So often I have people reach out to ask me when is the best time to go to Mackinac Island? One thing to remember about the island is everything is only open May-October. So if you want to fully embrace all the island has to offer it is best to be there during these times.
I feel fortunate to have gone every season accept winter. In May it is like most places it is just a few weeks behind. Meaning the flowers bloom about a week or two when it happens here in Indiana. Staff isn’t completely there due to a lot coming from college and just beginning to arrive. The colors are just starting to pop. It’s definitely quieter. Michigan schools are still in so the likelihood of family vacations haven’t fully started. Now there could be some field trips you encounter- but for the most part it’s quietly peeking it’s eyes open. There is a fort to fort 5 mile run. Starts with a run up to Fort Holmes then finishing off at Fort Mackinac. Zoo-de-Mac also happens in May. Zoo-de-Mackinac is a weekend of huge parties with great bands, one of the most scenic bicycle rides in the country, a lot of sunshine, views of the mighty Mackinac Bridge, and one magical island.
With June comes the event I love is Lilac Festival. It’s the first and largest summer event on the Island, attracting thousands of visitors from all over the country. I have done the Lilac 10k run twice and let’s just say it’s a tough one but very scenic. You start downtown then head up the hill to end all hills- loop up by the airport then ending on the schoolyard. There is a walking option as well. Another fun event is the education given on the variety of lilacs. There is even a planting seminar that you can keep the lilacs. The aromas are everywhere and bloom for sometime.
July starts out with a bang – meaning 4th of July is widely celebrated on Mackinac. They offer a fantastic firework show (this year from what I heard they moved the usual location). I watched the show via live feed from the travelers bureau page. July also brings the stone skipping contest. Professional stone skippers will bring their best skipping skills and compete for the much coveted trophy! There will also be a Gerplunking Division (age 5 & under), a Pebbles Division (ages 6-12), and an Open Division (age 13 & up). Professionals register prior to the event by contacting Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau. All other divisions can register on the day of the event.
Mid July hosts the the world’s longest freshwater sailing event and is recognized as one of the most prestigious sailing races in the world. Today, sailors from Maine to California make this race an invariable part of their summer. The race begins in Chicago and ends up on Mackinac. It is a sight for sure. Plus the island is just bursting with energy.
August is in full swing. All week the island starts filling up with visitors from the first arrival of the ferry. This month also hosts the Mackinac Island Fudge Festival. This celebrates the island’s most famous treat and features a number of fudge-related, fun, family events! Activities include fudge-making demonstrations, fudge inspired dinners and cocktails, outdoor movie, family concert, and more!
September is when things start to thin out. College workers are back at school along with other kids. So during the week is when you really start to see less traffic. There could be a random days that is busier but for the most part it is great time to visit. The rates for hotels also go down because it’s not peak season. Weekends can jump a bit but that doesn’t go to peak prices. Also the hotels offer some good deal through websites at this time. Labor Day has a fun run that will be the island outer road M-185. Now the road is currently under construction 🚧 and sectioned off from Arch Rock to British Landing. The route could be different this year. If you want there is also the Mackinac Bridge walk where you literally walk across the infamous bridge.
October is now one of my favorites to go. Since Covid happened I had to postpone my visit until fall. Now my favorite season is fall so why not visit then. Ironically I went the Somewhere in Time weekend. The Grand Hotel hosts a memorable time with visitors decked out in 1912 attire, tea parties, screening of movie and sometimes actors from movie come back.
They also have a Halloween weekend which is the close of the season. It does not fall on Halloween weekend but the one prior. Last year when I went a lot of stuff had closed early due to Covid. But I still felt the majority was open. Summer homes were getting locked up for the year. It was just quaint and quiet. I am returning again this year. The colors throughout and even on the drive up were mesmerizing.
So my personal favorite times are beginning of June and then the weekend in October. I hope to find time to go in the winter – it can truly depend on the lake and if bad weather here. So to be determined at later time.