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Take the kids and wake up in 1789 on Mackinac Island

November 4, 2017 GMT

We sat outside for a late lunch at the Fort Mackinac Tea Room; it is operated by the Grand Hotel. The view of the lower plains of the old fort is spectacular. What a morning we had at the historic fort. We loved every minute of the interaction available between the costumed interpreters and vacationers (such as me) and vacationing families. On part of the island, the interpreters proudly wear re-created uniforms of a style that dates to the War of 1812.

There are no motorized vehicles on Mackinac Island, so the ambiance is on the quiet side, save the clip-clop of horses drawing carriages that double as taxis. The quiet is shaken four times per day when a cannon is fired at the fort. The cannon is located 150 feet above the park grounds.


Some firings are in conjunction with a history tour. Others are for the crowds that gather at a parapet for a brief explanation and step-by-step instruction about preparing to fire a cannon, loading and priming it before firing.

The sound of rifle and musket fire in the parade grounds of the fort draw attention to the goings-on in the centralized part of the fort. These demonstrations are accompanied by a brief explanation of the firearm and the uniforms (Prussian-inspired) that were worn at that time.

Live demonstrations continue throughout the day and visitors discover the value of repositioning the fort onto the island and its vantage point for fur trade. There’s lots to see in Sutler’s Museum Store, which is located on the ground floor of the soldiers’ barracks.

Refreshed by lunch, we walked down the hillside and through Marquette Park toward the Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum.

The gallery is located on three floors of an 1838 Indian dormitory. The collection is dedicated to art representative of the area. It includes decorative arts, modern pieces, early photographs, paintings and 17th and 18th century maps of the Great Lakes. No photography is allowed in the museum. Children are invited to view the museum and join the Kids’ Art Studio to create their own memories of their time on the island under the direction of artists and staff.

When we visited, the second floor included a map exhibit that drew me in. Google Earth maps were paired with an original 18th century map of the same section of the Great Lakes and surrounding lands. The difference was remarkably minimal.

Tempted as we were to call a horse-drawn taxi, we hoofed it to downtown and sampled our way along streets of fudge shops and ice cream before calling it a day. The next day, there was another tour of the island by carriage that caught my eye; it included a stop at the Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House and Insect World, the first in Michigan and the third oldest in the country.