Heads up at the Headlands!

The World’s ninth International Dark Sky Park is located in Mackinaw City. With deep dark skies overhead, the vast expanse of Lake Michigan to the west, bustling Mackinaw City to the east, and 600 acres of pristine, old-growth forest, the Headlands Park property is a gem. Its International Dark Sky Park status makes it shine even brighter, a prestigious designation reserved only for the world’s darkest places. In May 2011, the Headlands was named such a park by the International Dark-Sky Association in Tucson, Ariz., after a rigorous application process that involved taking specific measurements of light levels at the park.

Enjoy the New Waterfront Event Center and Observatory. The new facility will include an observatory with a research-grade telescope, an outdoor seating arena, an indoor program area for use by day and night and a living ‘green’ roof! The new Event Center is expected to open by June 1, 2017

So what is a Dark Sky Park? It’s a park or other public land possessing exceptional starry skies and natural nocturnal habitat, where light pollution is mitigated, and natural darkness is valuable as an important educational, cultural, scenic, and natural resource. Just 16 percent of the world’s population lives in an area dark enough to be designated an International Dark Sky Park like the Headlands. Here, amateur and professional astronomers, photographers, and sky-gazers can be assured that a trip into the darkness will present myriad stars and sky-high experiences. Emmet County has owned the Headlands since the early 1990s and has maintained the five miles of trails and two residences (available for rent) on 2+ miles of the Lake Michigan shoreline. The park is accessible to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Museums, Parks, and Historical Sites

Fort Mackinac

Situated on 150-foot bluffs above the Straits of Mackinac, Fort Mackinac is one of the few surviving American Revolutionary War forts and one of the most complete early forts in the country. In 2015, Fort Mackinac celebrated 235 years standing guard over Mackinac Island. Costumed interpreters greet visitors, portray life in the 1880s, answer questions, pose for pictures, and lead tours throughout the day. Some of the “soldiers” carry original 45-70 Springfield Model 1873, the type used at the fort during the 1880s. Others play music or greet and mingle with the crowds of visitors.

Historic Mill Creek

The Mill Creek sawmill was built in 1790 to provide sawn lumber for nearby Mackinac Island.

Operation continued through the 1930s. When it stopped production is unknown. In 1972, the mill was discovered and the site opened in 1984 as a historical state park. Today, visitors can watch the operational reconstructed sawmill and explore the natural history of the site through trails, exhibits and naturalist programs. For the more adventurous, trek though the treetops on the Adventure Tour! This special, guided nature experience takes visitors over the Forest Canopy Bridge, down the 425-foot Eagle’s Flight Zip Line, and up the five-story Treetop Discovery Climbing Wall. A separate ticket and signed waiver are required.

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse

The “Castle of the Straits” has stood guard on the Straits of Mackinac since 1892 joining the fog signal built in 1890, each helping ships navigate through the treacherous waters. Generations of lighthouse keepers lived and worked at this station. Closed in 1957 after the completion of the Mackinac Bridge, the property has been restored to its 1910 condition. Feel free to wander and get lost in history. Guided tours to the top of the lighthouse tower are available.

The Straits Area Has an Intriguing Heritage

The “Tip of the Mitt” area has perhaps some of the richest history in the Midwest. In 1634, French explorer Jean de Nicolet was the first European to see the area, though the Native American presence here goes back far earlier. The area which is today the Straits of Mackinac was particularly important for the Ottawa and Chippewa. The straits area provided ease to transportation and it made sense to set up areas there for trading and commerce. Settlements at present-day Mackinaw City, St. Ignace, Mackinac Island, and Cheboygan all were important to trade long before the arrival of the white man.

Mackinac Island held special importance for the Native Americans of the area. According to tradition, it was the first piece of land to appear after the great flood. The Great Hare, Michibou, retrieved a grain of sand from beneath the water; he blew on it until it grew and became the island we see today. Resembling the shape of a turtle, the island was named Mishi-Mikinaak, meaning “Big Turtle” in Anishinaabe (Ojibwa). It is home to the Great Spirit, Gitche Manitou.

Mackinac Island became a commercial center and regional outpost for the fur trade and army during the first half of the 19th century. As the fur trade waned in the latter decades of the century, it took on a larger role as an important location for tourism. Long renowned for its natural beauty, the Island became even more popular as a destination for those looking to escape everyday life. Wishing to preserve the beauty and historic nature of the Island (and avoid scaring the horses), automobiles were banned in the downtown area in 1898 and Island-wide a few years later.

Living History. Making History

The tip of the mitt region in Michigan has long been an important place in the annals of local history. It had always been an important place for the region’s Native Americans, and soon after the arrival of the first European settlers, they too, began to establish a presence there. The French (later British) fort of Michilimackinac, built around 1715, was an important trading and military presence at the Straits of Mackinac. It remained on the mainland until 1781, when the fort was relocated to Mackinac Island.

In the mid-19th century, most settlers in the area believed that the area that is now Mackinaw City would one day become a booming metropolis: “If one were to point out, on the map of North America, a site for a great central city in the lake region, it would be in the immediate vicinity of the Straits of Michilimackinac…,” so opined one writer from the time.

The belief that the Mackinaw region was destined for greatness was not lost on investors. In 1857, the area which today makes up Mackinaw City was purchased by five investors who sought to attract settlers to the area and essentially build a city. Edgar Conkling of Cincinnati was the main thrust behind this movement. Fliers were distributed all over the country, telling people of the riches of the land and water and the sure and uncertain fact that soon, very soon, Mackinaw City would be the next Chicago.

But it was not to be. Growth was very slow, most notably because of the lack of a river and that it was as yet too sparsely populated for railroads to come this far north. For the next thirteen years, the carefully platted and recorded “city” was nothing more than a dream, with exactly zero settlers living in the would-be metropolis. (It was named Mackinaw “City” because Conkling took it for granted that very soon it would be a busy city). But finally, in January 1870, George Washington Stimpson of Cheboygan moved here, purchasing four lots from Edgar Conkling. Originally from Maine, Stimpson was a farmer and was looking for a place of promise with cheap land. Once he got to Cheboygan, he set his sights not to farming, but to manufacturing wood products.

Stimpson soon had a contract to get out 20,000 cedar posts and dock timber to Francis M. Sammons who was building a dock in Mackinaw. (Francis Sammons was the son of Jacob Sammons, Cheboygan’s first permanent settler). Stimpson meanwhile built a small house for his men on the jobsite, while building a small cabin for himself on the present site of the Stimpson House building. These were the only buildings in Mackinaw City; thus, if there were any passers-by, it was natural for them to stop at George Stimpson’s house. In fact, his home would soon become the place for pretty much everything; the first church services in Mackinaw City (February 1870) and first school district meeting (July 1871) were held in Stimpson’s home.

By about 1874 there was enough traffic in Mackinaw to warrant the construction of a small hotel. Stimpson put a large addition onto his home, a hotel, and named it the Stimpson House.

It continued to grow, while other hotels challenged its monopoly on local lodging: the Wentworth, Mercier House, Palace Hotel, Mackinaw City House, Olsen House, Campbell House, to name a few. There was also the Exchange Hotel, specifically reserved for African Americans. In the late 1970s the Stimpson House was converted to a series of shops, much as it appears today along Central Avenue.

By 1882 two railroads (the Michigan Central and Grand Rapids and Indiana) had their terminus at Mackinaw, with another connecting the Upper Peninsula via St. Ignace (the Mackinac and Marquette). These railroads formed the Mackinac Transportation Company to haul railroad cars between the peninsulas and complete the transportation link between upper and lower Michigan. Their first ferry was the Algomah, providing scheduled, reliable service and solidifying Mackinaw City’s role as a vital transportation link. With lumber in the Lower Peninsula and lumber, iron and copper in the Upper Peninsula, transportation – and Mackinaw City – was key to the commerce of Michigan.

Photo Courtesy of Michigan State Police Photo Lab

By the early part of the 20th century, the automobile had revolutionized transportation. With the construction of better roads in the area, car ferries soon became important to link the peninsulas. The Michigan State Highway Department began regular automobile ferry service in 1923, though demand quickly necessitated putting additional vessels into service. They would remain in service until the completion of the Mackinac Bridge in 1957.

Through the years, Mackinaw City has been an important place for military defense, commerce, and vacationers. While the railroads and car ferries may be gone, other ferries carry people to Mackinac Island, and the Mackinac Bridge connects the two peninsulas of Michigan while remaining a symbol of the state itself. Mackinaw has changed, but her place in Michigan’s past and present has not.

The Mighty Mackinac Bridge: A Story of Engineering and Determination

The Mackinac Bridge, located in Northern Michigan, is a marvel of engineering and a symbol of determination. Spanning five miles across the Straits of Mackinac, this suspension bridge connects the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan and is the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere.

Construction and Grand Opening

Construction of the Mackinac Bridge began in 1954, and the bridge was finally opened to the public on November 1, 1957. The project was considered to be one of the largest and most complex engineering feats of its time, with engineers facing many challenges, including harsh weather conditions, rough waters, and shifting sands. Despite these obstacles, the project was completed in just four years.

One of the most unique features of the Mackinac Bridge is its design. The bridge was designed with two massive steel towers, each rising 552 feet above the water, and supported by massive steel cables that stretch from one tower to the other. The roadway itself is suspended from these cables and is designed to withstand the strongest winds and heaviest snowfalls.

Cultural and Historical Significance

In addition to its impressive engineering, the Mackinac Bridge also has a rich cultural and historical significance. For years, the only way to travel between the two peninsulas was by ferry, but the opening of the Mackinac Bridge changed all that, connecting the two sides of Michigan in a way that had never been done before. The bridge quickly became an important part of Michigan’s infrastructure, and today, it remains an important transportation link and a popular tourist attraction.

The Mackinac Bridge is also a symbol of Michigan’s history and pride, and it is a popular spot for visitors who want to take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Whether you’re a resident of Michigan, a tourist, or simply a lover of engineering and history, the Mackinac Bridge is a must-see destination that promises a memorable and educational experience.


In conclusion, the Mackinac Bridge is a remarkable engineering feat and a symbol of determination. It stands as a testament to the hard work and ingenuity of the people who built it and continues to inspire visitors from all over the world. So if you’re ever in the Mackinaw City area, be sure to take a trip across this iconic bridge and experience its beauty and majesty for yourself!

7 Reasons to Visit Mackinaw City: Your Next Adventure Awaits

Mackinaw City, located in Northern Michigan, is a picturesque destination that combines natural beauty, rich history, and exciting outdoor adventures. From stunning parks and historic sites to breathtaking views and unique attractions, there are plenty of reasons to visit this charming city.

In addition to its abundant natural and historical attractions, Mackinaw City also boasts a vibrant local culture that truly sets it apart. This community is where the heritage is lovingly preserved, traditions are celebrated, and everyone is made to feel welcome. The city plays host to a number of annual events, from traditional festivities and cultural performances to renowned music festivals and art shows, reflecting the thriving artistic spirit and social harmony of the city.

Adding to the allure, Mackinaw City also serves as the gastronomic capital of Northern Michigan. The city’s food scene offers a culinary journey with its diverse range of restaurants and eateries. Savor fresh local seafood, indulge in globally-inspired dishes, or enjoy a cup of coffee with a spectacular waterfront view. And when it’s time to shop, you’ll discover an array of unique boutiques, artisan shops, and markets, where you can find locally crafted goods and souvenirs that capture the essence of Mackinaw. A trip to Mackinaw City provides a truly comprehensive and memorable experience that extends far beyond its natural beauty and historical charm.

Scenic Parks and Natural Beauty

Stunning parks and natural beauty surround Mackinaw City. Headlands International Dark Sky Park, for example, offers 600 acres of pristine wilderness and is one of the best places in the world for stargazing.

Yet, the allure of Mackinaw City’s natural grandeur extends beyond the darkened skies and tranquil wilderness of Headlands International Dark Sky Park. The region is a veritable paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, and more. Wilderness State Park, with its extensive trail network and diverse ecosystems, beckons those who seek adventure and discovery in the great outdoors. It’s a haven for birdwatchers and nature photographers, while its shores serve as an idyllic spot for a refreshing swim or a tranquil afternoon of beachcombing.

Historic Sites

Mackinaw City is rich in history and culture, and is home to several important landmarks and historic sites, including the McGulpin Point Lighthouse and Historic Site and the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse.

Mackinaw City’s historical narrative goes beyond the towering lighthouses and extends into a vibrant tapestry of cultural heritage. This is a place where past and present intermingle effortlessly, offering visitors a chance to step back in time while exploring its charming streets and landmarks. Colonial Michilimackinac, for instance, is a living museum that beautifully recreates life in the 18th century with historical reenactments, demonstrations, and immersive exhibits.

Further encapsulating the city’s maritime past, the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum presents a unique opportunity to step aboard a retired Coast Guard Cutter and learn about its vital role during the World War II era. At the Mackinaw Area Historical Society Heritage Village, one can experience life as it was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, complete with an authentic one-room schoolhouse, church, and farmstead.

Additionally, the culture of Mackinaw City is deeply influenced by the area’s Native American heritage. The city hosts events and festivals that honor these traditions, and local galleries showcase Native American art and crafts, offering another facet of Mackinaw’s rich cultural tapestry.

Adventure and Outdoor Activities

For thrill-seekers and outdoor enthusiasts, Mackinaw City is the perfect destination. From kayaking and fishing to hiking and biking, there’s something for everyone in this city.

The adventure that Mackinaw City offers is not just confined to its breathtaking landscapes but extends into its sparkling waters and rugged trails. For water-sports enthusiasts, the city is a playground, offering diverse experiences ranging from high-speed jet skiing and windsurfing to more leisurely pursuits like paddleboarding and kayaking. With several lakes and rivers in proximity, anglers will find plenty of hotspots teeming with a variety of fish, offering a satisfying challenge for both novice and experienced fishers.

The city’s extensive network of trails provide countless opportunities for outdoor exploration. Hikers can traverse scenic routes lined with lush forests, colorful wildflowers, and diverse wildlife at the Wilderness State Park. Bikers will find both leisurely trails with stunning lake views and challenging terrains that test their mettle.

Unique Attractions

Mackinaw City is home to a number of unique attractions that are unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere. From the Mackinac Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere, to the historic Fort Michilimackinac, there’s always something new to discover.

The uniqueness of Mackinaw City’s attractions is tied not only to their physical attributes but also to the experiences they offer. For instance, standing beneath the immense Mackinac Bridge, you can witness engineering prowess on a grand scale, but crossing it offers an unparalleled view of the surrounding Great Lakes and islands – a truly breathtaking spectacle. A visit to the bridge’s dedicated museum further enriches your understanding of this incredible feat of engineering.

The adventure at Fort Michilimackinac is twofold: it allows you to explore the well-preserved structures of the fortified fur trading village, and it immerses you in the 18th-century life with interactive exhibits, reenactments, and archeological live digs. You’re not just witnessing history, you’re becoming a part of it.

Mackinaw City’s uniqueness also lies in its ability to marry contrasting experiences in a single location. At Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park, you can explore the site’s functioning water-powered sawmill and delve into history, then find yourself soaring above the same grounds, experiencing the thrill of the park’s high-flying Adventure Tour.

Furthermore, the local culture and warmth of Mackinaw City also create unique attractions of their own. From the vibrant summer farmers’ markets to the magical winter festivals, the city itself is an ever-changing canvas of experiences.

Delicious Cuisine

Mackinaw City is renowned for its delicious cuisine, from local seafood to classic comfort foods. Whether you’re in the mood for fine dining or a casual meal, you’re sure to find something that satisfies your taste buds in this city.

But the Mackinaw food experience extends beyond dining establishments. The city is dotted with charming cafés offering specialty coffees and homemade baked goods. Local farmers’ markets abound with fresh, locally grown produce and artisanal cheeses, giving visitors a taste of Michigan’s agricultural bounty. There are also confectioneries with house-made fudge – a Mackinaw tradition – that are a must-try for anyone with a sweet tooth.

Mackinaw City serves as a culinary crossroad where traditional flavors meet innovative gastronomy. The local food scene takes pride in its abundance of fresh seafood. Local chefs skillfully transform the day’s catch from the Great Lakes into culinary masterpieces, offering dishes like whitefish fresh from Lake Huron or gourmet preparations of trout and perch that are sure to impress seafood lovers.

Beyond seafood, the city boasts an impressive variety of cuisines. Indulge in classic American comfort food, such as juicy burgers, slow-cooked barbecue, and homemade apple pie at the many diners and gastropubs. For a fine dining experience, a number of establishments offer exquisite menu options paired with exceptional wine lists and stunning views.

Friendly People

The people of Mackinaw City are friendly and welcoming, making this city the perfect destination for solo travelers, families, and groups of friends.

Mackinaw City, with its warm and hospitable residents, embodies the very essence of Midwestern friendliness. The locals, often referred to as “Mackinawites”, take pride in their city and are always eager to share stories, provide tips on hidden gems, or simply offer a warm smile to passersby. This city is not just a place to visit, it’s a community that invites you to become a part of it, if only for a short while.

For solo travelers, Mackinaw City offers a sense of safety and camaraderie. Locals are more than willing to extend a helping hand or offer advice, making solo explorations an enjoyable and worry-free experience. Families, on the other hand, will appreciate the city’s kid-friendly attractions, its quiet neighborhoods, and the numerous family-oriented events that take place throughout the year.

Accessible to Everyone

Finally, Mackinaw City is an affordable destination that won’t break the bank. With a variety of affordable hotels, restaurants, and attractions, you can enjoy a memorable trip without having to overspend.

True to its welcoming nature, Mackinaw City ensures that its charm and attractions are accessible to everyone, regardless of budget. The city offers a variety of accommodations to suit different needs and price points. From cozy bed and breakfasts and budget-friendly motels, to family-friendly resorts and luxury hotels, there’s a comfortable place for every traveler to rest their head.

When it comes to dining, the city’s diverse culinary scene includes everything from affordable food trucks and diners serving hearty meals, to mid-range restaurants where you can enjoy a gourmet experience without a hefty price tag. Moreover, many local eateries offer delicious daily specials that allow visitors to enjoy local cuisine at a lower cost.

The attractions in Mackinaw City also cater to the budget-conscious traveler. Many of the city’s natural wonders, like the Headlands International Dark Sky Park and numerous scenic trails, are free to explore. There’s also a selection of affordably priced or donation-based museums and historic sites that allow you to delve into the city’s rich history and culture without straining your wallet.

In Mackinaw City, it’s not about how much you spend but how much you enjoy. It’s a destination that proves a memorable getaway doesn’t need to come with a hefty price tag. Here, value lies in the wealth of experiences, the warmth of the people, and the timeless beauty surrounding you.


In conclusion, Mackinaw City is a charming and exciting destination that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for natural beauty, rich history, or thrilling outdoor adventures, this city promises memories that will last a lifetime. So why wait? Book your trip today and start exploring the best of Mackinaw!

Discover the Best of Mackinaw: Must-See Attractions in the Area

Mackinaw City and its surrounding areas have breathtaking natural beauty and rich history. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in this charming destination. From scenic parks and historic sites to exciting outdoor adventures, the Mackinaw area is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

To truly grasp the depth of Mackinaw City’s charm, it’s worth exploring the diverse offerings of its local culture and community. Beyond its stunning landscapes and historical markers, you’ll find a vibrant, welcoming community proudly celebrating its heritage through various annual events and festivals. These range from historical reenactments to music festivals, and art fairs to fishing tournaments, infusing a lively energy into the region’s tranquil setting.

Let’s embark on a journey of discovery, unfolding the various layers that make our remarkable city a jewel of Northern Michigan. From our tranquil waterfronts adorned with the iconic Mackinac Bridge to the star-speckled sky canvas of Headlands International Dark Sky Park, every aspect of Mackinaw City invites exploration and enchantment. As we delve deeper, we’ll encounter the living history of our proud lighthouses, vibrant community events, and the irresistible allure of our diverse local cuisine.

International Dark Sky Park

One of the must-visit attractions in the area is Headlands International Dark Sky Park. This 600-acre park is home to some of the best stargazing opportunities in the world. Visitors can see stars, planets, and other celestial objects in stunning detail with minimal light pollution and clear skies. Whether you’re an amateur astronomer or enjoy looking up at the stars, Headlands International Dark Sky Park is a must-visit destination.

Beyond its acclaimed stargazing, Headlands International Dark Sky Park also offers an array of engaging activities that enhance the experience of visitors. The park frequently hosts educational events, led by knowledgeable guides, about celestial phenomena and nocturnal wildlife. These programs aim to illuminate the importance of preserving dark skies not just for astronomical observation, but for the health of our global ecosystem.

In addition, this expansive sanctuary offers numerous trails for leisurely hikes and exploration during the day. Along these paths, visitors can delight in the untouched beauty of Michigan’s wildlife, flora, and fauna, adding another layer of enrichment to your visit. So, even before the stars begin to twinkle, there’s plenty to see and do. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a nature lover, or a stargazer, the Headlands International Dark Sky Park provides an unforgettable journey through both day and night.

Mackinac Bridge

Another popular attraction in the Mackinaw City area is the Mackinac Bridge. This iconic suspension bridge connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas and offers stunning views of Lake Huron and the surrounding countryside. Whether you’re crossing the bridge by car, bike, or foot, this is a must-see landmark for anyone visiting the area.

Extending the awe-inspiring experience of the Mackinac Bridge, visitors can delve into its rich history and structural marvel at the Mackinac Bridge Museum. Here, you’ll find fascinating exhibits and artifacts related to the bridge’s construction and maintenance over the decades. Tales of courage, engineering feats, and historical significance provide an enriching backdrop to your bridge crossing experience.

Moreover, the area around the Mackinac Bridge is ripe with beauty and activities. Adjacent parks provide ideal vantage points for photography, picnics, or simply admiring the bridge’s grandeur. Annual events such as the Mackinac Bridge Walk on Labor Day and the Winter Festival offer unique ways to experience and celebrate this monumental landmark. The Mackinac Bridge isn’t just a conduit between Michigan’s Peninsulas, but a gateway to countless memories and adventures, embedding itself as a highlight of any Mackinaw City visit.

McGulpin Point Lighthouse

Finally, for a touch of history and natural beauty, be sure to visit the McGulpin Point Lighthouse and Historic Site. This historic lighthouse, located on the shores of Lake Huron, is a window into the lives of lighthouse keepers and their families in the late 1800s. Visitors can tour the lighthouse, the keeper’s house, and the museum exhibits and enjoy panoramic views of the lake and surrounding countryside.

Adding another dimension to your visit at the McGulpin Point Lighthouse and Historic Site are the captivating nature trails that wind around the property. These trails are a delightful draw for nature enthusiasts and casual walkers alike, offering serene walks through Michigan’s native flora and fauna. Keep an eye out for local wildlife and bird species that call this area home. The trails ultimately lead you to a stunning, rocky beach where the sight of the historic lighthouse standing tall against the backdrop of the expansive lake is a sight to behold.


Whether you’re looking to escape the city and connect with nature, or learn about the rich history of the Great Lakes, the Mackinaw City area has something to offer visitors of all interests and backgrounds. So why wait? Book your trip today and start exploring the best of Mackinaw!

Looking to learn more? Check out area attractions, adventures, retailers, and dining options in the Mackinaw City area. And, of course, there are countless places to stay in Mackinaw City, so you always have somewhere to rest after the day’s adventures.

Spring Break, Blossoms & Birds in the Straits of Mackinac Area

Spring is a beautiful time of year in the Mackinaw City area, as the winter melts away and nature comes out of its deep slumber. Mackinaw City businesses and hotels are celebrating the start of spring with vacation specials and events during the 4th Annual Mackinac Meltdown, including:

April 1-16 — Spring Break Splash at Pirate Cove Waterpark

Things are heating up inside…with $5 fun, April 1-16 at the Pirate’s Adventure waterpark inside the Crown Choice Inn & Suites Lakeview (720 S. Huron Avenue). Mackinaw’s largest indoor waterpark features a pirate head tipping bucket, three waterslides, bubbler jets, crawl tunnels, water guns, climbing nets, an oversized indoor pool and a whirlpool sauna. Call 231-436-5929 for details.

Saturday, April 6 (11am-2pm) — Taste of Mackinaw

Enjoy delicious foods from local restaurants as well as craft beer and wine at the Mackinac Island Brewhouse & Mackinaw Island Winery inside the Mackinac Bay Trading Company downtown on Huron Avenue, across from Conkling Heritage Park. Tickets are $10 per person.

Saturday, April 6 (1-4pm) – Mackinac International Bridal Expo

Love is in the air and the Straits of Mackinac is an ideal (and popular) place for couples to celebrate their big day. Exhibitors will be set up inside Mackinaw Beach & Bay (929 S. Huron Avenue) throughout the afternoon showcasing dresses, cakes, accessories, wedding venues, music and more. Admission is $5 per person.

Plenty of seasonal activities are planned to celebrate the arrival of spring and all its beauty—from the flora to fauna to astronomy to aviary throughout March, April and May!

Discover Birds of Prey at Raptor Fest!

Birding is currently the second fastest growing hobby in the United States after gardening, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service who also reports that over 2 million Michigan residents are birdwatchers. Every year thousands of hawks, eagles, vultures, and owls follow the contours of Lakes Michigan and Huron, ending up at the Straits of Mackinac where they must cross a 5-mile expanse of water. To save energy, the birds use rising air drafts to lift them high in the air, and then they glide across the Straits. While no longer protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act, the bald eagle remains protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch conducts scientific studies and takes inventory of hawks, owls and other raptors migrating through this region of northern Michigan, educating the public about the birds and their migration. Their largest annual event is Raptor Fest, April 3-5. This three-day event provides great views of migrating raptors, interesting sessions and educational workshops.

Savoring Michigan’s sweet treat…maple syrup!

Did you know that maple sugaring is Michigan’s oldest agricultural activity…dating back to the earliest Native Americans? Or, that Michigan ranks #5 in the nation for production of maple syrup…generating more than $2.5 million for the state’s economy?

The longer, warmer days means sap begins to flow in the maple trees that dot the landscape around the miles of woodland trails. In the furthest reaches of Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park visitors can find the Maple Sugar Shack, nestled along one of the hiking trails. While the sugaring season will have wrapped up by the time the interpretive season begins at here in May, guests can still find the shack and interpretive panels detailing the history of sugaring in this area and the process of doing it.

Beauty from the ground…wildflowers abound!

One of the surest signs that spring has arrived in the north woods is the appearance of an abundance of beautiful wildflowers covering the forest floor. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, there are at least 18 wildflowers native to Michigan including Arrowhead, Beach pea, Black-eyed Susan, Dwarf Lake Iris (Michigan’s official state flower, a threatened species only found in the Great Lakes region), Harebell, Purple coneflower and others. Other spring beauties include the Yellow Trout-lily, Spring-beauty, the Large-flowered Trillium and the smaller Nodding Trillium, Marsh Marigold or Cowslip and Jack-in -the-Pulpit.

Head out along the hiking trails at Wilderness State Park, The Headlands International Dark Sky Park, at Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park and along sections of the North Country Trail. Please remember that trillium are protected in Michigan and that picking them is illegal (but photographing them is recommended).

Foraging from the forest floor…morels, ramps and fiddleheads!

In addition to an abundance of wildflowers, spring means the arrival of wild edibles – such as morels, ramps and fiddleheads – the most hunted spring treasures. May is morel month in Michigan but depending on the weather these illusive fungi can be found as early as April and as late as mid-June, especially the further north you go. Morels begin to pop up along the woodland floor when the daytime temps reach around 60–65 degrees while the evening temps stay above 50 degrees. As you search, look along southwest facing hills where the sun’s rays warm the ground around tree groves mixed with living, dead and dying ash, elm, oak and aspen trees. Given there are a lot of “false morels” and other poisonous mushrooms, it is advised to take a guide (either a person or a printed book) to help you identify a true morel. If you can’t find them in the woods, look for them on the menu of area restaurants during the spring season – topping fish, chicken or steak, fried to a crispy goodness or cooked into a creamy bisque.

Cast a hook, line and sinker!

Fishing really is a four-season activity here in the Great Lakes State, but as the ice melts and the temperatures rise, the rivers, streams and lakes become a hotbed for a variety of species. The Straits area offers opportunities for migratory steelhead and salmon, as well as other freshwater fish. Spring fishing begins in April when the smelt begin to run, followed by trout season in late April and walleye season which opens mid-May. As we move into summer, look for lake perch and bass off the coast of Wilderness State Park or head to Paradise Lake, just five miles south of Mackinaw City, where bass, pike, walleye and panfish are plentiful. Be sure to check the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for specific season dates and licensing information.

Hunting Michigan’s beloved Petoskey Stone!

Many people think that Petoskey Stones can only be found in Petoskey. Yet this hexagon fossilized coral (Hexagonaria pericarnata) from a coral reef that existed during the Devonian era 350 million years ago, can be found along the Lake Michigan shoreline from the Sleeping Bear Dunes area as far north as the Straits of Mackinac. Spring is the ideal time to scour the beaches for rocks that have been churned up over the winter, before the thousands of tourists have had the time begin their search. Established as Michigan’s state stone in 1965, the Petoskey Stones were formed as a result of glaciation, in which sheets of ice plucked stones from the bedrock, grinding off their rough edges and depositing them in the northwestern portion of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

Please note, Michigan State prohibits individuals from removing more than 25 pounds of rocks or minerals per year from state parks, recreation lands and Great Lakes bottomlands.

Look to the skies…and beyond!

Although there is no way to predict when Northern Lights (aurora borealis) will light up the sky, the Straits area provides the perfect night sky conditions for viewing this unique phenomenon. Northern Lights are collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere, creating dancing color of lights such as green, pink and purple. Located along the Lake Michigan shoreline just south of Mackinaw City, the Headlands International Dark Sky Park is a popular place for settling in for the sky show.

Dig into Local History!

The Mackinaw Area Historical Society Heritage Village invites you to learn a little about the area during their lecture series, with programs taking place at the Mackinaw Area Public Library (528 W. Central Avenue). Upcoming presentations include Native American Teaching and Learning the Traditional Way (April 13) with Adel Easterday and Gardening the Colonial Michilimackinac Way (May 11) with Lee Ann Ewer. Of particular note is that the Mackinac State Historic Parks is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2020…with parks opening for visitors in early May.

For spring travel ideas and lodging options, visit MackinawCity.com.

Mackinac State Historic Parks Celebrates 125 Years

Mackinac State Historic Parks turns 125 years old in 2020. Established in 1895 when the federal government shuttered the country’s second national park, Mackinac National Park, the Mackinac Island State Park Commission has pursued the important mission of protecting, preserving and presenting Mackinac’s natural and historic wonders. Today, Mackinac State Historic Parks is a family of living history museums and nature parks located in Mackinaw City and on Mackinac Island.

To celebrate this milestone anniversary, Mackinac State Historic Parks will have 125 days of events throughout the 2020 season, spread across its family of sites and parks. Some highlights include Movies by the Bridge in Mackinaw City every Saturday and Movies in Fort Mackinac every Tuesday during the summer, unforgettable evening cannon firing events at Colonial Michilimackinac and Fort Mackinac, numerous events sponsored by the Mackinaw City Area Arts Council themed to the anniversary, special themed weekends at all of our historic sites, intriguing “Hidden History” evenings at Colonial Michilimackinac, guided and narrated treks to some of Mackinac Island’s most beautiful natural and historic sites, and a special gala day, July 25, with free music and fireworks to mark the actual anniversary.

“Mackinac has such a special place in the history of our state and the hearts of Michiganders,” said Phil Porter, Mackinac State Historic Parks Director. “We look forward to sharing this 125th anniversary celebration with our visitors this summer through an exciting and engaging slate of activities and events.”

New exhibits will also debut as part of the celebration. On Mackinac Island, the Biddle House, featuring the Mackinac Island Native American Museum, will open May 5. Here, you will be able to step into the home of Agatha and Edward Biddle, merchants who moved in around 1830. For Agatha, and other Anishnaabek and indigenous people, the 1830s were a time of critical change. This new exhibit, created in conjunction with tribal partners, explores that story and how it still resonates on Mackinac Island and throughout northern Michigan.

At Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, in Mackinaw City, the public will be able to explore the second floor of the lighthouse for the first time in the storied station’s existence. A new gallery space and two bedrooms restored to their appearance in 1910 will tell the story of the Keeper George Marshall, his wife Maggie, and their extended family as they lived and worked at the lighthouse.

The Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum on Mackinac Island will host “A Day in the Park – Celebrating 125 Years of Mackinac Island State Park” in the second-floor gallery. This juried exhibition will be on display May 4 – October 11.

An update to 100 Years at Mackinac, published in 1995, will include everything that has happened in the past 25 years, including the reopening of Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, the opening of The Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum, the construction of the Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Museum, the addition of the Adventure Tour at Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park, the reconstruction of Fort Holmes, the addition of the Peace Garden, and the reinterpretation of the Biddle House.

Bière de Mac Brew Works in Mackinaw City will brew a special beer in honor of the celebration, a farmhouse ale that connects to Michilimackinac with its French roots. An official release of the beer will happen in June. Ryba’s Fudge Shops, with numerous locations on Mackinac Island, will create a special fudge to celebrate. This should prove to be one of the more delicious aspects of the anniversary.

Most of the events taking place throughout the 2020 season will be free. Others will be included with regular admission to MSHP’s historic sites. Mackinac State Historic Parks wouldn’t be where it is today without the tremendous support of visitors to its state parks and historic sites. Offering a full season of events is a small way the park can say thank you for 125 wonderful years.

The Mackinac Parks: 125 Celebration is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Richard and Jane Manoogian Foundation, with additional support from Mackinac Associates.

The Mackinac Island State Park Commission was created when the federal government shuttered Mackinac National Park in 1895. It held its first meeting in July of that year. Today the commission does business as Mackinac State Historic Parks and is chaired by Daniel J. Loepp. Porter has served as director since 2003. The commission manages Fort Mackinac, The Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum, Biddle House, Historic Downtown Mackinac and Mackinac Island State Park on Mackinac Island, and Colonial Michilimackinac, Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park and Michilimackinac State Park in Mackinaw City.

A full schedule of events can be found at mackinacparks.com/mackinac125. Pictures, as well as the Mackinac Parks: 125 logo, are available upon request. A downloadable version of this release can be found here. For more information please visit mackinacparks.com or call (231) 436-4100.

20 Roaring Ways to Celebrate Winter in the Straits of Mackinac

Things have certainly changed in the Straits of Mackinac over the past 100 years. In the winter of 1920, things would have been pretty quiet as the frozen Great Lakes waterways would have restricted some visitors from making their way to this historic area. Yet, some hearty souls would have made their way here aboard trains traveling from Detroit, Chicago and other southern cities. Today, the Mackinaw City area is one of the coolest winter destinations with a variety of outdoor adventures and relaxing indoor settings to warm the mind, body and soul!

  1. Hit the trails on Saturday, January 11 as the entire Great Lakes State celebrates Winter Trails Day!
  2. Join us for the 27th Annual Mackinaw City Winter Festival, January 17-18 – with snow sculptures, a chili cook-off, ice fishing tournament and more!
  3. Build an Outhouse? Why not elevate your Winter Fest experience by competing in the 2020 Mackinaw Pepsi International Outhouse Race on Saturday, January 18. Put your creative and engineering skills to the challenge for this unique winter contest.
  4. Take to the ice. As the Great Lakes and area inlands lakes freeze over, it’s time to do a little fishing. Chas Thompson, a member of MiIceGuys.com and USA Ice Team, offers up some thoughts about this Pure Michigan winter sport: https://www.mackinawcity.com/hitting-the-ice-for-a-pure-michigan-fishing-experience/. (Note: February 15-16 is the Michigan DNR Free Fishing Weekend).
  5. Hit the trails! Mackinaw City is centrally located to provide snowmobile access to the Straits area. Utilize the north central State Trailhead located off of Crossing’s Drive to experience the DNR’s groomed routes, connecting Mackinaw to Cheboygan, Petoskey, Gaylord, Rogers City, Alpena and places south. The Mackinac Bridge Authority offers a ride for you and your sled north across the Bridge for $10 plus $2 additional for an extra passenger to access the trails north of the Bridge. For trail conditions in the area, click here.

    Did you know?
    Most years, the ice in the Straits of Mackinac is so thick that area residents place old Christmas trees along a “safe route” between St. Ignace (Upper Peninsula) and Mackinac island for those who want to snowmobile between the two communities. NOTE: The Coast Guard cautions people that the ice bridge is extremely dangerous. It usually is open for a short period due to the fluctuating winter temperatures and having strong winds blowing the ice out of the area in a matter of hours. If you have not seen the exquisite movie, Ice Bridge – Mackinac Island’s Hidden Season you must get a copy! Click here to read about it and to order it.

  6. Take a snowshoeing trek! Thousands of years ago, snowshoes were essential to travel during the winter months in the Great Lakes region. Today, it offers a fun excursion option for families.
  7. Be open to adventure. Big Bear Adventuresin Indian River (just 30 miles south of Mackinaw City off I-75) offers 90-minute guided winter rafting trips along the Sturgeon River—note as the fastest in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Offered for group up to 12, with three trips a day, seven days a week, this is a great way to experience the winter season in a unique way. Big Bear also offers cross country ski and snowshoe rentals and will help coordinate packages for all their seasonal activities.
  8. Try your luck! Kewadin Casino in St. Ignace features Vegas-style gaming and entertainment with over 1100 slots, poker, blackjack, roulette, keno, craps and more! Other Kewadin locations can be found throughout the Upper Peninsula in Sault Ste. Marie, Hessel, Christmas and Manistique).
  9. Look Up! The Headlands Dark Sky Park, stretching out along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, is the id-eal location to catch a glimpse of the illusive Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), meteor showers and other celestial events – like the January 10, February 9 and March 9 full moons.
  10. Learn more about our famed Mighty Mac! Opened in 1957, this Modern Marvel is a true Pure Michigan monument. If you’re interested in more of the history, facts and figures – as well as current conditions via the “Bridge Cam” – check out the website for the Mackinac Bridge Authority.
  11. Grab your binoculars! Be on the lookout for the beautiful Snowy Owls, which are known to spend their winters in the Straits of Mackinac area.
  12. Warm up! The Crown Choice Inn & Suites Lakeview & Waterpark is home of Mackinaw’s largest indoor waterpark with a 72,000-gallon, 84° indoor pool, an oversized whirlpool, sauna, waterslides, 500-gallon tipping bucket, water cannons and many other features.
  13. Take a trip back in time! Even though it is winter, the grounds of the Mackinaw City Historical Society Heritage Village are open for you to walk past historic structures including the Detweiler Log house, Freedom School, General Store, Stimpson Homestead, Heritage Chapel and more.
  14. Grab a bite. Pasties, whitefish and chili, oh my! When hunger strikes, stop in to one of Mackinaw City’s restaurants to satisfy your cravings and warm up with your hearty seasonal favorites.
  15. Bundle up and take in a game! The LaBatt Blue UP Pond Hockey Championships return to Lake Huron’s Moran Bay in St. Ignace, February 13-16. First held in 2007, this annual sporting event now features over 200 teams playing on 30 75-foot x 150-foot rinks with over 250 games throughout the full weekend.
  16. Try Geocaching…yes, even in the winter! This high-tech treasure hunt involves using a GPS to find a container (or cache) using specific coordinates. Northern Michigan’s many geocache spots combine hiking, birding, wildflower and leave viewing, wildlife and other outdoor recreation and natural attractions. There are hundreds in the Straits Area and some unique and amazing locations in Mackinaw City. To get started sign up at geocaching.com and download waypoints to your smart phones or visit the Mackinaw Public Library computer lab for coordinates.
  17. Go on a Self-Guided Sculpture Tour. Scattered around Mackinaw City are several wooden sculptures carved by Jerry Prior, each depicting a personal of historical importance in town. He started wood sculpting in 1989, shortly after he retired from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), where he worked as a road designer. The first was completed was Chief Wawatam, which stands in Wawatam Park. Next, it was a statue of Alexander Henry—a fur trader at Fort Michilimackinac; followed by British Major Arent Schuyler DePeyster—who once commanded Fort Michilimackinac; Perry Darrow—a civic-minded village resident; Edgar Conkling—Mackinaw City’s founder (standing proudly in the park that bears his name); and Hattie Stimpson—one of the city’s first residents.
  18. Go on an Elk Viewing Excursion. Just about 80 miles south/southeast of Mackinaw City is one of the state’s prime elk viewing sites—the Pigeon River Country State Forest and Elk Range in Gaylord, one of the largest free-roaming elk herd east of the Mississippi (with 105,000 acres). The best times to view elk are at dawn and dusk. NOTE: Elk should be appreciated at a distance and individuals should not try to approach the animal.
  19. Explore the Arts! The Mackinaw City Area Arts Council offers a series of classes and events throughout the year – including an exhibit during the annual Winter Festival, January 17-18 at Mackinaw Clothing and Sportswear Store on Central Avenue.
  20. Grab a camera (or your phone)! Winter in Mackinaw City is magical…a great time to snap pictures of everything from our lighthouse exteriors to Mackinaw Crossings to the shoreline and the ice formations under and around the Mackinac Bridge. Be sure to share these with us on social media! #MakeItMackinaw

For lodging reservations throughout the winter season, visit MackinawCity.com/stay/.

Chill Out at the 2020 Mackinaw City Winter Festival, January 18-19

For more than a quarter century, Mackinaw City has rolled out the white carpet for a weekend of seasonal fun and excitement fit for the entire family. The 27th Annual Mackinaw City Winter Festival is scheduled for January 18-19, 2020.




Please note: Ice fishing & snow sculpting are the only weather dependent events.

For lodging reservations throughout the remainder of the fall and into the winter season, visit MackinawCity.com/stay/.

PHOTO: http://www.mightymac.org/