Anytime you visit Mackinac Island, you’ll find lots of things to do. Unless, of course, the reason you’re coming to the island is to get away from things to do, in which case spending the day in an Adirondack chair sipping your favorite beverage is perfectly acceptable.
At certain times of the year when there’s a festival going on, there’s even more to do on Mackinac than usual. Trying to decide when to visit? See which of these events you may want to build your vacation around:
Mackinac Island Lilac Festival
There are flowers that bloom in the summer. And then there are the lilacs on Mackinac. The island has some of the oldest and largest lilac stems on the planet. The annual Lilac Festival in June celebrates the burst of color and the sweet fragrance that fills the island in late spring and early summer.
Lasting for 10 days, the festival crowns a queen and her court, holds parades (including one for costumed dogs and ponies), features a Taste of Mackinac culinary event and involves other activities such as wine tastings, concerts, horse-drawn carriage tours and the Lilac Festival 10K run.
Fourth of July on Mackinac
There are many places to see fireworks on July 4. But there’s only one where you can watch a fireworks display and participate in the prestigious W.T. Rabe Stone Skipping Contest on the same day. On the Fourth of July each year Mackinac hosts the world championship of stone skipping, attracting the sport’s world-record holders as well as regular Joes who want to give it a shot. It’s one of the reasons Coastal Living magazine named Mackinac one of the Best Little Beach Towns to Visit in Summer.
The island also is home to a vintage 1880s Independence Day celebration at historic Fort Mackinac where you can take part in dances, games and music from the Victorian era as soldiers reenact 38-gun salutes. The party continues into the evening with an All-American picnic on the fort’s parade grounds, then fireworks at dusk. You can cozy up with a blanket on Mackinac’s boardwalk, or grab a ticket for a fireworks cruise around the island.
Mackinac Island Fudge Festival
You can get free samples of world-famous Mackinac Island fudge all season long. But there are limited occasions to taste specialty fudge-infused cocktails such as a Fudge Martini or a Death by Chocolate Margarita. During the weekend Fudge Festival in August, Mackinac celebrates its heritage of fudge in a special way with tasty fudge concoctions, fudge-making demonstrations, Willy Wonka sightings and family games including a fudge egg hunt and an old-fashioned ice cream social.
You can also find roving magicians and musicians during the Fudge Festival, go to concerts and watch an outdoor movie at the island’s Windermere Point.
Mackinac’s peak tourism season draws to a close at the end of October when ferry companies reduce the number of trips back and forth to the island. But, boy, does the season end with a bang! The annual Halloween festivities on the last weekend of October include parties and costume contests at restaurants, bars and lodging facilities all over the island. Plus, families can go trick-or-treating at businesses downtown.
Halloween weekend also is when the last of Mackinac’s four extraordinary trail runs is held. The Great Turtle Trail Run is one of the most scenic races in Michigan, whether you opt for the 5.7-mile run/walk or the half-marathon. If you want to tackle all four races, here are the 2019 dates: May 11, Fort-2-Fort 5-Mile Challenge; June 8, Lilac Festival 10K Run & Walk; Sept. 7, Mackinac Island Eight Mile; Oct. 26, Great Turtle Trail Run.
The pace on Mackinac is always relaxed, and it slows down even more during the island’s offseason from November through late April. Still, there’s more to do than just incredible hiking, cross-country skiing and fat-tire biking when there’s snow on the ground. Winter events on Mackinac include a tree lighting and Christmas Bazaar after Thanksgiving, a St. Patrick’s Day Weekend in March and the Mackinac Island Winter Festival on the first weekend in February.
At the Winter Festival you can kindle a fire in your soul with outdoor activities such as snow golf, broom hockey and sledding and you can warm your bones by indulging in Mackinac Island fudge.
That’s just five of the unique events you can plan your Mackinac vacation around. Check out all the island’s annual events here.