Presidents who have visited Mackinac Island

Did you know there’s a “White House” on Mackinac Island? No, not that White House. The white house we’re talking about is the Michigan Governor’s Summer Residence, a historic home that you can tour for free during your visit to Mackinac Island – so long as the governor isn’t staying in it!

While there’s no such house on Mackinac Island for the U.S. president, past presidents have been no stranger to visiting the USA’s Best Summer Travel Destination. No fewer than a half-dozen presidents have stayed on Mackinac Island either before, during or after their time in the White House.

Let’s take a closer look at Mackinac Island’s presidential history:

President Gerald R. Ford tees off on The Jewel Golf Course at Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel in the 1970s

Presidents Who Have Visited Mackinac Island

Harry Truman – A decade after authorizing use of the atomic bomb in Japan during World War II, Truman visited Mackinac Island in 1955 to raise money for his presidential library. While on Mackinac Island, Truman strolled down the Grand Hotel porch and enjoyed a horse-drawn carriage ride in the Lilac Festival parade with G. Mennen Williams, who was Michigan’s governor at the time.

John F.  Kennedy – In June 1960, Kennedy traveled to the “Irish Isle of Mackinac” to meet with G. Mennen Williams and garner the Michigan governor’s support for his presidential candidacy. Kennedy won the Democratic nomination the next month and went on to beat Richard Nixon in the election that fall.

Gerald R. Ford – In his youth, Ford made his first visit to Mackinac Island in 1929 as a member of the Governor’s Honor Guard, a select group of Boy Scouts who serve on Mackinac Island to this day. Nearly a half-century later, Ford returned as president and landed in a helicopter in front of the Scout Barracks. During his visit as president, Ford toured Fort Mackinac, played golf at Grand Hotel, worshiped at Trinity Episcopal Church and enjoyed world-famous Mackinac Island fudge.

George H.W. Bush – The elder Bush visited Mackinac Island both before he became president and after he left the White House, and while he was president he walked across the Mackinac Bridge during Michigan’s annual Labor Day Walk in 1992. On one of his visits, the door of Bush’s airplane came open mid-flight and he calmly solved the problem. Later, more than a decade after leaving the White House, Bush was back in 2005 as a speaker during an annual conference of political VIPs at Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel.

Bill Clinton – Five years before ousting incumbent president George H.W. Bush in the 1992 election, Clinton visited Mackinac Island for a Democratic Governors Association Conference that vetted the party’s presidential hopefuls including eventual nominee Michael Dukakis (who lost to Bush the following year). Then the governor of Arkansas, Clinton traveled to Mackinac Island with his wife, Hillary Clinton, who later served as Secretary of State and finished runner-up to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Joe Biden – Already a veteran senator in 1987, Biden was one of the presidential candidates who courted support from Clinton and other Democratic governors on Mackinac Island – decades before he would become the oldest president in U.S. history with his 2020 election triumph over incumbent President Donald Trump. Of course, Biden also served two terms as Vice President (with President Barack Obama), making him one of several VPs to have visited Mackinac Island including Al Gore (Clinton’s VP), Nelson Rockefeller (Ford’s VP), Alben Barkley (Truman’s VP), Spiro T. Agnew (President Richard Nixon’s VP) and Trump’s VP Mike Pence, who made headlines in 2019 by using a motorcade to travel around car-free Mackinac Island.

The Laura Bush Suite at Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel is one of seven suites decorated in honor of former First Ladies

First Ladies on Mackinac Island

Speaking of presidential visitors, Mackinac Island also has welcomed several First Ladies. In addition to Betty Ford, who came along with President Ford in the 1970s, others including Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Lady Bird Johnson visited Mackinac Island either before or after their time in the White House.

Several suites at Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel are named after First Ladies, with rooms in honor of Ford, Johnson, Jacqueline Kennedy, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan and both Barbara and Laura Bush. These seven suites were designed with input from the First Ladies and each one features a replica of the official White House portrait of the first lady after whom it is named, a brass plate over the door with the first lady’s signature and autographed books from each first lady.

An 8-foot tall replica of the Statue of Liberty stands at the marina on Mackinac Island

Lady Liberty on Mackinac Island

Aside from the First Lady suites at Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island is home to Lady Liberty, too. That’s right! Mackinac Island has a Statue of Liberty replica that arrived as part of the Boy Scouts of America’s Strengthen the Arm of Liberty campaign during the organization’s 40th anniversary in 1950. The replica stands at the Mackinac Island Marina below Fort Mackinac and Marquette Park.

Interestingly, about 70 years before the little Lady Liberty was installed on Mackinac Island, soldiers from Fort Mackinac had a hand in building the much larger Statue of Liberty in New York harbor.


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