Mackinac Island: The Happiest Place on Earth

As I mentioned in my Five for Friday post, we took a little vacation to Mackinac Island over the weekend.  This happy little island has always held a special spot in my heart.  When I step off the ferry and inhale my first breathe of fudge and horse manure (sounds gross, I know) I feel like I am at home.  That is the only way I can describe that place.  Home.  It isn't.  I didn't grow up there.  But I have been going there since I was young.  My parents honeymooned there and took us many times growing up.  My husband also went a lot growing up so it has been an important part of his life as well.  Because of this we try to get there every year (and we have except last year when I was pregnant.)  I think part of why I feel like I'm at home is because Mackinac Island doesn't change.  Now of course it changes.  New stores open.  Restaurants close.  New restaurants open.  But it still feels and looks the same as it always has.

Mackinac Island is a historic island in Lake Huron.  It is in between the upper and lower peninsula near the Mackinac Bridge.  To get there you have to take a ferry.  While this takes a little bit of planning to figure out what you want to bring to the island, it is actually easier than flying because you aren't restricted to number of pieces or weight or anything.  And there are dock porters that help you get everything to your hotel.  This island has no cars on it.  To get around you walk, ride bikes or take horses/carriages.  It totally adds to the charm of this little island.  It is like stepping back in time.  But don't let that fool you.  There are still modern conveniences on the island.  Most of the hotels have been updated and have televisions and wifi.  It is possible to stay in more rustic surroundings like some of the bed and breakfasts that are older houses that don't have tvs to entertain you.

The downtown area is full of restaurants and bars and cute touristy shops.  And fudge shops.  Oh the fudge shops.  That is something that the island is known for.  The sweet smell fills the air day and night.  There are so many flavors to choose from.  I generally don't love plain solid chocolate (I love chocolate don't get me wrong just not a solid chunk of it) but I eat this fudge.  It melts in your mouth.  This time we came home with peanut butter chocolate and butterfinger.  So so good!

Beyond the downtown area, is the historical area.  There are many historical buildings set up as museums throughout the island.  In addition, there is the huge fort that you can tour at the top of the island.  Go past that and you will find a lot of roads and nature trails and the state park.  All throughout this is everything a normal city would have (library, school, houses, parks, etc.) as there are people who live on the island year round (about 500 people.)  

There is so much to do on the island.  We try to do something different each time we go.  Perfect for those who love history.  Perfect for those who love nature.  Perfect for those who want a slower pace.  Yes I love this place.  I get sad when we leave.  I think about it the whole ride home.  This time I spent time finding new blogs and instagram accounts to follow and googling different things we had questions about while we were on the island.  Try to keep it alive as long as possible.  I want to live there.  In fact I almost did...ha.  Okay not really.  My parents thought about teaching at the school when they first started their teaching careers.  So had they done that, I might have been born and raised on the island.  Someone gave them the advice to go and stay on the island for a winter before they committed to teaching and living there full time.  They have yet to go in the winter and I have never been there in the winter but it is on my bucket list.  I've watched the documentary Ice Bridge and read a lot about the winter there.  It is way different because the tourists aren't there and most of the stores and restaurants are closed.  Residents get around on snowmobiles.  They still use the ferry until ice starts to build.  Then they have to take charter planes on and off the island.  Some years, the lake freezes and they have the ice bridge.  Then they can come and go to the mainland as they please on their snowmobiles.  I don't know if I would make it in the winter.  I don't love snow that much.  If I didn't have to drive in it, maybe I wouldn't hate it so much.  Who knows?  I would like to at least spend a few days there to say I've been there in the winter.  Okay I totally digressed there....Yes, I want to live there.  Yes, we look at the pictures in the real estate office every time we go.  No, we probably will never be able to afford to live there or have a summer place there.  Until then...I dream!

So that is my overview of the island.  Obviously, I could go on and on (and on and on) forever about this place that I call the happiest place on earth.  Oh, if you've ever seen the movie Somewhere in Time with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeves, you've seen my happy place.  Though you might not recognize it because they allowed cars on the island for the film so it doesn't look the way it does on a regular basis.
Here is how our little trip went.  We definitely had some moments of frustration but I'm learning that is traveling with small children.  In all reality, the girls did great considering we were on the go and they didn't have naps and were out of their regular routine.

We got up early and left around 5:30am.  It is amazing what you see when you are up before the sun.
When you are heading to the island you have to pay attention to the ferry schedule.  There are three different ferry lines that run but they are only at certain times and during the fall the times are even more limited.  We hoped to get up early and get onto the island as soon as possible so that we could have as much of the day on the island.  With rain in the forecast for Saturday, we knew Friday would be the one day we would have to get as much done as possible.

The ferry that we took went under the Mackinac Bridge.  In all the years I've been going to the island, I don't ever remember doing this.  It takes you a little out of the way, but it is cool to drive that close to the bridge that connects our two peninsulas.

We rented bikes and biked around the island.  It is 8 miles around the perimeter of the island.  We thought maybe the girls would fall asleep in the burley since they were so tired...and they did.  We were shocked that the older one did because she rarely falls asleep in public.
 It was hard to get a picture of them both sleeping.  We didn't want to stop the bikes and risk them waking up.  Plus that sun shade thing kept slipping down right in front of their faces.

Then we played at the park and then ran around the big grassy park area.

Then we walked through town and went to the school (preK-12 public school) and played on the playground there.  I spent time talking to a mom who recently moved there because her husband is the police chief.  It was awesome to talk to a local, a mom of four young kids and someone who lived near us down state and then moved her whole family to the island.  Then we ate dinner, walked around some more and had ice cream before heading to the hotel for bed.

The next morning it was pouring so we took our time getting up and checked out of the hotel.  We walked through the shops to stay out of the rain.  It finally cleared up for a little bit so we decided to try riding bikes again.  It looked like there were a few hours of calm before the storms started and K was requesting bikes again.  Plus the girls were so tired so we thought maybe they would sleep.  It worked again.  It took a little while but they finally fell asleep...which meant we had to keep going.  And we decided to go up the middle of the island which is a lot of up hill, plus we went on some dirt roads and remember it had been raining.  It was getting warm.  I took my coat off.  My thighs were burning.  We had to walk up some of the hills because they were so intense.  And this was the end result:
But it was totally worth it because the girls got a mini nap in so we could stay on the island a little longer.

And because you see this on the island...
you also see this...
but don't worry.  They clean up the streets a lot.  And it totally adds to the charm of this little island.  And we got off the island just in time for more rain.  This was our drive home.

Oh Mackinac hold my heart!  Until next time.