I have been staying at the Forest Lake Motel in Grand Rapids several times a year for at least 7-8 years now (and a time or two before that too) and sadly the quality of the place is going steadily downhill. Let's make it clear, this is NOT the Hilton's finest but in most ways, for a place to sleep, it is a decent enough place, that is, when you get your room. The rooms at the bottom of the hill ("lake view" they call them but it's through the bushes and weeds) are actually nicer rooms than most but if you need internet service don't expect the wifi to work down there, at least not reliably. The motel is old and maintenance is, well what you'd expect at most for the money and more appropriately less than what you'd expect. It's not a dive but it's patched together. If you are alone, you'll get fewer towels - even if the room had more in them so be sure to make a note of informing them if you need more than one set and don't want to be accused of taking them. The usual housekeeping gals are nice, but there are ones who try to take shortcuts like not making the beds, skipping a wastebasket or not refilling supplies. Bring some coffee with you and plan on washing the coffeemaker yourself. I question how often they change sheets. Never if you're staying there another night and I've never seen them bring sheets out of a room! The office has a small ice maker if you want a few cups worth of ice. There's not a lot there so don't expect to fill a large cooler.It's essentially a no frills place. Has tv and cable, coffeemaker, microwave and refrigerator in the room. Sometimes you'll get an extra one that doesn't work. But there's no radio, no wakeup call or things like that. Furnishings vary a lot and in the older rooms it's like garage sale put together. Functional, but certainly not fancy. The rooms that were redecorated have a wildlife motif and are fairly nice. But keep in mind you're across the highway from railroad tracks and the occasional middle of the night trains DO blow their whistles and you WILL hear them.
My first stay with Forest Lake made me vow to never go barefoot in the rooms. My feet and socks were black from dirt in the carpet. They don't vacuum the rooms and apparently don't shampoo the carpets either. With that experience, I also now carry a can of disinfectant and spray everything in the room before I stay there. Now I will say, things have improved in the different rooms I've been in, but other things are going downhill.
16 days before my arrival I reserved a room by phone. I had read these reviews and had a bad feeling as I talked to this guy on the phone. When I told him I wanted to check availability for certain dates, he didn't even check to see if they were available until I gave him a credit card number! I wanted a certain room because it has a shower stall instead of a tub, which I prefer and the wifi works better closer to the office. He couldn't understand the difference between a tub and a shower, then finally said "they all have showers, but some have tubs too". I knew I was getting nowhere with him on that point, he said the internet works everywhere and he wouldn't give me a firm rate. When I inquired about available discounts, was told it'd be $40-$45 depending on the room I get and I might not get the discount if they were busy. He refused to commit to giving me a certain room number, though the previous year I got kicked out of the room because someone reserved that particular room. They gave me another room but it's still the hassle of having to move everything. After I hung up I really got a bad feeling and became concerned that I might arrive to no room so I decided to call back and get his name so I have that much just in case, but there was no answer when I called back. I then emailed to confirm. Never received a response, however when I inquired years ago it took weeks to get a response. Apparently they're not very tech-savvy.
Since I have dealt with them for years and never had outrageous problems, I guess I forgot about it until I arrived to check in whereupon the girl informed me that I had no reservation and they had no rooms. I asked about my reservation, she looked again, (they use scraps of paper for reservations) and called a manager who then said they only had room #27 at the bottom of the hill. This closet-sized room was not great. Had one window facing the building next to it and a full sized refrigerator planted right in front of it. Wifi didn't work, nor did the telephone (reliably). For this they wanted $45/night. I told them that I needed internet access since I was staying four nights and was told that I could come and sit in the office and use the internet there! Not acceptable so I decided to call another place, but couldn't use the non-working phone. Good thing I had a cell with me. Another motel I had stayed with previously had a room, would commit to a price and I knew it was a pleasant place to stay so I went and demanded a refund and left. I didn't want to get irate with the girl at the desk. It wasn't her fault so I asked when the manager would be in. "He's usually around, but not today". He should be back by 4". I'm not sure what this stunt was all about, because my sister arrived the next day and they had a room for her, but not what she requested either. She was on the lake side and the wifi didn't work for her either! She checked out a day early. FWIW, the vacancy sign was on from the time I arrived all through the time I was in Grand Rapids.
I'll share another experience with the Forest Lake Motel. Construction workers run their diesel trucks outside the rooms for 1-2 hours before leaving, starting at 4AM (whether summer or winter!) so if you're close to those trucks, don't plan on sleeping at those hours.
And as far as the Forest Lake restaurant, I've eaten there twice and will never go there again. Their main cooking appliance is apparently a microwave. The place is expensive and the food is, well, microwave quality at best. My first visit there had a bill of nearly $80 for two of us. My last visit was about $30. The cuisine? The "twice baked" potatoes were a 1/2 a potato shell with some soupy mashed potatoes poured in them, about 6 slivers of shredded cheese on top and reheated in the microwave which also prepared the baked potatoes. The chicken wild rice soup sounded good but the microwave couldn't heat it through to the center which was still cold. They didn't bother to stir it. Ribs had membrane on it and if it wasn't for that there'd be little meat. I wasn't there on their "all you can eat ribs night" but I had all of those ribs I could eat anyway. Country Kitchen is far better and I'm going to try Clementine's next trip up.
This one horrible experience won't totally sour me on ever staying at Forest Lake again, but they're going to have to satisfy me that this incident won't repeat. I'm not sure how they can do that since this seems to be more common than one would think. So, be advised and be aware. I would conditionally recommend it with warnings of what to expect, however I couldn't in good conscience recommend it unconditionally to someone and get blamed if they lose their reservation too. Happy traveling.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
I would like to respond to "It happened to me too!" We appreciate it when clients mention to us things that need to be fixed or when something is not right about their room. I would like to respond to several criticisms that I feel were unfair. We have about 8000 quests in our 34 rooms over a years time, so we are not a dilapidated motel out in the woods. Our motel is made up of several buildings built over the years. We keep them up and they have all been updated. The quaintness is what attracts people to us. We have a combination of overnight guests and construction workers who may stay several days or even weeks. They like our rates and that they can park in front of their door with their tools and equipment. I would like to clear up several points made that I feel were not accurate.
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1.The shoreline of the lake across the road from us is city owned and we have no control over what grows there. The public beach is about a block up the street and many of our guests use it when convenient.
2. We always put two sets of towels in each room and give extra sets to our guests when more than two people stay in a room. They are changed daily. We also make the beds, empty trash, replenish supplies, scrub the bathroom and vacuum. If a client is here for several days and hangs a "do not disturb" on the door, we don't touch the room. Sometimes clients take the sign down later in the day, but our housekeepers have gone home. If they let us know we supply what they need.
3. We change sheets after each client leaves as do most motels. Long termers we change weekly. If a client wants sheets changed more often, we'll do that.
4. We have an ice bin outside with bags of ice for sale. We keep some inside for clients that want less than a bag.
5.Each room has a frig and microwave. We do not store extra refrigerators in the room.
6.Wake-up calls are available if we are asked. Phones work fine if you dial "9" to get out.
7.Yes, there is an occasional train but everybody in town hears them. In four years we have had very few complaints on the noise issue.
8. Room 27 described as a "closet" is 12' X 16'.
9. We have no relationship with the restaurant next door, but it is the most popular restaurant in Grand Rapids and in four years I have never had a guest complain about the food or the price
10. We do not take reservations unless we get a credit card number as do most motels. We have had too many who make a reservation and then don't show nor do they cancel. If we have credit card number they will call and cancel. If they don't call or show and we could have rented that room to someone else then they will get charged for one night. In four years we have never had to do that.
Manager, Forest Lake Motel
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.