By: Robin B.
Editorial note: Stay tuned for our full Mackinac Island with kids review coming later this summer. There is so much more to explore on the island!
A portion of our hotel stay was provided by Grand Hotel to accommodate this review, we thank them for their hospitality. All opinions are my own.
We knew from the onset it would be a different experience with no convenience station quick-stop to fuel the minivan and fill up on sugary slushie drinks.
Rather, the transportation options were ferry, horse, bicycle and good old-fashioned leg muscle – we did them all and my kids loved it!
There’s nothing quite like the “Clip-clop, clip-clop” sound that greets you once you set foot on Mackinac Island. Although truly, the trip begins on the ferry ride over Mackinac Straits as you take in the sights of the Island and magnificent hotel. So, forego the munchie-mart and let’s take a look inside a truly Grand experience.
3 THINGS YOU’LL LOVE AT GRAND HOTEL
- The Historic Hotel and Décor – Every one of the 393 guest rooms are uniquely decorated and Grand Hotel takes into consideration families / those wanting extra room. They offer several different room options including suites with parlors, two-bedroom suites and rooms with balconies. Also, cribs are available at no extra charge. Make sure to take time to sit and relax on the world’s longest porch (660 feet to be exact) with amazing views of the Island. GOOD TO KNOW: You’ll want to acquaint yourself with the sprawling property, there really is so much to see and explore. Had it not been for a staff member mentioning the Cupola Bar (located at the top of Grand Hotel), we may have missed out on some amazing panoramic views.
- Dining – The meals are as much an event and tradition unlike any other hotel we’ve experienced. A stay at Grand Hotel includes a full breakfast and a five-course dinner. Our children loved the opportunity to dress up for dinner as though we were visiting royalty. Families of all ages are welcome – there is a separate children’s menu or kids can order from the regular menu. Photographer’s will be on hand take a family photo. Make sure to try the hotel’s signature dessert – The Pecan Ball. GOOD TO KNOW: Tipping is not permitted within Grand Hotel.
- Family Activities – are abundant with no shortage of things to see and do during your stay.
- You can’t miss the heated Esther Williams Swimming Pool – on a hot day, kids can cool down with complimentary sno-cones.
- Take some time to stroll the tea garden – the sprawling area allows for lawn games – croquet and bocce ball. Or, simply take a moment to sit on the porch and check out the views.
- Renting bikes is an awesome way to explore the island. The staff had us fitted for bikes in minutes and we were off biking the 8-plus miles around the island. I had mistakenly left our helmets in the car, but didn’t have to worry as helmets were provided.
- A few minutes stroll up the hill is Grand Hotel Stables. This working stable was a great way for our children to see several of the Hotels horses up close and to check out the antique carriages used on the island. The Stable staff were friendly and gave our family several suggestions – not to miss Point Lookout, the highest point on the Island and a hidden gem (it is a bit of an uphill climb).
Craving a little one-on-one time? Inquire at check-in about the daily Grand Hotel Children’s Programs that occur in the afternoons (2:00 – 5:00 pm) and in the evening (6:00 – 9:00 pm). Children ages five and older can join the staff for activities in Rebecca’s Room where they can decorate and fly kites, go on tours, and enjoy other kid-friendly activities.
Children ages 9 and younger stay free at Grand Hotel. Make sure to check out the promotional packages offered by Grand Hotel. On select nights in July/August they offer Family Added Value Days – you’ll receive a percentage discount by staying additional nights. Another tip I found if your travel dates are flexible – like their Facebook page where last minute discounts on rooms are often published.
2017 marks Grand Hotel’s 130th birthday – and our family loved experiencing the history and grandeur of the hotel aptly names “American’s Summer Place”.
286 Grand Avenue
Mackinac Island, MI 49757
EXPLORING THE ISLAND
We wanted to explore more of the island and the Mackinac Island Carriage Tour was the ticket. I highly recommend this sightseeing option, especially for children who may not be able to bike/walk to all of the island attractions. The narrated tour is just short of two hours and makes numerous stops, such as Arch Rock, The Butterfly Conservatory and more. Children ages 4 and under are no charge (sit on an adults lap). Once you purchase your tickets at the ticket office (located at 7278 Main Street), you are on the next available carriage tour.
Our tour guide, one-eyed Nick, was in his second year here, but from all of the interesting and funny tidbits he shared, you would have thought he was a local with his vast knowledge and ability to answer any question we threw at him. He made our trip engaging and fun – I didn’t want to get off the carriage!
GETTING TO THE ISLAND
Although there are a number of ferry’s providing service to Mackinac Island, we enjoyed Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry. Purchase tickets online to receive a discount. The nice thing is the tickets can be used anytime during the season and you aren’t locked into a certain time – great for families needing flexibility. The ferry ride is about 15 minutes. Make sure to check out the schedule for “Mighty Mac Departures” (no extra fee) which is an extended trip taking about 25 minutes to travel under the bridge en route to the Island – the views are spectacular! We took advantage of the on-site drop-off parking (purchase tickets for this directly at the ticket office) since we were staying overnight on the island. Normally, I don’t want to pay any extra for parking, but with tired kids in tow the next day, it was great to have our car and luggage just a minute’s walk from the ferry so we could hit the road.
Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry
556 E. Central, Mackinaw City
Carve out some time on your trip to Mackinaw to experience a show that will leave you amazed as competing lumberjack’s duel it out in a series of logging challenges. Located 1.5 miles south of Mackinaw City, Jack Pine Lumberjack Shows demonstrate logging that families of all ages will enjoy. From chopping, sawing, axe throwing, cross-cut sawing, logrolling – this one-hour plus show has it all. The audience is split in the middle to root for their lumberjack. There is funny banter between the lumberjack’s and amazing footwork as the lumberjacks roll the logs to keep from falling in the water. My children were on the edge of their seat the entire time. Shows operate rain or shine in a covered grandstand – arrive early for the best seating. TIP – Stay after the show where you can meet the lumberjack’s and have your picture taken and grab a scrap of wood to have them sign as a souvenir.
10510 W. U.S. 23, Mackinaw City
Tickets were provided by Jack Pine Lumberjack Shows, Mackinac Island Carriage Tour and Shepler’s Ferry. All opinions are my own.