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Insta-Q&A: Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel

Scott Vogel

It's time once again for Insta-Q&A, where you can both pose questions to the Travel section, and also help out fellow travelers with your own answers to their queries. Today's question comes from a reader whose wife is soon to celebrate her 50th birthday. If you have some advice for Mike from Mt. Airy, feel free to post a comment. And if you have a question yourself, e-mail us at travelqa@washpost.com.

He writes: My wife is a big fan of the movie "Somewhere in Time." For her 50th birthday in June, I would like to take her to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan. It's difficult to get to and pricey, but I don't mind if it's worth it. Do you know anyone that has spent a few days at the Grand Hotel? Any suggestions?


The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in northern Michigan. (AP Photo/John L. Russell)

The Grand Hotel dates from 1887 and has long been a favored stop for Mackinac travelers. It remains popular in part because of "Somewhere in Time," the Christopher Reeve-Jane Seymour movie that was filmed on the hotel grounds in 1979 (fans of the film make a weekend pilgrimage there every October), and in part because of its marvelous, 660-foot-long front porch, reportedly the longest in the world. No two rooms are alike (of the 385 on the grounds), and prices range from $465.34 a night for an interior-view guest room during Mackinac's Lilac Festival (June 6-15), all the way up to $2,999 a night for the stately Masco Cottage, which holds up to 8 persons. All prices include a full breakfast and dinner at the hotel daily.

"If they have never been to the island, the Lilac Festival would be a very nice time to visit," said a representative when we contacted the hotel. Celebrating the many varieties of the flowering tree (whose arrival dates from the 1800s), the festival, is one of the biggest on the island each year, drawing thousands of visitors. There is an extensive slate of tours, as well as events for foodies and concert-lovers, not to mention the crowning of the Lilac Festival Queen. For Information on other things to do on Mackinac, visit the Mackinac Island Web site.

By the way, the Grand also offers a package for its "Somewhere in Time" weekend, which happens on Oct. 24-26 this year and is also very popular, according to the hotel.

Has anyone out there stayed at the Grand Hotel? What's your opinion of the place? What about Mackinac Island itself? Can you offer tips on visiting?

By Scott Vogel |  February 20, 2008; 7:07 AM ET  | Category:  Hotels , Insta-CoGo , Scott Vogel
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I haven't stayed at the Grand, though I've walked past it. I've been told it's worth looking at some of the special shoulder season weekends they put on, e.g. murder mystery weekends and such.

Mackinac Island is a thoroughly charming place - as soon as you get a few blocks away from the ferry landing and the neighboring collection of tacky t-shirt shops and fudge stores and such. There are extensive footpaths which make for a lovely late spring walk. The Park Service folks at the Fort also do a good job of historic programs.

Posted by: xenoph | February 20, 2008 8:34 AM

Mackinac Island holds a very special place in my heart. As a child I went a couple of times with my parents. One of those times we stayed at the Grand Hotel. My parents have spent a few special occaisions there.

My opinion would be that if you can do it you should. Plan a special weekend, stay at the grand, take a bike ride around the island, get some fudge and sit in one of the rocking chairs on the porch.

If I didn't live so far away we would go to the island often. The grand is expensive but worth it once.

Posted by: boston | February 20, 2008 9:05 AM

My husband and I went there for our honeymoon two years ago and had a great time. A couple of points, though--it actually includes breakfast and dinner every day. I believe that if you stay for 3 or more nights they throw in lunch, though I wouldn't recommend it; lunch tends to be leftovers from the previous night's dinner. The quality of food and room decor is not what a once was (our room had a stunning view, but was in desperate need of remodeling), but the experience is still unique. The Cupola Bar is really fantastic for low-key after-dinner drinks and live music, and the afternoon tea is great. I would also recommend croquet or bocce on the lawn and splurging on a private carriage tour from the hotel instead of one of the carriage "buses."

As for traveling there, it is a pain to get to, but there are ways to make the most of it. We drove up in a convertible from Milwaukee along the lake and enjoyed the scenery.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2008 10:16 AM

My husband and I honeymooned there, as well. The meals are super - served elegantly and the tea is amazing.

Make sure that you don't have a room at the back - the kitchen chiming of silverware woke me at 2:30 AM, but they moved us to another room the next day.

The dancing is lovely for celebrating - there were at least 4 brides in the room, and we all felt lovely.

Posted by: SueWallace | February 25, 2008 7:29 PM

I vacation in northern Michigan every summer/fall (though not quite that far north) and have been up to Mackinac Island several times for the day. I just want to throw in my 2 cents about the time of year to go - September/October are often INCREDIBLY beautiful. There is a risk it will be cold, but the past few years I've been up there at that time, it has been amazing - no humidity, temps in the 40s-high 60s, the leaves are in beautiful color (and many are still green - global warming??). Wonderful destination!!

Posted by: PQ | March 26, 2008 3:40 PM

Mackinac Island is a wonderful place to visit. It has a great and interesting history which you can explore by touring the fort, etc. One can bicycle around the island very easily and rentals are available. Those who like a little more challenge can bike or hike through the interior of the island. A horse drawn carraige ride is another nice way to see the island. The Grand Hotel is a special place and each guest is treated royally. For those of us not used to being escorted via red carpet to our dinner table- it is special. There are special prices available for midweek visits etc, which always includes breakfast and dinner. (not lunch and dinner as an earlier post indicated-unless that is something new)

Posted by: Peter | April 9, 2008 12:29 PM

We live for six months just three-quarters of an hour from the boats to the Island. A favorite day for visitors is to go to the Grand Hotel for afternoon tea. While it is expensive (trip over: $20, entering the hotel:$ 10. and tea: $25 ~ the afternoon is well worth the occasional trip over. And the entire island is there too for your inspection.
I have stayed there as well several times; luxury and personal attention are their priorities - I have never been treated as well as there.
Figure when you are pricing a stay: the dinner and breakfast are included - and there is NO tipping allowed. All is included in the overnight price. And the meals are spectacular - beyond belief.
And yes, I do travel abroad too and stay nicely in the US. This is a very special place - with 'Grand' memories.
Beautiful pool, gardens, golfing.

Posted by: Jean | April 10, 2008 5:17 PM

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