If you've never been to the Mackinaw area, you are certainly missing out- it's gorgeous! Mackinaw City is the very tip of the lower peninsula of Michigan, and is connected to St. Ignace in the upper peninsula of Michigan by the Mackinac Bridge- just a 5 mile drive across the gorgeous Straights of Mackinac, which connect Lake Michigan and Lake Huron together.
I'll repeat this one little blurb, because it's something a LOT of people get wrong- even those silly Michiganders (both trolls and youpers!).
For those who have ever wondered, there are 2 spellings of the word Mackinac. The city is spelled Mackinaw City- spelled phonetically. The city was spelled this way due to the British occupation of the city. The rest of the biggies are spelled with an -AC at the end: Mackinac Bridge, Mackinac Island, Straights of Mackinac. The AC is still pronounced -AW. It's spelled -AC due to the French period of occupation. Regardless of spelling, pronounce it Mackinaw.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's move on to things to do- this time, I'll focus on St. Ignace, which is in the upper peninsula.
St. Ignace: What to Do
First and foremost, be aware- crossing the bridge comes with a toll fee to cover the repairs made to the bridge. You'll pay this once you get to the St. Ignace side, and you will have to pay it to go back across as well. As of the time of writing this, it's $3.50 each way, so plan to have $7.00 available. Correct change is always appreciated! The photo below shows the toll booth.
Once you are in the UP, take the first St. Ignace exit (did I forget to mention that the bridge is actually a part of the highway?).
Castle Rock- Castle Rock is a tourist attraction that has been around for a long time. The main attraction is a rock that climbs high above the earth to stand tall. A long, not overly steep, set of stairs climbs through the woods, twisting and climbing higher and higher. It's a very tiring climb, so make sure you are in good health before climbing it. Once you reach the top, there is a ramp that gaps the place where the stairs stop, and the final destination. There is a telescope up there, so bring quarters. The view is gorgeous!
The cost to climb is just $.50 per person, making it a very affordable stop on your vacation. There is also a giant Paul Bunyon & Babe the blue Ox at the base of the rock. Inside the building is a large, inexpensive tourist shop as well, featuring all sorts of goodies- wooden 'nickles', post cards, Indian themed gifts, pressed pennies, and so much more. I found that the older gift shops like this one, were by far the best places to let the kids loose with souvenir money.
My thoughts: It's well worth the time and money spent to stop here. The climb is exceedingly tiring, though, so if you have heart problems, or breathing problems, you may want to wait at the bottom for your party to come back down.
- Cost: $.50 per person if you climb. If you opt out of the climb, you can wait in the gift shop for free.
- Time: I would say it probably takes about 15-20 minutes to climb to the top, but maybe only 10 to climb down. If you also plan to shop, and take photos outside, I would plan to give this location an hour of your time.
Indian Village - Indian Village is another tourist shop that has probably been around since the 50's- it has that old time feel to it, without being that "it's really very modern and mimicking the 50's" feel. This shop is large, and does include a small museum dedicated to the local Indians. If your only reason for stopping is the museum, you could probably skip this location. However, if you want to shop and get more inexpensive items, this is a decent stop. The museum is located in the back corner on the right side of the building, and is free to enter.
Also included are a few fun "props" outside- a large Teepee, wooden cut out photo stands, etc.
- Cost: FREE to enter & enjoy, but as always, souvenirs cost extra.
- Time: It probably only takes 10-15 minutes to go through the museum area, but if you like to browse, the store is very big, and can take some time to get through.
Fort de Buade - This is a museum located right in St. Ignace dedicated to the history of the area, including the Native, French, British, and American eras. This museum boasts the largest collection of relics in the entire UP. The main site for this museum is currently down, and as I have not yet been here, I can not provide much information about the location. I believe I remember it was either free, or really inexpensive to enter, but have no way of confirming that info just now.
The location is fairly close to Indian Village, and would make a nice, educational stop on your path through St. Ignace.
- COST: Unsure
- TIME: Unsure, but I would plan at least an hour for a quick trip.
Museum of Ojibwa Culture - This museum is located, if memory serves, almost directly across the road from Indian Village. It's a small white building- either an old 1 room school house or Church, perhaps? This museum portrays a peek into the life of the people of the Straits of Mackinac from 300 years ago, including the Ojibwa, Huron, Odawa, and French lifestyles. I have not yet been to this location, so can not provide any personal info.
- Cost: Suggested donation of $2.00/teen/adult, $1.00/elementary age children, or just $5.00 for an entire family.
- Time: 60-90 minutes would probably suffice. It's a small location, but with both indoor and outdoor things to check out.
Totem Village - I'll admit, I didn't know anything about this site until I looked it up just now. I thought it was simply a souvenir shop, as there are a lot of roadside shops in St. Ignace. Totem Village boasts a few things worth mentioning, though.
While there is a shop available, this stop also provides museum artifacts honoring the local Native population, and has a wild life area, which includes bobcats, sika deer, peacocks, thunder foxes, and a porcupine. This location also has life size dioramas, a totem pole building, a replica of a Ojibwa medicine lodge, and much more. I am definitely adding this to our trip this year!
- Cost: $2/adult, $1/child, under 5 Free, and $5/family. As this location does not have it's own website, this info was found on the site linked above, and may not be accurate.
- Time: At least an hour. This sounds like there are a lot of things to explore.
Weird Michigan Wax Museum - This location is one that we skipped last time, but plan to check out this time around. The museum is located west of St. Ignace, a short drive out into the country side. Further down the list, you'll see the Mystery Spot- these two locations are right next to each other.
This wax museum is probably not what you'd get if you want to see Madame Toussades, with her life like replicas. The wax figures here look decidedly fake, but depict the weird history of Michigan- from the Snake Princess of Belle Isle, to the Grand Rapids Wooden Leg Murderer. Once you have wound your way through this place, you can enjoy an ice cream cone, and learn how to prospect for gold and gems.
- Cost: Adults $7, Seniors (60+) $5, Children 6-12 $5, Children 5 & under FREE. Family 6 pack of admission is available for $30. You can also purchase 2 pound bags of "Mine Rough" for the "Mining Experience" for $5.00 per bag. There is currently a coupon located on the website for $1.00 off admission, good for any admission except the Family 6 Pack.
- Time: Probably 90 minutes, give or take.
The Mystery Spot - Many places boast a Mystery Spot of some sort, from Michigan down to North Carolina, and across the country. St. Ignace's Mystery Spot has been around since the 50's, when many of the tourist locations popped up with the opening of the Mackinac Bridge, and all of the tourists that came with it.
While there is a secret to why the Mystery Spot works, I won't give it away. It's a fun stop, and provides a guided tour through the unique building, including demonstrations, and several chances to test the mystery out yourself.
The Mystery Spot also includes other activities, which are not included in the original ticket. When we went a couple years ago, there was a mini golf course, and a large wooden maze across the street. Since then, they have added a 2 mile long zip line through the woods.
- Cost: Mystery Spot alone- $5.00 ages 5-11, $7 ages 12-up.
Combo Prices (includes maze, mini golf, and the Mystery Spot)- ages $7.50 ages 5-11, $9.50 ages 12-up.
Zip Line- Just the zip line- $20.00 per person. Additional cost with the purchase of a Mystery Spot tour- $15.00 per person.
- Time: For the Mystery Spot, mini golf, and maze, I would say plan to spend a good 90 minutes there. The mini golf takes the longest. The tour can take some time as well, depending on when you arrive, and how crowded they are at the time. I'm unsure as to how long the zip lines would take, so contact the site to ask.
Manley's Fish Market - This is not a tourist location, per say, but if you love smoked fish, it is well worth the stop. Manley's provides fresh smoked fish, homemade beef jerkey, smoked beef sticks, pasties (a UP food staple), cheese curds, fudge, and even fish sausage.
The shop is the best all around- and there are a lot of places that smoke fish, but if you have a choice, choose Manley's. For about $20, you can get a decent amount of smoked White Fish. The fish is caught, smoked, and sold all right there- no frozen fish, no ordering it in. They provide a small picnic area, and you can purchase crackers and soda to make for a nice little picnic lunch.
Deer Ranch - Deer are found everywhere in Michigan, though it's often hard to view them up close. Deer Ranch is a stop where you can see them up close, and learn more about deer. This ranch even has albino deer- snowy white deer!
I have not been here, so I don't know much about it. I did drop an email to them asking about time expectations and costs, but have not yet heard back. Once I have that info, I will go ahead and update this.
All in all, there are a lot of little things you can do in St. Ignace, and many of them are inexpensive, educational, and fun! I would recommend setting aside an entire day for exploring St. Ignace. Pack a picnic lunch, and eat lunch lake side in one of the beautiful parks.
Up next: What to do, Mackinac Island