Free of automobiles and reachable by Shepler’s Ferry for a mere $22 per round-trip ticket, Michigan’s Mackinac Island is the epitome of time travel on a budget. Horse-drawn carriage taxis and delivery carts, picture-perfect period buildings and bicycle liveries abound, making for a couple’s or multigenerational family getaway you won’t soon forget.
Fun: The island’s state park is free of charge, and boasts more than 70 miles of trails for biking, horseback riding and hiking. You can also take a carriage tour of the park, taking in a rock arch, historic cave and stunning woodsy views of Lake Huron. Another freebie is the recently-opened antique carriage museum operated by Mackinac Island Carriage Tours. It features a number of restored horse-drawn vehicles and the ability to view the company’s horses and stables up close. Additional destination attractions include Fort Mackinac, several historic churches and a notable butterfly conservatory. If horseback riding isn’t in your budget, bicycle rentals start at $5 per hour for a basic model.
Food: Mackinac Island takes its fudge seriously, as the many family sweet stores in the shopping district demonstrate. The destination even holds an annual fudge festival to celebrate its devotion to this classic confection. For upscale yet casual dining, take a carriage ride to Woods which offers gnocchi gorgonzola for less than $20, and a moderately-sized dessert menu with all items priced at an easily-affordable nine bucks. While you’ll find many other excellent eateries when strolling the streets, experiencing afternoon tea at Grand Hotel complete with champagne, sherry and live harp music allows vacationers to incorporate a memorable activity into their mid-day snack break. Priced at $25 per person, this decadent diversion comes with a phenomenal view that won’t sink you a single dime extra. It’s also an excellent Mommy and Me activity. (See also: Making the Most of Family Resorts)
Splurge: This same hotel was used to film the movie “Somewhere in Time,” and has played host to celebrities and socialites since its opening just over 125 years ago. So if you’re searching for old-school glamour with a relaxed summer atmosphere, splurging for a night or two at this establishment might be just what the romance doctor ordered. Weekday prices are notably cheaper, with per-person rates starting at $254 for double occupancy. This price includes all on-site tips, full breakfast, an extensive lunch buffet and a five-course dinner. Changes in departure dates made after you check in will sink you $375 however, so be advised your budget is best served by sticking to your original itinerary.
Photo Credits: Trek Hound