Secrets to Visiting Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island With Kids

The Grand Hotel at Mackinac Island is an Iconic Michigan Experience

Here’s how to get the Most out of Your Grand Hotel Stay With Kids

Old-school, classic, throwback, timeless.

These could all be used to describe the Grand Hotel and Mackinac Island. As Michiganders we’re all accustomed to the unique qualities of the Grand Hotel and the island. 

The smell of freshwater as you take the ferry across majestic Lake Huron, with impressive views of the Mackinac Bridge and Grand Hotel in the distance. Horse-drawn carriages clip clopping past as you step onto the island, sweet scents strategically pumping out of the fudge shops, and bicycles lining the streets and carrying tourists off on island adventures.

This is an amazing place and a Michigan treasure!

But for all the fanfare the Grand Hotel and the island receives, I think too many people are doing it wrong.  

Read on to see my tips for getting the most out of your Grand Hotel experience.

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Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

Ten Tips to enjoy your stay at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

The Grand Hotel has been serving guests since 1887 and was recently ranked by Travel + Leisure as the top hotel in Michigan and one of the top 500 hotels in the world. 

Why? The experience is amazing. They pull out all the stops for guests, and visitors can’t get enough. Use the following tips to make the most of your visit. This may be one of your favorite Michigan vacations yet!

1 – Visit the Grand Hotel in the Spring and Fall

Most people visit in summer: Memorial Day – Labor Day. While this is a great time to visit as our kids are out of school, it’s also apparent on the island that EVERYONE’s kids are out of school.  

I think the best time to visit the island is in the spring and fall. Not only will you find the shoulder seasons to be less chaotic and more enjoyable, you also might be surprised to find the Grand Hotel is in your price range.

Tourists flock to the hotel in the summer months and the hotel has no problem staying fully booked.  During the spring and fall, when the hotel isn’t as busy they will offer promotional packages and discounted prices to attract guests.

What that means for you, if you’re willing to travel in the shoulder season, is up to 60% savings off peak summer prices.

2 – Follow the Grand Hotel on Facebook to get the Best Pricing

Most of the deals for accommodations are launched on Facebook. I’ve seen prices as low as $139/nt per person for spring, late summer, and fall accommodations. While this number has additional hotel fees, sales tax, and baggage fees the price is still a huge savings.

3 – Grand Hotel Pricing Includes Breakfast and Dinner

Breakfast and a five-course formal dinner are included in your stay and these are two meals you’re not likely to forget. The food quality, assortment of choices, and the setting in the main dining room, which overlooks the Straits of Mackinac are all amazing! You can find information on Meal Plans and Menus here.

4 – Splurge for Lunch at the Grand Luncheon Buffet

This might seem a little over the top considering breakfast and a full five-course dinner are included with your stay, but our family always shows up on the island early and hungry.

The lunch buffet is served daily from 12:00 – 2:00 P.M. and the sheer volume of choices and options is mind blowing.  There seems to be hundreds of feet of buffet spread out in the main dining room and options are endless.

5 – Kids Stay and Eat Free (or Reduced)

Children 9 and under stay and eat for free at the Grand Hotel. Children 10-17 pay $65/nt. We have three kids under the age of five so this pricing structure really works for us.

6 – Embrace the Formality and Dinner Dress Code

Maybe it’s the fact that we don’t get dressed up that often, but our kids are always excited for the formal dinner. Of course, we also bribe them with copious amounts of ice cream and dessert for good behavior, but so far, it’s worked out for us!

It helps that the dining room is buzzing with activity and there is a constant stream of food for the kids to snack on. Also, don’t pass up the professional photographer on the porch from 6:00 – 10:00 P.M. Those pictures are available for purchase the next morning.

7 – Get Outside and Enjoy the Included Amenities

The grounds of the Grand Hotel are ripe for adventure. They have a huge chess set on the porch and bocce ball, baggo (cornhole), and croquet on the lawn in front of the hotel.

Additionally, the fall and spring pricing specials occasionally come with a golf promotion or free admission to Fort Mackinac.

If the pool is open it’s worth checking out. Our kids loved the oversized hot tubs. The pool is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but they also keep it open into September if the weather cooperates.

8 – Take the Mighty Mac Shepler’s Ferry

Shepler’s has a couple departures a day that take you directly under the Mackinac Bridge. There is no extra cost for this tour and it takes an additional ten minutes to get to the island.

The Mighty Mac departures give you a short narrative on the bridge and some awesome photo opportunities.

9 – Rent Bikes and Tour the Island

Mackinac Island doesn’t allow motorized vehicles, so you travel by bike or horse or carriage. If the weather cooperates a trip around the island can be a lot of fun (8.2 miles).

For those looking for a shorter trip check out arch rock, but beware there are over 200 steps to the top!

10 – Drive Your own Horse-Drawn Carriage from Jack’s Livery

What better way for your family to enjoy the island than with your own horse and carriage! Amazingly, no experience is necessary to take on this adventure.

The kids absolutely loved it and it’s a great way to see the island.

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