The Grand Hotel Mackinac Island is an Iconic Michigan Experience
The Grand Hotel is one of the most iconic places on Mackinac Island. When you plan your Mackinac Island vacation, the Grand Hotel is often top of the list of things to do.
Whether you stay there or just pay to stand on their majestic porch, it’s a total Insta-worthy experience.
But did you know all the things that you get with a stay at Grand Hotel? Free (delicious) dinner, reduced (or free) kids rates, activities and more are part of the Grand Hotel Mackinac Island experience.
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.
14 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 – Kids Stay and Eat Free (or Reduced) at Grand Hotel Mackinac Island
Children 5 and under stay and eat for free at the Grand Hotel. Children 6-17 pay $70/nt.
We have three kids under the age of five so this pricing structure really works for us.
3 – 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.
4 – 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.
5 – Splurge for Lunch at the Grand Luncheon Buffet
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. (Note that in summer 2021, this buffet changed to a four-course plated meal.)
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.
6 – There’s a Pool, Two Hot Tubs and Free Snow Cones
The Esther Williams swimming pool is open from Memorial Day – Labor Day and features a large main swimming pool and two hot tubs.
There is food and beverage service at the pool and our kids couldn’t get enough of the complimentary snow cones!
7 – Explore the Secret Garden and Stop for Yard Games
The tea garden is home to expansive gardens, wooded trails, outdoor fitness stations, and yard games.
Our children raced around the trail areas and were delighted to find small wood carvings along the path. The view of the hotel from the secret garden makes this a must-stop while at the hotel.
8 – 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.
9 – Go to Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor for the Best Summertime Desserts
Located on the east end of the hotel, Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor is open to all visitors to Mackinac Island.
Featuring Michigan made Hudsonville ice cream, customers will find dessert classics like root beer floats, sundaes, milk shakes, and hand dipped chocolate waffle cones.
10 – 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 Grand Hotel Mackinac Island porch from 6:00 – 10:00 P.M. Those pictures are available for purchase the next morning.
11 – Try Your Hand at FootGolf
Footgolf is a family friendly activity for all ages and takes place on the hotels golf course in the evening.
On some holes, we kept track of the number of kicks and on others we simply raced to see who could get the ball in the hole the fastest.
12 – Take the Shepler’s Ferry Under the Mighty Mac
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.
13 – 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 the ultimate flexibility, bring your own bikes. You don’t have to be dependent on finding what you need from a rental shop plus everyone is already comfortable with their bike.
For those looking for a shorter trip check out Arch Rock, but beware there are over 200 steps to the top!
While you’re on the bikes, try this Interior Island Bike Tour:
14 – 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.
Visiting Mackinac Island is always fun, but our trip to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island allowed us to experience the island in a new way. We loved how Grand Hotel had an eye on children’s enjoyment and made people of all ages feel welcome.
If you want to do Mackinac Island with kids, I highly recommend staying at the Grand Hotel.