The ultimate family friendly guide to Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
The magnificent colonial porch is the longest in the world and adorned with American flags and fresh flowers.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ll never understand why my kids insist on this ice cream flavor every single time but who am I to argue?
Another must while visiting Mackinac Island is a bike ride around the island.
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.
One of our first stops along the bike ride was Arch Rock located in Mackinac Island State Park.
While you do have to take 200 steps to get there, it is worth it for the view on top!
Even on our cloudy day, the boys were all smiles on top.
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.
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.
While kids are welcome, this is also a fun one to do with just adults.
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.
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.
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.
Lucky for us, we also brought the grandparents for our experience so we could capture even more family memories.
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.
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?
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?
If you prefer to dine off property one night, I highly recommend Woods Restaurant which is a short horse and carriage ride away.
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?
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!
If you want to head downtown for lunch, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from.
The Pink Pony is our favorite because it’s right on the water and gives you that island feel right away.
Of course, you can’t visit Mackinac Island without checking out one of the many fudge shops!
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.
Of course, the best gift you can bring back are all the family memories you’ll be creating.
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.
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