Summer bucket list: Make family memories on Mackinac Island before school starts

Ah, August has arrived. The dog days of summer are here.

It’s hot. The kids are bored. And that elephant in the room is looming larger all the time: School starts in just a few weeks.

The clock is running out on summer, but there’s still time to make some family memories before the rat race resumes.

How about a mid-week trip to Mackinac Island? You can cross off whatever’s left on your family’s summer bucket list in America’s favorite summer place.

Here are a few kid-friendly ideas to get you started on planning a trip:

  • Bike ride – Pedaling around an entire island might sound daunting, but on Mackinac it’s just an 8-mile ride that takes 60 to 90 minutes at a leisurely pace. The road that circles the island, M-185, is the only state highway in the country that prohibits automobiles, so you don’t have to worry about car-bike collisions. Plus, the road is flat. And the views are amazing. You can bring your own bikes to Mackinac on the ferry, or rent them on the island.


  • Family photo – Your family photos are special wherever they’re taken. But a family selfie at an iconic Mackinac site like Arch Rock is truly extraordinary. In fact, there are many great photo spots on Mackinac that will show off your family and catch the eye of your Instagram followers and Facebook friends.


  • Classic kid fun – Remember the awe-inspiring wonder you felt as a kid walking into the toy store? Great Turtle Toys is a throwback to the toy stores of old where kids find things that invite curiosity and spark their imagination. It’s as much a place to explore as it is a store, with fun games, puzzles and toys that foster a sense of discovery in kids and grownups alike. True to its island setting, Great Turtle sells kites and demonstrates how to fly them during daily kite shows on Windermere Point.


  • Goofy kid fun – The 3-D Maze of Mirrors is a quick (or maybe not so quick) stop on Main Street that’s fun for all ages. If you can’t find your way out, you’ll at least be able to giggle at how silly you look in the funhouse mirrors. Your giggles might turn to gasps at the nearby Haunted Theatre that houses hordes of 3-D monsters like the Ocryx with the head of a wolf, the arms of a rat and the tail of a serpent. A visit makes for good, old-fashioned scary fun.


  • Fudge – Sure, you’ve gone out for ice cream this summer. How about world-famous Mackinac Island fudge? Fudge has been synonymous with Mackinac for decades. Visit any of the 13 shops downtown and get free samples of all the delicious flavors. You might find a new favorite!


  • Mini-golf – Putting on artificial turf through windmills and manmade caves has its place. And it’s not on Mackinac. The island offers a true miniature golf experience at The Greens of Mackinac, an 18-hole putting course with real bent grass right on the water at Mission Point Resort. You can order a beverage at Bistro on The Greens and take it along for the round.


  • Horseback riding – More than 80 percent of Mackinac is a state park, and there’s more than 70 miles of trails to explore all through the island. Since cars aren’t allowed on Mackinac, horse-drawn carriages are a popular way to get around. So is riding horseback. Check out the equine options and saddle up!


  • Picnic – There’s a diverse selection of restaurants on Mackinac, and the island also boasts the ideal summer picnic spot. Located at the base of historic Fort Mackinac, the grassy Marquette Park features a great, modern playground for kids and blissfully stunning views of the harbor. The kids will get a kick out of the 19th-century re-enactments at the fort, then refuel in the park where once upon a time the soldiers stationed at the fort grew vegetables for their own meals.

Need some more ideas? On Mackinac you can take a family hike to an amazing geologic feature like Sugarloaf, paddle kayaks around the island, cruise under the Mackinac Bridge on an evening sailboat ride, go geocaching through the island’s interior, visit an island butterfly house, enjoy a relaxing day of browsing Mackinac’s unique downtown shops and attractions, and so much more.

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