The Grand Hotel (906/847-3331, www.grandhotel.com) has become practically synonymous with Mackinac Island, a gracious edifice built on a truly grand scale. The Grand Hotel is the largest summer resort in the world, operating from early May through late October.
Its famous 660-foot-long covered front porch gets decked out each spring with 2,000 geraniums planted in seven tons of potting soil. Its 11 restaurants and bars serve as many as 4,000 meals a day. Its impeccable grounds offer guests every amenity, from saddle horses to designer golf to swimming in the outdoor pool made famous by the 1940s swimming actress Esther Williams, who filmed This Time for Keeps here.
But opulence is what the railroads and steamships were after when they formed a consortium and built the Grand Hotel in 1887, dragging construction materials across the frozen waters by horse and mule. The wealthiest of all Mackinac Island visitors stayed here, of course, high on the hill.
Yet unlike other turn-of-the-20th-century resorts that burned to the ground or grew dog-eared and faded, the Grand Hotel has managed to maintain its grace and dignity over the years. It still hosts all manner of celebrities and politicians—five U.S. presidents to date—and still offers a sip of the Gilded Age, with high tea in the parlor each afternoon and demitasse served after dinner each evening. Room rates still include a five-course dinner in the soaring main dining room, and jackets/ties and skirts/dresses are still the required attire.
The Grand Hotel’s time-capsule setting prompted director Jeannot Szwarc to choose it as the location for the 1980 film Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, and Christopher Plummer. Curiously, the movie has developed a huge following; its fan club reunites at the hotel each year in late October.
While room rates can get outright astronomical, they can be a worthwhile splurge if you enjoy this kind of thing. What the heck—take high tea, loll in the beautifully landscaped pool, or dance to the swing orchestra in the Terrace Room.
Nonguests can sneak a peek at the hotel’s public areas and grounds for a not-unreasonable $10. (It’s needed to thin the sightseers more than anything.) Highly recommended are a stroll through the grounds, filled with Victorian gardens—24,000 tulips in spring!—and a visit to the snazzy Cupola Bar, with views halfway to Wisconsin.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel