of bed and seating area of our room

Here is the thing about Hyatt Place, it is trendy.  People tend to confuse this with nice and upscale.  At this price range I prefer a classic to trendy.  I don’t like sliding bathroom doors made out of glass.  Glass does not muffle sound and if you are on a romantic vacation there are some sounds you just don’t want to hear.

I will give this hotel one major thumbs up, the breakfast was really good, and better than a typical continental breakfast.  The food tasted real and fresh versus reheated like you get at all of the average hotels.  I didn’t get a picture and I wished I had, but let’s just say I hate breakfast and I actually looked forward to getting up and going to eat at this particular breakfast spread.  It is the level I would expect at a really nice hotel.  The breakfast was probably the best thing about this hotel.

The rooms were temperature controlled which means you cannot open a window for fresh air.  Being located high up, near really fresh air, that was disappointing, but not completely unexpected.  You don’t want guests leaving the windows open in the dead of winter.

The hotel room is expensive because it is a Hyatt and due to the location.  There are a lot of things to do in Park City, especially in the winter so the prices shoot up at that time.

Again, location was a plus.  We needed to go into Salt Lake City and that was a short drive, scary, but short.  We also wanted to go hiking which was everywhere around us.  Park City really is a great location for an outdoor adventure:  hiking, biking, or skiing.

They do have a swimming pool outdoors if you enjoy that.  No one was in it.

Pool at the Hyatt

If you like trendy the Hyatt Place is the hotel for you.  If you like privacy you might want to look at other options.  Again, the breakfast was really good so that might be a determining factor, but the price is high as well.

Minnesota Renaissance Festival

The Minnesota Renaissance Festival is a must see event just southwest of the twin cities.  In the past it has been in Shakopee, MN and it sounds like it will be until 2020.  It is a grand event that lasts for weeks.  Each week has a different theme so choose your weekend wisely.  It is only open Saturday and Sunday during the festival.

Weapons are allowed (no firearms, it is the renaissance, not the old west), but you will need to keep your sword peace-tied.  They need to be able to add a cable tie that will prevent you from unsheathing your sword.  Check out the festival’s FAQ‘s section for more details.

Get your tickets ahead of time to save a little cash.  It is open sun or shine so there is no worries about getting rained out.

Puke and Snot at the MN Renaissance Festival
Ha Ha, these guys

There are great shows, some of them are even family friendly.  Puke and Snot is probably my favorite, super funny show.  If the guy who reads poetry shoos your family away from his show there is a reason for it.  Of course there is the jousting event held three times a day.  If you are lucky you will catch the daily parade.

Jousting arena at MN Renaissance Festival

There are many activities for the children.  You can force your children to dual to the death, or until the balloons pop.  You can make them climb a tower.  We saw a kid make it to the top.  It was impressive.  There are tons of games and henna tattoos and other stuff.

Dual at the MN Renaissance Festival
Climbing the tower at the MN Renaissance Festival

Last, but not least you will want to bring a few dollars for the food (just ok), drink (Mead honey wine is a must), and clothing and other goods.  You can find the clothes you need to dress up for next year at the festival.  There are a lot of trade goods like soap, leathers, trinkets, and swords to name a few.

They always suggest eating a turkey leg.  It seems cool, but it isn’t actually that great in my opinion.  Others love it.  I am all about the Mead honey wine even though it is the one alcohol that pushes me down after just one sip.  Literally I start stumbling and spilling after a single sip.  I don’t know why.

Shopping at the MN Renaissance Festival

The first year I went to this festival with the girl who would become my first roommate in college.  She was really into the festival.  I didn’t get it but I had a lot of fun.  Now it is something I enjoy doing every couple of years.  I like to see all of the outfits people wear and watch the shows.  It is just an all around good time.

Wilderness Bay Resort, Park Rapids, MN

Wilderness Bay Resort, 36701 Wilderness Bay Dr, Park Rapids, MN 56470

We were looking for a place close to Itasca State Park to stay and Jon found Wilderness Bay Resort.  It was fairly easy to find.  It consists of family friendly cabins.  Most visitors are return guests.

The owner that was on staff while we were there has a hard time getting around so you need to give her time to get to you.  We checked in and were handed the keys to our cabin.

Bedroom at Wilderness Bay Resort

It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it was really pretty nice inside.  Ours was a two bedroom (small), with a nice big living room and a convenient kitchen area.  You are expected to clean up after yourself before you leave.  I think I killed over a dozen flies in that place, but they do provide the fly swatter.

Living Room at Wilderness Bay Resort
Kitchen at Wilderness Bay Resort

This resort seems to be about fishing since it is on a lake.  There is a place where you can clean your fish.  They have life jackets and you can rent equipment.  There were some paddle boats available that we almost took for a spin, but then didn’t.

There was enough room between neighbors that we didn’t feel crowded.  it is the type of place my parents would have taken us as kids.

The view from the enclosed porch was nice.  There was a grill and a fire pit available.  The porch even had a table and chairs so you could eat out there if you didn’t want to eat inside.

View of fish house from our porch

It was a very sweet and laid back place to stay.  If you have kids, want to go fishing, or want to stay at a small cabin near Itasca State Park, Wilderness Bay Resort is a good choice.

Super 8, Bemidji, MN

Super 8, 1815 Paul Bunyan Dr NW, Bemidji, MN 56601

We were going to stay at a resort near Bemidji or at a cabin in Lake Bemidji State Park and decided to drive up the night before so that we could get a jump on the vacation.  I am pretty sure it was the resort, Wilderness Bay Resort, and our trip to Lake Itasca State Park.

Either way we arrived at Super 8 in Bemidji and were relieved to find a pretty nice, simple hotel. I remember thinking that it was very clean and the management really cared. The front desk was really friendly.

Our room was on the second floor and down a short hallway. Just up the stairs there was an overlook so that you could see the front desk from above and they had items hanging on the wall. I found the decoration to be very neat, it was hockey themed.

Hockey decor at Super 3 Bemidji, MN

The room was clean and pretty big.  We got a king I think.  The bathroom was very obviously clean.  I remember the room being fairly quiet.  I think we were away from the other guests.

The breakfast was spot on.  It was exactly what you would expect from a continental breakfast in America, but clearly the best parts of that type of breakfast.  I am always so happy when they have waffles.

The breakfast layout at Super 8 Bemidji, MN

We didn’t know where to eat in Bemidji when we arrived, but luckily this hotel was right next to Four Points Bar and Grill.  This place had a delicious and messy burger that I enjoyed.  Unfortunately, it seems that the restaurant didn’t make it as I can no longer find it on Google.

If you need a place to rest your head the Super 8 in Bemidji is a good, and affordable option.

The only negative that I found regarding this hotel is getting out of it.  There are two paths out, and the front staff will try to steer you in the right direction, but one of those paths is a very sharp left, directly into a right hand turn with heavy traffic circulating through it.  You need a quick vehicle with great maneuverability to leave that way.  It wasn’t an issue for us, but I could see some people having a hard time leaving via that route.  There are other options, but it is something to think about.

Overall I recommend the hotel.  That breakfast was pretty good.

Rocky’s Pizza House, Park Rapids, MN

Rocky’s Pizza House, Park Rapids, MN

South of Itasca State Park is the little town of Park Rapids.  There are quite a few places to eat in this town.  Some even require reservations.  Rocky’s Pizza House is this long log cabin like building with pizza.  It was delicious pizza, and not that thick crust that you get in the cities.

This is the kind of pizza that you and a friend order together.  You go over to the vending machine, and choose one of the glass bottle drinks that you won’t find at most places.

Varied drinks at Rocky’s Pizza House

You sit at one of the booths or tables.  Generally families head upstairs, so expect noise if you join them.  The upstairs booths are decorated with license plates and other items and the downstairs booths have a clearly different feel.

Booth upstairs at Rocky’s Pizza House
Booth downstairs at Rocky’s Pizza House

Your pizza arrives and the two of you devour the entire thing, because, yum.  It is cheesy just like a remember pizza as a kid.  The sauce is tasty.  The crust is thin enough that you can have more than a piece or two, but not crispy like a cracker which some thin crust pizza’s become.  It is the perfect pizza.

The pizza at Rocky’s Pizza House; look at that cheese

The upstairs looked like a great environment for the kids, so if you have a family they will enjoy it.  The downstairs is perfect for adults that don’t want to deal with all of that excitement.  I would highly recommend putting this on your list if you are just north visiting Lake Itasca, or anywhere in the neighborhood of Park Rapids, MN.

Lutsen Resort on the Superior, Lutsen, MN

Lutsen Resort on the Superior, Lutsen, MN

We didn’t stay at the Lutsen Resort on our trek near Lake Superior, but we did stop in one evening for a meal.  I believe the resort has changed ownership since then so I do not know what has changed.

The view was great, the service was very good, but the food was odd.  The prices are on the higher side, but not extreme.  I ordered fish because we were on Lake Superior and that seemed appropriate.  I don’t know why, but Minnesotans have some sort of inability to properly cook a fish, so that it tastes good.  It is not just this restaurant.  I have had exactly one good fish the entire time I have lived in Minnesota.  I know it isn’t the fish because we used to vacation in Minnesota when I was a kid, and the fish were delicious.  Jon ordered the Swedish meatballs, again, very odd.  A lot of the other items on the menu look really good.  We may have just made the worst choices on the menu.  The flavors were just odd.

View of the Lounge at Lutsen Resort
Front door of Lutsen Resort
Dinning Hall at Lutsen Resort

After dinner we walked around the resort a bit and took in a sunset.  The views at this resort are amazing.  The placement of the resort is perfect for exploring the north shore.

View of peer on Lutsen Resort

The resort has a great beach right in front of it.  You can take your family down and put your foot into Lake Superior.  I am sure you can sun bathe on the beach during the day.

Beach in front of Lutsen Resort dining hall

Overall, I would say, if you have some money to spend, and want an extremely nice resort, on Lake Superior, that reminds you of days gone by, this is the place.  It feels like it is straight out of the fifties or earlier, when families went on a long vacation, and dressed up to go to dinner.  You play hard all day, and return to your room to get cleaned up, before heading downstairs to an elegant meal.  It really is a great atmosphere and an amazing location and view.

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, Nerstrand, MN

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, Nerstrand, MN

There is a hidden falls.  That is really about all there is to say about Nerstrand Big Woods State Park.  The loops are fairly small near the center.  It is easy to get to the hidden falls.  It is a good starter park.

Hidden falls at Nerstrand

There is a large area for kids to play while you prepare a picnic for the family.  You can then quickly run down and stand in the falls.

If you take some of the other trails you will see a lot of trees and some beautiful flowers.  Lots and lots of pretty flowers.

white and purple flowers

If you want to ease you family into going to a park and you live near this one check it out.  You can work your way up to the longer trails.

Lake Maria State Park, Silver Creek Township, MN

Lake Maria State Park, Silver Creek Township, MN

We booked a cabin at Lake Maria State Park near Monticello, MN.  It is a short drive northwest of the cities.

We parked near the lake and started, what we thought would be, a short walk to our cabin.  Needless to say I miscalculated where we were on the map.  We walked along the lake and directly towards a marsh.  We finally stopped when it looked like the marsh might take us if we went any further.

View of the pond outside of our cabin

Eventually we wound around until we ended up at our cabin.  It was a great spot next to a little pond of it’s own.  There was a light inside that ran on a solar panel just outside of the cabin.  It would run for about half an hour before it turned off on its own.  It was really nice at night.

Outside of the cabin there was a privy off to the side, almost behind the cabin, but close.  It came with a fire pit, a couple of logs to sit on, and a picnic table.  It was perfect.

It turns out our parking space was hundreds of yards instead of over a mile.  We found it when we took a short walk around our pond.  My only other complaint was the wood heat was too much for that little cabin.  That was of course our fault.  We didn’t really need a fire inside at all.  I really liked this cabin setup.

The park was nice.  It is a great place to do some bird watching.  At least one person was there just to catch a glimpse of the larger birds in the area.  I didn’t get a clean shot, but there were some nice looking birds in the area.

This is what I would call a relaxing cabin location and park.

Bemidji Lake State Park, Bemidji, MN

Bemidji Lake State Park, Bemidji, MN

We decided to stay a night at a cabin in Bemidji Lake State Park.  As a child my parents would occasionally take the long drive up to Lake Bemidji for our family vacation and the chance to fish.

The park is on the northeast side of the lake.  The WiFi was surprisingly strong in the park.  It is always so hard to find good WiFi inside a park.

Inside of the Bemidji State Park cabin

The cabin was very cute.  It held four beds, a table, and bench seats.  It was warm enough that we didn’t need to use the heater which looks like it was baseboard.  The bunk bed were low enough that we ended up sleeping on the top bunks in order to avoid hitting our heads.

The trail was mere steps from our cabin.  The crown jewel of this particular park is the bog walk.  It is definitely worth checking out all of the plants.  We found a carnivorous plant on our walk.

There are a lot of pretty flowers in this park.  Try to spot all of them.  If you get tired of this park you are just a short drive over to Lake Itasca State Park.  You could even go fishing.  I hear it is kind of fun.

Banning State Park, Sandstone, MN

Banning State Park, Sandstone, MN

On our way back to the cities from the Soudan Mine we decided to stop at Banning State Park and it was not a disappointment.  This park used to be a quarry along the Kettle River.

The high path is the nature path

There is a high trail and a lower trail.  The lower one is where all of the action is along the river.  If you don’t think you will walk all the way to the waterfall than take the lower path.  If you want to see as much of the park and as many of the paths as possible, take the higher path.  We of course, to the higher path down to the waterfall and the lower path on the way back.

Waterfall at the end of the path

This waterfall is interesting as it isn’t very tall.  The water behind it is very shallow.  When we arrived there was a family playing in the stream that leads to the fall.

Kettle River

It took me a while to figure this out, but this river runs brown, and reminds me of root beer.  The reason for this is the iron that is coloring the water.

I didn’t capture the cutting in the rock walls that surround the lake, but if you go you can see where they placed the explosives.  The quarry sliced away at the rock and left it scared, but beautiful at the same time.

Take the journey along the river and read the historical information along the way.  I liked this park with its waterfall and the nice stroll along the river.  The high path is a take it or leave it path.