Thursday, February 16, 2012
Romance In The Middle Of Nowhere (Or Close Enough) Comfort Suites Lakeside Impresses Me!
The Good: Good location (great in summer!), Decent sized room, Amenities, Cleanliness, Service from staff
The Bad: Expensive
The Basics: With friendly staff, large, clean rooms and a breakfast that is impressive, the Comfort Suites Lakeside is the only option for travelers who like comfort when in Houghton Lake, Michigan!
There is something extraordinary about the relationship between setting and the development of romance. Truth be told, until this past weekend, I don't think I had ever considered Michigan a place of romance. As I was planning a trip to visit someone special in Michigan, however, I was surprised to learn about Higgins Lake. Higgins Lake, I was told, is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, voted such by the people who make such determinations. In the summer, it is apparently a great source of local pride and a tourist destination. Yes, the only thing I think I would have thought less likely for someone from New York than romance in Northern Michigan was considering northern Michigan a tourist destination! But Higgins Lake is. And when staying near Higgins Lake, there is the local hotspot nearby, Houghton Lake. For Houghton Lake or someplace to stay when visiting Higgins Lake, it is hard to imagine a better place than the Comfort Suites Lakeside.
In winter, the Comfort Suites Lakeside is an oasis smack in the middle of a frozen wasteland. I arrived to blowing winds and treacherous roads to the four story building set right on the ice-covered lake. But in the morning when the sun began to come up over the lake, even in winter, it was a beautiful sight. But, truth be told, I didn't need the scenery outside the hotel to sell me on it; the Comfort Suites Lakeside was a pretty magnificent hotel inside!
The Comfort Suites Lakeside, MI236 in the Choice Hotels numbering system, is located at 100 Clearview Drive, Houghton Lake, Michigan. This beautiful white stone building is set right upon Houghton Lake and the only way to get into it (Clearview Drive appears to essentially be its driveway) is via Old 27, a local route that is the major artery on the one side of Houghton Lake. Old 27 is easily accessible from Interstate 75 and US127, with directions being accurately relayed from Mapquest.com using the hotel's address.
The Comfort Suites Lakeside has only one entrance, from Clearview Drive off Old 27 and an expansive parking lot. The parking lot can easily hold one hundred trucks and was quite well-plowed in the winter. The Comfort Suites Lakeside in Houghton Lake is easily the biggest building for miles and was the classiest hotel I saw for quite a distance. There are no grounds to speak of coming into the hotel, but out back there was a lawn that led down to the waterfront.
There is a local restaurant adjacent to the hotel that can be accessed from the lobby, but that was closed while I was there. Given that there were only five cars in the parking lot, it is hard to blame them for shuttering the restaurant in the off season.
Upon entering the hotel, I was blown away by the size and style of the building. Inside the Comfort Suites Lakeside is a modern, brightly-lit setting that is far warmer than the outside. There were holiday decorations above the door and I seem to recall a Christmas tree in the lobby. That obscured the view right into the meeting room and breakfast room. However, going around it revealed a giant television over a fireplace that had a roaring fire that was much more than just a symbol of the hotel's hospitality!
The hotel staff immediately greets guests and every member of the staff that I interacted with was friendly, kind and knowledgeable about the area. In fact, when I was checking in, the staff was remarkably friendly. I believe the desk clerk was Heather and given the abandoned nature of the hotel, she enthusiastically gave me a room upgrade when I asked (I am a member of the Choice Hotels loyalty program). Moreover, she seemed informed and eager to meet my every need and having stayed at a lot of hotels over the years, I have to say that such eager and friendly service is rare and greatly appreciated.
As for the room itself, this was a fairly substantial sized room for a location intended just for sleeping in! Measuring thirty-three feet deep by thirteen and a quarter feet wide, the room included a king-sized bed, two person hot tub, bathroom with shower and bathtub and other furniture. In fact, when I walked in, I needed to take a few minutes to find where the closet was, thinking initially that I had gotten a room without one. This hotel cleverly utilizes a floor-length mirror near the hot tub as a door to the coat closet! This was one of the largest rooms I have ever stayed in and it was warm, inviting and more than adequate for my partner and I.
From the first moment I opened the door to the room at the Comfort Suites Lakeside in Houghton Lake, I had an excellent feeling about it. The entire hotel is now nonsmoking entirely. The nonsmoking room smelled . . . like nothing. There was no evidence or trace of scent that would have indicated it had ever had a cigarette smoked in it. Instead, the entire hotel smelled good. In fact, the hotel included an arcade which also did not smell at all of beer or cigarettes. Much to the dismay of my companion, we were unable to get into the pool (we arrived too late for that), but given how clean every surface in the hotel and lobby was, I cannot imagine it was anything but immaculately clean.
Every time I enter a new hotel room, I flush the toilet (past experience has proven this is an excellent thing to check out right away!) and this Comfort Suites easily passed the first flush test with no difficulties. The shower, hot tub and toilet were all clean, as were all of the linens. None of the towels had spots, nor did the sheets or the comforters.
The wallpaper in the room was tasteful and none of the wallpaper or paint was peeling. This was an exceptionally clean hotel. I swear, even the glass on the generic artwork on the walls looked like it had been recently cleaned with glass cleaner.
The common areas were all clean and well-maintained. I cannot speak to the cleanliness of the grounds, as they were entirely covered over in snow during my visit, but the parking lot was well maintained and plowed. The breakfast area was clean as well. The entire atmosphere was warm, inviting and sterile in the physical (not connotative) way.
The Comfort Suites Lakeside has a pretty decent package working for it for a hotel in the Choice Hotel system. In every room there were the standard coffee packets, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion, along with an air conditioning unit. There were also two tea bags with the coffee as well, which I am finding now as some of the nicer hotels in the system! At this location, there were also heating controls in the room and this was especially nice in winter to be able to crank the room up to a temperature that was warm enough to feel completely cozy.
The room I had had a two-person hot tub and I would be remiss if I did not mention this. First, it was extraordinary and easily could have fit three people (for all of those swingers in Michigan). Second, it had very easy-to-use controls on the wall. Simply pressing a button for two, five, ten or fifteen minutes activated the jets and that was a nice touch. My companion promised to rate this review less helpful if I didn't mention the lone fault of the hot tub, which was that there was a button in the tub which did nothing; it did not cancel the commands or start the jets (sigh; the things we do for love!). In my view, the hot tub was exceptional.
The free continental breakfast at this Comfort Suites was one of the more impressive
I have had from as Choice hotel. Everything seemed fresh, which is always a nice touch. There were two types of cold cereal, milk, cranberry and orange juice from a machine. There were English muffins (no bagels), coffee cake, white bread for toast and blueberry muffins. There was, as well, the trademark waffle maker, and fresh batter and a lot of syrup. As well, the hotel had hot scrambled eggs and sausage biscuits and gravy. As well, there were two types of yogurt and fresh oranges, apples and bananas, in the middle of winter!
My partner informed me that the indoor pool was impressive, but we did not stop down there (the hot tub turned out to be adequate for our water needs this trip!). There is also a free high speed internet terminal in a business center right off the lobby which guests are able to freely use at all hours of the day or night.
The television has approximately sixty cable television stations and the television was sizable. Our room had a microwave and refrigerator freezer, both of which worked well. I recall there being a desk as well, but I did not use that. This room, in the off season as it is now, would regularly have cost $149.99. According to the door, the maximum price of the same room in the summer was up to $299! That might seem stifling for most travelers and honestly, it seemed pricey to me, but I'm told it truly is a tourist trap in the summer, so one supposes it's worth it then. Truth be told, if one is in this area of Michigan, it does seem to be the best place there is and as a traveler, it was impressive in its own right.
The breakfast dining room is also used as a public meeting space (one of the nights I was at the hotel, there was a meeting going on) and that seems to be an added benefit of this location.
Easily one of the best in the chain, the Comfort Suites Lakeside in Houghton Lake was a pleasant surprise and its expense is offset by the helpfulness of the staff who were consistently eager, friendly and available. I am sure I will return to this hotel and anyone else used to nice hotels will want to choose this one if they are considering a stay in this portion of Michigan.
For other hotels in the Choice Hotels chain, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Comfort Inn Independence - Independence, OH
Comfort Inn Airport - Las Vegas, NV
Quality Inn Meadowlands - Lyndhurst, NJ
For other travel reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.