Don't keep the family cooped up and let cabin fever fester. Drive north to the Soaring Eagle Waterpark Hotel, located conveniently by the Soaring Eagle Casino, and burn off some of the holiday calories. Leap onto a surfboard to hang ten, slip down the hole and slide into the abyss, or relax in the jacuzzi.
The perfect winter family staycation destination, there's fun for people of all ages. Children can gather at 8:00 p.m. each night to hear a story from grandma, an animated story teller created from the composite of many Native American women, dressed in traditional tribal garb and located in a cozily painted corner of the lobby area, with a circle for visitors to gather around to hear her daily story. Of course, there's the water park and the arcade, but if you want to escape the hustle and bustle, there's a separate pool and jacuzzi, as well as a 24-hour fitness center, on the bottom of the second wing.
With a free 24-hour shuttle that connects the waterpark to the casino, guests can mosey over to test their luck gambling, or dine at one of the many food establishments within each of the locations. The shuttle will also take guests, upon request, to the Native American Museum, and a new science museum is currently under construction, which the shuttle will also service for guests upon request. The Soaring Eagle Casino offers day care services with lots of fun activities for children.
The casino hosts its own hotel with pool, jacuzzi and fitness center. Both the waterpark hotel and casino hotel have similar room layouts and designs, though they use slightly different condiments. No matter which of the Soaring Eagle hotels you stay at, rooms have nice granite, a fridge and microwave.
Unfortunately, neither hotels offers a free breakfast, but there are a variety of restaurants close by, and the casino offers a fabulous buffet. The business center charges, which is also a downer, but there is wi-fi on location. Most of the staff were friendly, but we did have a couple problems.
We stayed at the casino hotel for a bachelorette party and took advantage of the waterpark hotel special, which is one night's stay with four water park passes for both the day of check in and the day of check out, a $69 special that runs through the end of February. For the waterpark, we booked two rooms up front, detailing that we may add another, specifically requesting ahead of time that we would like to have rooms at least on the same floor, but this somehow was not possible, and it's not because the hotel was booked, or rooms were not available, but that they had not been cleaned in time for check in. Instead of getting two neighboring rooms, they gave us one room on the first floor of the first wing, the second room on the second floor of the second wing, and the third room was on the second floor of the first wing; thus, of three rooms, none were on the same floor and we had to cut to between both wings.
Though the waterpark was nicer than most indoor waterpark hotels, and there is talk of expanding the park, there were a few things that could be improved upon. First, the bathrooms were freezing; it literally felt like air conditioning was being pumped into the bathroom, so coming from the warm water park's hot humid air, the hair would stand up on our bodies, goose bumps forming, from the cold air. Besides the locker room being cold, which did at least keep the humidity levels down a bit, the bathrooms could use some adjusting, such as the simple addition of hooks in the shower areas.
Hooks seems like a simple request, for though they had dressing rooms with nice hooks across from the showers, sometimes the dressing rooms would be full, and the showers empty, but then there's no hook for your bag or towel, no shelf for shampoo or conditioner, and it's rather inconvenient, especially with small children. Even if the dressing room is empty, and you can ideally set your stuff in there while you shower, with no hook, you are forced to hoof across the locker room; for people who want to rinse out their bathing suits, with no shower hook, you'd have to streak across, letting it all hang out. Additionally, the shower water temperature needs adjusting, as it starts out scalding hot, mellows to freezing cold, and when you try to warm it back up, it's burning once again; it's hard to find a happy medium temperature, and though this was pointed out by multiple people in our group, we could also hear fellow guests in the shower complaining.
Overall, the complaints are rather minor. For the convenience of being able to hobble down the hall to the hotel, these issues are rather miniscule, but for those staying to play at the waterpark that second day, playing in the park after they've checked out of their room, they are forced to rely upon the showers and locker room. With the hotel being so new, as it only opened this summer, and with expansion plans in the works, these are things that can be fixed rather easily and hopefully will be.
The natural elements within the hotels are refreshing, and when they expand, it would be nice if they continue this trend with things like solar backup power, as they have great sun exposure. Having an element like a green roof would really stand out, too. Surely, the natives are into building green.
Would we stay again? Sure. People from our group are already talking of a second trip, so you bet.
The beds are comfortable. Everyone slept well. Flat screen televisions with cable, a nice, spacious room design and the granite accents make for a comfortable stay, and when the excitement of the waterpark ends at 9 p.m., hop on the shuttle to the casino, and explore the lights and sounds of winning.
Elvis tripled my money. My friend swore by the diamonds. My aunt likes the progressives.
Whether you're a card player or a slot fan, there's more than a few things to keep you amused. The buffet at the casino and the special events catering do an excellent job, as the food is phenomenal. Get out on the dance floor and shake it, grab a free drink from the beverage station when you're thirsty, and go hit the jackpot; sign up at the player's club for free game play, and swipe you card for daily prizes.
Become a Diamond Club Member and attend special events. One Diamond Club Member event we attended was fully catered with food that included coconut shrimp, free alcoholic beverages, too many desserts to name, a huge spread of appetizers, meat carving stations and live jazz lounge music. What was better was that they were giving away exquisite diamonds in various jewelry settings and styles.
When you go to the bathroom, you can scan to sign up for concert ticket give-aways. The nice thing about Soaring Eagle is that it's close enough to drive to, for those who live in Michigan, and they constantly have events going on, such as concerts, comedians and other such entertainment. With the $69 waterpark special, you can enjoy a concert, have fun at the waterpark and the casino, and still not have to worry about driving home late at night after the special event; just relax and be pampered.
The waterpark hotel is new, clean and well-supervised with a number of lifeguards; there's two massive slides, a sauna, huge hot tub, a fast-moving lazy river, cabanas that can be rented for birthday parties, a whirlpool that spins you around, basketball hoop, a climbing wall made of real rock that gets a little slippery with its challenging hand grips, but it is set along the wall of a deep pool for splash landings. An eagle will screech from atop the massive tree in the middle of the park, and this is a 30-second warning for the dumping of the bucket, which constantly fills with water and dumps in the playland. The play structure has three slides for children of all ages, as well as water play; buckets dump water, pulling ropes sprays water, water tubes can be aimed like squirt guns, and critters spritz water.
The Flow Rider, not to be confused with musician Flo Rida, is a surfing station, where people can either boogey board or surf, depending upon experience. Take a leap of faith, and see if you can land without tumbling up or down the wave. Start out on the body board, move up to the knees, then try standing with the assistance of a lifeguard to get you out over the crest of the wave; add in tricks, such as the barrel roll for body boarders, the 360 for knee boarders and carving or rooster tailing for surfers.
Of the two big slides, one is a body slide, and the other is a tube slide. The tube slide is akin to being flushed down a toilet, as the tube drops into a round vortex, and you get flushed around the darkened area that is lit up with various led lightning; normally, you do one or two loops around, but if you're lucky, you can make it three times around the toilet bowl part before being flushed to the lazy river. The body slide is way more intense, having multiple loops; it is dark at night, black and red during the day, but the rush builds, as gentle twists crescendo into a violent spiral that can be intense for some.
After the waterpark, seek out some Native history. Ornate marble carvings are features, as well as art and handcrafted jewelry. For people like us, who have a history of the tribe within the family, as our great-grandmother taught English on the reservation, it is a neat connection to information of the past.
Overall, the Soaring Eagle complex offers multiple hotels and casinos that can amuse guests of all ages. With the central location of Mount Pleasant, no matter where you live in Michigan, it's not too far away. A cure for the winter blues, it offers a waterpark, a spa to relax and is a great place to enjoy.
Marisa Williams is the author of 100 books. She earned her Master's in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University. For more on Marisa, visit www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz and www.wix.com/thorisaz/photography.