Grand Hotel

Grand getaway at the Grand Hotel

By Katy Koontz
Photos accompanying this article are courtesy of The Grand Hotel Mackinac Island

For 133 years old, this grand dame is looking mighty fine!  While it is generally not polite to mention a lady’s age, in the case of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, MI, making an exception seems appropriate.  The hotel, which opened in 1887, is a National Historic Landmark; so, visiting is like stepping back in time.

Various dignitaries and historical figures, such as Mark Twain and Thomas Edison, have been guests over the years, as have five U.S. presidents—the latest of which was Bill Clinton.  Edison was known to demonstrate his inventions here, including the unveiling of his phonograph on the hotel’s front porch.

That porch, by the way, is absolutely iconic.  Sitting at the very tip of the state’s “mitten” shape, the Grand overlooks the Straits of Mackinac and the Mackinac Bridge, linking Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas.  As guests approach the hotel by ferry, the first thing they see is the Grand’s 660-foot front porch—said to be the world’s longest—with its row of tall, white pillars gleaming in the sun.  Of course, it also sports rocking chairs—100 of them!

Once visitors dock, there will not be a taxi in sight.  Motorized vehicles are prohibited on Mackinac.  Biking and walking are popular here, but luckily, the Grand also offers horse-and-carriage transportation.  (This is also a pleasant way to explore the island, as the drivers give guided tours.)

The 397-room, 332,500-square-foot hotel is known for its rich and colorfully appointed guestrooms, each of which has a totally different look.  Guests also can choose from several levels of accommodation, including standard rooms, deluxe rooms with balconies, and one- and two-bedroom suites.

Room rates include a full breakfast and dinner in the main dining room for every night of your stay.  The dining room also serves a luncheon buffet available for an extra fee.  Afternoon tea is served daily in the hotel’s parlor—a very special experience.  The Grand offers a choice of several other restaurants, as well, both formal and casual.  The restaurant known as Woods, surrounded by trees off-grounds in the interior of the island and housed in a Bavarian-style hunting lodge, is a popular option.

Onsite activities include an 18-hole golf course (the only one in the world that shuttles players from the front nine to the back nine via horse-drawn carriage), FootGolf, pickleball, tennis, croquet, bocci ball and biking.  The Grand also has an outdoor swimming pool named for Esther Williams, who starred with Jimmy Durante in the 1947 movie This Time for Keeps, shot on the property.  (Speaking of movies, the hotel also is well-known as the location of the 1980 film Somewhere in Time, which starred Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer.)

The grounds are positively majestic, and the landscaping includes 25 award-winning gardens.  The hotel’s trademark flowers are its ubiquitous red geraniums, 1,375 of which grow in the 147 planting boxes that line that magnificent front porch.  Some of the other 149 varietals include tulips, lilacs, roses, peonies, lilies, cosmos, coleus and daisies.

Be warned that you’ll need to pack more than casual daytime clothes for your visit, since after 6:30 pm, women are expected to wear dresses, skirts or dress slacks with blouses or dress sweaters, while men are required to wear a suit coat, tie and dress pants.  While casual attire is fine for daytime, the dress code forbids midriff-baring tops for women, sleeveless shirts for men, and sweatpants or cut-off shorts for all.

The Grand Hotel is open seasonally, from the first weekend in May through the end of October.  For more information, call 800-334-7263 or visit grandhotel.com.