My curiosity for the Grand Hotel began while watching a movie with my husband years ago. He had asked me if I had seen “Somewhere In Time” with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour and insisted that I watch it after I admitted to never viewing the film. The story, the characters and the beauty of the past pulled me in and I was immediately entranced with the gorgeous hotel in the film. Little did I realize that very hotel is the same one I oohed and aahed at every time I visited Mackinac Island.
Mackinac Island is a favourite vacation destination for my family and I. We have been visiting the island every year for the past 3 years and just can’t seem to get enough. Located in Lake Huron between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, Mackinac Island is as historical and popular tourist attraction which is famously known for its fudge, the ban on all motor vehicles (your taxi is a horse-drawn carriage) and the grand dame of all hotels – The Grand Hotel.
In the 19th century, 1200 wood framed hotels were built. Today only 12 are left and 11 of those are open – the last privately owned being the Grand Hotel.
Dorothy Draper revolutionized interior design by painting everything white and then covered it in colour “to shock you without clashing”. Carlton Varney took over the company and brought the parallel architecture theory of design to the hotel when he was hired as a consultant. He wanted every colour from the hotel’s garden brought into the hotel and banned the use of the colour beige. Each one of the 385 rooms is different and there are 264 individual wallpapers and 22 custom mixed paint colours.
The way Carlton explains the unique design theory of the hotel is like this
“Imagine its your birthday and the hotel would like to give you a birthday present. You get to choose from two packages. One is wrapped with pink and white striped paper that is covered with flowers and ribbon the other is a plain brown paper package. I gift wrap summer memories. All my walls are wrapping paper and all the floors and ceilings bows ribbons and flowers.”
That pretty much sums it up! The room we stayed in was very spacious and was comfortable for all five of us. You can view a full room tour in the video I embedded at the end of this review.
There are several places to dine at the Grand Hotel, however the Main Dining room is where you will find yourself most mornings and evenings. A full breakfast, five course dinner (and depending on the package you choose, the Grand Luncheon Buffet) is included in your room rate.
Overlooking the world’s longest porch and the beautiful Straits of Mackinac, this Victorian style dining room is bright and airy. During breakfast you can choose to order off their lengthy menu or a buffet option is also available. The strawberries and cream were divine and the omelets superb! Dinner is a formal affair so be prepared to dress up.
Gentlemen who aren’t wearing suit coats and ties will be asked to change before entering the dining room. This was a real treat for my kids! Getting all dolled up was just as exciting as seeing mom and dad dressed to the nines. Dinner is served in five courses and there are plenty of options to choose from regardless of your diet preference (vegetarian and gluten-free options were readily available).
Tip: If you are visiting Mackinac Island for the day only, be sure to take advantage of their Afternoon Tea or Grand Luncheon. It’s a great way to take a peek at the hotel if you are short on time.
On our second day we chose to lunch at the Jockey Club which is located just across the street from the hotel. The food was excellent and I loved the interior decor!
The heated 500,000 gallon 220 foot long pool dubbed the “Esther Williams” Swimming Pool is located just off the beautiful gardens of the hotel. You can choose to lunch poolside, indulge in a snow cone or two and enjoy the whirlpools and sauna while you are there.
Why is it called Esther Williams Swimming Pool?
The pool was named after the actress Esther Williams who starred in the 1947 movie, “This Time For Keeps”. The movie was filmed at the Grand Hotel and has many classic scenes of the island including a shot of Jimmy Durante riding on the back of a tandem bike through the streets of downtown Mackinac.
Activities & Amenities: Having visited Mackinac Island several times before we have always found plenty to do, however while staying at the Grand Hotel I barely had time to step away as there is even more to do at the hotel itself! From tennis, lawn games and vintage baseball games to biking, carriage tours and enjoying the grounds there is enough here to keep you busy during your stay.
If you head down to the lobby you can take a look at the daily schedule. Here is an example of what you may find. As you can see there is plenty to do!
The Children’s Program is excellent and was given a two thumbs up by my daughter. Geared towards children give years of age and up, these group programs keep kids BUSY. In just one day my daughter checked out the brand new Grand Hotel Stables, the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory, played games and created a few crafts. Babysitters are readily available for children younger than 5.
The Grand Hotel is a historic jewel among American hotels. After listening to one of the historical lectures (FASCINATING), I was completely blown away by the amount of history in this building. Families have been coming here for over a century and continue to visit thanks to the outstanding service, stunning location and the ambience of the Grand. Yes, this is a luxury hotel and the price clearly reflects that however the spring and fall bring many amazing deals and discounts (check now for September/October!). We’ve visited the island in the off-season a couple of times and loved it as there aren’t as many crowds and the weather is still gorgeous although not too hot.
Visiting the Grand Hotel changed me in a way, in fact I left feeling a little sad and melancholy. Privately owned establishments and unique places like these are rare. This is not a chain or a typical all-inclusive, it whispers memories of the past and present in a way that I can’t really explain.
Definitely a must-see attraction/vacation. Highly recommend and we will most definitely be back. Next trip – Afternoon Tea at the Grand with my girls!
*Thank you to the Grand Hotel for providing us with accommodations and meals during our press review.*