How to keep this honeymoon out of the ditch
December 8, 2008 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Where can we go on our honeymoon? In January. In a car. Oh, and we're driving from Michigan.

So it happens that my fiance and I will be able to go on a honeymoon just after we are married, which happens to be in the dead of winter in Michigan (Grand Rapids area). His parents have graciously offered to pay for a honeymoon as our wedding gift, but I've been told that the location needs to be somewhere close enough for us to drive to. I will be doing the majority of the driving and navigating; my fiance has never lived in the US and has only driven a few times here, so I am just anticipating that the bulk of this will be left to me. I am not a huge fan of driving, though, even less so in Michigan winters and I really have no idea where we can even go. My fiance seems to be hung up on the idea of going to Niagara Falls, which is at least 6 hours away according to google maps. I have mentioned to him (repeatedly) that people don't really take road trips in the winter here, but he's not from around here and I don't think he'll ever quite grasp what I'm trying to tell him until he's been stuck in horrible snowy traffic for a couple hours. Last year around the same time we had plans to go to New York City and he had wanted me to drive then, too; at the very last minute I talked him into getting plane tickets instead. I've been really thinking I would rather fly somewhere this time, too, but it would need to be somewhere we could fly to relatively inexpensively (ahahhaha) and definitely would need to be in the mainland US.

Has anyone been to Niagara in winter? Is it worth the trek? Is there -anywhere- else we could drive to instead? Is there a reasonable place we could fly to? The dates we have to work with would be Dec. 30-Jan. 9, so yes, this is pretty short notice, but I can't do anything about the lack of planning now other than take care of it!
posted by Polychrome to Travel & Transportation around Michigan (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Urban or rural? Chicago is in range, as is the Leelanau Peninsula.
posted by jon1270 at 8:03 AM on December 8, 2008

Actually, there are some shockingly cheap flights available if you book ASAP - I just did a test booking in mid-january from Detroit to Ft. Lauterdale FL via Southwest (I know, Grand Rapids != Detroit, but Southwest doesn't go to GR and I needed a test case), and there were 'web-only' tickets available for $63 each way per person. If it were me, I'd do something in Florida or Texas (Austin, perhaps?)... but Austin, at least, is getting more expensive ($159 each way each person), and I have no idea what 'relatively inexpensive' means to you.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:04 AM on December 8, 2008

You can go to Kayak Buzz, enter your departure city and a date range, and it will show you all the sample fares to just about anywhere that were purchased in the last week. I saw a flight from Detroit to Miami, 12/31-1/7, for $179. Doesn't hurt to try!

Does the location have to be drivable due to budget concerns or some other reason? If his parents are concerned about your flying for some reason but aren't familiar with Michigan travel in the winter, you may want to highlight the dangers of icy road driving for them.

Good luck!
posted by chihiro at 8:10 AM on December 8, 2008

I think Niagara is much nicer in the summer, when you can tour the wineries and walk around viewing the falls without ice crystals forming on your face. ;)

Why don't you look around for a nice winter resort in MI? This one looks nice... I'm sure there are others that you could find through a google search or from the MI tourism office.
posted by kaudio at 8:11 AM on December 8, 2008

Response by poster: I believe the location being driveable had entirely to do with budget constraints (I am pretty sure I would end up paying for the gasoline). It seems perfectly reasonable for us to fly to me if we can get flights for under $200 each, but I get the impression that his parents think it's easy for me to just drive somewhere (and they are kind of tight).
posted by Polychrome at 8:14 AM on December 8, 2008

I took a trip with my husband to Niagara Falls last January and we ended up having a really great time. We booked a really great deal and managed to get a gigantic hotel suite, plus dinner for two, plus breakfast for less than $100 per day. It was nice to visit the falls without having to shove through the crowds and all of the ice looked especially pretty from our warm hotel room.

The only drawback was that (for obvious reasons) the boats weren't running and the close-up observation decks were closed.

Otherwise, most of the attractions in Niagara Falls are indoors. We liked the butterfly observatory the best and we had it almost to ourselves late in the afternoon. There are also lots of cheesy tourist trap museums, haunted houses, an IMAX, and a water park, all indoors.
posted by Alison at 8:23 AM on December 8, 2008

Best answer: Toronto is a shy under 6 hours according to Google Maps as is Cincinnati.

The Chicago suggestion upthread is probably the best compromise of biggest city in the shortest amount of drive time (discounting Detroit). A quick glance at Chicago threads on the Green will show you that there is loads of indoor things to do.
posted by mmascolino at 8:31 AM on December 8, 2008

Best answer: You could take the Amtrak train to Chicago. Two round trip tickets are $116 and you don't have to take the risk that a snow storm will ruin your honeymoon. The Drake Hotel, one of Chicago's finest, has rooms available for as low as $145 per night. (The Holiday Inn is perfectly nice, but you are on your honeymoon.)
posted by caddis at 8:41 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Niagara may be 6 hours from GR in the summer, but it will take longer in the winter. Realise, too, that the quickest way to Niagara is through Canada, with the added complications of two border crossings (each way). If you feel that driving in MI in the winter is not for you, you do not want to drive along the eastern edge of Lake Erie in the winter -- the lake effect snow there is far denser/deeper than it is in Grand Rapids.

I'd probably go to Chicago. There's no lack of indoor things to do there, and a decent variety of outdoor things if the weather is decent, and you can book a honeymoon package at a really nice hotel downtown..... Or you can go north, to Traverse City/Leelanau Peninsula if you want more outdoorsy stuff. Or just stay in a nice hotel in GR and do touristy things, and save Niagara for the spring/summer when travel is easier. Or check Expedia/Orbitz/Travelocity for cheap fares from GR to somewhere south.
posted by jlkr at 8:49 AM on December 8, 2008

Best answer: I've lived about 15 minutes away from the falls (and have no sense of civic pride to cloud my vision). I have been to them in winter and I have to tell you, OH GOD, NO!!!!

The falls themselves can be magnificent if you catch them in a sub-zero deep freeze but I sure wouldn't drive 6 hours in winter on that hope.

After spending 30 minutes driving back and forth along the river, arguing about the best place to park, you'd get out, look at the falls, get cold and get back into the car. Then what do you do besides "honeymoon"? Go to the casino? (though there is a nice butterfly greenhouse up the road).

Jaded hipster types might enjoy the "Niagara Falls in winter experience" with detached bemusement but starting out married life this way could be sad and depressing. Niagara Falls in early winter is a chilly, rundown and dirty little town (both sides of the border).

I cannot stress strongly enough to your partner what a bad idea this is.

...and don't get me started on how insanely monotonous the drive from Sarnia to Hamilton is and the fact that the stretch along Huron is routinely closed when snow is blowing off the lake.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:57 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite] has some great deals listed for grand rapids airport:
a few examples:

Boston, MA $215 RT
Ft Lauderdale, FL $261 RT
Miami, FL $261 R
Myrtle Beach, SC $215 RT
Orlando, FL $225 RT

depart from other airports in your area like detroit and you're likely to get a lot more deals...
posted by krautland at 8:58 AM on December 8, 2008

Best answer: Upon further thought and budget clarification, I echo "Amtrak to Chicago." Big city with lots to do indoors, and a train is a very cozy way to travel - you can sit together and canoodle without the stress and security-theater of flying, or the active effort of driving.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:29 AM on December 8, 2008

Is there no way you can delay your honeymoon until summer?
posted by dmd at 9:41 AM on December 8, 2008

Best answer: BAD IDea to drive to Niagara Falls in January. Bad, bad, and potentially dangerous.

Echoing Chicago, or Toronto. I like the canoodling on the train to Chicago notion for a honeymoon. Hell, Mr. Micawber and I want to take the train to New Orleans (instead of flying)
primarily for the canoodling options.

But as I'm sure you realize, planning any type of getaway in the winter from Grand Rapids has its risks. Even Amtrak can get stuck or not run.
posted by micawber at 10:40 AM on December 8, 2008

Best answer: I live in western NY. I was going to say that going to the falls seems reasonable enough to me.

You would want to stay in NF, Ont, not NF NY. NF Ont is all the fun stuff. NF NY is a couple of nice parks which will likely be closed, and grim postindustrial awfulness.

Rates in NF are probably down, which means a nicer room for the same $. Rooms in the falls-view hotels commonly include nice big bubbly tubs, and even bubbly tubs with a half wall so you can see the falls while you're naked in the tub together.

AFAIK, most of the not-falls-themselves attractions are open in winter. They're goofy. There's also Casino Niagara, which is fun if you gambling -- they even have a nonsmoking floor. Plenty of decent restaurants around, more if you don't mind crossing to the US to get to the Red Coach in NFNY or Hutch's or the Left Bank in B'lo. The wineries around Niagara might be open, displaying their world-renowned icewines.

At the same time, the attractions in Niagara are pretty... I don't know what the right word here is. Undemanding? I mean that you won't feel like you need to be RUNNING AROUND SEEING STUFF instead of staying in the room screwing yourselves sore.

The border should not be a problem; the border station at Port Huron / Sarnia is rarely crowded in the to-Canada direction. You will need a passport or d/l and birth cert.

Lake effect snow isn't a big problem in Niagara Falls. Lake effect snow is concentrated in bands and falls off like a brick wall outside them. The Lake Erie snow bands are concentrated south of Buffalo, and snow bands getting as far north as NF would be pretty rare. Getting a serious snow band from Lake Ontario would likewise require some pretty weird winds.

Parking won't be a problem: you'll park at the hotel.

If you do the big city thing, I'd favor Toronto over Chicago.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:41 AM on December 8, 2008

BAD IDea to drive to Niagara Falls in January. Bad, bad, and potentially dangerous.

It's perfectly normal wintry driving, which includes some chance of bad snow and resulting road closure. That is all. And all the driving is on major limited-access highways that are well patrolled and promptly plowed and salted.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:53 AM on December 8, 2008

"You could take the Amtrak train to Chicago. Two round trip tickets are $116 and you don't have to take the risk that a snow storm will ruin your honeymoon."

Snow can definitely delay trains in and out of Chicago in winter. I once got on an Amtrak train in South Bend, IN that was running about 9 hours behind schedule just traveling Chicago to South Bend (I was boarding at South Bend headed to Boston). Roughly, I got there at 5PM for a 6 PM train and didn't actually get on the train until 3 AM. The station attendent bought us the five or so of us stranded there value meals from Burger King. That was really nice of him, I don't think he was required to do that, but it didn't quite make up for the wait.
posted by Jahaza at 11:55 AM on December 8, 2008

dmd has a point. My husband and I were married in February, on a Friday, and spent the weekend at a nice hotel. Then we went on our actual honeymoon the following July. Going back to work the Monday after we were married was interesting, but it wasn't bad - and it gave us time to save up for more of a splurge later.

Just a thought. :-)
posted by chihiro at 12:32 PM on December 8, 2008

Best answer: Another vote for Chicago. You can book 4 star hotels cheaply on Priceline. I recommend the Hyatt on Upper Wacker (modern), Hotel Monaco (boutique, modernish) or the Palmer House (formal).
posted by desjardins at 12:55 PM on December 8, 2008


I only just noticed the bit about him not having lived in the US. Assuming he's foreign*, he probably should not leave the US until you guys have filed the 485+751+131 and he has advance parole paperwork in hand. IIRC, his K visa will go invalid after your marriage.

Which means NO NIAGARA FOR YOU. All the good stuff that would be open is on the Canadian side.

*It's possible he's the son of American expats/emigrants, and so an American citizen though he's never lived there.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:56 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okay, we're going with the Amtrak to Chicago suggestion(s). It's not our ideal honeymoon trip, but it's definitely the best compromise, and I know we'll have a great time--I'm getting excited! We really can't delay our honeymoon because of time constraints and physical presence limitations, and we'll definitely be taking more trips in the future that are possibly more reminiscent of a typical honeymoon, but we do want an actual honeymoon right after we're wed. Thanks buckaroos!
posted by Polychrome at 8:09 PM on December 8, 2008

Best answer: Yay! I got married in the Grand Rapids area in October and returned to our home in Chicago shortly thereafter.

Make sure you check weekly deals @ Amtrak
. You can regularly take the train for $12 each way per person! That's v. cheapo!

If you manage to score super cheapsie tickets, I very strongly recommend getting a nicer hotel and spending less money on food. Waking up in a big bed with nice sheets and taking a shower in a huge rainfall shower every morning for a week was totally worth sharing a $15 lunch.
posted by santojulieta at 8:33 PM on December 8, 2008

How about Starved Rock State Park in Utica Illinois?
posted by tiburon at 9:28 PM on December 8, 2008

We really can't delay our honeymoon because of time constraints and physical presence limitations

If you mean that he's going to go back to Foreignland after marrying you, and you plan to file paperwork for him to come back, then you would almost certainly be better off waiting to marry and filing a 129 for a K fiance visa, and then adjusting status after marrying him. Sending him back abroad to apply as a spouse instead of a fiancee usually takes a lot longer, or ends up costing more money in fees, or both.

If you're planning to join him in Foreignland, it's worth looking into whether it's easier to import you as a spouse or as a fiancee (if you haven't).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:05 PM on December 8, 2008

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