This true getaway is like stepping into a Wes Anderson world of horse drawn carriages, stately dining rooms and clawfoot tables.
Gone are the cold tile and harsh, angular seating of most contemporary hotels. Built in 1887, the enormous neoclassical Grand Hotel still proudly represents that mostly vanished world of stately and extravagant accommodations, where the hotel was a destination in and of itself. Open from May to Halloween, it sits on a bluff above Mackinac Island, a small island in the straits between Michigan’s two peninsulas. Tourists of all kinds visit for carriage rides (bikes and horse drawn carriages are the preferred modes of transportation here), colonial history and the locally-undisputed best fudge in the world. While many visitors spend only an afternoon, those looking for an extended extravagance need to opt for a stay.
For fans of Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” the Mackinac Grand shares more with this fictional counterpart than name alone. There’s suited bell-hops ready to take your luggage and check you in. Overstuffed armchairs surround clawfoot tables, and everywhere, even the stairs, is covered in thick, richly-hued carpeting.There’s also a jazz club with a hardwood dance floor, as well as an attached boutique shopping area. But the hotel’s main attraction is its formal dining room with a strictly enforced dress code. Maintaining a stately and old-fashioned vibe means keeping the board shorts and sandals out of sight except for when at the pool. Naked toes are certainly not welcome in the Tea Club, just off the Main Parlor, with its traditional high-tea service and finger sandwiches.
Mackinac Island is a car-free, fudge-obsessed vacationer’s paradise.
Sitting in the middle of the Mackinac Straits, the island is only accessible via ferry. Once there, you’ll enter a strange world. There’s not a car in sight. In fact, they’re banned. Instead, giant draft horses drag carriages past clapboard storefronts and homes. If you don’t want to take a carriage, you’ll have to walk. While some locals live there year-round, the bulk of Mackinac’s population is concentrated around its tourist attractions. Almost every 10 feet you’ll encounter one of the island’s world-famous fudge shops, filling the air with a sweet, confectionery scent. Beware, just like the three ferry companies, the fudge shops are surprisingly territorial. So if you’re planning to shop around, don’t walk into one fudge shop clearly eating the fudge from another store unless you want a slight, but noticeable, frown.
Perched on a bluff overlooking the town and docks, the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island gives you a good vantage point to survey your options of things to do. They include:
- Located just off the Grand hotel, the Jewel Golf Course creates a unique golfing experience with horse-drawn carriages between holes.
- For great sunset views, go to Sunset Rock, hidden to the left of the Inn at Stonecliffe. Here, you’ll get unobstructed views as the sun goes down across the straits.
- Visit the historic Fort Mackinac, a military fort built on the island around the time of the American Revolution. Today, it houses 14 buildings and exhibits, as well as scheduled live re-enactments.
- On the far edge of town, check out the Butterfly House, an 1,800 square foot enclosure of tropical gardens with hundreds of kinds of butterflies and insects from around the world.
- Feeling adventurous? Go and see Skull Cave. Part of the Mackinac Island State Park, this small cave is believed to have been the hiding place of fur trader Alexander Henry during Pontiac’s Rebellion.
- And if you’re looking to explore greater Michigan, see our guide here.
Loud, proud and unconcerned with being trendy.
As you head towards your room, the hotel’s cozy, aged feel will give way to a zap of color. A whole boatload of color, actually. Here, the vibe resembles that of another fictional hotel, the Overlook from The Shining. The carpets, the bedding, the wallpaper, it all screams in loud, saltwater-taffy-colored pastels. Rooms varyingly contrast mint-green headboards, pinstripe wallpapers, houndstooth carpets and lacy throw blankets. It’s certainly not for the vibrant-adverse. Otherwise, rooms come with your standard upscale hotel amenities: tv, wifi, mini-fridge and on-call room service.
- Guest Rooms: These entrance-level rooms provide either lake views or a balcony. Beds range from one King or Queen, to two double or Queens. Cozy, quirky and intimate.
- Grand Rooms: A step up from the basic accommodation, these rooms can have a king, a Queen or two Queen beds. They are also more spacious. Views range from the lake, the golf course, or the north-facing treescapes. No two rooms are decorated the same. Certain options in this category give access to a private balcony through French doors.
- Signature Suites: This tier of rooms are all specially named and themed, including a series of rooms decorated after First Ladies. They include the balcony and views of the Grand Rooms, as well as additional living space and seating. Some rooms are light, pastel and airy. Others come with dark-hued wood and richer coloring. These rooms are well-suited for family stays.
- Masco Cottage: This is the Grand’s all-out luxury resort option. A penthouse room includes a private deck, four bedrooms, a hot tub and a full kitchen. There’s a stocked bar, made to order cocktails, and the option for an exclusive meal made by the hotel’s head chief.
Your room is almost secondary at the Grand.
There are lots of options when it comes to dining at the Grand. They include: the main dining room, Woods restaurant, the Jockey Club, the Gate House, Mackinac Island Pizza Company, Esther Williams Pool Bar, Fort Mackinac Tea Room, Grand Coffee & Provisions, Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor, Cupola Bar, Audubon Bar, Bobby’s Bar, Geranium Bar, The Gate House “After Dark”, The Parlor (afternoon tea), The Parlor (evening), Terrace Room and in-room dining. Below are details on notables.
Main Dining Room
Each night, large portions of the hotel’s guests gather here for a five-course meal set to the music of a live jazz band. Just be prepared to know which fork you’re supposed to use and when. The hotel’s specialty is its Pecan Ball dessert, unchanged since 1947. Each season, 60,000 are consumed. Breakfast tends to be a more laid-back affair. Like most things at the Grand, the all you can eat buffet is stunningly long.
The Grand Porch
So big you can’t miss it. According to the hotel, this is “the world’s longest porch.” (A claim not verified by Guinness World Records.) Longest, or second longest or third, regardless, it has great views and plenty of rocking chairs if you wish to take some air. You don’t have to stay at the hotel to walk the front porch. But be warned, there’s a $10 entrance fee.
This emerald and gold jazz club is open most nights off the main parlor. Sip cocktails and enjoy the music of Alex Graham and the Grand hotel Orchestra.
Tucked away at the very top of the hotel, this intimate bar’s windows have four-sided views of the Mackinac Bridge and Straits, while providing a more laid-back atmosphere.
Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor
Located in the hotel’s ground floor atrium, Sadie’s checkerboard designs perfectly conjures that old-time boardwalk vibe, serving a variety of artisanal ice creams and soda-fountain classics.
Esther Williams Swimming Pool
With a view of the Straits, this 220 foot long pool has a kids area, a whirlpool, a sauna and poolside service.
Grand Hotel Gardens
Over a century old, the gardens directly beneath the hotel’s grand porch have been maintained and curated with over 150 kinds of flowers, including lilies, lilacs and roses.
What is the hotels’s address?
286 Grand Avenue, Mackinac Island, MI 49757
Where is the historic hotel located?
On Mackinac Island in Michigan, which is a small island located at the eastern end of the Straits of Mackinac. If you’re looking at a map of the state, it’s at the top of the bottom peninsula.
How far is Mackinac Island from Detroit?
How far is Mackinac Island from Chicago?
How far is Mackinac Island from New York City?
What time is check-in at the hotel?
Check-in time is after 4:00 PM and check-out time is 11:00 AM.
What’s the deal with the term “America’s summer place”?
That’s an unofficial moniker of the hotel.
Has the hotel won any accolades?
In media, the hotel is on Travel + Leisure’s Best Hotel in Michigan list, and Condé Nast Traveler’s Top 5 Midwest Resorts.
What is “Somewhere in Time,” which I keep seeing referenced online in connection to the hotel?
It is a 1980 film starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. The hotel was in the film.
Who is Carleton Varney?
He was a famous American designer. He decorated the hotel in late 19th-century decor and tried to make each room unique in some way.