School is [hopefully] officially out for the summer and it’s time to plan the perfect family getaway to your favorite freshwater destination, Mackinac Island. A unique family getaway spot for years, Mackinac boasts plenty of island fun for all ages centered on history, adventure, and of course plenty of outdoor fun.
YOUR SCHEDULE YOUR RULES
Plan well in advance or play it by ear. When school’s out, there’s no rules on how to enjoy these precious moments of sweet summertime zen. With nearly 2,000 acres of park land, Mackinac Island boasts a land for exploration unlike no other. From the scenic trails and tranquil overlooks of the Mackinac Island State Park to historic Fort Mackinac, bike rides along the car-less M-185, stone skipping on the pristine shores of Lake Huron, or picnicking in Marquette Park, there’s truly something for everyone on Mackinac island, especially families!
GETTING AROUND IS HALF THE FUN
Choosing your mode of exploration is half the fun. From the minute your energizing ferry ride across the Straits of Mackinac is underway, you’re immediately transported to a moment in time like no other. Step off the ferry dock and choose your next mode of transport whether it be by foot, by bike, carriage, or even horseback. For horse lovers looking to brush up on their riding skills, Mackinac Island Community and Equestrian Center offers horseback riding and carriage driving lessons. For those less interested in riding, another way to see the island is by a horse drawn carriage led by a guide, or if you’re feeling up to the challenge, you can also rent a drive-your-own buggy via Jack’s Livery. Guided carriage tours offer a great way to learn more about the island, with friendly and knowledgeable guides on hand to answer questions. The approximate time of the tour is 1 hour and 45 minutes, taking guests past the Governor’s summer residence, Grand Hotel, Arch Rock, Surrey Hill, and the back of Fort Mackinac.
8 MILES OF BIKABLE HEAVEN
For those looking to make their Mackinac Island visit an adventurous and active one, bicycling the island offers a great option. The island boasts over 70 miles of both natural and paved trails waiting to be explored. Bring your own bikes paying the nominal sur charge on your ferry of choice, or rent from one of the various island rental companies. Most companies offer tandem options, kids bikes, and even burley trailers for our smallest of small visitors. Cycling the circumference of the island, riders will enjoy points of interest along the way where you can stop and skip rocks or put your feet in the water, and if you’re looking for the perfect place to take a dip to cool down, British Landing offers a quiet cove on the back of the island facing NW. Other points of interest throughout the island include Skull Cave, Sugar Loaf, and Arch Rock – a geological wonder on the shore of Lake Huron. Explore Arch Rock via a carriage tour, accessing the observation deck from street level, or choose to walk or bike to the bottom of Arch Rock from downtown, and participate in the 200+ steps from lake level up to the actual access point. For overnight guests interested in bike availability, be sure to first check with your hotel, B&B, or resort as some offer bike rentals for guests directly through their operation.
HISTORY FOR ALL AGES
Explore the unique grounds of Fort Mackinac, a former British and American military outpost perched high atop the island near downtown and Marquette Park. Fourteen separate buildings comprise the fort with several ongoing exhibits highlighting life as a soldier in the 19th century. The Kid’s Quarters at the fort offers a fun and interactive exhibit that includes various hands-on displays and games. You’ll also find cooking and craft demonstrations at the Biddle House on Market Street as well as at the Kids’ Art Studio at the Mackinac Art Museum, where children can participate in various art activities such as drawing, painting, weaving, coloring, and more. A don’t-miss highlight and fan favorite within Fort Mackinac would be the live demonstrations including daily cannon and rifle firings.
The Original Butterfly House and Insect World and Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory both offer great stops for the entire family, featuring tropical gardens filled with butterflies from literally all over the world. Currently, the operations house butterflies from Asia and Africa, as well as North, South, and Central America. The stops include anywhere from 60-80 butterflies at a time with over 10 different species. After touring, be sure to make a stop in the gift shops for both fun and educational gifts for kids and parents alike.
AN ISLAND OF OUTDOOR FUN
If you’re looking for the perfect locale combining a play area for the kids with tranquil surroundings for mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa, you’ll enjoy several parks and playgrounds throughout the island. The Mackinac Island public school playground is open to the public and offers a great place for kids to play while you sit and take in the view of the Straits of Mackinac just across the street. You can also opt to visit the inland Great Turtle Park, which boasts year-round activities for the whole family including a baseball diamond, skate park, swing set, monkey bars, and picnic area. Speaking of picnics, it’s always a great recommendation to grab lunch and head straight to Marquette Park for some ultimate people watching, plenty of bright green space, and, total relaxation in one of the most spectacular public spaces in America.
HAUNTS OF MACKINAC
For families with age appropriate children, the island’s haunts come front and enter during our notable guided ghost tours as well as a haunted theatre on the Island. The Haunts of Mackinac is a guided walking tour covering the history, legends, and ghost stories of the downtown area. The Haunted Theatre on Main Street offers another spooktastic attraction and is not at all a theatre with haunted movies, but rather a haunted house, where plenty of creepy characters dwell during the day and well into night’s darkness. There’s plenty of scary good fun for the whole family on Mackinac.
SKY’S THE LIMIT ON DINING IN, OUT, AND AROUND
When it comes to choosing your dining options, there’s also no shortage of great restaurants around the Island. From cozy pizzerias to kid friendly casual, and fine family dining experiences, there’s something for every single pallet, young or old. Pizza, pasta, ethnic, dogs, barbeque, burgers, and even sushi are all available. Plenty of fine dining options also exist throughout downtown and at various island hotels and bed & breakfasts. For a complete dining guide please refer our website.
SWEET MEMORIES ON MACKINAC
After dinner, head to the streets of downtown where you’ll find plenty of dessert options like our world famous Mackinac Island Fudge, a myriad of ice cream shops, candy stores, and more. No matter what the age, finishing up a visit to Mackinac Island with the perfect sweet treat means lasting memories for years to come.
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