My experience at the Grand Hotel

I had the opportunity to stay at the world famous Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. If you live in Michigan, you have most definitely heard of the Grand Hotel and it may even be on your bucket list to visit and/or stay at the Grand Hotel. I know it was always one of my wishes to stay at least one night in one of the world's nicest hotels, where several presidents have walked the halls (Clinton, Bush, Ford, Kennedy and Truman), where movies have been shot (This Time for Keeps - 1947, Somewhere in Time - 1980), and where 130,000+ guests stay each season. Did I mention that it has the worlds biggest porch, measuring in at 660 feet? Yep, I sat in a rocking chair and drank an $11 glass of wine on that porch.

While I was planning a weekend getaway to the Upper Peninsula, my husband mentioned that he may be able to get us a stay at the hotel. I scoffed, never thinking that we would ever be able to stay in this luxury hotel. However, his friend pulled some strings and before I knew it we were in. I was giddy with excitement for weeks, planning what we would do, what we would wear (the hotel is so fancy there's a dress code), and dreaming about what it would be like to even walk inside of the hotel.
Saturday morning we woke up in our St. Ignace hotel room. We got dressed, which I wanted to wear something nice but knowing we had to ride our bikes from the ferry dock to the hotel, I also had to be sensible (capris, Chuck Taylor's and a Columbia fleece). I left my hair down cause I felt it would look nicer. We check out of our hotel, have breakfast and head to the ferry dock to get to the island. 

On the ferry to the island!
First, it was a dreary morning and very humid. Which means, my hair was a little bit frizzy but not too horrible. We bought our ferry tickets at Shepler's Ferry in St. Ignace. If you are planning on taking your bikes, keep in mind that you will pay extra to take these with you. As for luggage, there was a great system. You check in and the ferry staff tag your luggage and ensure that it makes it to the island and eventually will be delivered right to your room. We sent our luggage on the 10:30am ferry (we took the 11am ferry) and our luggage arrived to our room about an hour later. This was super convenient because your choices of transportation on the island are either ride a bike or take a horse carriage taxi. It was nice to not have to worry about the luggage because my first moments on the island were not the greatest.

View of the hotel from the ferry
I wanted to arrive at the hotel looking nice. Well, we decided to sit on the top deck of the ferry and it was windy, which combined with the humidity made my hair a frizzy, wind-blown mess. Then when we arrived on the island, we rode our bikes. Now, not only is my hair wind-blown and frizzed out, but I am a hot, sweaty mess. When we arrived I stepped out into the street and was promptly almost run down by a horse carriage and about 20 bikers. I wasn't paying attention and stepped in horse poo, which is basically all over the place there. We start riding, which my bike wasn't cooperating because my back tire was flat and there was other bikers whizzing by me at high speeds and pedestrians EVERYWHERE. Talk about anxiety. We ride down a road and turn the corner, which allowed us to visualize the hotel...and the giant hill that it sat upon. My 300 lb self was NOT going to make it up the hill. So at this point, I have horse poo on my shoe, I was sweaty and my hair was completely frizzed out, and surrounded by tons of people and horses. Hot mess express. 

Hot mess express. Me after we arrived the hotel.
We walked our bikes up the hill after I threw a little temper tantrum on the street (I told you, hot mess). We arrive at the top, with me out of breath and sweating profusely, but proceed on towards the hotel. We are stopped by a hotel worker who informs us that bicycles are not allowed past this point. Note: If you are taking bikes to the hotel, before you turn left to head towards the hotel keep going straight past the Jockey Club and lock your bikes up behind the green building. You won't miss it - there's a parking lot that holds about 1,000 bikes. Just watch out for other bikers coming down the hill at 90 miles per hour, cause you will get run down. 

After locking up our bikes, we walk to the hotel to check in. The check in process was quick and easy and luckily for us, our room was ready. Others were not so lucky, as the rooms are not guarenteed to be ready until after 3 or 4 pm. My first impression of the hotel is that is smells old, which it is, as it was built in the 1800s. The decor is gaudy, but it works. The girl at the desk gives us our instructions regarding meals (breakfast and dinner is included with the room price, lunch is on you) and the dress code (more about this later). We are directed to our room.

Our room!
We trek on to our room, which ended up being a beautiful tier 3 room (which runs about $1100/night). We had a king size bed, a sitting area with a TV and a balcony with a view of the Mackinac Bridge and Lake Huron. It was beautiful. We also found a little information packet, which talked about the hotel and the different amenities it had to offer.

View from our room; sunset
First of all, the food. The food was amazing. As I said, dinner and breakfast was included. For lunch, there is several options but we decided to go to the hotel's lunch buffet in the main dining area. The lunch is $31/person, which was initially shocking but it has anything and everything you can imagine. The price was worth it. After lunch, we decided to sit on the world's largest porch and have a glass of wine. Rocking chairs line the porch, so there is plenty of seating. Several waiters/waitresses come around to take your drink order. The porch overlooks a beautiful garden and the pool area, which includes a hot tub and a bar/grill. If you look out, you will also see the Mackinac Bridge and lots of sailboats on Lake Huron. It was wonderful. We got out wine and the bill...about $23 for two glasses of Riesling. When I told Bob the price, he choked and asked if we got a whole bottle. Not so much...

View off of the left side of the giant porch
After lunch and wine on the porch, we explored the lower level. The lower level contains several stores including a newspaper/magazine stand, a souvenir shop, a tea store, a mens clothing store, a women's clothing store, a fine jewelry store, a flower shop and an ice cream parlor. After this, we went back to the room for a little nap before it was time to get ready for dinner.

The dinner included is a five-course meal. The Grand offers 3 different menus which rotate and is served from 6:30-8:45pm. All you do is go down during this time, present your ticket (given to you at check in) and you will be seated. After 6:30 pm the dress code is enforced. For women, this means wearing a dress, skirt or dress pants. For men, this includes a suit jacket and tie. If you do not have a suit jacket, you will be given one to wear for the night. The only area where the dress code is not enforced, is in the lower level where the shops are. We got all dressed up and went down for dinner. The food was AMAZING. After dinner, you have several choices for entertainment. There was a wine bar, which looked like a library setting. There were TV's that showed various sporting games (the Tigers, of course) and cozy chairs to sit in to sip your wine. There was also the Cupola bar, which was on the very top of the hotel (4 floors) and provides a view of the island. This was the most popular spot for the after dinner crowd. Starting at 9:30 pm, the Terrace Room offered music by an orchestra and dancing...brush up on your ballroom dancing skills! There's also professional photographers walking around; they will take pictures of you and the next day, you can purchase them. 

Ready for dinner!
We eventually retreated back to the room, watched the sunset behind the bridge from our balcony and finished watching the Tigers game. At around 10 pm, we wanted a snack. From 10 pm to 5 am, you can order from the late night room service menu. We ordered up a snack, after which, I fell into a deep food coma. It was fantastic. The bed was very comfortable and all the rooms have air conditioning, which came in handy since it was so humid outside.

In the morning, we packed up our stuff and called the service desk to have our luggage transported to the ferry. They provide instructions for this; you should give them about 2 hours, so I arranged the pick up to be done before breakfast. You call, leave the luggage outside of the room and when you go to check out you will be given tags to retrieve your luggage at the ferry docks. We went down to the main dining room for breakfast; here you are given a choice of either a breakfast buffet or to order off the menu. We decided on the buffet, which like everything else, was delicious. After breakfast, we sat on the porch for awhile, enjoying our last moments at the hotel before we checked out. 
All in all, the experience was wonderful. I wish we could have had at least one more day so we could have experienced all that the hotel and the island had to offer. There are plenty of restaurants, the pool area, a self-guided garden walking tour, and so much more...and this is only the hotel! There's an entire island to be explored as well. I would recommend anyone to stay at least once, if given the opportunity. 
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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this! My husband has always wanted to stay in the hotel and this definitely helps me know what to expect if we plan a trip.


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