Monthly Archives: July 2022

Lodging Review: Fairfield Inns and Suites, Chicago O’Hare

A Quick Trip to the Northern Plains
Lodging Review: Home2 Suites by Hilton Rapid City, SD
Our Visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park
Our Visit to Mount Rushmore and Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Lodging Review: TownePlace Suites, Dickinson, North Dakota
Lodging Review: Fairfield Inns & Suites, Chicago O’Hare

After driving literally all day, we made it back to Chicago and pulled into the Fairfield Inns & Suites Chicago O’Hare about 10 PM. We’d booked a room here anticipating that our Chicago-based friend would drop off my LA-based friend and me so she wouldn’t have to drive us back out to the airport the next day for our flights. But my LA-based friend decided to stay an extra few days visiting another friend so I had the room to myself. Once again we’d use an expiring free night certificate for our room, booking a room with two queen beds. Shortly before we departed on the road trip we called to see if we could switch to a 1 King room but they said the hotel was nearly sold out so they couldn’t make the change. We didn’t ask about it again at check-in as it really didn’t matter at that point.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Chicago O’Hare
photo from marriott.com

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Categories: Fairfield Inn, Hotel, Illinois, Lodging Review, Marriott, North America, United States | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: TownePlace Suites, Dickinson, North Dakota

A Quick Trip to the Northern Plains
Lodging Review: Home2 Suites by Hilton Rapid City, SD
Our Visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park
Our Visit to Mount Rushmore and Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Lodging Review: TownePlace Suites, Dickinson, North Dakota
Lodging Review: Fairfield Inns & Suites, Chicago O’Hare

We drove about 30 minutes east of Theodore Roosevelt National Park to the town of Dickinson, ND where we had booked a room at the TownePlace Suites Dickinson, which is a Marriott property. With pre-paid rates as low as $113 plus tax this was by no means an exceptional value for the free night certificate we used. But the certificate would expire within the next month or so and with no other plans for it the choice to use it instead of letting it go to waste was easy.

The hotel was easy to find, not far off I-94. The colorful exterior of TownePlace Suites makes it stand out and those bright colors are continued inside.

TownePlace Suites Dickinson Exterior

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Categories: Hotel, Lodging Review, Marriott, North America, North Dakota, TownePlace Suites, United States | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Visit to Mount Rushmore and Theodore Roosevelt National Park

A Quick Trip to the Northern Plains
Lodging Review: Home2 Suites by Hilton Rapid City, SD
Our Visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park
Our Visit to Mount Rushmore and Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Lodging Review: TownePlace Suites, Dickinson, North Dakota
Lodging Review: Fairfield Inns & Suites, Chicago O’Hare

After a lunch break in the small town of Custer, which is right outside the Custer State Park, we continued our loop toward Mount Rushmore. By early afternoon the the sky had darkened and the wind had picked up but it wasn’t too cold. But that would change in the 40 minute drive to Mount Rushmore.

The route to Mount Rushmore from Custer is primarily on a two-lane road that goes up and over some of the Black Hills in the region. Though I knew that the presidents’ faces were carved high up on a mountain I just assumed that the only way to view them was to actually enter the National Monument area. It hadn’t occurred to me that there may be other vantage points from which the faces could be seen. Taking the route we did, we happened upon one of those points. There was a small parking lot along with trail indicators. Walking to the end of the short trail there’s actually a very nice view of Mount Rushmore. Again I wished I’d already upgraded my phone just to get better photos!

Mount Rushmore from afar

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Our Visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park

A Quick Trip to the Northern Plains
Lodging Review: Home2 Suites by Hilton Rapid City, SD
Our Visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park
Our Visit to Mount Rushmore and Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Lodging Review: TownePlace Suites, Dickinson, North Dakota
Lodging Review: Fairfield Inns & Suites, Chicago O’Hare

We had one full day in the Rapid City area and we packed it pretty full. Fortunately the summer crush had not yet begun so we didn’t have issues with traffic or overcrowding. That also meant summer weather wasn’t in full effect. There was a wind advisory in effect until 2:30 PM on the day of our visit, something that wasn’t an issue early in the day but became one as the day progressed.

Crazy Horse Memorial

We started the day at the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is the world’s largest mountain carving and was about an hour away from our hotel. In 1939, Henry Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota chief enlisted the help of Korczak Ziolkowski (who had assisted Gutzon Borglum at Mount Rushmore) to begin the process of carving famed Lakota warrior Crazy Horse on his horse into Thunderhead Mountain, land considered sacred to the Lakota. There are no known photographs of Crazy Horse, who resisted having his photo taken. Work began in 1948 and is still underway. Ziolkowski twice turned down multi-million dollar government grants to ensure there was no interference with the vision he and Standing Bear had. The project is funded solely on admission fees, gift shop purchases and private donations.

One of the best views of memorial – without paying extra to take the shuttle down closer – is from the upper parking lot. We were fortunate that even though it was windy, the temperature was warm enough that a light fleece jacket was all that was needed that morning.

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Categories: Attraction Review, Historical Site, North America, South Dakota, Trip Report, United States | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Home2 Suites by Hilton Rapid City, SD

A Quick Trip to the Northern Plains
Lodging Review: Home2 Suites by Hilton Rapid City, SD
Our Visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park
Our Visit to Mount Rushmore and Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Lodging Review: TownePlace Suites, Dickinson, North Dakota
Lodging Review: Fairfield Inns & Suites, Chicago O’Hare

We arrived in the Rapid City, SD area on a sunny, windy afternoon. The temperature was quite pleasant with only a light jacket required. The Home2 Suites is located on the south side of I-94 in an area with four other similar hotels. The Home2 Suites, La Quinta Inns & Suites and Fairfield Inn are all connected to the WaTiki Indoor Waterpark Resort. There’s also a Residence Inn next door so it’s obviously a popular area for tourists like us. To reach the entrance of the Home2 Suites you take the road past the Fairfield Inn, take a side road that runs between the Residence Inn and the La Quinta and drive past the side of the Home2 Suites before turning right towards the main entrance.

Home2 Suites Rapid City Exterior

I’m very familiar with the Home2 Suites brand as I often stay at the one in the Bellevue area of Nashville when I visit my parents so I had a good idea what to expect and by and large the hotel met my expectations. Home2 Suites’ color scheme involves a lot of neon yellow both on the building’s exterior and in the guest rooms. One of my companions found it garish but I must admit it doesn’t really faze me anymore as I’ve become accustomed to it. We were met by a couple of friendly reps at the desk who checked us in quickly and let us know that we wouldn’t receive housekeeping except by request or complimentary after the fourth day. That was fine by us as we were only staying two nights. Continue reading

Categories: Hilton, Home2Suites, Hotel, Lodging Review, North America, South Dakota, United States | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

A Quick Trip to the Northern Plains: Introduction

A Quick Trip to the Northern Plains
Lodging Review: Home2 Suites by Hilton Rapid City, SD
Our Visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park
Our Visit to Mount Rushmore and Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Lodging Review: TownePlace Suites, Dickinson, North Dakota
Lodging Review: Fairfield Inns & Suites, Chicago O’Hare

Due to not taking my usual two-week international vacation in the fall of 2021, I found myself with some extra vacation days to use before my company’s fiscal year ended. My two travel pals and I had not all been together since our trip to New Zealand and Australia in the fall of 2019 so we were all glad to get to be together again. In the past we’d discussed domestic trips we’d like to do but had just never gotten around to so this seemed a good time of year to explore the Dakotas a bit.

Despite doing a road trip around the Southeastern US about a year ago, I’m not a huge fan of road trips. I’d rather fly and get a car. Flights into Rapid City, SD aren’t exactly cheap and my friend from Chicago said she’d be driving anyway, so we decided my LA-based friend and I would fly to Chicago and we’d all spend a little quality time together on the way out and back.

Driving there and back was an all-day affair each way. With a very early morning start we drove from the WSW suburbs of Chicago to Rapid City, SD with a sit-down lunch break and a few gas stops and arrived around 4 PM. On our return, we left Dickinson, ND just after 7 AM and arrived at an O’Hare-area hotel right at 10 PM with only a brief stop to grab-and-go some lunch and a few more gas stops. Rapid City and Dickinson are both on Mountain Time so while we gained an hour going there, we lost an hour coming back.

We save our points to use on vacation so even if this wasn’t the best use of points or certificates we got to stay free which was most important to us. We stayed at a Home2 Suites by Hilton in Rapid City on points, a TownePlace Suites in Dickinson and the Fairfield Inn & Suites O’Hare, both using Marriott free-night certificates that otherwise would have gone unused.

In between we visited the Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Our weather ran the gamut from sunny and pleasant to windy with sleet/snow.

As the whole trip was less than a week and we really only had two days on the ground, it’s a pretty quick trip report.

Categories: Fairfield Inn, Hilton, Historical Site, Home2Suites, Illinois, Marriott, North America, North Dakota, Road Trip, South Dakota, TownePlace Suites, Trip Report, United States | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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