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Family Friendly Guide to Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel

    The ultimate family friendly guide to Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel.

    Grand Hotel Exterior Mackinac Island

    Last month my family traveled to one of my favorite places in our beautiful state of Michigan: the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. My second ever visit to the island, the last time I was there our first son was just five months old!

    Asher Jacob

    Our two boys are now 4 and 6 and get easier and easier to travel with each and every trip. In the last year we’ve had so much fun traveling with them to Alaska, Boston, Traverse City and more.

    Downtown Mackinac Island Shops

    If you’re not familiar with Mackinac Island, it is a tiny island (3.8 square miles) located in Lake Huron right between Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsula.

    Ferry to Mackinac Island

    Getting there is half the fun whether you’re traveling with kids or not! There are several ferry boat options that take you to the island, but we decided to go with Shepler’s Ferry.

    Mackinac Island Bridge

    Pro Tip: Book the “Might Mac” ferry which includes a 25 minute narrated tour of the Mackinac Island Bridge on your way to the island.

    Mackinac Island Kid Friendly Travel Guide

    When you arrive at the island, you won’t want to reach for your phone to call an Uber. Since there are no cars allowed on the island, taxis look a little different around here and come in the form of horse drawn carriages. A far cry from the hotel airport shuttle I used to drive back in my hospitality days!

    Grand Hotel

    From the minute you first lay eyes on the Grand Hotel, you will immediately be drawn to the beauty and charm of the 131 year old property.

    Grand Hotel Patio Flags

    The magnificent colonial porch is the longest in the world and adorned with American flags and fresh flowers.

    Grand Hotel Guest Room Beds

    Every single one of the 393 guest rooms are individually decorated which makes returning to the hotel so exciting – you never know what your room will look like when you visit!

    Grand Hotel Guest Rooms Asher Bed

    While the hotel is certainly a luxury property, I can assure you that it is very kid-friendly and family oriented. You can read all about their family-friendly services here including a wide variety of FREE children programming available daily.

    Grand Hotel Pool and Hotel

    One note: the children’s activities are only available for kids over the age of six so we didn’t participate in them during our visit (so as not to leave out our youngest) but that was hardly a problem since there are so many fun things to do both at the hotel and throughout the island.

    Grand Hotel Pool Snow Cones Jacob

    First up: we headed straight to the pool! It was a beautiful, 80-degree day during our visit so we took full advantage of the weather.

    Grand Hotel Pool Rich Jacob

    Fun Fact: the  Esther Williams Swimming Pool is named after the actress and competitive swimmer who starred in the 1947 movie This Time for Keeps, filmed at Grand Hotel.

    Pool Jacob
    Grand Hotel Exterior Ice Cream Shop

    After a hot day at the pool, nothing cools you off quite like an ice cream cone from Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor located on the first floor of the Grand Hotel.

    Ice Cream Scavenger Hunt Grand Hotel

    To make it even more fun, the hotel offers a fun scavenger hunt which encourages little ones to be active to EARN an ice cream treat.

    Grand Hotel Ice Cream Cone

    I’ll never understand why my kids insist on this ice cream flavor every single time but who am I to argue?

    Biking Island Rich

    Another must while visiting Mackinac Island is a bike ride around the island.

    Bike Ride Asher in Back

    The Grand Hotel has bike rentals available right on site making it really easy and convenient. While Mackinac Island has over 70 miles of paved and unpaved bike trails, we love doing the scenic eight-mile perimeter ride on the paved Lake Shore Boulevard on M-185 which is the only state highway in the United States where motor vehicles are banned.

    Arch Rock Mackinac Island

    One of our first stops along the bike ride was Arch Rock located in Mackinac Island State Park.

    Stairway to Arch Rock
    Stairs to Arch Rock

    While you do have to take 200 steps to get there, it is worth it for the view on top!

    Arch Rock Top Asher

    Even on our cloudy day, the boys were all smiles on top.

    Bike Ride Skipping Rocks

    While the bike ride is only a little over 8 miles long, be sure to carve out a couple hours for the bike ride so you have plenty of time to stop, take photos and skip rocks. Because, summer.

    Grand Hotel High Tea

    One of my favorite afternoon activities back at the Grand Hotel is afternoon tea. Taking place every afternoon from 3:30pm – 5pm, this tradition is more than 100 years old.

    Afternoon Tea Pastries

    While kids are welcome, this is also a fun one to do with just adults.

    Family Photo Patio

    Speaking of fine dining, one of our favorite times of each day was when we got to dress up as a family for dinner each night.

    Jacob and Asher

    There is just something so irresistible about tittle boys in three-piece tuxes which is why I love the hotel’s dress code which requires men to be in jackets after 6:30PM.

    Family Photo on the Patio

    It’s a great opportunity to capture family photos. Maybe you’ll luck out and have one where BOTH of your kids’ eyes are open.

    Family Photo with Grandparents on Steps

    Lucky for us, we also brought the grandparents for our experience so we could capture even more family memories.

    Grand Hotel Dining Room Childrens Menu

    While the dining room is formal, it is extremely kid-friendly. This is apparent from the moment you sit down as a family and your little ones are presented with their very own children’s menu.

    Grand Hotel Dining Room Kids Desserts

    The best part? While the parents enjoy a five course dinner, the kiddos can help themselves to their very own kid-friendly buffet. The ability to feed kids right away = happy parents, am I right?

    Breakfast at Grand Hotel

    Don’t worry, the same goes for breakfast time. While the parents are welcome to eat off the huge breakfast buffet, there is also a menu you can order off of while the kiddos eat right away. How great is that?

    Horse Ride to The Woods

    If you prefer to dine off property one night, I highly recommend Woods Restaurant which is a short horse and carriage ride away.

    The Woods Steak
    The Woods Restaurant

    The food was incredible and the ambiance was cozy, old world cabin. Besides, how often do you take a horse and buggy to and from dinner?

    The Gate House Tuna Salad
    The Gate House Restaurant

    For a fresh and delicious lunch on the island, we really enjoyed The Gate House. Be sure to order the peel and eat shrimp – so flavorful!

    Mackinac Island Horses Downtown

    If you want to head downtown for lunch, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from.

    Pink Pony Restaurant Mackinac Island
    Pink Pony Bar Grill

    The Pink Pony is our favorite because it’s right on the water and gives you that island feel right away.

    Fudge Shop Boys

    Of course, you can’t visit Mackinac Island without checking out one of the many fudge shops!

    Chocolate Fudge

    I’m not going to name a specific fudge shop, just start walking and you’ll find one (or ten.) They also package the fudge to take home which makes the ideal souvenir or gift to bring back.

    Fudge Shop Jacob Looking

    Of course, the best gift you can bring back are all the family memories you’ll be creating.

    Family Photo Front Steps

    Your passport is waiting.

    Disclosure: The Grand Hotel hosted me and my family during our visit. I was not compensated to write this post. All thoughts are my own. 

    Want more fun, family-friendly travel guides? Head over to my Pinterest board for more!


    Liz DellaCroce

    Liz Della Croce is the creator and author of The Lemon Bowl, a healthy food blog. Since 2010, Liz has been sharing delicious recipes that just so happen to be healthy. By using real ingredients with an emphasis on seasonality, Liz has built a growing audience of loyal readers who crave good food for their families. Click Here To Subscribe to my newsletter:


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