19 Things to See and Do in Mackinaw City, Michigan
Mackinaw City is one of Michigan’s top tourist destinations, as visitors from all over the country come to see the Mackinac Bridge, travel to Mackinac Island, or take home some world famous fudge. The city’s location at the point where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet has made it an important one for travel over the years, resulting in an abundance of historic sites. The city is also an incredibly family-friendly place that offers many opportunities for recreation, shopping, lodging and dining. The surrounding area continues to grow, and plans are in the works for a brewery and a casino to be added in the next few years. This has always been one of our favorite Michigan cities, and we put together a list of 20 things to see and do in Mackinaw City that should appeal to everyone. It’s full of museums, parks, historical attractions, shopping, dining, outdoor recreation options and more – we hope you enjoy it!
Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse – Before the construction of the Mackinac Bridge, this lighthouse warned mariners of the hazards at the Straits of Mackinac – the point where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. Constructed in 1892, it is one of Michigan’s most beloved beacons due to its castle-like appearance and its close proximity to the bridge and Fort Michlimackinac. Deactivated in the 1950s, the lighthouse and grounds are no open as a museum offering visitors the chance to climb the tower for amazing views. Find out more at: http://www.mackinacparks.com/parks-and-attractions/old-mackinac-point-lighthouse/.
526 N. Huron Ave.
Mackinac Bridge – A true engineering landmark, the Mackinac Bridge is the world’s 16th longest suspension bridge. Two lanes in each direction carry I-75 over the Straits of Mackinac here, and the bridge’s two towers rise 552 feet above the water. The bridge opened in 1957 and replaced the car and passenger ferries that had previously operated in the area. On Labor Day each year one side of the bridge is open for pedestrian traffic – those who have completed the five-mile walk know that is a truly amazing trip. This is one of the most photographed landmarks in the entire state, and we previously offered a list of six great vantage points to see the bridge from.
Fort Michlimackinac – The Straits of Mackinac have always been an important crossroads for water transport, which led to the construction of Fort Michlimackinac in the early 1700s. The fort at times was more of a trading post, and it was under French and then British control. Today, many of the buildings have been reconstructed and the fort is open as an interactive museum complete with costumed interpreters. Archaeological digs continue at the site to this day. Find out more at: http://www.mackinacparks.com/parks-and-attractions/colonial-michilimackinac/.
102 W. Straits Ave.
Fudge Shops – One of the highlights of the shopping district on Central Ave. are the shops that make and sell world-famous Mackinac Island Fudge. Options in Mackinaw City include JoAnn’s Fudge (303 E. Central), Murdick’s Fudge (219 E. Central), Marshall’s Fudge & Candy Co. (308 E. Central), Devon’s Mackinaw Fudge Co. (304 E. Central), and Kilwin’s Chocolates (226 E. Central). There are many options to satisfy your sweet tooth here, and even a few chances to watch the fudge-making and preparation process in action.
Audie’s Family Restaurant – Chris posted an extensive review of Audie’s after visiting last summer, and this Mackinaw City staple has been a great family-friendly food stop at the foot of the Mackinac Bridge for decades. Two different sides of the restaurant offer different food options at different prices, so there’s something here for every taste and budget.
314 Nicolet St.
USCGC Mackinaw Museum – This 290-foot United States Coast Guard cutter served from 1944 to 2006 before being decommissioned and docked in Mackinaw City as a museum ship. The Michigan historical marker on site adds more details: “Built in 1944 at a cost of $10 million, U.S. Coast Guard cutter MACKINAW had six ten-cylinder engines that enabled it to cut through several feet of lake ice. The powerful steel icebreaker was commissioned during World War II to aid year-round navigation so freighters could carry raw materials for war production. For sixty-two years MACKINAW left its home port of Cheboygan to open or extend the navigation season, clear the shipping lanes, or free vessels that were stuck in the ice. MACKINAW was unsurpassed in size and capability among icebreakers.” Find out details about tour dates, hours, and rates at: http://www.themackinaw.org/.
131 S. Huron Ave.
Historic Pathway – This Mackinaw City historic tour starts at the intersection of Central Ave. and N. Huron and it heads south to the city pier before heading back to the north. It follows the shoreline past six parks, the Mackinac Bridge, and Fort Michlimackinac before turning south to complete its loop. There are 46 stops in all, covering every historical aspect of the city: historical achievements, notable people, historic buildings, famous ships, and more. You can get the complete map online at http://www.mackinawcity.org/Portals/22/docs/Historical%20Trail.pdf.
Dixie Saloon – “Sitting in the center of the downtown Mackinaw City shopping district, the Dixie Saloon has become the heart of Mackinaw City’s night life offering a menu of Mackinaw’s best steaks, ribs, and burgers and well as the largest bar in of Mackinaw City. The Dixie has live entertainment on weekends, year round, and karaoke during the week.” That’s a pretty accurate description of the Dixie Saloon, which has become one of favorite places to catch a meal, have drinks, or watch sports. We’ve always enjoyed friendly service, great food, and the beautiful, open and inviting cedar interior at the Dixie Saloon, and we hope you will too. http://www.dixiesaloon.com/
401 E. Central Ave.
McGulpin Point Lighthouse – While the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse has always been close to top tourist destinations, the McGulpin Point Lighthouse to the west went largely unnoticed for many years. It served from 1869 to 1906, and its construction with Cream City brick features a similar design to the White River Light Station on Lake Michigan. The building was privately owned for decades, and the lantern room was removed. In 2008 Emmet County purchase the property with plans to restore the lighthouse, and in 2009 the site was opened as a museum. The tower is 38 feet tall with a focal height of 102 feet, providing great views of the Straits and the Mackinac Bridge. In addition to the lighthouse there is a nature trail that leads to the lake and the famous McGulpin Rock. Find out more at: http://www.mcgulpinpoint.org/.
500 Headlands Rd.
Headlands International Dark Sky Park – One of the Lower Peninsula’s more unique attractions can be found just a few miles from downtown Mackinaw City. The Headlands “contains approximately 600 acres of pristine woodlands, more than two miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline and many species of rare and endangered plant life. Visitors to the Headlands may experience sightings of the many wild animals native to the area including: bald eagles, osprey, white tail deer, wild turkeys, coyotes and occasionally a black bear. Marked nature trails guide hikers, bicyclists, cross-country skiers, and nature photographers to experience the park throughout the changing seasons.” In 2011, this became one of 10 Dark Sky Parks in the world thanks to its location far from the city lights and a commitment to maintaining that darkness for optimal night sky viewing for years to come. Find out full details at: http://www.midarkskypark.org/.
15675 Headlands Rd.
Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park – A sawmill operated south of Mackinaw City from the late 1700s to early 1800s, and in the 1980s it was historically reconstructed. Today Mill Creek offers visitors the chance to see a working sawmill, costumed re-enactors, a workshop, and a millwright’s house. There is also a zipline and climbing wall for those looking for adventure, and more than three miles of nature trails. This is a state historic site, and the historic marker tells more of the area’s history: “In 1780 the British garrison at Fort Michilimackinac moved to Mackinac Island as a safer location during the American Revolution. Robert Campbell built a sawmill on this site to furnish lumber for the new fort and settlement. His sawmill and dam were one of the earliest industrial enterprises in northern Michigan. The complex later included a grist mill, an orchard, a blacksmith shop, a warehouse and several homes. Michael Dousman purchased the site 1819 and continued to operate the mill until 1839. By 1867 the buildings were gone and the site had fallen into disrepair. In 1975 the Mackinac Island State Park Commission acquired the site. It opened its recreated working sawmill to the public in 1984.”
9001 W. US Hwy 23
Mackinaw Crossings Mall – Located in the center of the downtown shopping district, Mackinaw Crossings Mall has something for everyone. Visitors will find Courtyards Cinema, Sharky’s Mackinaw Outfitters, Spy Quest Laser Maze, Enchanted Knights, Great Lakes Bear Factory, Historic Depot Restaurant, Kilwin’s, Mackinaw Trail Winery, nightly laser light shows and more.
Mama Mia’s Pizza/Mackinaw Bridge Museum – Getting pizza from Mama Mia’s was part of our yearly trips to Mackinaw City when we were younger, and you’ll still find great pizza here today. Upstairs is the FREE Mackinaw Bridge Museum. A fire destroyed this building in 2005, but it reopened in 2007; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MamaMiasMackinaw/.
231 E. Central Ave.
Animal Tracks Miniature Golf – We’ve always found miniature golf to be a great way to unwind on a vacation, and we’ve played many games here at Animal Tracks in Mackinaw City. The course offers 18 holes with waterfalls, rocks, and information on Northern Michigan animals and their tracks.
corner of Huron & Shepler
Mackinac Trail Winery – Last year we visited the Mackinaw Trail Winery and Brewery in Petoskey and were very impressed with what we found. The company operates a tasting room in Mackinaw City, so you can stop in and try samples and purchase their wines – including Blueberry, Razzberry, Strawberry Rhubard, Harvest Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and more.
162 N. Huron Ave.
Wienerlicious, World’s Largest Hot Dog – We featured Wienerlicious in a Roadside Attraction post after stopping by last year, as it is believed to be the World’s Largest Hot Dog. It is 60 feet long and weighs seven tons, and it sits on top of a restaurant that serves up hot dogs, brats, sandwiches and more.
102 E. Central Ave.
Parks – You can find a full list and a map of Mackinaw City parks on the city’s page, and there are nearly 20 spots that offer great recreation and relaxation opportunities. Favorites include Alexander Henry park and its views of the Mackinac Bridge, Conkling Heritage Park (pictured) and its views of Lake Huron and performance shell, Old School Park and its large wooden playground, and the North Central State Trail.
Mackinac Island Ferry – Mackinac Island is considered one of the best romantic destinations in the entire Midwest, and it also offers many family friendly attractions and historical buildings – check out our list of 12 Things To Do on Mackinac Island for more. Shepler’s, Arnold, and Star Line ferry services all depart from Mackinaw City daily during the summer.
556 E. Central (Shepler’s), 711 S. Huron Ave. (Star Line), 801 S. Huron Ave. (Arnold)
Wood Carvings – In addition to the Historic Pathway, there are six wooden carvings of famous figures in Mackinaw City at various locations. Jerry Prior was the artist for these stunning tributes, which include Edgar Conkling, Chief Wawatam, Hattie Stimpson, Major Arent Schuyler Depeyster, Alexander Henry, and Perry Darrow. Locations can be found on the historic pathway pdf linked above.