Best Hotels for Afternoon Tea
in the U.S.
Laidback luxury and slow-paced days allow guests to travel back in time.
There is plenty of history in this neck of the woods. First, Jesuit fathers arrived in the mid-1600s, then French trappers, and by the late 1800s the industrialists, who decided to build Grand Hotel. Even though the property was expanded later, it was definitely a large project to establish this "grand lady" in the middle of nowhere — or at least in the middle of a big lake that freezes in the winter — at that time. When this magnificent hotel opened in 1887, it attracted wealthy travelers seeking a summer retreat.
Today, its busy season continues to be mid-June through the end of August. It’s particularly crowded during yacht races and festivals, and is also popular for large conferences. Still, no matter how many fellow guests are checked in, you’ll feel as if you’ve escaped to a gentler place and time. Cars are not allowed on the island, and guests can get around by horse-drawn carriage. You may arrive at the hotel by boat or in a light airplane. The location is prime, a real haven of peace, where the clock stops and romance begins. In fact, the producers of the 1980 romantic classic "Somewhere in Time," featuring Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve, shot on location at the hotel.
Your carriage brings you to the hotel where everything from the carpeting to the shampoo is done in a geranium flower theme. A 660-foot front porch, chamber music after meals and afternoon tea add to the feeling of being in a living museum. The all-wood structure harbors 393 guest rooms, which have been individually decorated by interior designer Carleton Varney. They feature antiques and gorgeous furnishings, such as hardwood four-poster beds. The hotel's most decadent lodging is the four-bedroom Masco Cottage. A stay here includes full breakfast, lunch and a five-course dinner each day, with the option of having meals prepared by a chef in your suite if you are staying more than one night.
A very grand dining room, meeting rooms, shops, a salon and a tea room complete your tour of the house.
A Grand Luncheon Buffet is served from noon to 2 p.m. daily in the main dining room. This buffet offers hot and cold gourmet entrées, seafood, salads, pastries and more. For sweeping views of the island, head up to the Cupola Bar located at the very top of the property for cocktails. Have a sudden craving for sushi? Head to the intimate restaurant Sushi Grand.
There's also Woods Restaurant, which is opened seasonally and located in the upper wooded portion of Mackinac Island and is accessible by bicycle, carriage or on foot.
If you're in the mood for dancing after dinner, the Terrace Room awaits for you to work off the calories you just picked up. Done in an Asian theme — minus the Geishas — this lounge features big band music nightly, compliments of The Grand Hotel Orchestra.
Quite a few weddings are held on the property and group business is the specialty of this Victorian Goliath. While the island is a pretty casual place, things get serious at night, when men must wear coats and ties. Evening dresses, skirts, blouses and dress slacks are recommended for ladies.
Recreation includes the serpentine-shaped Esther Williams swimming pool, clay-based tennis courts and the 18-hole The Jewel golf course, whose original Grand nine dates back to 1901. Festivals abound on the Island and the hotel offers many packages tailored to these travelers with specific interests.
One of the best ways to explore the island is to rent a bike from the hotel, request a boxed lunch to go and head out for a day of visiting historic houses and the National Historic Landmark of Fort Mackinac. While the island is gorgeous year-round, the hotel is open from late spring to early fall. Springtime visits are particularly recommended, when the lilacs are in bloom. Enhancing the appeal of this hotel even further are its eco-friendly efforts, from composting to recycling programs.
A bastion of Old World hospitality and charm takes you back in time. This hotel might be a very good prescription for relaxation. A week or just a few days here will change your life. The Musser family, now in its third generation of ownership, describes Grand Hotel as "the crown jewel of pristine, secluded Mackinac Island; Grand Hotel has been the world's largest summer hotel since 1887." Will they ever break tradition and open in the winter? Time will tell.