Ramkota Hotel ~ Pierre, South Dakota

For Spring Pastor’s Conference, all the pastor’s in our district met in Pierre, SD. They had set aside a block of rooms at the Ramkota, so we decided to take advantage of the group price and stay there. As we neared the date of conference, I began second guessing this as reviews on TripAdvisor were less than flattering. While our stay wasn’t horrible, it was filled with odd and interesting moments that would make me think twice before staying here again.

The whole hotel is basically sprawled out on one or two levels, depending on where you are in the hotel. It took us awhile to check in as they kept taking other phone calls during our check in process. Then they were “nice” and gave us a room in the back that opened to the outside, even though we already had our hands loaded down with all the luggage we had brought in. So we carried our luggage back to the car, moved our car to the back, and attempted to enter the outside door…..no luck. Turns out the room has both an inner and outer door and could only initially be opened from the inside door as the outer door was dead bolted. We just wound up leaving it that way.


The room was quite spacious upon entering, but oddly set up. As you can see the outer door was straight in front of us with a chair nearly blocking the walkway from one door to the other. There was a closet directly to our right upon entering (shown below) with a fridge/counter area next to it and the sink just a little further ahead that also had a small hall leading to another room that contained the toilet and tub/shower and another mystery door….more on that later.


The bathroom was small and cramped and you basically had to be standing in the shower to get the door to close. When the shower was on, we also would have a mysterious dripping come from the ceiling, which didn’t make much sense.


I mentioned another mystery door. At first thought I figured maybe it led to the next room as some hotels offer that kind of set up, but as I tested the knob and it opened to…..a giant closet! Not sure why on earth you would need this much space unless you were staying for longer than a week, but in my opinion Pierre is not a place you’d spend that much time!


The actual bedroom area contained what they claimed to be a queen bed, but which I deemed a full and quite possibly the most uncomfortable bed I’ve ever slept in! There also were two nightstands, a desk, a recliner and TV stand. We did have to awkwardly angle the TV if we wanted to watch it from either the bed or chair though.

The one plus side to the room setup, was that similar to our Hampton stay in Bloomington, the bed was against the sink/closet wall so that you didn’t have as much sound from the next room as you tried to sleep. The downside of this room was that the outer door really messed with temperature control in the room.

Our first night there, a group of people were having a kid’s birthday party in the pool area (and the adults seemed to be heavily taking in the alcohol) so we avoided the area. I decided to check it out during the afternoon the following day when Andrew was in meetings. The pool area was quite large and the hot tub allowed you to set it for up to half an hour on the timer, something you don’t find at a lot of hotels. However, about ten minutes into my hot tub relaxation time, 9 kids showed up, so my relaxation time was short lived.

On top of all the issues we had with weird room issues, after hanging out at the pool, I had a long fight with my room key to get back in. It took me about ten tries, but I finally made it in. Following that debacle, I also went to check out the vending machines and couldn’t get back in that time at all, having to go down to the front desk to have it fixed, only to have them blame me for putting it next to my phone, even though I never put my hotel keys near my phone as I’ve had that issue before.

I know I’m not the only one who had issues with their keys and room as after I checked out the following morning, I was still hanging out in the lobby waiting for the morning sessions to get over and go to lunch, and three people came with three different complaints. One was that their room had no hot water, one was that a toilet broke, and another had issues with her key, the same issue I had the day before! Needless to say, I would not recommend this hotel to anyone! They need to fix a lot of issues before I’d stay again!

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Hampton Inn Minneapolis Bloomington West~ Bloomington, Minnesota

Finding a hotel in the Twin Cities area can be a bit overwhelming. Do you want to stay in the heart of one of the cities and be able to walk around the downtown? Do you want to stay in the suburbs and drive from place to place or find public transportation? If you are visiting multiple sites around the city, which of these would you like your hotel to be closest to? Decisions, decisions, decisions. For our trip we were on a somewhat tighter budget, so we didn’t want all of our money to go to waste on lodging, as many of the attractions we were going to visit cost money. That pretty much vetoed out any hotels located directly downtown as they always cost a bit more, plus have an additional cost of parking your vehicle. If you’ve been following out blog, you’ll know that I recently became a huge fan of the Hilton brand, which while on the slightly pricier side than the Wyndham hotels we previously stayed at, offer a nicer breakfast and usually much quieter hotel stays. That found me looking at Hilton brand hotels near the Mall of America. While there were a few closer to the Mall of America than where we wound up staying, our hotel was actually a newer build and located near a business park, which made for a much quieter stay.

Check in was a breeze and we even got to opt into a program where we could earn more points if we were staying two nights or longer and opted to not have housekeeping come clean our room. I haven’t checked to see if they actually panned out, since a few times we’d be gone for the day and realized they did still come make our bed or provide new towels, but I digress.

Our room was located on the third floor, so we took the elevators up and then realized we were located at the far end of the hall, so the stairs may have been the easier way to go. The bathroom was directly to our right upon entering and unlike many rooms contained just a shower rather than tub/shower combo. I’m not sure if all they rooms are this way, or just some in particular. What we did enjoy was that what look like drawer pull outs, actually gave you extended counter space on which you could place other bathroom necessities as you prepped for the day.

Our King Bed was actually against the bathroom wall and faced the window, with a small desk are to the right of the bed and the TV stand/microwave/fridge unit to the left. We’ve had a few hotel rooms now set up this way, and actually really like it as you bed isn’t sharing a wall with the neighboring rooms bed, hence cutting down on neighbor noise.


This Hampton had a huge breakfast area. The serving area was in a “room” of it’s own that opened into their larger dining/lobby space. Despite all the tables they had, nearly every morning most tables were full. Luckily with just two of us, we usually were able to find a few free seats at which to eat. Every morning they always had a few hot options, waffles, fruit, assorted breads, cereal, and coffee. Sometimes they would list the hot options on a small chalkboard in the lobby.


Since we were there for three nights, we had ample time to check out the amenities the hotel had to offer. We did not actually use the exercise room, but made sure to check it out for this post. As you can see, it was larger for a hotel exercise room and had plenty of different machines and equipment available for use, as well as I nice water dispenser and shelf for towels.

The pool area was also very nice with lots of lounge chairs, a large swimming pool (that was a bit cool in my opinion,) and a standard sized hot tub. We found that the pool area could get a bit rowdy in the evenings, not just with kids, but with adults who would choose to bring some select beverages with them, despite the rule board saying not to. Thus we found we limited our pool time to the afternoon, as that’s when many families were out exploring the Mall or had checked out/not yet checked in for the day.

This Hampton also offers a free shuttle that can take you to the airport or to the Mall of America. The Mall of America has a light rail station located nearby should you want to take that into the cities. A friend advised us not to go that route, because while the light rail seems inexpensive compared to parking your vehicle downtown, it sucks up a lot of time that you could be out exploring the town. There are plenty of restaurants located just a short distance away (especially if you shuttle back to the Mall,) and also a nice lakefront recreation area that we decided to take a stroll along our final night there. I highly recommend checking out this hotel if you will be in the area for more than one night and know you may be spending a decent part of your time wanting to just relax!

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Hampton Inn Sioux Falls ~ Sioux Falls, South Dakota

While in Sioux Falls for a pastor meet and greet conference, we opted to stay at the Hampton Inn on Carolyn Avenue. This seemed to be in a newer development in the area and was just the perfect location! It was near several restaurants, the movie theater, lots of strip mall shops, a gas station, Walmart, and the Empire Mall was located just down the street. It also was very easy to head north on Louise to hook up with the interstate in a seamless transition.

I used to stay in Hamptons all the time with my family growing up, but this is the first time Andrew and I stayed in one. We finally have a nicer hotel budget now that he’s out of school! I can say after one stay that we are seriously hooked on the Hampton/Hilton brand! Everything about our stay was amazing!

The clerk who checked us in welcomed us warmly and was very friendly and helpful. He thanked us for signing up for their rewards program and even gave us each a complimentary bottle of water for doing so. He let us know that the pool was open all day for adults (and said it was a salt water pool) and also gave us the details on when breakfast would be available.

Our room was located on the third floor, so we went over to the elevator to head on up!


We had reserved a King bedroom and as you can see it was very spacious. There was a built in desk on the far wall with a closet right next to it. The fridge and microwave were included in the TV stand.


The bathroom was just to the right of the entrance and was one of the larger hotel bathrooms I’ve experienced in my travels. The wallpaper was a little frilly for my liking, but that’s a minor complaint when it comes to hotel bathrooms!

One other huge plus of the room was the outlets located on the nightstands. I love hotels that provide this many options as, like it or not, we live in a world of chargers these days. Shortly after arriving in our room, the front desk also called up to see how things were in our room, which is always a nice gesture.

While I didn’t get any pictures, we did enjoy the pool both nights we spent there. Well, the pool was actually a little on the cool side, but we still enjoyed the hot tub.

The breakfast area was also nice and spacious. One room had counters with all the food options, including a hot meat option each morning and some kind of eggs. They also had waffles, cereal, fruit, and an assortment of breads/bagels/muffins.

We hadn’t thought we’d find somewhere in Sioux Falls that we loved as much as the La Quinta, but the Hampton has now taken it’s place as the number one place I would choose to stay in Sioux Falls. The location can’t be beat, the service was incredible, and the hotel was extremely quiet, even with the interstate right outside our window. We will most definitely be back when in the area in the future!

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Holiday Inn Rapid City – Rushmore Plaza ~ Rapid City, South Dakota

As I’ve mentioned in a few of my earlier posts, during pastors conference in Rapid City, we had the opportunity to stay at the Holiday Inn-Rushmore Plaza. We got in on a great group rate for the conference seeing as how their conference was held within the hotel.

Check in was super easy and the lobby was spacious. The lobby then opened up to a main atrium area that featured fountains, as well as a restaurant off to the left. They had two glass elevators to get you to where you needed to be.

Our room was located on the 7th floor, so we always got a nice view of the main floor area on our way up or down.


Our room on the 7th floor was a great location as we had a corner king suite. This prevented a lot of noise you normally would have at hotels from being heard as we we at the end of a hall, plus the hall noise had to travel through the living room are first before making it’s way back to the bedroom. The living room space featured a couch, TV, desk, and wet bar area, complete with a mini fridge and microwave.

Next you passed through a small hall area which had the bathroom off to the right and closet area to the left. It was nice to also have the extra counter space next to the closet where the coffee maker was located.

The bedroom area consisted of the king bed, chair, and TV.

We never tried out the in house restaurant, but I heard from others that the food was quite good. We did spend two nights in the pool area. The pool was often occupied by kids, so we didn’t really utilize that but it was nice and big. It was also nice to have two hot tubs, as it is quite a large hotel and lots of adults love to use them! Even when the pool area was busy, it was spacious enough to not seem crazy!

We really enjoyed our time at the Holiday Inn in Rapid City and hope that it will be the main hub for future pastors conferences in the area (although we’ve already been informed the space wasn’t available to this coming fall!) But hopefully we will have many other wonderful stays here seeing as how it’s also just a short walk through Memorial Park to downtown Rapid City.

La Quinta Inn and Suites ~ Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Back towards the end of August, Andrew and I attended our District Orientation meeting down in Sioux Falls. Our district reserved a block of rooms at the La Quinta as it was near district office. It was easy to access being right off the interstate and was located a one of the major roads going through Sioux Falls so plenty of restaurants and the mall were located nearby.

Our check in process was simple and we were given our keys to our room on the second floor. We were located at the far end of the hall, which made for easy access to the stairs to allow us to get some steps in for the day! They do have an elevator, but we used it as a way to be more active after sitting in meetings.


Our room was quite spacious with the bathroom immediately to the left and a small closet just behind that. The bathroom itself was one of the bigger hotel bathrooms I’ve seen.

We had a king size bed and a nice sized TV to enjoy during some down time in the evenings.

We absolutely loved the pool area, as the pool was a comfortable temp and the hot tub was reasonably sized. Both times we went to the pool we nearly had the whole place to ourselves. One time we were joined by another man in the hot tub, but otherwise the place was ours!

La Quinta also provided an exercise room that we checked out for photo and review purposes, but didn’t actually use. It was quite large compared to many other fitness centers I’ve seen in other hotels and also had a nice variety of equipment available.

I really enjoyed our breakfast selection as well, but sadly didn’t get any pictures of that. If hotel breakfast isn’t your cup of tea, a Perkins is located just next door.

We enjoyed our stay and would definitely stay again, especially if traveling with our dogs as the hotel is pet friendly for big and small dogs alike.

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Days Inn ~ Sioux City, Iowa

We experienced our first hotel stay with our dogs when we moved from St. Louis to Groton. Without dogs (and with stops) driving non-stop takes about 14 hours and that just seemed crazy knowing we’d have both dogs and one of us driving a U-Haul, so we decided to make Sioux City our pit stop for the night.

Lots of things played into how we picked our hotel for that night. The first is that we are Wyndham Rewards members, so we wanted to find something in their chain of hotels. The second was that we needed somewhere that would allow two larger dogs in a room for a night. Most of the Wyndham properties in Sioux City limited it to a combined weight of 30 lbs. The Days Inn had nothing listed weight wise, and when I called and explained our situation they completely understood and told me “sometimes small dogs make even bigger messes than big dogs anyways.” The third thing we needed to make sure of was that they had room for a U-haul in the lot, which they assured me they did.

Upon arriving at the hotel around dinner time, I went into the lobby to check us in. As I waited my turn behind a few other construction workers, I grew slightly concerned as the front desk had a sign listing the 30 lb rule. Not sure if this is something they chose to list after I had booked our room, or if they always have the sign displayed, but don’t necessarily follow it. Either way they didn’t question me on the size of the dogs, just gave me the price of my room with the two dogs added in.

Our room was upstairs, but at least right off the stairwell, so it made it easy to bring the dogs in the side door and get right up to our room. I wasn’t sure how they would be with all the noises hotels may have, but as you can see below, they settled in just fine.

The great thing about this Days Inn’s location is it is near several gas stations, which allowed Andrew to take both my car and the U-haul to fill up so it was ready for morning. It also has several fast food joints located nearby so Andrew also brought us both back some Culver’s to the room so we didn’t need to worry about leaving the dogs alone. A Taco Bell was right in our backyard and a Burger King was also attached to a gas station nearby if you were looking for other options.

If you are staying in the area for a longer time (or without dogs to keep track of), they also had a nice pool area right off the lobby, along with a breakfast nook. I can’t remember if we ate their breakfast or not, or if we just grabbed something to bring up to our room and that’s why I’m not remembering. The nice thing was that given it’s proximity to another restaurant, there also was a nice grassy patch in between the hotel lot and theirs for the dogs to relieve themselves.

If you are looking for a cheaper place to stay in Sioux City, I do recommend the Days Inn. It was easy to access and had all the comforts you need for a short stay.


Super 8 Ashland~ Ashland, Wisconsin

Our last night of our North Shore adventure brought us to the Super 8 in Ashland, WI. This Super 8 was one of the nicer looking Super 8’s I had been to in awhile, which was nice given it was a bit more expensive than others given it’s in a more touristy area given it’s proximity to Lake Superior.

The hotel itself was 2 stories and had a nice large pool area that we enjoyed. You had to get towels at the front desk if you wanted to use the pool, but seeing as how the pool is right off that main lobby that wasn’t really an issue. Somehow I failed to get pictures of the pool area, even though we had the pool to ourselves the night we were there.

The Super 8 also provided breakfast with your stay, but we still had leftover breakfast from our time spent at Cascade Lodge in Minnesota, so we didn’t end up checking the breakfast out.

Our room itself was on the first floor, not far from a side door that we could use to bring our suitcases in, and just down the hall from the guest laundry area. The room had clearly been recently remodeled and had fun art on the walls.


As you can see, Andrew really enjoyed the lounge chair they had in our room.


Across from our bed was a TV stand with a large TV as well as the fridge and microwave located down below.


The bathroom was just to the right when you came in the door and a small closet was just outside the bathroom.


The bathroom was spacious enough, but as seems to be our trend with Super 8’s, it had horrible water pressure in the shower. That was the only downside though.

Most times, I’m sure it would be pleasant to take a stroll outside the hotel along the lake, but seeing as how the area had recently experienced flooding, the lake was rather brown, and the weather was quite cool so we opted to just stay in after dinner and take a swim.

Overall we were pleased with our stay at the Super 8, but wish they had much better water pressure for their showers!

Super 8 ~ Superior, Wisconsin

As a last hurrah before Andrew and I moved to South Dakota for him to begin ministry at his first churches, we took a week long trip to Minnesota’s North Shore. Our first day of the trip brought us from my hometown of Wisconsin Rapids to Superior, Wisconsin for the night. We rolled into town around 7pm.

The Super 8 is a simple 2 story hotel. I don’t recall if it had an elevator, but most Super 8’s we’ve stayed in haven’t, so I’m guessing this one didn’t either. The check in process was quite simple. The lobby area was small and had a small breakfast dining area just off the lobby. One cool thing was that they had a giant light up attraction map on the wall of the lobby so you could see points of interest nearby. This map is actually what brought the Wisconsin Point Lighthouse to my attention for us to visit the following morning.

Our room was a simple hotel room that also had a small fridge and microwave. The bathroom was directly to the left when we walked in.


One downfall was that the pressure for the shower in the bathroom was incredibly low.


We did enjoy the perks of having a nice comfy chair to sit in if we didn’t want to just sit in the bed to watch TV.

Overall we had a peaceful stay, probably because it was a Sunday night when most people would be headed home and done with travels, and also because we were on the far end of the 2nd floor.

I will say that the price seemed incredibly high for the quality of the room and hotel in general. We did not eat breakfast on site, so I can’t be a judge on that factor. I have a feeling most hotels in the area will be just as much, if not more expensive, just given the proximity to Lake Superior. It made for a nice stay the one night we needed it.

Holiday Inn Express and Suites~ Coralville, Iowa

Normally when staying at hotels, Andrew and I tend to lean toward Wyndham properties. We are members of their rewards program and they are usually the most cost effective for our budget, even if they aren’t always the “nicest” hotels on the block. However, over Memorial Weekend, since we were back preaching for our vicarage church, the church put us up in the Holiday Inn Express, and I’ve got to say, our experience has me seriously considering them the next time we need a hotel stay, because the perks just might be worth the extra money for the night.

Church had already picked up the hotel keys for us, so we didn’t have to deal with the check in process, so I have no opinion on how well that process works. When we first made it to our room I was immediately impressed with how spacious it was.


The bathroom was located directly to the left before you reached the closet in the above picture.

Andrew really appreciated the height on the shower head, since many hotels have shorter shower heads installed and it makes it tricky for a taller guy like him to shower comfortably.

After walking past the closet, there is a nice seating area with a couch with large ottoman and a small table for two. This table would come in handy if you were staying there for awhile and wanted to take advantage of the next feature…

…the kitchenette! As you can see the cupboards were well stocked with a nice assortment of dishes, and they even provided a small bottle of dish soap to rinse the dishes after use. We made use of the fridge as we had leftovers from our Satay Platters at Blackstones.

Beyond the living area was the King bed and a nice area to place our suitcases. There also was a desk and large TV.

We were on one of the upper levels so we had a nice view out our window of the parking lot and hotel next door. This hotel is also located right by the mall, so if shopping is your thing, this is a great place to be! Plus there are lots of great chain restaurants nearby, but personally I suggest heading into downtown Iowa City for some good local restaurants.


The final awesome aspect about this room was that the temperature was controlled by a wall thermostat instead of just trying to control it on an AC wall unit.


I don’t have any pictures of the area as it was quite busy with it being Memorial Weekend, but the breakfast was also super good for a hotel breakfast. They had a great selection of eggs, a breakfast meat, biscuits and gravy, several cereals and fruits, and even a pancake machine. They also had an indoor pool, but again, due to several families utilizing the hotel, we did not use it ourselves.

We had a great stay and would gladly stay again and look forward to staying at Holiday Inns in the future!

Wingate by Wyndham St. Charles ~ St. Charles, Missouri

After over a year of hotel stays, we finally had earned enough points to have a free hotel night through Wyndham. The one nice thing about Wyndham is you need the same amount of points saved for any room in their system. This isn’t super exciting if you are looking to stay in an area that is very low budget as is, but can be a huge perk if you are planning a trip to downtown Chicago and can get a room worth a couple hundred a night for free. That had been our first plan to use our points on, but sadly Chicago just wasn’t in the cards for travel plans for the near future.

Because Andrew and I wanted a date weekend without our dogs in St. Louis, we opted to find the “highest quality” Wyndham hotel in the area and use our points for that. The best one I could find was the Wingate in St. Charles. I say in St. Charles loosely because it’s no where near downtown St. Charles and actually much closer to nearby Weldon Springs.

Several people on Trip Advisor complained about the hotel because it’s on the edge of a research/industrial park and therefore isn’t within walking distance to any restaurants or shops. Since we were just wanting a quiet night away on our own, this didn’t bother us at all.

When we arrived in the early evening, we were asked if we were with either the wedding or the anniversary party…our answer…neither. There were two small buses parked out front that were shuttling people to either of those parties. Once those groups left, it was pretty quiet in the hotel, but we opted to avoid the pool area anyways in case it was taken over by one of the groups later on. They also have an outdoor pool, but it was a very cool day in April so the pool wasn’t open yet.  Off to the side of the check in desk there was also a small pantry store area, as well as an office use area, with the breakfast area straight ahead off of the lobby.

Our room was on the first floor just a few doors down from the pool and office areas. This meant we were subject to quite a bit of foot traffic down our hall as people came and went from the pool area.

When you walked into our room the bathroom was to the left and a spacious closet that contained a safe and ironing board was on the right.

We also had a small fridge/mircrowave and coffee maker counter top area on the right had side.

Our bed was straight ahead and to the right.

The TV was nice and big and the additional comfy chair was an added bonus to the room. There also was a desk directly across from the chair.


The room was very spacious and I could see this as being a great place to stay for a longer vacation. There was access to a walking path quite near to the hotel that hooks into a lot of other trail systems around the area. It also was a pretty short drive to Weldon Springs where there were several dining options to choose from; we opted for Cracker Barrel that night.

Breakfast the next morning had a nice spread, but was quite busy due to the other groups that were utilizing the hotel. Overall though, we had a wonderful and comfortable stay. I’d love to revisit sometime when the weather is warmer and utilize their outdoor seating area in the back!