Traveling Around - Kewadin Casinos of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
When we began thinking about a casino trip, we disliked the idea of driving for two days, spending one night on the road, then having four nights in a hotel casino in Tunica, MS. Much, much closer were the casinos of Michigan.
There are five casinos associated with the Kewadin Indian Tribe. They are in Christmas, MI; Hessel, MI; Manistique, MI; St. Ignace, MI; and Sault Sainte Marie, MI.
We'd been to the casinos of the Upper Peninsula before. Once was on a party bus that took us on an overnight and to several casinos including four of the five Kewadin Casinos. Easily the nicest at that time and where we spent one night was the Kewadin Casino in Sault Sainte Marie.
When we decided the UP was for us, I called an made the reservation in Sault Sainte Marie for two nights. I tried to fit the two nights in to fit some daily food specials in the restaurant. It was a shock to my system having to pay for a room at a casino hotel but I bit the bullet and thought "maybe next time, they'll offer me something".
We live in central Michigan and left home around 10 AM. We made one stop for restrooms and a snack and got to the hotel about 2 PM. It is just over 200 miles and was expressway the whole trip. Some road construction in the city of Sault Sainte Marie was a little confusing but we didn't lose a significant amount of time.
Check in at the hotel was easy and straightforward. We were met at the door by a smiling Maurice that welcomed us. He seemed to be at the door whenever we returned to the hotel and was always vivacious and friendly. A very nice touch.
I should have asked at the desk to be located as close to the elevator was available but didn't and so our room was at the far end of a long hallway. As each day wore on, I regretted that oversight even more and more.
Room was super nice and fun to relax in for a few moments before we went exploring.
Looking out our window, it seemed like the casino was located just outside our door but down three floors but I had to make my way back to the elevator and then along a hallway that passed under our room. We approached the casino area by going down a passageway that went by the showroom and several small shops along the way.
In the center of the hallway just before the main casino area is a small glassed in area that features perhaps 30 slot machines. Next to that is Dream Catchers Restaurant. It is a large (260 seats) restaurant that is bright and shiny. It features a buffet but does have an extensive menu of specific items 24 hours a day.
After going past the restaurant in the same hallway is the Player's Club where a patron can join the Northern Rewards Club - a player's card club that encompasses all five Kewadin Casinos.
The main casino is split into two pieces - on the right and on the left as you proceed into the hallway. The left is all slot and video poker machines while the right contains that same type of machine plus table games that include Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, and most of the specialty games that you find in current casinos. Most times when we were in that area, it appeared that limits began at $5 although there was at least one higher level table open.
A big reason I wanted to come to this casino was that I remembered a multi-player blackjack machine that I'd enjoyed. And, while that blackjack machine was no longer around, there was a brand spanking new one on site. Problem was that it had little "out of order" signs on the playing surface.
I filed away the location of the machine and kept exploring.
Both of the split casinos have soft drink and coffee stations. They also have a bar where you can buy your favorite beverage and play games in the bar top. We got ourselves a coffee and kept wandering around.
In both of these casino areas there were video poker machines. None of the pay scales were attractive. Some were pretty horrible. But we did find a bank of machines in the area without table games that looked like they might be fun.
However, we had previous dinner plans so passed on playing at that time.
Dinner Time In Brimley
Bay Mills Casino in Brimley had sent me a free play offering of $15. We wanted to go there and eat one meal in particular that we liked that was $16. I figured with any luck, the casino would wind up almost buying dinner for us. So, after a momentary room stop we were off to Brimley.
It's a pleasant and scenic 15 minute drive to Bay Mills from our home base. We went in and straightened out our player's cards and turned our free play from $15 into $12 on a Quick Quads machine while sipping on a glass of Moscato. Drinks are complimentary to players at Bay Mills.
We got seated in the restaurant and found that the meal we wanted to have was no longer on the menu. After complaining a little about that, we found a Greek chicken dish that looked good on the menu and tasted even better when it was served.
We scraped our plates clean and went back to the casino.
The wife played 10 cent video poker while I settled in for a lengthier session of nickel Quick Quads. I started out playing 3-play but switched after a little while to 5-play. It seemed to me that not only were Quick Quads harder than normal to come by, the hands that might develop into QQ were few and far between. As time passed I did begin to see a few more QQ and was satisfied when I finished that my financial status didn't get ruined - only slightly damaged - before I got a running start on my two night stay.
We piled back in the car and headed back to our hotel.
Short Session at Kewadin
By the time we got back to the hotel, we had about an extra hour before our normal evening television shows began showing up. I hustled myself back to the casino. The wife went up to the room.
The blackjack machine was still kaput! Darn!!
I went to the nickel video poker and played some 8/5 jacks or better. It was about the best I could find and was in the bank of older machines that we'd located earlier. Earlier the wife had found a game on one of the machines called Fast Fours. So, I changed to the machine where it was available and became excited to find that it played the same was as Quick Quads with two important exceptions. One was that it included the face cards in the action.
For the purposes of Fast Fours, the face cards were converted to numbers - jacks were 11, queens were 12, and kings were 13. If you were to get 3 queens, a ten, and a two (a total of 12), you'd have a Fast Four and get paid as if you had four of a kind.
The second exception was that you didn't pay an extra nickel for the feature of Fast Fours, it cost 5 to play instead of the 6 it cost on Quick Quads.
I played for about an hour and lost $5 and had fun trying to figure out how to play the game.
Up to the room for television and bottle of bubbly that we'd brought with us. Nothing to celebrate but it tasted good.
Tuesday morning we went to the breakfast buffet in Dream Catchers Restaurant. It was excellent. Good variety of foods both hot and cold. Ate our fill.
Headed out into the casino for some fun.
Blackjack machine still on the fritz. Got ourselves a cup of coffee and settled in at the nickel video poker. I commandeered the Fast Fours machines and confidently stuffed a $50 bill in. Played for about 2 hours and cashed out a $50 bill.
By this time I was beginning to tire a little of the game.
The wife had given up and gone to the room so I went and collected her and we went sightseeing. Drove through the town and wound up in the downtown area that is dominated by touristy kinds of shops on one side of the street and the massive Soo Locks on the other.
There's a Visitors' Center that is on federal land near the locks so as you enter the area bags and purses are searched. The Visitors' Center houses the restrooms as well as extensive displays about the locks and the men of the community that were instrumental in the development.
We didn't wait for a large boat to come through the locks as we'd seen it before. The first time or two it is interesting but then it sort of gets like watching cold molasses to pour.
Instead we browsed the souvenir shops and didn't buy anything. Couldn't resist the fudge shop and wound up with a snack for television hours in the evening.
I'd clipped a coupon for a restaurant called Studebaker's and got our GPS to tell us how to get there for lunch. As we got close, we went by a Goodwill Outlet and never ones to pass by a bargain store, we pulled in and shopped.
Unlike many other times at Goodwill, we did find some soup bowls that we thought were attractive and bought two for the magnificent sun of $.99 each. Satisfied with the purchase, I took it to the car and returned to a little store next door to Goodwill.
The name of the store was "Quarter to $5". The store wasn't huge - probably 30' by 50'. In it were some 20 laundry baskets like you might see on a hospital show on tv where they'd throw dirty linens and had wheels on them to trundle them off to the laundry. Each of these baskets held a melange of stuff. Small packets of Halloween decorations, tablecloths, VCR tapes, audio books, clothing, and small glassware items along with pots and pans.
There were signs posted that declared that since it was Tuesday, anything you found was $2. I asked an attendant to explain the price. Apparently when they close on Friday, they empty the store. Trucks arrive and the fill up the baskets with different merchandise (most of it looked new). When they open on Saturday morning, anything in the store that you find is priced at $5. There are some items that are too large for the baskets and they are $5. The attendant said that the previous week there had been a couple treadmills that didn't last very long at $5 on Saturday morning. That price stands on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, anything is $3, Tuesday it is $2, Wednesday and Thursday it is $1, and on Friday it is $.25. Then they start all over.
We spent a very pleasant 1/2 hour rummaging through the baskets and left with an audio book that would provide 12 hours of listening pleasure on our next long trip.
The grand total of our purchases - Goodwill and the new store was $3.98. Big spenders.
Studebakers was just down the street.
It should have told us something that the parking lot was empty but we optimistically ignored that until we got to the door and saw a sign that proclaimed "New Hours are 7 till 3". It was 2:15 and we figured we were out of luck but when we opened the door we were welcomed warmly and had our choice of seating because we were the only patrons in the large restaurant.
By the time we'd settled in and ordered, several more customers showed up and dispelled our loneliness.
We had Italian food that was delicious and not particularly expensive. Enjoyed it thoroughly.
Had been having lots of fun on our outing but was beginning to feel the pull of the casino, so headed back to the hotel.
Maurice was there to greet us as we got back which made for a pleasant start. The wife took our evening treat to the room and I settled in at the Fast Fours machines. Since I'd cashed out my $50 in the AM, I stuff it back into the machine in the PM.
After about an hour I was beginning to doubt the wisdom of doing that rather than taking a nap. I had progressed from my $50 down to about $20. Fast Fours is a little slower than a lot of video poker, but I was still playing at about 600 hands an hour meaning that I'd run $150 through the machine and to have a loss of 20 percent seemed high.
Discouraged I got me a cup of coffee and tried to relax. Smile, Smile. On about the 3rd or 4th hand after the break, I hit four aces for $40 that put me just ahead. I kept it that way for another hour or so before I decided to call it quits.
As I left the casino area, I went past the blackjack machine that I'd intended to play and it was up and running. I couldn't resist. The minimum bet on the machine was $2 and I played $2 blackjack for another hour or so before I cashed out $8 behind.
Headed to the room for some television, some fudge, and our second bottle of bubbly that we'd brought along.
Checkout day already.
We had plans to visit a museum on the way out of town that didn't open until 10 AM so we dawdled a little in the room and ate some powdered sugar donut holes that we'd brought along from Kroger's.
Checkout was automated and no problem. We got our stuff in the car and headed to the museum. The museum was close to the downtown area so we went the same route as Tuesday. I wrote an expanded report about the museum and published in on Hub Pages.
After visiting the museum we got on the road south. We stopped at a second Kewadin Casino in St. Ignace for lunch. It was a buffet soup and salad bar that has an ad that was misleading and while the lunch was just okay, the whole experience left a bad taste in our mouths. I had an argument with the cashier, the waitress, and the manager about the misleading advertising before I gave up.
Back on the road with an internal note telling me not to stop there again, we crossed the big bridge and got home about 4 PM.
Tired and some $60 lighter in the billfold, I considered it a fun trip and although I was unhappy with the final stop and discouraged by my energy level after the drive I still had fun in Sault Sainte Marie.
It will have to been something unusual going on to tempt us back north by automobile. I've been searching for overnight bus trips but haven't been very successful.