Headed north in Michigan? One of our favorites places to stop and get a good look at the mighty Mac is also one of our favorite places to spend a few days. While Mackinac Island is a hot tourist destination for many good reasons, it’s neighboring city just across the lake also has it’s own right to fame. Mackinaw City is full of shopping, restaurants, fudge shops and attractions -my husband and I recently spent a few days for our anniversary wandering around.
Mackinaw City, Michigan
Last minute travel is kinda my “thing” – I never plan in advance. So recently when my husband and I decided on taking a last minute trip to the Upper Peninsula to see the Tahquamenon Falls and do a little bike riding, I called around and to find all of the rooms on the island were already booked – typical. We finally found a lone room at the Brigadoon Bed and Breakfast just minutes away from the downtown area of Mackinaw City and quickly booked our stay- best decision ever.
What to Do on the Mainland
We’ve been to the island many times before – yes it’s magical. However, it isn’t the only reason to venture to the Mackinac bridge. During this trip we were more interested in driving through the U.P. to see the falls and spending a few days wandering around Mackinaw City instead. Since we’ve made this venture many times in our lives people often ask us why – what is there to do on the mainland as opposed to the island? Well – just for starters. . .
Mama Mia’s Pizza
The first stop we make every time we go anywhere near the northern side of Michigan is Mama Mia’s Pizza. In fact, I’ve been visiting this amazing little pizza shop since 8th grade when I took a class trip to see the Soo Locks. Sadly, a few years ago this pizzeria had a devastating fire that completely grounded the establishment, but it has since rebuilt and continues to offer pizza that I simply cannot resist. While Mama Mia’s pizza offers some interesting pizza concoctions like nacho pizza – my favorite will always be a pepperoni with banana peppers with a side of their irresistible garlic bread with fresh sliced tomatoes on it.
After eating pizza (or before) I always head on over to their bar and grab myself a Moscow Mule and then wander around upstairs through the restaurants FREE little Mackinac Bridge museum. Upstairs in the museum are some very interesting artifacts and information about the work that went in to creating such a magnificent structure.
Across from Mama Mia’s is an outdoor mall which we always find joy in wandering through. The stores here carry a variety of items from Michigan made items, to clothing and even wine (there is also tasting!!). There are also a few restaurants peppered throughout and an outdoor playground in the center. Plus, during the summer months they have bands play on a small stage in the courtyard and they even have a free laser light show every evening at dusk. It’s fun to bring along a blanket, lay out under the stars and enjoy the music as a couple.
Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse
Sitting on the beach of the Straits of Mackinac is a beautiful lighthouse with probably the best view ever – the Mackinac Bridge. During this trip, like many others, we loaded up our bikes in the back of our 1950 Chevy before heading out. One morning, we both hopped on our bikes with iced coffee in hand and rode out to the beach to see the lighthouse. It’s a beautiful sight – but it can also be educational. Tours of the tower and living quarters are available on a first come – first served basis.
Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum
I’ve never been on a cruise. I can only imagine what it would be like to spend several days aboard a boat – let alone working on an icebreaker in the Straits of Mackinac. However, this amazing tour of a docked icebreaker built during World War II and honorably known as the largest icebreaker on the Great Lakes was eye opening. During this tour I walked through tight corridors, up and down ladders and into the captains living quarters. I also had the chance to speak with one of the shipmates who actually rode upon this great ship before it was docked in 2006. This tour was one of the highlights of my trip – so amazing.
Many people head to the islands to see the fort, but did you know that Mackinaw City has it’s own fort? Fort Michilimackinac sits just down the path from the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse and makes for a fun day of exploration. Even without the kids, my husband and I enjoy wandering through the grounds – reading about history and watching the fire off the cannons. We both agree that we never want to stop learning.
Another reason we brought our bikes along for this trip, besides the ease of getting around town on them, was to partially ride the North Central State Trail. This trail connects Mackinaw City, Cheboygan, Gaylord and Indian River – although obviously we are not yet equipped to ride the whole thing. The section of tails that runs through Mackinaw City is a nice ride – it’s mostly paved and tree lined. Except for the variant rider who came through blaring their music for everyone else to “enjoy”, it was quiet and serene. A beautiful way to spend a day!
We love spending time in the northern tip of Michigan and plan to explore more of the U.P. soon – have any travel recommendations for us? Let us know in the comments! Happy travels!