Ultimate Guide to Mackinac Island | All of YOUR Questions Answered

If you have questions about Mackinac Island, you’ve come to the right place. This tiny island in Lake Huron is packed with things to do and is the perfect spot for a fun vacation with the family. We visited in October, and I received SO MANY questions about our trip that I put together this Ultimate Guide to Mackinac Island and tried to answer everything.

Ultimate Guide to Mackinac Island

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WHERE IS MACKINAC ISLAND??

map of Michigan pin on Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island, part of the state of Michigan, is located near the Straits of Mackinac. It sits in Lake Huron between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas. If you think of Michigan’s lower peninsula as a hand, Mackinac Island is just north of your middle finger.

HOW DO I GET TO MACKINAC ISLAND??

Given that it’s an island with no bridge to the mainland, you can’t drive to Mackinac Island. Cars aren’t even allowed on the island except for a few emergency vehicles. Your options for getting to Mackinac Island are the passenger ferry, a private boat, or a quick flight.

MACKINAC ISLAND FERRY / FERRY TO MACKINAC ISLAND

Most visitors to Mackinac Island take the ferry from either Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula or St Ignace in the Upper Peninsula. Two companies, Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry and Starline Mackinac Island Ferry, shuttle passengers back and forth from the mainland every half hour or so during the peak season from late April to the end of October. While Shepler’s closes at the end of the season, Starline runs their ferry to Mackinac Island year-round if you want to explore a snow-covered winter wonderland on the island.

Shepler's Ferry to Mackinac Island

With either line, you can check your luggage at the ferry dock, and depending on where you’re staying, it will get delivered to your hotel. You can even bring bikes or leashed pets (for an additional fee) if you’re interested. Round-trip tickets for both Shepler’s and Starline are about $30/adult.

VIEWS OF MACKINAC BRIDGE

We opted for Shepler’s because they offer a “mighty Mac“ sailing. On these departures, which are offered daily at no extra charge, you take a scenic detour under the mighty Mackinac Bridge. Mighty Mac sailings are roughly 25 minutes instead of the usual 16 minutes.

Mighty Mackinac Bridge connecting Upper and Lower peninsulas of Michigan

The Mackinac Bridge is quite impressive! It’s the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere, with 7400 feet of roadway suspended over the Straits of Mackinac. The bridge’s total length that connects the Upper and Lower peninsulas of Michigan is nearly five miles.

FLIGHT TO MACKINAC ISLAND

There are no commercial flights to Mackinac Island. You can get as close as Pellston Regional Airport (PLN) in Mackinaw City or Chippewa County International Airport (CIU) north of St Ignace. You can take the shuttle to the Mackinac Island ferry docks from either airport.

If you REALLY want to fly to Mackinac Island, you’ll need a private plane or a charter flight. Great Lakes Air and Fresh Air Aviation offer charter service from St Ignace. The 7-minute flight will run you right around $100/adult (round-trip).

HOW DO I GET AROUND ON MACKINAC ISLAND??

Since there are no cars on the island, you may be wondering how to get around once you’re on Mackinac Island. Your choices are by foot, by bike, by horse-drawn carriage, or, in the winter, by snowmobile. As we visited in October, we opted for the foot/bike/carriage options.

When we arrived on the island, we decided to walk down Main Street and to our hotel. It gave us time to take in the sights, check out some shops, and kind of get the lay of the land.

girl biking loop around Mackinac Island

Bikes are one of the most popular ways to get around the island. In fact, there are more bikes per capita on Mackinac Island than anywhere else in the country. You can rent bikes from many locations downtown as well as from some of the resorts. If you do end up renting a bike, make sure to pedal around the perimeter of Mackinac Island on M-185. It’s the only highway in the country that prohibits cars!

horse drawn carriage mackinac island

If you’re looking at the horse-drawn carriage option, both Mackinac Island Carriage Tours and Gough Carriages offer carriage tours of the island. Additionally, you can call for a horse-drawn taxi from Mackinac Island Carriage Tours – they’re available 24 hours a day during the summer season. You can’t just “hail” a taxi, though; you do need to call 906-847-3323 and request taxi service. It will run you $6 to go one-way between downtown and either the Grand Hotel or Mission Point Resort. Due to the price, we opted to walk/bike and only used the taxi service once to go from our hotel out to Fort Mackinac.

HOW IS THE WEATHER ON MACKINAC ISLAND??

MACKINAC ISLAND SPRING WEATHER

In April, when regular, daily ferry service starts back up to Mackinac Island, the weather is in a state of flux. Highs are in the 50s and 60s, but if there’s a late cold snap, highs can plummet to the 30s. Make sure to pack layers to stay warm if it’s colder than usual.

MACKINAC ISLAND SUMMER WEATHER

Like you might expect for an island in the northern US, Mackinac Island has warm and comfortable summers. Most people visit between Memorial Day and Labor Day partly because everything is open but mainly because the weather is perfect. Summers typically have highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s. The long summer days are usually sunny – Mackinac Island has less than 2 inches of rain every month in the summer. Even though it’s not overly windy, there’s a steady breeze on the island, and it blows that cool lake air year-round.

MACKINAC ISLAND FALL WEATHER

Horse drawn carriage tour on a fall day on mackinac island

Fall on the island is my idea of perfection. By late September, highs are in the 60s, and they drop to the 50s in October. If you time your trip just right, you can catch peak fall color in mid-October, before the island shuts down for the season. September is usually the rainiest month of the year, with an average of 3 inches of rainfall.

MACKINAC ISLAND WINTER WEATHER

The passenger ferries end their daily service at the end of October. From November until April, there aren’t many visitors to the island; it’s mainly just the 500 year-round residents. Most hotels and attractions are closed since there aren’t tourists around. Average highs are in the 20s and 30s, with lows in the single digits. The island gets almost 100 inches of snow annually – January is the snowiest month of the year.

WHAT IS THERE TO DO ON MACKINAC ISLAND??

Be sure to check out our Things to Do on Mackinac Island with Kids post for all the details, but here are some of the highlights.

MACKINAC ISLAND FESTIVALS

Mackinac Island has a couple of big festivals throughout the summer season.

  • The Mackinac Island Lilac Festival runs from June 3-12, 2022 (and in 2023, it’s from June 9-18). This 10-day festival is the largest summer event on the island. There are special events, tours, races, and even a parade!
  • The Mackinac Island Fudge Festival is from August 26-28, 2022 (and August 25-27, 2023). This event, held the weekend before Labor Day, celebrates the sweet treat that Mackinac Island is known for. There are fudge demonstrations, plenty of food, and lots of fun for the whole family.

FORT MACKINAC

kids at Fort Mackinac cannon

On Mackinac Island, time stands still; and that’s even more evident at Fort Mackinac. The fort, founded during the American Revolution, was especially significant during the War of 1812 – it was the site of the first land engagement in the United States! Fort Mackinac is an absolute must-do when you visit Mackinac Island. Plan to spend at least half a day in order to see and do everything.

MACKINAC ISLAND FUDGE

girl enjoying fudge on Mackinac Island

You can’t come to Mackinac Island and not buy some of the delicious fudge that the island is known for. You’ll smell it wafting out of the storefronts as you make your way down Main Street. Make a day of it and try fudge from each of the 14 shops! Our favorite was from Original Murdick’s Fudge, though every shop was delicious.

BIKE M-185

kids biking M-185 around Mackinac Island

Another Mackinac Island staple is biking. There are plenty of places to rent a bike for a couple of hours, for the day, or even for the length of your trip. Once you’ve secured your rental, head to the island’s perimeter and bike the 8.2-mile M-185 loop. There are no cars on this highway, just other cyclists and pedestrians taking in Lake Huron and Mackinac Island views.

ARCH ROCK

Arch Rock, a natural limestone arch, on the east side of Mackinac Island

This natural limestone arch is one of the most popular stops on the M-185 loop. If you’re arriving from M-185, make sure to take the stairs to the top for a completely different view! If you do a carriage tour, most will stop at the top of Arch Rock.

ORIGINAL MACKINAC BUTTERFLY HOUSE

We didn’t get the chance to check out the Original Butterfly House because it closed for the season right before our trip. But we heard GREAT things about it from everyone we talked to, though! It’s definitely on the list to do next time we’re in town.

GREAT TURTLE KAYAK TOURS

Another thing on our list for next time is a kayaking tour with Great Turtle Kayak Tours. They have sunrise and sunset tandem kayaking tours that look absolutely amazing. They include everything you need to get out on the lake and are perfect for beginners and experienced paddlers alike.

TAKE A CARRIAGE TOUR

The absolute number one thing you HAVE TO DO on Mackinac Island is taking a carriage tour. There are public options from Mackinac Island Carriage Tours that depart pretty continuously from Main Street and cost $36/adult ($15/child ages 5-12) for the hour and 45-minute tour. Reservations are NOT accepted – just hop in the line on Main Street.

things to do on Mackinac Island

If you can swing it, I highly recommend going the private tour route from either Gough Carriages or Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, as you will have more say in where you go and how much time you spend at each place. We did the two-hour tour with Gough Carriages, and it was a great length for seeing the highlights of the island. Next time, I would consider going with a three-hour tour to have a little more time at Fort Holmes and explore more inland.

horses on Mackinac Island

For private tours, both companies require a one-hour minimum rental. MICT only takes same-day reservations for private tours, while Gough Carriages will let you book in advance. Based on 2021 rates, Gough Carriages is a bit cheaper, but both companies charge just shy of $200/hour for a family of 4.

WHERE SHOULD I STAY ON MACKINAC ISLAND??

With over 30 hotels and B&Bs, and more than 1600 rooms, there are LOTS of places to stay on Mackinac Island. However, with all those rooms, there are no chain hotels and nothing that I would consider a “budget” hotel. Expect that a night on Mackinac Island will run you at least $250/night and, in many cases, much higher.

The historic Murray Hotel is often recommended if you’re looking for less expensive accommodations. With 69 rooms, a great location in the heart of downtown, and an old-fashioned atmosphere, it’s a great choice. I found mid-week availability in June for less than $300/night for a family of four.

BEST MACKINAC ISLAND HOTEL FOR FAMILIES

Mission Point Resort is where you need to stay if you’re bringing along the kids or even the extended family! It was voted one of the Top Resort Hotels by Travel + Leisure, and it’s perfect for the family. It sits on 18 acres of waterfront property on the shores of Lake Huron, has everything from bike rentals to mini-golf, and the famous Great Lawn full of Adirondack chairs.

massive Great Lawn, dotted with Adirondack chairs, at Mission Point Resort Mackinac Island

Kids under 12 eat free at Mission Point restaurants, and in the summer, Mission Point offers complimentary kids’ activities. We had a fantastic time when we stayed at Mission Point Resort in October, and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

MACKINAC ISLAND HOTELS IF YOU’RE LOOKING TO SPLURGE

The Grand Hotel, affectionately referred to as “America’s Summer Place,” is the epitome of luxury on Mackinac Island. It’s one of the top resorts in the country and a national historic landmark – and has the prices to prove it.

horse drawn carriage at the Grand Hotel Mackinac Island

Even if you can’t afford to stay at The Grand, you can grab a rocking chair on the world’s longest porch and take in the views of the Straits of Mackinac (for $10/person). Note: Grand Hotel does have a dress code. During the day, casual resort wear is appropriate. After 6:30pm, it’s dresses/skirts for women and coat and tie for men – including all kids 12 and older.

Another splurge-worthy option on Mackinac Island is the Hotel Iroquois. This waterfront boutique hotel has beautifully decorated guest rooms and gorgeous gardens.

CAN I VISIT MACKINAC ISLAND FOR THE DAY??

Plenty of people do a Mackinac Island day trip. Hotels book up quickly and are often expensive in the summer, so people will stay in St Ignace or Mackinaw City and come out to Mackinac Island for the day. If all you want to do is explore the downtown area and grab lunch, a day is fine to see the highlights. If you’re going to spend time biking the perimeter of the island, join a kayaking tour, or really get a feel for the island, you need at least a couple of days.

WHERE SHOULD I EAT ON MACKINAC ISLAND??

Like with hotels, there are plenty of places to eat on Mackinac Island! We were only in town for a few days, so this list is by no means exhaustive.

ROUND ISLAND KITCHEN

At Mission Point Resort, Round Island Kitchen features a Michigan twist on classic comfort foods. They’re open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and have both inside and outside dining available.

Cherry Braised Beef Nachos at Mission Point Resort Mackinac Island

Without a doubt, our absolute favorite thing on the lunch/dinner menu was the Cherry Braised Beef Nachos – Shaved cherry-marinated beef, wonton chips, purple cabbage, Monterey cheese sauce, fresh jalapeño, cilantro & sriracha-lime crema. Even if you’re not staying at Mission Point, I would make the trip to the resort just for these nachos!!

PINK PONY AT THE CHIPPEWA HOTEL

This popular downtown restaurant can have a bit of a wait, so get on the list early if you’re interested. We had lunch at the Pink Pony on our arrival day, and it did not disappoint!

lunch at the Pink Pony Chippewa Hotel

The lunch menu features soups, salads, and sandwiches, while the dinner menu has steak, chicken, fish, and pasta entrees. Make sure to request a table outside by the water if the weather is nice!

MIGHTY MAC HAMBURGERS

Another popular place, especially with kids, Mighty Mac Hamburgers serves up fast food Mackinac Island style. They have burgers, dogs, chicken tenders, beer-battered fish, fries, and rings, along with indoor and outdoor seating.

FORT MACKINAC TEA ROOM 

The tables under the yellow umbrellas have one of the best views of downtown Mackinac Island and the harbor. In fact, we stopped at the Fort Mackinac Tea Room primarily to take in the view but also to enjoy one of the famous Grand Hotel Pecan Balls.

Grand Hotel Pecan Ball where to eat Mackinac Island

Since the Tea Room is located on Fort Mackinac, admission to the fort is required. But you can make a day of it and explore historic Fort Mackinac and also enjoy lunch or an afternoon snack at the Fort Mackinac Tea Room.

IS MACKINAC ISLAND EXPENSIVE??

This is hard to answer because, like many places, it can vary. It’s not the cheapest place you can visit, but it’s definitely not the most expensive either. There are a range of hotel prices, going from kind of budget to more middle of the road at Mission Point Resort to super expensive at the Grand Hotel. Visit during shoulder season (April/May or September/October) to keep the price lower and enjoy fewer crowds!

WHY SHOULD I VISIT MACKINAC ISLAND??

Simply put, Mackinac Island is pure magic. There’s nowhere else like it in the country. It’s a place where you are transported back in time to a bygone era. There are a variety of things to do with kids on Mackinac Island, but also plenty of luxury hotel and dining choices if you’re looking for a romantic getaway.

But at least once in your life, you should sail away to Mackinac Island and enjoy the break from cars. Take in the sights of this beautiful island where the only traffic is horse-drawn carriages or lines at the fudge shops.

girl looking at turquoise waters of Lake Huron

WHAT’S A MACKINAC FUDGIE??

Ok, you know how I mentioned all the fudge on Mackinac Island? According to Michigan slang, the tourists who flock to Northern Michigan (which technically is the northern part of the mitten, not the Upper Peninsula) are known as “fudgies.”

IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MACKINAC AND MACKINAW??

So this one can get kind of confusing, but the most important thing to remember is that they’re all pronounced the same – MACK-in-awe. The area was initially called Michilimackinac by the Native Americans and meant “place of the great turtle.” The Native Americans thought that Mackinac Island looked like a turtle coming out of the water.

When the French arrived and built a fort, they translated the pronunciation of the area to something that better fit the French language. Fort Michilimackinac was born, and like common French pronunciation, it included a silent “c” that sounded like “aw.”  Eventually, the British took over the fort and moved it onto present-day Mackinac Island. They also shortened the name to “Mackinac.” Now you have Mackinac Island, Fort Mackinac, Mackinac Bridge, and the Straits of Mackinac, all with the traditional French pronunciation.

On the mainland, where Fort Michilimackinac used to be, lies Mackinaw City. The founder of the city, Edgar Conkling, opted for the more phonetic spelling – Mackinaw. But no matter how it’s spelled, it’s ALWAYS pronounced MACK-in-awe!

view of harbor how to get to Mackinac Island

So, have you been to Mackinac Island yet?? Did we miss visiting your favorite place on the island?? I’m always looking for new places to explore! Are you planning a trip to get there ASAP??

Things to Do on Mackinac Island with Kids | Michigan

Sitting in Lake Huron, just off the coast of Upper Michigan, Mackinac Island is an absolute dream. It’s been the go-to summer vacation destination in Michigan since the late 1800s. There are no cars and no chain hotels on Mackinac Island, and the only way to get there is by boat or plane. If you’re looking to visit Mackinac Island with kids, KEEP READING for our favorite things to do.

things to do on Mackinac Island with kids summer vacation destination in Michigan

TAKE A CARRIAGE TOUR OF MACKINAC ISLAND

Since Mackinac Island does not have cars, save for a few emergency vehicles, horse-drawn carriages are the easiest way to get around town. Mackinac Island Carriage Tours offers taxi service – though you need to call 906-847-3323 to request a taxi, you cannot hail one on the side of the street. Going from downtown/ferry dock to the Grand Hotel or Mission Point Resort (where we recommend staying!) is $6/person and half-price for kids 5-12. Due to the price, we only took a taxi once.

Gough Carriages pick up at Mission Point Resort

However, we did opt to do a carriage tour. Mackinac Island Carriage Tours offers public and private tours of Mackinac Island. For the public tours, hop in the line at the downtown ticket office and wait your turn – reservations are not accepted. When we walked by, it was over an hour wait to get on the sightseeing tour.

Both MICT and Gough Carriages offer private carriage tours of Mackinac Island and both charge by the hour with a one-hour minimum. Only same-day reservations are available for MICT private tours, but for Gough Carriages, you can make your reservation well in advance, ensuring you get the exact time and date you want.

private carriage tours of Mackinac Island fall color

We booked a two-hour private tour with Gough Carriages and had our driver pick us up at Mission Point Resort. Usually, their carriage tours leave from Marquette Park downtown, but they can also do pick-ups at some of the downtown hotels. It worked really well for us since we could eat breakfast and head right out front.

horse-drawn carriage on Mackinac Island fall color

The fall colors were absolutely gorgeous when we visited in mid-October. I think we were probably about a week before peak color, but it was still breathtaking.

girl with horses things to do with kids on Mackinac Island

We stopped near Fort Holmes to check out the view of Sugarloaf (not pictured), but the kids were more interested in playing with the horses. Did you know that horses like Twizzlers?! I certainly didn’t!

Mackinac Island carriage tour Lake Huron view

Mackinac Island is filled with beautiful Victorian homes. The kids have decided that we need to pack up everything and move there; we’re just short a few million dollars for a house. In all seriousness, though, I think I would pick this one surrounded by trees with views of Lake Huron.

A carriage tour really is a can’t miss experience on Mackinac Island. Whether you do a public or private tour, make sure you do one. We found two hours to be the perfect length for our private tour. It was short enough to keep the kids engaged, including Ellie, who now wants a horse, but was long enough to see the Mackinac Island highlights.

RENT A BIKE ON MACKINAC ISLAND WITH KIDS

Mackinac Island bike rentals

While a carriage tour is a great way to see the highlights, if you really want to explore the island, a bicycle is the best way. You can rent bikes from many places on the island, but we found renting at Mission Point to be the most convenient since we were staying there. Additionally, their bikes are super comfortable – they are custom-made by Detroit Bikes and are in great shape. Mission Point Resort offers bike rentals by the hour, day, or length of stay, on a first come-first served basis.

BIKE THE M-185 HIGHWAY LOOP

kids biking the M-185 Highway loop around Mackinac Island

M-185 is the state highway that hugs the perimeter of the island. This 8.2-mile loop is one of the most popular routes on Mackinac Island. Since there are no cars on the island, bikers and pedestrians have full reign of this highway. In fact, it’s the only highway in the country where vehicles are banned! It takes most people about 3-4 hours to walk the loop or about an hour to bike the whole circle. Make sure to add in time to stop and enjoy the view, though!

Following years of high water and wave action that led to erosion and road damage, Michigan-185 was recently repaired and repaved. The entire 8.2-mile loop is now open for visitors to enjoy.

British Landing and the Mackinac Bridge

At the northern end of Mackinac Island, you’ll find British Landing. As the name suggests, it’s where British troops landed in July 1812. Those living on Mackinac Island at the time, including the troops at Fort Mackinac, were unaware that the War of 1812 broke out.

Under cover of night, British troops arrived on Mackinac Island with a few cannons, made their way inland to the high ground above Fort Mackinac, and demanded the US troops to surrender. Woefully outnumbered, the US troops surrendered without a fight.

Devil's Kitchen Mackinac Island with kids

Devil’s Kitchen is a limestone cave on the southwestern side of Mackinac Island. Legend has it that cannibalistic spirits cooked humans inside the caves leading to the sooty texture on the cave walls. There’s nowhere to really go inside, but it’s a fun place to stop and snap a picture!

girl biking down Main Street Mackinac Island

The M-185 loop also includes Main Street. Technically the loop starts and ends on Main Street at mile marker zero, though you can get on or off at many points around the island. There are over 70 miles of trails on Mackinac Island, so you’re not limited to just M-185. The big kids biked the whole loop with no problems – and wanted to do it again as soon as they made the entire loop. Ellie and I only did a couple of miles and then stopped for an ice cream cone on Main Street, and I think she probably could have made the whole loop if we packed some snacks and took a couple of breaks.

VISIT ARCH ROCK

Arch Rock Mackinac Island turquoise water

Arch Rock is one of the most popular stops on M-185 and the one that I would make sure to make time to visit. The natural limestone arch stands 146 feet above the water and is over 50 feet wide. You can see Arch Rock from above if you do the MICT public carriage tour or either the MICT or Gough Carriages private tours.

kids biking in front of Arch Rock Mackinac Island

If you’re riding the M-185 loop, you can see Arch Rock from the highway as you’re traveling by but make sure to stop at the pull-off to take in the view.

207 stairs up to Arch Rock

And while you’re stopped, if you missed Arch Rock on the carriage tour, do yourself a favor and climb the 207 steps to the top and see it from above, with Lake Huron glistening behind.

Kids biking Arch Rock Mackinac Island with Kids

For a fun photo op, have your kids ride their bikes back and forth so that you can snap a picture of them biking as they pass Arch Rock!

EXPLORE DOWNTOWN MACKINAC ISLAND WITH KIDS

Main Street Mackinac Island horse-drawn carriage

Downtown Mackinac Island is kind of like walking onto Main Street USA with its quintessential charm. There are no cars, just horse-drawn carriages and people riding up and down the street on bicycles. Even without vehicles, there is still a bit of traffic, and it seems most people abide by the drive on the right side of the road philosophy of the United States. The streets are lined with shops selling touristy knickknacks and trinkets, restaurants serving everything from burgers to fine dining, and most commonly, fudge!

MACKINAC ISLAND FUDGE

smiling girl with Mackinac Island fudge

Fudge is a Mackinac Island staple. There are 14 different shops where you can purchase your fill of that sweet, chocolatey goodness that Mackinac Island is known for. In fact, fudge is the MOST POPULAR souvenir on Mackinac Island – and they produce more than 10,000 pounds EACH DAY during peak season!

Though fudge was invented in Baltimore, it was perfected on Mackinac Island. In the late 1800s, the Murdick family moved to the island and opened Murdick’s Candy Kitchen. Owner Rome Murdick was the first to make fudge on marble slabs on Mackinac Island, and the tradition stuck. Other fudge shops popped up, and watching fudgemakers became a public event, often drawing crowds.

But World War I and the Great Depression negatively affected the fudge-making industry with sugar rations and declining tourism. Murdick and his son used fans in their shop to blow the sweet scent of fudge onto the street, enticing people to come inside. Murdick’s Candy Kitchen was the only fudge shop to survive the Great Depression. However, after World War II, the economy took off, and so did Mackinac fudge, and the rest is history.

guy making fudge on marble slab Mackinac Island

Since fudge is the food that Mackinac Island is best known for, you better believe we tried as many fudge shops as we could while we were in town. The kids really enjoyed watching the fudge-making process at all of the shops and commented that fudgemakers must have powerful arms to work and fold the fudge on the marble slabs.

smiling kids Mackinac Island fudge

With four shops on the island and a 60+ year history, Ryba’s Fudge Shops is a solid choice. Their fudge is smooth and creamy and comes in a variety of fun flavors. JoAnn’s Fudge, with 2 Mackinac Island shops, was another good option. We found their fudge to be a little bit softer/meltier than other shops around, which wasn’t much of an issue on a cool October day but could be more of a problem in the summer.

But the absolute best fudge on the island was from Original Murdick’s Fudge. It was creamy; it was sweet, it was a perfect consistency, and exactly how a slice of fudge should taste.

EXPLORE LAKE HURON AROUND THE ISLAND

kids on the shore of Lake Huron

Exploring Lake Huron was a big draw for us Southerners. This was the kids’ first time to the Great Lakes region, and honestly, none of us realized precisely how big the Great Lakes actually are. From many spots on Mackinac Island, you cannot see land in the distance – making it feel like you’re on an island in the middle of the ocean. And it’s crazy, depending on the sky and what part of the island you’re on, the waters of Lake Huron can range from a steely blue-gray color to the bright turquoise colors of the Caribbean.

kids skipping rocks in Lake Huron

We had a great time hanging out on the Great Lawn at Mission Point Resort and just taking in the sights. The kids skipped rocks and looked for fossils, and I enjoyed my coffee on one of their many Adirondack chairs. And bonus, the Great Lawn at Mission Point Resort is open to the public! You do not need to be a resort guest to enjoy the Lake Huron and Straits of Mackinac views.

downtown Mackinac Island - Pink Pony at the Chippewa Hotel

Given that it’s an island, it’s not hard to find great waterfront views on Mackinac Island. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants with views of the water, including the Pink Pony in the Chippewa Hotel downtown. After a delicious lunch on the patio, the kids sat on the dock and watched the boats coming in and out of the harbor.

girl sitting on the rocky shore of the turquoise blue Lake Huron on Mackinac Island

On the eastern side of the island, over by Arch Rock, the water looks like it’s straight out of the Caribbean. Now, it’s quite a bit colder than the Caribbean, so don’t let the turquoise colors fool you! In the summer, the average water temperature is in the low 60s, so still quite chilly!

VISIT FORT MACKINAC

Fort Mackinac with kids

Fort Mackinac is an absolute must-do when you visit Mackinac Island. Boasting the oldest building in Michigan, this is where history comes alive. We only had a couple of hours to explore on our way out of town, and it was not enough time. I would allow at least 3 to 4 hours, more if you want to see all of the demonstrations or take a tour.

firing the Fort Mackinac cannon

Firing the cannon to open the fort in the morning was the highlight of our time at Fort Mackinac. This experience is open to one person over the age of 13 per day (for an additional fee), and you need to make your reservation at least 48 hours in advance. If you’re going to be there during peak season, especially on a weekend, call Fort Mackinac at 906-847-3328 as soon as possible. Reservations are open now for the 2022 season.

We learned all about the cannon and its significance during Fort Mackinac’s military history. Ben learned how to check and prep the cannon, and then our Soldier Saige loaded the cannon. After Reveille played, it was time for: ready, set, fire! and Fort Mackinac was opened for the day.

 

Fort Mackinac with kids rifle demonstration

We’ve been to many military museums and battlefields during our travels, but this was our first time watching a rifle demonstration. The demonstration is done with an original 1884 Springfield rifle, and after getting a brief history of the weapon, we were able to watch the firing demonstration. People were invited to hold the rifle following the demonstration – Ellie said it is REALLY heavy!

hands-on fort building exhibit at Fort Mackinac Michigan

The kids really appreciated how hands-on everything is at Fort Mackinac. This fort-building exhibit was great fun for the whole family. I’m not sure if they had more fun building their fort or knocking it down at the end!

view of Mackinac Island from Fort Mackinac

For one of the BEST views on the island, head to the Tea Room at Fort Mackinac. We sat at one of the tables with the yellow umbrellas and took in the view while we enjoyed a snack! It’s located in the historic Officers’ Stone Quarters, the oldest public building in the state.

Fort Mackinac Tea Room coffee and Grand Hotel Pecan Ball

We ordered coffee and the legendary Grand Hotel Pecan Ball (since the Grand Hotel runs the Tea Room). I highly recommend that you make time to order a Pecan Ball, either at the Tea Room or over at the Grand. It’s honestly a simple dessert – a scoop of vanilla ice cream, rolled in pecans and served over a puddle of fudge – but it’s oh, so delicious.

There’s honestly so much for families to do on Mackinac Island. We were there for two nights, and it was nowhere near long enough. The kids said that next time we need to stay for AT LEAST a week! Have you visited before?? Let me know your Mackinac Island faves and tips in the comments!!

Best Places to Eat in Traverse City | Michigan

My kids are totally self-proclaimed foodies. A big part of traveling for our family is researching and visiting the best restaurants wherever we explore a new place. And y’all, Traverse City does not have a shortage of excellent restaurants. We had limited time in Traverse City, and unfortunately, we did not make it to everywhere on our list of places to try. But, this is our list (so far!) of the best places to eat in Traverse City with kids.

where to eat in Traverse City with kids

BREAKFAST IN TRAVERSE CITY

OMELETTE SHOP

girl nibbling on toast Omelette Shoppe Traverse City Michigan

With two locations of the Omelette Shoppe to choose from in Traverse City (one on East Front Street and one on Cass Street), there’s no reason not to visit! The one on Cass is in the more popular part of downtown, but with the popular location also comes a long wait for a table. We headed over to the Front Street location and had a table in half the time! For either location, make sure to join the waitlist online!

massive omelet best breakfast in traverse city

We ordered several different items, including biscuits and gravy, breakfast burritos, and of course, since it’s the OMELETTE SHOPPE, an omelette. The New Mexican Omelette was one of the best I’ve ever had. It’s filled with beef barbacoa, jalapenos, onions, green chilies, black beans, jack & cheddar cheese, avocado, sour cream, salsa, and chipotle lime sauce. I seriously wish I had one right now!

BUBBA’S

breakfast chimi at bubba's traverse city

While it’s probably more well known for the burger + bar scene, Bubba’s is serving up one of the best breakfasts in Traverse City. The special of the day when we were in town was the Breakfast Chimi loaded up with eggs and chorizo, and it was delicious!

kids eating breakfast burritos bubba's traverse city

If there’s a breakfast burrito on the menu, then these two are ordering it. Lexie ordered the Wake Up Cali with scrambled egg, bacon, avocado, pico de gallo, and white cheddar. Ben ordered the Hangover with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pico de gallo, tater tots, and smoked cheddar cheese sauce. Both devoured their burritos and proclaimed that all food should come in burrito form – handheld and packed with flavor!

Red Spire Brunch House popped up repeatedly in my restaurant research, and it’s where we would have eaten if we had one more day in Traverse City. It’s located in the Village at the Grand Traverse Commons – another place on my list to check out next time! Red Spire is serving up the usual omelettes and pancakes, but they also have Nutella stuffed banana bread french toast that sounds amaaaaazing.

LUNCH IN TRAVERSE CITY

FOLGARELLI’S

hand held sandwich at Folgarelli's Italian deli in Traverse City

Oh, Folgarelli’s… I’m still thinking about this sandwich! Folgarelli’s is a small, Old World Italian market with a deli counter. We picked up sandwiches on our way out of town and ate them at a park on our way towards Frankenmuth.

In addition to being a market carrying every imaginable Italian good – including Firelli’s hot sauce! – the sandwiches were absolutely legit. The bread is from local bakeries; the high-quality meats and cheeses are nestled into forty FEET of coolers before being loaded onto the sandwiches. When Folgarelli’s opened over 40 years ago, they had seven sandwiches on the menu – now they offer over 45!

kids eating Italian cookies at Folgarelli's Deli in Traverse City best sandwich

When we were checking out, the cashier was shocked that the kids had never tried pizzelles, so he gave us a few to try… and the kids are now pizzelle addicts. They would be great to have on hand for a quick snack while you’re checking out all the fun things to do in Traverse City.

CHERRY PUBLIC HOUSE (IN NEARBY GLEN ARBOR)

Cherry Republic Black Cherry Cream Soda Glen Arbor

Cherry Republic is a local Northern Michigan company that specializes in, you guessed it, all things cherry! And specifically in Michigan’s Montmorency Tart Cherry. Cherry Republic has a retail store in downtown Traverse City, but we headed to the Cherry Public House near Glen Arbor for lunch. This is a great stop before or after you explore Sleeping Bear Dunes. Glen Arbor is where you’ll find the flagship Cherry Republic store, as well as a full-service restaurant serving cherry-inspired meals.

two girls eating lunch at Cherry Public House Glen Arbor Michigan

We grabbed a table outside, scanned the QR code to pull up the menu and order, and had delicious food in no time. The girls split a rack of ribs slathered in cherry BBQ sauce – delish! We also tried the pulled pork sliders with the cherry barbecue sauce and a couple of other sandwiches. We ended up liking the cherry BBQ sauce so much that we brought home a couple of bottles. They also make their own Boomchuggalugga Cherry Sodas – we tried the cherry cola, cherry ginger ale, and the cherry cream soda, which was the fave for our crew.

cherry public house ice cream

And, of course, they had cherry ice cream. Ellie opted for the only flavor that didn’t have cherries in it, but it did have big chunks of cookie dough and Oreo cookies, so basically her favorite flavor ever. Everyone else got something featuring cherries. Ben and I had the Polar Plunge, a delicious combination of peppermint ice cream, Oreos, and a cherry ribbon. Such a unique flavor!!

DINNER IN TRAVERSE CITY

SLEDER’S FAMILY TAVERN

sleder's oldest restaurant in Michigan

Sleder’s Family Tavern has been a Traverse City mainstay for almost 140 years. It is the oldest continuously operated restaurant in Michigan and is a great place to grab dinner with the whole family.

kids sitting inside Sleder's Family Tavern

As we always do, we ordered a variety of items – a burrito, a buffalo burger, a club sandwich, cheese curds – and all were delicious! It’s a popular restaurant, so do expect a bit of a wait if you’re coming around peak meal times.

BLUE TRACTOR BBQ

smoked cheddar jalapeño dip blue tractor barbecue traverse city

On our first night in town, we weren’t sure what time we would arrive, so we didn’t make a dinner reservation. We showed up at Blue Tractor Barbecue at around 7 PM and waited about an hour for a table – and it was worth the wait. Living in North Carolina, we have barbecue quite often and can be pretty harsh critics on the barbecue front. But Blue Tractor Barbecue was delicious. We started with the smoked cheddar jalapeño dip with blue corn tortilla chips, and I’m pretty sure Lexie ended up licking the bowl clean.

girl with pulled pork sliders blue tractor barbecue traverse city

I love when restaurants have other things on the menu than just mac & cheese and chicken strips for kids. Don’t get me wrong, my kids love mac & cheese and chicken strips, but Ellie was so excited to find pulled pork sliders on the kids’ menu. They were the perfect size for her (with a bit of help from Ben), and she went on and on about how good the pork was.

best places to eat in traverse city blue tractor barbecue

Since they have nearly identical taste in food, I finally convinced these two to order two entrées and go half-and-half on them. They ordered the Chopped Brisket Sandwich and a Pulled Pork Burrito. Both were filling and flavorful, but the Pulled Pork Burrito was easily their favorite.

If we’d had more time in Traverse City, Slabtown Burgers was definitely on our list of places to try. There’s something for everyone with a casual family atmosphere, indoor and outdoor seating, and an extensive menu. 7 Monks Taproom was another place that kept popping up in our research. They have a grilled cheese on parmesan-black pepper sourdough that sounds divine.

SNACKS IN TRAVERSE CITY

ESPRESSO BAY

girl with Espresso Bay coffee cup best places to eat Traverse City

If you’ve been following along for any amount of time, you know that we are all coffee addicts – except for Ben. So, of course, when we decided to walk around downtown Traverse City, we had to grab some coffee.

Espresso Bay is a local Traverse City coffee shop, and judging by the half-hour line out the door, it is hugely popular. It took another half hour to get our drinks, but luckily we were able to dodge a rainstorm by waiting inside. And the drinks were fantastic!

I’m usually a plain old latte drinker, but I changed it up and ordered a lumberjack latte (maple + cinnamon), and it was the perfect fall drink. Insider tip: they do have mobile ordering, so go that route and skip the line!

MOOMERS ICE CREAM

kids at Moomers Homemade Ice Cream in Traverse City Michigan

Moomers Ice Cream is one of the best things we ate on our trip to Michigan!! SERIOUSLY!! It’s THAT good!! Moomers is a small family-owned operation that opened about 20 years ago. Ice cream was a natural expansion of dairy farm life, and it’s now one of the most popular places to get a cone in Traverse City.

ice cream cone at Moomer's Homemade Ice Cream in Traverse City

The ice cream really is AMAZING! It’s creamy, loaded with deliciousness, and you absolutely cannot beat the view! Moomers has more than 160 flavors of premium ice cream (though they’re not all on the menu at the same time), and you can get it at their store on the outskirts of town.

I can’t believe we didn’t have time to get a slice of cherry pie at the Grand Traverse Pie Company! I can guarantee that will be our first stop when we’re in Traverse City next time! Their Grand Traverse Cherry Crumb pie is the official pie of the National Cherry Festival. Another ice cream shop, Milk & Honey, is located on Front Street in downtown Traverse City. They have many flavor combinations and quite a few options if you need something vegan, sugar-free, or allergy-friendly.

Do you have any Traverse City faves to add to the list?? Where do you think are the best places to eat in Traverse City??

Mission Point Resort | Mackinac Island | Michigan

Mackinac Island, sitting off the coast of Upper Michigan in Lake Huron, is an absolutely beautiful place. It’s been Michigan’s summer vacation destination since the late 1800s. There are no cars on the island except for a few emergency vehicles, and the only way to get out to Mackinac Island is by boat or plane. It’s totally remote but close enough to the mainland that you can be there in 15 minutes! And if you’re looking to visit Mackinac Island next year with the kids, Mission Point Resort is where you want to stay!

Mission Point Resort pin image

This post may contain affiliate links and we may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you!) if you choose to purchase when you click on the links. Thank you for supporting Love Dwells Here!!

Disclosure: A huge thank you to Mission Point Resort for making this trip possible. We partnered with them to show why Mission Point Resort is the perfect place to stay when exploring Mackinac Island. As always, all opinions are honest and our own.

Mission Point Resort Mackinac Island

Mission Point Resort is located on the sunrise side of Mackinac Island. While it does take some time to get to the resort, it is TOTALLY worth the effort. Most people opt to take the ferry out to Mackinac Island, and you can do that from either Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula or St Ignace in the Upper Peninsula. We boarded a ferry in Mackinaw City; there are two options – Shepler’s and Starline, and I don’t think you can go wrong with either. Both take your luggage before you board the ferry, and it is delivered directly to your hotel, as long as you’re staying at Mission Point or The Grand.

Once you arrive on the island, since there are no cars, you either can walk to the resort or call for a horse-drawn taxi. It was a glorious fall day, so we opted to walk, and if we hadn’t stopped multiple times on the way to sample fudge(!) and have lunch, it would have only taken about 10 to 15 minutes to go from the ferry dock to Mission Point Resort.

Mission Point Resort Great Hall History

Isn’t this lobby gorgeous?! Construction on the Mission Point Great Hall began in the winter of 1955, and it was completed in 1956. Because Mission Point sits on an island in a lake that freezes every winter, 3000 tons of supplies and equipment were delivered before the Straits of Mackinac froze for the winter. Construction screeched to a halt when they ran out of lumber in the spring. Over a warm weekend, dynamite was used to break up the ice in the shipway, and a supply barge was finally able to break through and get much-needed supplies out to Mission Point to complete the Great Hall Complex.

Condé Nast recently named Mission Point Resort one of their Top Ten Resorts in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest for 2021. Mission Point also received the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Award for being one of the Top Ten Resort Hotels in the Midwest. A pretty impressive feat and completely well deserved, in our opinion!

MISSION POINT RESORT MAIN LODGE FAMILY SUITE

There are quite a few different room combinations at Mission Point Resort, ranging from rooms for two to rooms for the whole family. Plus, there are several exquisite suites complete with seating areas and amazing views of Lake Huron.

Mission Point Resort Family Suite

We stayed in a Mission Point Family Suite in the Main Lodge. These rooms sleep six and feature one bedroom with a king bed and a second bedroom with two double beds. Each room has its own sink and vanity area, making it way easier to get ready in the morning, and the two rooms share a bathroom. It was plenty of room for the four of us on this trip and would have worked nicely as a family of six, as well.

The Straits Lodge is where you’ll stay if you’re bringing your pup along on vacation. The Straits Lodge at Mission Point is one of the only dog-friendly properties on the island. Like the Main Lodge, the Straits Lodge has a variety of room configurations ranging from rooms for 2 to family-style suites. Another plus to staying in the Straits Lodge is that it’s closer to downtown, so if you’re planning on walking, it’s a little easier on your feet.

MISSION POINT RESORT GREAT LAWN

Mission Point Resort Great Lawn Adirondack chairs

Mission Point Resort is well known for the Great Lawn. Situated in front of the hotel and overlooking Lake Huron and the Straits of Mackinac, the Great Lawn features 81 Adirondack chairs and is perfect for relaxation. We grabbed coffee from Boxwoods and honestly could have spent all day relaxing on the lawn. Throughout our stay at Mission Point, we spotted couples having picnics, families flying kites and people lounging.

Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island

The Mission Point Resort Great Lawn IS open to the public, so even if you’re not staying at the resort, feel free to stop by and hang out! While you’re there, check out the guided history tours about Mission Point Resort and the eastern side of Mackinac Island on Thursdays at 10am. Leisurely garden tours are offered on Saturdays at 1030am and Wednesdays at 530pm. Or be like Ben and use the resort’s trails for cross country practice!!

Mission Point Resort Mackinac Island beaches Lake Huron

This was our first time visiting the Great Lakes region, and the kids were constantly in awe of how big the lakes actually are. Mackinac Island genuinely feels more like you’re out in the middle of the ocean than in a lake. While I lounged in an Adirondack chair on the Great Lawn with a latte, the kids had a fab time skipping rocks and looking for sea glass and fossils along the shore of Lake Huron.

MISSION POINT RESORT ACTIVITIES

Mission Point Resort has plenty to do without ever leaving the 18 acres of the resort grounds. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t get out and explore Mackinac Island because you totally should, but there is plenty to do if you don’t want to leave.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day (and weekends in September and October), a complimentary kids club is available at Mission Point. We stayed mid-week in October, so I did not have the chance to check out the kids club, but I’ve heard wonderful things!

Bike Rental

Mission Point Resort Bike Rental

Since there are no cars on the island, many people opt for a two-wheeled mode of transportation to get around and explore the island. Mission Point offers bike rentals by the hour or the day on a first come-first served basis. There are bicycle rental shops all over the island, but we found getting them at Mission Point was the most convenient.

Mission Point Resort best of the Mackinac Island hotels

The island has over 70 miles of natural and paved trails. One of the most popular routes is the 8.2 mile Highway M-185 (Lake Shore Boulevard) circling the island. There are no cars on the highway – it’s the only highway in the country where vehicles are prohibited! – so it’s used by bikers and pedestrians.

It takes about 3-4 hours to walk or about an hour to bike the whole loop without stopping for most people. But it’s definitely worth stopping to take in the views.

Mackinac Island bikes at Arch Rock

Arch Rock is one of the most popular stops on the east side of M-185 – and it’s only about a half-mile from Mission Point Resort. You can see the arch from the highway as you’re riding by or stop at the nearby pull-off to take in the view. But you really should climb the 207 steps to the top of Arch Rock and see it from above, with Lake Huron glistening behind.

Putt-Putt

Mackinac Island golf

Golfing at the Greens of Mackinac, the 18-hole putting course at Mission Point Resort, was a fun way for the kids to spend part of the afternoon.

Mission Point Resort best of the Mackinac Island hotels

The putt-putt course is right next to the water, so you can take in the fabulous views while you’re waiting for your turn. Plus, it’s next to the bar at Bistro on the Greens, where you can grab a to-go drink to enjoy while you golf.

Outdoor Swimming Pool

kids in hot tub at Mission Point Resort

If your kids are anything like mine, they think going to the pool is one of the best things you can do while staying at a hotel. We visited the pool EVERY day of our stay! They loved warming up in the hot tub since it was a bit chilly while we were in town.

Mission Point Resort pool outdoors at night

They also really enjoyed swimming at night. We had the pool to ourselves, and the girls had fun splashing around – until it started POURING! We quickly grabbed our towels and clothes and headed back into the resort to warm up and dry off!

We didn’t have a chance to visit the Mackinac Island Movie Theater this time around, but I will make time for it next time we’re in town. It’s a piece of Hollywood history and was the setting for Somewhere in Time starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. The Mackinac Island Arts Council sponsors movies from May – October.

  • Every Sunday 330pm – Mackinac: Our Famous Island
  • Every Sunday 430pm – This Time For Keeps (filmed at The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island)
  • Every Tuesday 730pm – Somewhere in Time (filmed at Mission Point Resort and The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island)

MISSION POINT RESORT RESTAURANTS

While there are plenty of restaurants on Mackinac Island to choose from, Mission Point has several of their own on the property, and they’re definitely worth a try. Described as a culinary adventure, Chianti features a farm-to-ferry menu with a prix fixe dinner for $125/person. Located by the golf course, Bistro on the Greens features a Mediterranean menu. We didn’t have the chance to try either of those options, but I’ve heard rave reviews about both.

Boxwood

coffee at Mission Point Mackinac Island

If you’re looking for a cup of coffee, a scoop of ice cream, or a quick snack, Boxwood Coffeeshop & Cafe is where it’s at. We grabbed coffees and cones and headed out to the Great Lawn to relax. Plus, they have picnic provisions so you can create a basket and take it with you when you’re exploring the island.

Round Island Kitchen

smiling kids at Round Table Kitchen Mackinac Island

We ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Round Island Kitchen. This restaurant showcases Michigan’s twist on classic comfort foods, and we loved every meal. We dined indoors and outdoors and much preferred the atmosphere outside – as long as you can keep the bees away. In all seriousness, there were a lot of bees depending on the time of day and wind speed, BUT they didn’t bother us at all. Ellie freaked out anytime one came near her, but that’s an Ellie thing, not something that would bother most people.

eggs benedict Mackinac Island

Classic Eggs Benedict – Poached eggs, Canadian bacon & baby spinach, on a toasted English muffin topped with hollandaise

Ben ordered the Eggs Benedict one morning and decided he really does like poached eggs – at least when covered in hollandaise sauce! The Whitefish Hash & Eggs, pancakes, and omelets were also faves for our crew.

lunch at Round Table Kitchen

Baked Smoked Whitefish Dip – Tomato jam & chives

Speaking of whitefish, we tried it for the first time on this trip, and it’s delicious! Ben, in particular, was pretty smitten with whitefish and ordered it in tacos, as a dip, panko breaded, and broiled.

outdoor dining Mackinac Island Mission Point Resort

Seared Salmon – Served with basmati rice, grilled broccolini, maggio carrots & charred lemon

Over the course of lunch and dinner, we tried almost half of the menu. The Seared Salmon and the Tarragon Chicken Salad Sandwich were two of the clear winners. We honestly really enjoyed every menu item that we ordered.

Cherry braised beef nachos at Round Island Kitchen

Cherry Braised Beef Nachos – Shaved cherry-marinated beef, wonton chips, purple cabbage, Monterey cheese sauce, fresh jalapeño, cilantro & sriracha-lime crema

Without a doubt, though, I can say that our absolute favorite thing on the menu was the cherry braised beef nachos. I’m kicking myself for not ordering them every single time we sat down. Oh my gosh, it was SO. GOOD. I would never have thought to use wonton chips for nachos, but they totally worked. Absolutely amazing.

FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT MISSION POINT RESORT

We truly LOVED staying at Mission Point Resort and would stay there again in a heartbeat. The kids have not stopped talking about our time on Mackinac Island, and they’ve been begging to return. There are lots of options when it comes to Mackinac Island hotels, but do yourself a favor, and stay at Mission Point Resort, especially if you’re bringing the kids or a dog along. And make sure to order the Cherry Braised Beef Nachos if you eat at Round Island Kitchen – seriously, SO GOOD!!! Have you been to Mackinac Island?? Would you be more excited to bike around the island or hang out on the Great Lawn at Mission Point Resort??

Things to Do in Traverse City with Kids | Michigan

Northern Michigan is a picturesque place full of recreational and cultural adventures. And Traverse City, the largest city in Northern Michigan, is the perfect centralized location to explore all that Grand Traverse, Leelanau, and Benzie Counties have to offer. With lighthouses, over 180 miles of beaches and sand dunes nearby, plus loads of small-town charm, there are so many things to do in Traverse City with kids – or without them!

This post may contain affiliate links and we may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you!) if you choose to purchase when you click on the links. Thank you for supporting Love Dwells Here!!

Disclosure: A big thank you to Traverse City Tourism for making this trip possible. We partnered with them to highlight all of the family-friendly fun that the Traverse City area has to offer. We picked the destinations and restaurants that we wanted to showcase, and as always, all opinions are honest and our own.

Exploring Downtown Traverse City with Kids

Front Street downtown Traverse City

Downtown Traverse City is a walking and shopping paradise! There are tree-lined streets, cute boutiques and specialty shops, and dozens of restaurants. While it is totally family-friendly, it would also be the perfect place to go for a date night.

shopping in downtown Traverse City

We grabbed coffee (and hot chocolate!) from Espresso Bay, a Traverse City local, and hit the streets walking. It rained off and on, so we ducked into different shops to wait out the rain and check out what they had in store. Cherry Republic was a BIG hit with the kids – especially since they have samples of all things cherry!

Did you know that Traverse City is the Cherry Capital of the World?! Traverse City produces over 75% of the world’s tart Montmorency cherries. And with cherry production of that magnitude, there are LOTS of cherry orchards!  I’d love to see them in May when cherry blossoms are covering the trees. Every July, Traverse City hosts the weeklong National Cherry Festival!!

Traverse City with kids in front of mural

Traverse City also has a great art scene – including murals throughout the city. The TC Postcard in the alley next to Kilwin’s on E Front St was a must-do for us! It features landmarks from the Traverse City area like the State Theater in the “A” as well as the beaches the area is known for, and of course, cherries!

There are many other murals to check out as you’re exploring Traverse City, with everything from hummingbirds to a cute fox! Traverse City Tourism has a great post about all of the murals downtown, including a map, so you can do it as a walking tour if you’re interested!

Lighthouses Near Traverse City

I was shocked to find out that Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state in the US (129!!). And six of them are easy to explore from Traverse City! Y’all know I love a good lighthouse, so we set out to explore as many as possible while visiting the TC area.

Mission Point Lighthouse

Built on the 45th parallel (halfway between the north pole and the equator!), the Mission Point Lighthouse opened in 1870 and was operational until 1933. This little lighthouse is a cute one! It was designed to warn ships of the rocky shoals off of the Old Mission Peninsula when entering Grand Traverse Bay.

It’s located at the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula and the drive to get there takes you along scenic M-37 through cherry orchards and vineyards. The 45th parallel is a popular winemaking region worldwide – Italy’s Piedmont region, the Rhone Valley and Bordeaux in France, as well as the Willamette Valley in Oregon, are all on the 45th parallel. And in Michigan, the Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas, both sitting right at the 45th parallel, produce most of the state’s wine.

Mission Point Lighthouse with sunburst and American flag

Self-guided tours of Mission Point Lighthouse are available from May through November and are $5/adult and $2/child (ages 6-11). The opening hours and days of the week differ based on the season, so make sure to check their website before visiting. As part of the tour, you can climb to the top of the tower and enjoy breathtaking views of Grand Traverse Bay.

Grand Traverse Lighthouse

Located at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, the Grand Traverse Lighthouse is about 35 miles north of Traverse City, just off of scenic M-22. From 1858-1972, it helped guide ships sailing in the often fog-covered waters between the Manitou Passage and the Straits of Mackinac. Now fully restored, the lighthouse gives a glimpse into the life of a lighthouse keeper during the 1920s-1930s.

Grand Traverse Lighthouse with kids and Lake Michigan

Self-guided tours are available from May through November and are $5/adult and $2/child (ages 6-11). The hours differ based on the season, so please check their website before visiting. Because Grand Traverse Lighthouse is located within Leelanau State Park, there is an $11 entry fee or proof of a Michigan Recreation Passport.

Point Betsie Lighthouse

Built in 1858, the Point Betsie Lighthouse was the last manned light station on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. It was fully automated in 1983 and still serves as an active navigation aid for ships passing through the Manitou Passage. Tours are available from mid-May through mid-October and are $5/adult and $2/child (ages 6-11).

Point Betsie Lighthouse with waves of Lake Michigan splashing kids on the shore

The last call for tickets is at 430pm for the final tour of the day. We didn’t get to Point Betsie until right after the final tour started, so we were only able to explore the outside of the lighthouse. We had a great time watching the waves of Lake Michigan crash onto the shore and even got a bit wet – some of us (me!) more than others!

Frankfort North Breakwater Lighthouse

North Frankfort lighthouse at sunset

This one doesn’t have a tour, but it is one of the most popular places for Lake Michigan sunsets in Benzie county. You can walk out to the lighthouse along the break wall, but the waves were crashing over it, so we opted not to. Instead, we hung out on the public beach, and the kids played on the playground and chatted with the fishermen (catching steelhead!) while we waited for the sun to set.

North and South Manitou Island Lighthouses

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit either of these lighthouses – which means it’s time to start planning a return trip to Traverse City! The North Manitou Shoal Light Station opened for tours this year, or you can get an up-close look at the light on the ferry that travels from Leland to the Manitou Islands. Built 150 years ago, the South Manitou Island Lighthouse was active until 1958. Now, it is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and is open for tours during the summer. The South Lighthouse is accessible by ferry from Leland.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is packed with beautiful views, unique hikes, and a really cool scenic drive. The Dune Climb is one of the most popular hikes in the park. According to AllTrails, it’s rated as difficult, and it takes 2-3 hours to complete the roundtrip 3.6-mile hike due to the steep sand dunes as well as the up and down nature of the hike.

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

Somewhat short on time and unprepared to tackle the Dune Climb, we opted for the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. Like other parts of Sleeping Bear Dunes, it does cost $25 per vehicle (or a valid National Park annual pass) to enter the park.

Covered bridge in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is a 7.4-mile loop through the forest and sand dunes with overlooks of the Glen Lakes, the Sleeping Bear Dunes, and Lake Michigan. While you can see a lot from the comfort of your car, many of these stops are better seen by getting out of the car and exploring on foot.

blue waters of Lake Michigan and sand dunes at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore

The Lake Michigan Overlook (#9 and #10) was one of our favorite stops. Here, after a short walk from the parking lot, you actually get out on the dunes, high above Lake Michigan. And when I say high, I mean high! The observation deck at this overlook (located to the right of the kids, just out of the frame) is about 450 feet above lake level. While going down the very steep bluff face to the lake is not prohibited, it’s definitely not recommended. And there is a $3000 charge if you need rescuing because you cannot make it back up the dunes.

kids hiking in dunes near Traverse City

The kids hiked around the dunes at the top of the bluff for a bit before we headed back to the car. As with any hike, always go with a buddy (or two!) and bring water!

Where to Eat in Traverse City with Kids

There are so many wonderful places to eat in the Traverse City area with kids. Before we arrived, we made an extensive list of places to try and barely scratched the surface. So like all things Traverse City, we still have more to see and do and can’t wait to visit again. I’ll do a separate blog post about all the delicious food in Traverse City, and for now, I’ll leave you with our faves!

Best Breakfast in Traverse City – Omelette Shoppe

There are two locations of the Omelette Shoppe in Traverse City, one on East Front Street and one on Cass Street. We started at the one on Cass because it’s in the more popular, trendy part of town, but the wait for a table was nearly two hours. At the recommendation of the hostess, we joined the waitlist for the Front Street location (less than 10 minutes away) and had a table in less than an hour.

amazing omelette from Omelette Shoppe in Traverse City

We ordered an assortment of items ranging from biscuits and gravy to breakfast burritos, but the New Mexican Omelette was the star of the show. Loaded up with beef barbacoa, jalapenos, onions, green chilies, black beans, jack & cheddar cheese, avocado, sour cream, salsa, and chipotle lime sauce, it was a HEARTY omelette and absolutely delicious.

Best Dinner in Traverse City – Sleder’s Family Tavern

girls standing in front of Sleder's Restaurant Traverse City

For almost 140 years, Sleder’s Family Tavern has been a Traverse City institution. It is Michigan’s oldest, continuously operated restaurant and is a great place to grab dinner with the whole family.

smiling kids at Sleder's

As we always do, we ordered a variety of items – a burrito, a buffalo burger, a club sandwich, cheese curds – and all were delicious! It’s a popular restaurant, so do expect a bit of a wait if you’re coming around peak meal times.

Best Ice Cream in Traverse City – Moomers

smiling kids at Moomers Creamery in Traverse City Michigan

Oh, Moomers!! I’m seriously still dreaming about this ice cream! Moomers is a small family-owned business, growing out of their life on the dairy farm. Can you envision a more picturesque location for a creamery?!

Moomers Ice Cream cone cherries moobilie

And the ice cream is AMAZING! Seriously, a whole lotta love goes into making this ice cream!! They make more than 160 flavors of premium ice cream (though they’re not all on the menu at the same time) and serve them at their store about five miles outside of downtown Traverse City.

Where to Stay in Traverse City with Kids

There are plenty of places to stay in Traverse City, ranging from waterfront resorts to more budget-friendly motels as well as campgrounds – and there’s even a Great Wolf Lodge if that’s your kind of place! We stayed at 539 Bay Street, a brand new luxury condo rental, and it was a fantastic fit for our family.

539 Bay Street luxury condo rental Traverse City

539 Bay Street is located right across the street from the gorgeous Grand Traverse Bay, and all of the units have spectacular views of the lake. It’s walkable to Sleder’s Family Tavern as well as many of the restaurants on Front Street.

539 Bay Street luxury condo rental kitchen and living

Every unit has a kitchen fully stocked with everything (besides food!) that you need in order to whip up a quick meal or even an elaborate feast if that’s how you’re spending your vacation. We often seek out vacation properties with full kitchens because, with a large family, it’s considerably cheaper to cook dinner – even if we use convenience foods like bagged salad kits – than to eat out every night. And breakfasts in the condo are quick and easy and save money for treats (like more Moomers ice cream!) later in the day.

539 Bay Street luxury condo rental master bedroom Traverse City with kids

The master bedroom has a king bed and a HUGE en suite bathroom, as well as a door out to the private balcony. With two other bedrooms (each with a queen bed), another full bathroom, and a laundry room with a full-size washer and dryer, the 3-bedroom unit was perfect for our family. The kids had plenty of room to spread out, but spaces like the living and dining rooms allowed us to spend time together. Do you like staying in vacation rentals/condo-type places when you travel, or do you prefer more traditional hotels?

There’s honestly so much for families to do, eat, and see in the Traverse City area. We were there for three days and still didn’t have time to see it all. Have you visited before?? Let me know your Traverse City faves and tips in the comments!!

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