Another season is winding down on Mackinac Island, and while the ferries may be heading into drydock, now is the perfect time to add an autumn visit to the island to your “bucket list” for 2014 and beyond.
As a kid growing up in Michigan, any summer that we got to go to Mackinac Island was an extra special treat complete with fudge, ferry rides, and family fun. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I started to wonder what it would be like to experience that special place at another time of year, like fall. Now that I have, I highly recommend it to all. Here are five big reasons why:
1. Nature’s Parade of Color
Regardless of what direction you are coming from, the scenery is stunning. Fall skies seem to change by the moment. Different cloud formations, streams of sunlight, and of course the colorful leaves on the trees, make for an ever changing landscape. On more than one occasion I snapped a photo of some vista, only to take the same scene again moments later with a completely different result. Whether heading through the U.P. to St. Ignace or up to Mackinaw City from Detroit, the sights along the way are dazzling. Then on the boat over, the color of the shoreline varies greatly from the usual green to a bright array of colors.
On Mackinac Island you have the opportunity to watch the sun come up over Lake Huron and later set over the Straits of Mackinac as a stunning backdrop to Mighty Mac. There is really no bad time to watch the sun rise or set over a body of water, yet both experiences are enhanced by an unpredictable autumnal sky at this time of year. Clouds create a different experience not only from day to day, but moment to moment.
During the height of the tourist season Mackinac Island welcomes as many as 15,000 visitors each day. While there are no motorized vehicles allowed, that bustling time of year is filled with bicycles and carriages. Lines at fudge shops, bike rentals, and restaurants are not uncommon. All of that magically disappears as the temperature drops and kids return to school. Walking the island in the morning and evening I sometimes went for long lengths of time without seeing another soul. The methodical clomp of horse hooves would occasionally break the silence, and it was easy to get lost in thought. You truly can be transported Somewhere in Time.
Of course October means that Halloween is en route, and there is plenty of fun to be had. First the harvest décor is a delight as you stroll up and down the hills, and there are even some spooky sights to behold. If you really want to get in the spirit, get your spook on at the Haunted Theatre on Main Street. Those who dare to venture to the island on Halloween weekend can have fun with the kids Trick or Treating downtown, take the Haunts of Mackinac Tour, and then gear up for some great grownup Halloween parties at the downtown pubs.
One of the absolute best reasons to visit the island at any time, but especially in the fall, are the people you meet. As the season comes to a close, there is an excellent opportunity to really engage with people who have been working and living on the island. Many come from around the world to work there, and as they eagerly await the opportunity to go home and see family and friends, they share stories of their lives. It’s a truly unique chance to learn about different places and lifestyles, and because the crowds are smaller there is time to really chat. Similarly, the slower season seems to bring out more year-round residents to the local bars and eateries, or at least they become easier to spot. It’s fascinating to discover why they love it so much, and especially choose to endure what must be long, cold, though admittedly beautiful winters, on Mackinac.
Regardless of the time of year, any visit to Mackinac Island is a special adventure worthy of the wait. If you’re fortunate enough to make the journey in the fall, you may just get a glimpse into what it is like to live there all year, which is a treat indeed.
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