As you may already know, one of my favorite places on earth . . . so when a deal this good comes your way, you should try it at least once before your kids turn 12. Why? Because if your children are 9 or under, the Grand Hotel only charges each child the baggage handling fee of $8.50 per person, while the adults pay $130 per person to stay at one of the most beautiful hotels in America and be treated like royalty. This includes a 5-course meal (children’s menu available) and a buffet breakfast + free admission to some of the attractions on the island. There are the added hotel taxes that make this a little pricier than $130 + $8.50, but it is still a great value and so much fun.
Grand Hotel is also a non-tipping hotel. It even has a sign stating this behind the front desk as you check in. They will hand you real keys (not key cards) to your room, and every room is decorated differently.
After checking in, the best thing to do is get ready for dinner. After 6:30 p.m., it is expected that every person inside the hotel dress up: skirts, dresses, and pantsuits for the ladies. Ties for the gentlemen. At age 5, they ask your young gentleman to wear a tie. We accomplished this last year by buying a suit, tie, dress shirt and dress shoes for my oldest at a resale store. It all came to about $30 and he was able to wear these clothes again for his school’s Christmas program.
This experience is great for introducing formal dining to your little ones. We come from a household where we sit down to eat dinner together each night, but our house is missing the formal dinnerware set-up, the jazz band, and the first class service. Nor am I a world class chef. So besides sitting down to eat as a family, this is very different from home, and very special. The waiters, seeing young children, graciously move a lot of the silverware and fine china out of the way to avoid breaks and present the young ones with a children’s menu.
Being in this formal environment does not make your children act like angels however. The first time we stayed at the Grand, our hostess, who we met on the boat on the way over, set us right in front of the band to help entertain the children. I still had to make a trip back to the room to make a diaper change.
On the second trip, my mom had to whip out her phone to entertain the 4 grandkids as they waited to eat. But the servers complete the 5 courses quite quickly. But take time to savor it . . . . especially my favorite Pecan Ball at the end. As a side note, you can also get a mini (almost non-calorie) Pecan Ball at the ice cream parlor for $2.50 even if you are not staying at the hotel. After dinner, you can take a stroll across the porch in the dark or hit the game room for some air hockey.
Some points to consider before making your reservations are the time of year and your ferry trip.
The first time we did the Celebrate Michigan Package, it was October 30. At that point, Grand Hotel is the only hotel left open on the island. There are no crowds, it is cooler, and many businesses are closed. However, without the crowds, it’s not necessary to have everything open. We found everything we needed and created wonderful family memories. Our kids love just running around the grounds of the hotel, eating at the ice cream parlor, and watching the horses.
The photo at the top of my blog was taken at the fountain at the Grand Hotel as my boys threw pennies in.
In late October, if you like shopping, everything is at a deep discount as well since many of the stores are looking to get rid of their goods until the island reopens in May. Be sure to visit the Grand Hotel Outlet store, which is behind the Gate House Restaurant (turn right on Mahoney Avenue) as you walk up the hill to the Grand Hotel from downtown.
Last September I was able to purchase the same comforter we had in our room at the Grand. It was especially memorable because the 4 kids (my boys, my niece and my nephew) kept hiding under it all night while we were getting ready for dinner and even after dinner.
In September, you don’t get the deep shopping discounts. There are still crowds, but the weather is warmer. I think it might have hit 80º the last time we visited in September. The kids loved the weather as they played at the playground behind the art museum once we headed downtown.
When taking the ferry, the Grand Hotel recommends Shepler’s, but I like Starline. I am also pretty sure
Starline was the only ferry operating in mid-September and late October. Buy your tickets online because it costs less even though that is not stated anywhere. This year, they also started to offer family packages online which make it even more affordable.
Once you get off the boat, Grand Hotel will get your luggage up to the hotel for you in time to get ready for dinner if you get there early enough. If not, take your formal clothes with you. They also have their own fancy horse-drawn taxi you can take. I have never done this, since my children and family like walking up to the hotel. It is up a steep hill, but the kids love running up there. They do run sometimes and I try to remind them not to run into people. But they are so excited and this is all part of making memories as a family.
Since last posting this, the dates for Celebrate Michigan have sold out. When I hear of the spring dates, I will post them.
To celebrate my mom’s 70th birthday on the Friday we wanted last year, my husband and I worked on calling and it took over 100 redials to get through. But it was well worth the trouble. My mom will never forget celebrating her 70th with her grandchildren at the Grand Hotel.
So once again, make reservations. Make memories. And if you can’t do it this year, save up for next year. Plan to have lots of fun with your family.
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