My love affair began with Mackinac Island when I was about seven years old. My mother told me I always dreamed of working up there in the summers and even marrying there one day. Some of those dreams did indeed come true and many did not. I just returned from a two week vacation from what I lovingly call “Shangri La” or Mackinac Island, a small island, with no smog and no compelling reason to have a TV ANYWHERE.
Imagine a family vacation where your kids are on their bikes ALL DAY LONG, you are surrounded by blue skies and water with temperatures hovering around 70 degrees, and there are bursts of color by ways of FLOWERS everywhere. To add to the wonderment, there are no cars on this small island (just 9 miles of shoreline) so there’s not much to worry about except running into a horse….. or perhaps, another biker.
Mackinac Island is historically significant. There are many tales of early fur trading with the Native Americans , Fort Mackinac and the lovely Governor’s Residence. It also sells about a gazillion pounds of fudge and offers day tourists a chance to get on a bike, eat some incredible ice cream and become an official “Fudgie”-a term of endearment given to the tourists by the locals.
When I was 18 years old, I arrived at Mackinac Island to work as a tour guide at Historic Fort Mackinac. Fresh from college in Mobile, AL, I walked into my new home, the soldiers barracks, to face a group of women right off the Ann Arbor campus of University of Michigan: talk about a study in contrasts. They did their best to understand what was coming out of my mouth as I simultaneously pondered, “Heavens, why don’t they don’t shave their legs?”
The rest is history – so to speak – as I make an annual trek to Mackinac Island EVERY YEAR. It’s my absolute center of the universe.
As tour guide extraordinaire, I’d like to offer my top 5 picks for things to do on Mackinac Island.
1. Early morning ride around the Island with a stop at the most secluded shore, Point Aux Pins, for a quick dip in the icy Straits of Mackinac. End the trip with the best hot chocolate EVER from the Beanery.
2. Lunch at the Chippewa Hotel. Order a crock of the steaming hot French onion soup and some Labatt’s Blue Beer. When done, take a dip in the huge hot tub… even kids are allowed.
3. A visit to Fort Mackinac where you can see an authentic canon and musket firing with Victorian Games for the kids to play. The tea room overlooks the Straits of Mackinac……not a bad place to have lunch.
4. A ride through the interior of the Island on the most beautiful road of all time, Leslie Avenue. It’s always fun to stop along the way and look down from Arch Rock and watch the horses rest. Afterward, you head through the Annex (quite similar to the Monteagle Assembly) and stop at the Grand Stand Restaurant for a famous Pecan Ball- a round ball of vanilla ice cream rolled in pecans with hot fudge sauce.
5. Afternoon at the Grand Hotel pool with the kids. The pool was featured the famous movie “This Time for Keeps” with Esther Williams. The pool has a huge inflatable called ‘the worm’, free snowcones all day long and killer Pina Coladas for the adults. We all know it is 5 o’clock SOMEWHERE.
Folks, when I say Shangri La, I sincerely mean it! – Elizabeth