Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Island. Mackinac.

In Michigan, we generically refer to two things that are found all around the world and all around our state and yet, there is never any confusion:
The Lake. The Great Lakes. 
The Island. Mackinac Island.
*Fun Facts: You are never further than 6 miles from a lake in Michigan, 85 miles from the Great Lakes. There are over 11,000 inland lakes in Michigan. Michigan has 3,288 miles of shoreline - the greatest number in the lower 48

Mackinac Island, located in between the waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, between lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, is Michigan's summer playground! 
My family has gone to Mackinac Island every year for the Fourth of July and are blessed by my grandparents to stay at The Grand Hotel. Staying there makes you feel like a Rockefeller, Carnegie, or Vanderbilt - Real American Royalty. 
I absolutely LOVE the old school Victorian charm that it eludes, from its colorful, mismatched - yet perfectly balanced garden inspired rooms, to its after 6:00 p.m. dress code of suits for men and dresses for ladies. I always feel as if I am aboard the Titanic or at least living during the same time since it is not nearly as depressing Or perhaps on vacation with Grandmama in America as a Crawley any Downton Abby Fans?
Fun Fact: At 660 feet, The Grand Hotel's Front Porch is the world's longest
Fun Fact: The Movie Somewhere in Time and This Time for Keeps were both filmed at The Grand 
Hotel
Besides The Grand, the island itself is one of the most charming places in all the US of A. Boasting quaint shops, gorgeous lake views, the bluest water, bicycles, and horse drawn carriages you truly feel as if you have stepped back in time.  
If you are planning a trip as you will be after reading this persuasive post here are my top 12 recommendations after visiting for almost a decade!  
1. Before even getting on the island, the BEST pastie shop is located in Mackinac City labeling a pastie shop "the best" is a bit dangerous up north but I stand by mine! It actually has two locations in the city - Mackinaw Pastie & Cookie Co.  Stop by on your way in and out! 
2. While Sheplers ($23) is the most popular and iconic Ferry service to the Island, the Arnold Line is cheaper ($18), however, it has a less convenient schedule leaving every hour instead of every half an hour like Sheplers. Star Line ($23) operates very sporadically sometimes every hour then every half and hour and it all depends on the week you are going so watch out for that.  
3. Walk up to The Grand for a photo, take a $10 tour, enjoy their wonderful Lunch Buffet, dress up for a luxurious dinner, or stay and soak in the old world charm and unique design style of Dorothy Draper & Company Inc. 
For FABULOUS ice cream since Kilwins regrettably left the island, visit Sadie's Ice Cream Parlor connected to the Grand. Unlike the rest of the Grand, it does not require a pass and has a spectacular roasted coconut! 
4. Walk and shop the quaint pastel colored shops - don't forget to buy fudge from the famous fudge shops lining the streets! 
Fun Fact: There are over 15 fudge shops on main street
Mr. B's  is a great little place to grab a cheap bit to eat particularly before or after biking It has a cute little hidden deck area located on the back for enjoying your food by the water
5. Ride a horse if you have experience you can even go without a guide! or rent a carriage to enjoy the island the romantically old fashioned way. No vehicles are allowed on the island so horses and bikes are the only source of transportation. 
Fun Fact: There are more than 500 working horses on Mackinac
6. Visit Fort Mackinac - it does cost a fee but with it you can tour the replicated interiors of the buildings, dress up in costumes, see a real cannon fired, see inside an indian wigwam, and visit many other historic buildings around the island by just showing your pass. Throughout the summer there are lots of fun celebrations - 4th of July at the Fort is full of gun salutes, dancing, singing, and a delicious cookout! It is also a great place to watch the fireworks! 
7. Rent a bike they even have tandem bikes which are tons of fun (not necessarily great for a marriage!) and ride around the entire island. The ride is 8 miles and boats relaxing wooded trail, scenic shoreline, a great view of Big Mac, and quaint main street bustle. There are many photo opportunities along the way so don't forget your camera! 

 Wear a bathing suit and join in on jumping off the loading dock about 1/3 around the island! 
Fun Fact: This is the spot where the British landed to attack during the War of 1812
Admire, and perhaps try your hand at adding to the stone statues along the trail. 
8. Put on your hiking shoes and travel into the interior of the island through wooded trails and staircases into the trees. Be sure to get to Sugar Loaf Rock, Fort Holmes, the old British fort, and Arch Rock! 
9. Whether you are staying at the Grand or not, on the lower path to the Grand's swimming pool (by the bike rental) you'll find the beginning of a workout path which is open to anyone - DO IT! My family enjoys doing it in the morning to start off our day. It isn't very long and is a very fun workout WARNING: laughing and teasing may occur depending on your family! 

10. Take a Mackinac Island Carriage Tour ($25) - well worth your buck! Relax in a horse drawn carriage led by a knowledgeable tour guide and learn the history, both past and present, about the island. 
11. Rent Kayaks and tour the island from a totally new perspective.
12. Take an early evening walk through main street and then up the Old Fort Road (behind Mission Point). Above the town, enjoy walking this scenic road littered by some of the most extravagant victorian homes and cottages. Another great place to walk, enjoy a view, and drool over homes is past the Grand Hotels porch and north up the hill.  
At the top of that hill you will find this fence ^^ Here, and below it on a small winding path to the right, is the BEST place on the Island to watch fire works - completely FREE! 
WARNING: This is where a lot of locals come so you may have to stake out early! 
And if you are REALLY cool, wear matching shirts as a family! 
If you have not visited Mackinac Island, take it from me and my accidental travel brochure description, pack up your bags, buy a ticket to Flint, Sault Ste Marie, or Traverse City and experience a weekend in paradise - 3 days are PERFECT to enjoy Mackinac ... Put it on the bucket list. NOW! 

Note: Many bed and breakfasts and hotels, including the Grand, do great deals starting in August ... ;)