GRAND HOTEL Expectations: Mackinac Island

It was about 30 years ago that I first remember hearing of Mackinac Island.  While sitting alone watching a special travel feature on television, I made a mental note that I wanted to go there “someday.”  I don’t remember telling anyone … until recently … when Renaissance Man and I discussed where to go for a short get-away prior to the Northern Indiana wedding of a family friend.  From the “ancient” TV special, I had formed grand expectations for the “someday” trip: beautiful water, the lonnnnng porch at the Grand Hotel, no cars, quaint shopping; an elegant yet carefree destination full of historical intrigue, beauty, and romance.
I’m afraid I sometimes have the tendency to expect too much from places (and occasionally from people) … to build them up in my mind until the only response is disappointment.  Before going on our trip, I decided … no matter what … I would set aside my grand expectations and have a grand experience instead.
The ferry ride from St. Ignace (where we stayed) to Mackinac Island offered breathtaking views of the Mackinac Bridge…



With the words of my friend Debbie at Words On Wheels ringing clanging in my ears, I agreed to ride in tandem with my sweetie.  If you haven’t read it, Debbie’s Tandem Tale is a “must.” 

Together we peddled and puffed our way up Grand Hill…

… and I breathed a sigh of relief when we arrived and I could finally jelly-leg myself off of the back seat.

The side entrance to the Garden Terrace was calling my name, and so this time my sweetie followed ME.  He even graciously paid the $10/person admission charge so we could look around.

I know some of you like to get “oriented,” so this is for you … The Lobby Level.

Seating down the left side …

… and shopping down the right.

This studio of Oil Paintings by Marlee is perhaps the most whimsically traditional space I’ve ever seen!  I could never live with this much color every day, but it was an absolute delight to step through the door.

Guests of Grand Hotel have lots of options for whiling away their day…

At the far end of the Lobby Level, we exited the building, walked up this geranium-embellished staircase …

… and stepped onto the world’s longest (660 feet) porch with its seafoam green ceiling.  The color surprised me.  If I’d had a grand expectation, it would have been “haint blue.”

The Parlor Level …

It was on this level that the vibrant colors, floral patterns, and bold contrasts of interior designer Carlton Varney really made their statement.  Notice that the ceiling color is the same used outside on the porch.

I soooo wanted to reach into the Grand Hotel coffers and play in the dishes!

This original dinner plate was preserved and returned to Grand Hotel by a “longtime friend” Mackinac Island resident.  My initial response was:  Not at all what I’d expected.  How about you?

As we strolled through the Grand’s Parlor Level, there were unexpected design and decorating elements everywhere I looked …

Beautiful paintings by American artists like this one…
Summer’s Promenade, 1880
Julius LeBlanc Stewart (1855-1919)

And gorgeous mirrors in a wide variety of styles.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Venetian mirror with colored glass accents like these.  Have you?  I only wish my pictures did it justice…

Around every corner, vibrant colors … inside and out.

We had a grand time at Grand Hotel, but there was more do on the Island … like check out their world-famous fudge.  I’ll tell you about that soon.  For now, it’s one more stop before we head back to that bicycle-built-for-two and our easy-peasy trip down Grand Hill.  In case you’re wondering, the ladies room was nice … but it didn’t come close to meeting my grand expectations.

So what did you think of our brief Grand Hotel tour?  Did it meet your grand expectations?  Would you have gone back for lunch … or donned a dress (or coat/tie) and returned for dinner … or kept moving like we did?
Have you ever stayed at — or been to — the Grand?  If so, did it meet your grand expectations?

Click HERE to read an earlier Mackinac Island post.

I’ll be joining
Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch, Blue Monday at Smiling Sally, and Mosaic Monday at Little Red House.


  1. Oh, how I love these photos! Hubby is from MI and has visited here! Thanks so much for sharing and have a great week.

  2. It’s been 4 years I have not visited this place. Was here for a women’s conference and spend one night there. The food is awesome and the room is beautiful. I think it has 600++ rooms and each room is decorated differently no room is the same! Love the lobby the carpets and everything in this place. Have you seen the movie Somewhere in Time? It is filmed here.


  3. I’ve always wanted to go to “the Grand,” but we always head south, wwaaaayyy south when we get away. It reminds me so much of “the Del” (Coronado, that is), on Coronado Island near San Diego. I love these old, grand hotels, and yes, I would’ve LOVED to have stayed there, and stayed there for dinner, and lunch, and tea!! Thanks for the tour, Susan! ~Zuni

  4. I’m speechless!!! How very beautiful!!!! Well done!! Cathy

  5. Ohh no!! I had a very long and detailed comment, and it disappeared when I tried to post!!

    Now, I’m miffed. I had yakked all about how this trip of yours prompted a determined plan to visit the place with my mother and sisters. We were talking about it yesterday after lunch, in fact. We’re beginning our saving now. I’m the holdout since it takes me the longest to save.

    LOVED this and it did meet my grand expectations.

    And I’m so glad you chose the bicycle built for two, “Daisy”! Wasn’t it fun?

    Trying again.

  6. That is blue-tiful! (I really should say, “colorful.”) That one space was surely color overload. What a super place to vacation.

    Happy Blue Monday, Susan.

  7. Wow, what a lovely place to stay – might add this to my bucket list!

  8. I have never been there! And I would love to visit it. Just once! What a gorgeous place! Wow!


  9. great shots of a lovely place and wonderful vacation……

  10. Such a quaint place.

    My BLUES please come and see. Have a fabulous Monday!

  11. I thought I was acquainted with a grand hotel in the White Mountains of New Hampshire years ago, but the hotel I’m thinking of was just an outhouse compared to the one on Mackinack Island!

    Blue Jacket, Red Hat

  12. I’m afraid if I went I would never want to leave. The porch alone is a dreamer’s paradise. Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos, perfect for Metamorphosis Monday.

  13. Wow! Such a grand feast for the senses! I’m amazed at the colour combinations of pink, green and orange! And candy pink picture frames! Great views of an opulent lifestyle!

  14. What mezmerizing photos!!!!I WANT to go someday now–its definately on my list. The colors in each area are so vivid and love all the different decorating styles. What a fun time!!!

  15. Well, I think one must STAY at The Grand to really get a sense of its grandeur. Our family spent a week there over the Fourth of July a few years ago and it was everything and more than we ever expected. Our children still talk about it! I would agree it would be disappointing to just walk through. The decor, the wait staff, the food, the rooms/ room service and the helpful hostesses make it a grand experience indeed.

  16. Such fabulous getaway!

    Visiting from Blue Monday, here’s my lovely BLUE. Your comment will be greatly appreciated!!

  17. Is truly a breathtaking place. Great post..I enjoyed the photos:)

    Visiting for Blue Monday- hope you can stop by..

  18. What an awesome place and wonderful vacation spot. I haven’t had a vacation in decades, but you have taken me along and I have soooooooooooo enjoyed.

    As for tandem bike riding…that post hit all of us and stuck in our minds…I notice anyone on a tandem bike…I must try it myself one day, that will be an experience.

  19. What a great travelogue! Have you considered a career as a travel writer? Great photos of so much more than just the usual shots and including those of the schedule etc. really give one a sense of being there.

    I have spent a lot of time at Mackinac. I have been visiting the hotel since I was about 10 years old and worked there for a few years. It is indeed a magical place. The owners have done an outstanding job maintaining and enhancing the old girl and she is one of Michigan’s treasures.

  20. Loved your blog! My husband and I are going in June and this gives me a good sneak preview. I am more excited than ever!