Family travel to Mackinac Island: A field trip for all ages

Students have gone on field trips to Mackinac Island for years, taking a break from the classroom for experiential learning in one of Michigan’s most historic places. But you don’t have to be in school to go on a field trip. Mackinac Island is a great place for real-life learning the entire family can enjoy while you’re on vacation!

Of course, not every family has a teacher. So, we’ve done the homework for you and come up with several points of learning for kids of any age. Here are several ways to make your visit to Mackinac Island both fun and educational:

A mother and three children walk down a tree-lined street on Mackinac Island

Historical Experiences on Mackinac Island

Alongside “beautiful,” “relaxing” and “peaceful,” “historical” is one of the most popular words to describe Mackinac Island. It’s no wonder: the entire place feels like you’ve gone back in time! Because there are no cars on Mackinac Island and people get around on foot, by bike or in a horse-drawn carriage, the whole atmosphere feels like the olden days. There also are several historic sites on Mackinac Island:



Mackinac Island Field Trip: 5 places for interactive history lessons

Two young boys whisper to each other while crouching near a tree on Mackinac Island

Science Experiences on Mackinac Island

Speaking of history, Mackinac Island is full of geologic wonders that offer hands-on lessons in natural history. The iconic Arch Rock is a popular attraction, but there are many more to see including Sugar Loaf and Skull Cave, to name just a couple. You can try to wiggle your way through the Crack-in-the-Island or snuggle up inside Eagle Point Cave, too. The limestone features were shaped and carved by rising and falling water levels over hundreds and thousands of years.

In late September through October, Mackinac Island State Park becomes a gorgeous laboratory for fall colors with an entire forest of trees on display. Mackinac Island’s butterfly conservatories and Mackinac Island Botanical Trail are two more places where you can learn about and appreciate the natural world. And you can get a physics lesson at these great Mackinac Island spots for skipping stones, learning how and why the rocks seem to walk on water.

Mackinac Island Field Trip: 3 places for hands-on science lessons

A young boy poses in the middle of Main Street on Mackinac Island

Snack Time on Mackinac Island

Every school day needs snack time, and world-famous Mackinac Island fudge makes for a memorable treat. Plus, you can watch a fudge making demonstration, which is a science in itself. For lunch, there’s a wide variety of places to eat on Mackinac Island, from upscale restaurants where you can refine your table manners to casual waterfront cafes where you can introduce your kids to seafood to the best picnic spot in all of Michigan where you can spread out a blanket in the shadow of Father Jacques Marquette.

5 sweet treats to keep you cool on Mackinac Island

A young boy pedals a tagalong behind has dad's bicycle on a road along the Mackinac Island marina

Math Experiences on Mackinac Island

From Marquette Park, it’s an 8.2-mile bicycle ride around the outer rim of Mackinac Island. That makes for a nice physical education break, but also an opportunity to use mile markers along the way to make calculations about how fast you’re pedaling or how many feet you’re traveling every second. You can visit one of Mackinac Island’s three historic cemeteries and figure out how long it’s been since some of the island’s pioneers have been laid to rest. Or take a look at your receipt from the fudge shop and calculate the price per ounce for that sweet, sugary goodness.

Amazing statistics from Mackinac Island

A young woman with a child on her back smiles on a sidewalk in front of Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel

Arts and Culture Experiences on Mackinac Island

There are endless nooks and crannies on Mackinac Island where you can escape to read a good book. There also are several art galleries on Mackinac Island as well as some literary sites worth a visit including Anne’s Tablet, which is a memorial to 19th-century author Constance Fenimore Woolson, who wrote a novel set on Mackinac Island, and the Grand Hotel, which is featured prominently in “Somewhere in Time,” a 1980 movie about romance and time traveling that stars Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

Mackinac Island Field Trip: 5 great cultural lessons

A boy and his dad throw stones into the water on a Mackinac Island beach

Recess on Mackinac Island

Just as every school day needs snack time, every school day needs recess. And there’s no shortage of things to do on Mackinac Island! More than 80% of the island is a state park, which makes it a huge playground that’s free for you to explore. In addition to riding a bike around the island, you can also kayak in the water, hike or bike some of Mackinac Island’s 70-plus miles of trails, play catch or kickball on Mackinac Island’s historic ball field or pump high into the air on the swings at one of the island’s playgrounds.

16 sports and games to play on Mackinac Island

Whether you come to Mackinac Island on a family field trip for just a couple days or for an entire week, you can find a comfortable home base at any of the island’s places to stay. Mackinac Island is home to a wide selection of unique resorts, hotels, B&Bs, cottages and condos.

Find your Mackinac Island place to stay and start planning a fun, educational trip today!

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