Ain't life grand: The Grand Hotel & Mackinac Island

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

From May through October each year, the Grand Hotel opens her doors and her charm, to visitors from around the country. It's a family summer vacation destination located in the center of the Great Lakes waterway. And it's heavenly.

Just getting to Mackinac Island is an interesting way to start the vacation. It's only accessible by boat or plane. We chose to take the ferry departing from Mackinaw City and left our modern day vehicle behind. Fortunately, ferry trips over are made incredibly easy by the kind crew of Star Line Mackinac Island. They have a number of ferry departures which made it convenient. In fact, the Star Line boasts over 65 round trips daily while in season. Also helpful on the budget is that they offered free daily parking and free luggage handling. There is also handicap accessibility.

Pulling up to the Grand in a Mackinac Island "taxi" (a.k.a. horse-drawn carriage) visitors are struck by the magnificence of the hotel. (It's no wonder that the 1980s romantic film Somewhere in Time, starring Jane Seymour, Christopher Reeve and Christopher Plummer was filmed right here.) Quite fitting that a doorman helps visitors from the coach as you pull up to the hotel's red-carpeted entrance.

Children and adults are absolutely delighted by the hotel. None of the hotel's 385 rooms are alike, but each are designed to reflect the colors of the flower beds that beautify the estate gardens. You will find that some of the rooms are even named after famous people. And six of the suites were designed with help from former first ladies. Inside and out, this hotel beckons visitors to enjoy the sights surrounding them. The gardens are simply beautiful, with more than a ton of bulbs and 125,000 bedding plants \used in the fabulous estate gardens each year.

Even the dining at the Grand Hotel is an experience. At the Grand, one still "dresses" for dinner. That means gentlemen wear ties and ladies wear evening dresses. However, the five-course meals more than made up for any discomfort. The modified dining plan is included in the room rate -- meaning that full breakfasts and dinners are included.

And really, can one talk about the Grand Hotel without mentioning the pool? Not hardly. This heated pool is 220 feet long with a sauna, whirlpools and food service. It's named for actress Esther Williams who starred in the 1949 movie, This Time for Keeps. Besides the pool, children ages 5 and older will enjoy the organized children's activities.

You can truly relax on the island. Enjoy the fresh air, the beautiful surroundings and outdoor activities without the sounds and pollution of modern day vehicles.

Enjoying the island

Mackinac Island Carriage Tours

They are the oldest and largest horse and buggy livery in the entire world and the official tour of Mackinac State Park. Enjoy the narrated tour through downtown to Surrey Hills where you will disembark the two horse hitch to enjoy the carriage museum and/or wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory. Next, it's on to a new three hitch carriage and you're off to Arch Rock and through the boreal forest. A carriage tour was one of our family's highlights of the island experience. Carriage tours depart regularly from the office on Main St. across from the Arnold Line Ferry Docks.

Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory

The beautiful all-glass butterfly conservatory allows visitors the opportunity to enjoy its beautiful lush plants surrounded by hundreds of butterflies, dancing and darting around you. In the background, instrumental music sets the relaxed tone for your visit. You'll observe the beautiful butterflies as they fly around the butterfly greenhouse. Knowledgeable curators are on hand to answer questions and colorful exhibits teach you about the metamorphosis from egg to larvae (caterpillar) to pupa (chrysalis) and finally to the adult butterfly. It's a great way to sneak in some scientific education while on vacation.

Tower Maritime Museum at Mission Point

The tower has been completely remodeled and engineered to serve a new purpose as a history museum dedicated to the Straits area, from freighters and lighthouses to the Mighty Mac Bridge. The tower also features a new maritime museum exhibit.

Mackinaw Breeze

Captain Bruce and the crew at Mackinaw Breeze definitely know how to show their passengers a great time. Great energy and fun combined with a wonderfully custom built Catamaran, the Breeze is a must for an on-water Mackinaw Island experience. Both the Captain and the Crew are U.S.C.G. certified and licensed. The Breeze can accommodate up to 26 passengers which makes it perfect for larger groups as well.

The Mackinaw Breeze sails the Straits of Mackinac departing from Mackinac Island. A typical cruise lasts for 1 1/2 hours and usually follows the course of best wind and best views for the passengers. During a 1 1/2 hour sail, you will travel near the Round Island Lighthouse, Bois Blanc Island, Round Island, Arch Rock, the Mackinac Island Lighthouse and through the harbor of Mackinac Island. Half-day and full-day cruises can be scheduled.

For more information visit:

Grand Hotel

Mackinac Island Information

Star Line Ferry


Wings of Mackinac

Mackinac Carriage Tours