Family Fun at the Fort

Published on July 3rd, 2017

Last updated on December 5th, 2022

Mackinac Island has always been a part of me. I grew up an hour away, visited Fort Mackinac on an eighth-grade class trip and even worked there. So, in September of 2010, when I learned my father-in-law had never been to Mackinac Island, I knew I needed to take my family there.

My parents-in-law drove from Mt. Pleasant to our Cheboygan home the night before our visit. Early the next morning, my husband, three-year-old daughter (who only wanted to see the “horsies”), my parents-in-law and I packed into our truck to catch an early ferry across the Straits of Mackinac to Mackinac Island.

Once there, after we stared a while at the “horsies,” we walked to the Mackinac Island Carriage Tour ticket booth and got on a carriage. For the next hour and forty-five minutes, we enjoyed a carriage tour around the Island to my daughter’s constant jibber-jabbering and the carriage tour driver’s amusing Island facts.

During the tour, we stopped at Arch Rock, a beautiful limestone formation on the Island’s east shoreline, which offers a truly majestic view of Lake Huron. We also stopped at the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory, where my daughter chased butterflies while we chased her.

Finally, the carriage tour stopped at our premier destination – Fort Mackinac – built 150 feet above the Straits of Mackinac during the American Revolution. We checked out the Kids’ Quarters in the Officers’ Stone Quarters (Michigan’s oldest public building), which was filled with uniforms just my daughter’s size, a giant, playable fife and a half-sized cannon with a pull-string for that original cannon blast sound.

While my husband and parents-in-law explored other buildings, my daughter and I danced on the parade ground to live fife music and marched like—and with—the soldiers. I can never really find the rhythm, but it didn’t matter right then. There’s something about Mackinac that lets a person relax and dance.

Lunch at the Tea Room Restaurant within Fort Mackinac was a special treat. We watched Great Lakes freighters move slowly through the Straits while we leaned against the white picket fence, the scent of fresh water on the cool September breeze.

As the time for the last carriage departure of the day neared, I stood guard at the Fort exit like the soldiers before me. My parents-in-law had decided to tour one last exhibit – “An Island Famous in These Regions” – in the Soldiers’ Barracks. As the carriage pulled up, I saw that only a couple seats were left open. I quickly called my mother-in-law while pleading for the carriage driver to wait just a couple minutes longer. He did. They finally came rushing out, both wishing for an entire day at the Fort, and boarded the carriage. They got the last two seats.

My husband, daughter and I walked back, but that was for the best. We held hands and took our final stroll down Fort Hill Road to meet my parents-in-law downtown. And, of course, to buy fudge.

Jolene Priest, her husband and their daughter now live in Mt. Pleasant, not far from her parents-in-law. Priest is the owner of Inspire Flight Marketing and Media, LLC, and can be found on Facebook (/inspireflight) and Twitter (@jolenepriest).