Mackinac Island, Michigan; 800-334-7263, grandhotel.com
Rate: $329 per person per night, meals included
We recommend: Summer with grandkids
Glossy maroon carriages—almost all of them over 100 years old—led by magnificent Percherons and Hackneys and steered by a liveried coachman await guests at the ferry dock. Once you glide up the hill to Mackinac Island’s postcard landmark, footmen help you alight in front of the longest porch in the world. It’s an unforgettable introduction to the historic luxury at the Grand Hotel, a rare survivor of the late 1800s. Once, there were more than a thousand wood-framed hotels like this, a place for the elite escaping the summer heat of Midwestern cities. Now, the 332,500-square-foot Grand is one of only 11 remaining.
Thank goodness it made it. Otherwise we’d never be escorted into the Main Dining Room by impeccable waiters in tux-style uniforms and white gloves, or sip sherry and nibble our scones while a harpist plays in the parlor during high tea.
Wander through the gardens—a floral fantasy with tens of thousands of blooming annuals and perennials as well as perfectly sculpted topiaries, including, of course, a carriage and horses.
In the evening, take in the sounds of the Grand Hotel Orchestra, then climb the steps for late-night drinks and panoramic views in the cozy cupola topping this four-story-plus hotel with its 393 rooms (each individually decorated). Here, a pianist tickles the ivories (and takes requests) while horns from ferries navigating the Straits of Mackinac provide accompaniment.
Open your windows to the fresh night air, smell the roses, and hear the clopping of hooves and jingle of a harness (remember, cars were outlawed on Mackinac Island in 1898, years before Henry Ford). Head to the Grand’s stables to look at the historic carriages, pamper yourself at Astor’s Salon and Spa, visit the art gallery and shops, dig into the famous Grand Pecan Ball, and play pickleball or tennis. But most importantly, indulge. After all, it’s tradition here. Mackinac Island, 800-334-7263
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Eat in: The Fort Mackinac Tea Room is spectacularly located atop the namesake walls, built by the British military in 1780.
Upgrade: The new fourth-floor Cupola Suites burst with color and pattern. Famed interior designer Carlton Varney took inspiration from the St. Croix home of the hotel’s owners.
FYI: There are just as many horses here in the summer as year-round residents. Head to one of the many stables and rent a horse and buggy to drive yourself.