Posted by: Kath Usitalo | May 12, 2009

A Fort-able Fun


Fort Mackinac stockade

Fort Mackinac stockade

The folks at Mackinac State Historic Parks have gotten especially creative with their packaging this season to make visiting their 6 sites at Mackinac Island and Mackinaw City more affordable than ever. (Except a couple of hundred years ago when access to the forts, sawmill, and lighthouse was free—IF you were a soldier, lumberman or lightkeeper. So today’s discounted tickets are a much more attractive option.)


Old fashioned welcome at Fort Mackinac

The living history lessons at the Historic Park attractions vary by site but include costumed interpreters, cooking and craft demonstrations, period music, canon and rifle firings, audio visual programs, and interactive games and activities.

In Mackinaw City:
Colonial Michilimackinac, a 1770’s era fort, continues its longstanding programs and launches Colonial Kids Days and a Kids’ Rendezvous Interpretive Playground to explain the 17th and 18th century voyageurs and fur trade in the region.

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, circa 1892, includes a video, “Shipwrecks of the Straits of Mackinac.”

Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park is probably the only place to see a working lumber operation and take a nature tour involving a Forest Canopy Bridge, 425’ zip line, and climbing wall.

On Mackinac Island:
State Park trails, scenery and natural formations such as Arch Rock and Sugar Loaf Rock are always free.

Historic Downtown Mackinac preserves 5 buildings dating from the 1820s, with costumed interpreters and demonstrations.

Fort Mackinac, the whitewashed post built on the island bluff overlooking the Straits of Mackinac dates to 1780.

Soldier on lookout, keeping Mackinac Island safe for fudgies

I spent a long afternoon poking around the restored buildings and still didn’t have time to do justice to the exhibit Mackinac: An Island Famous in These Regions, which explains its evolution from a gathering place for Indians to today’s Fudgie Haven. (Fudgies are tourists who buy thousands of pounds of the confection made fresh daily at fudge shops that line Main Street.)


Soldier---one of ours---in Prussian-inspired uniform

The easiest way to see it all is with a $65 Mackinac Associates Family Heritage Membership, which covers unlimited admission to park sites for adults, kids, and grandkids under age 17.

But there are a half dozen ticket combinations to choose from, and some include attractions outside the parks.

New this year is the Mackinac Island Experience Package, a day trip with tickets for the roundtrip ferry, Carriage Tour, Fort Mackinac, Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory, and Grand Hotel (normally a $10 fee for non-guests to stroll the resort grounds). Adult price is $59, Youth $55.75, Kids 5-12 $28.25, tots are free. (Some restrictions apply.)

The best bargain on Mackinac Island (beside free fudge samples) has to be the Historic Mackinac Island Visitor’s Guide. The 56-page color booklet relates the history of the island and describes 7 themed tours for walking, hiking, or bicycling. It also includes two foldout maps. All for just a dollar. Pick up a copy at the Park Visitor’s Center on Main Street across from Marquette Park, where you’ll also find a few exhibits, a nice selection of books, postcards and souvenirs, and restrooms.

View of Post Schoolhouse (left) and North Blockhouse from outside Fort Mackinac's walls


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