Mackinaw area traditions, outdoor activities carry on amid COVID-19

Mackinaw area traditions, outdoor activities carry on amid COVID-19

Mackinaw Area Visitors Bureau by Nate Reens

As Deb Spence and her team began planning for the first weekend of the annual Premier Arts & Craft Show – one of the region’s most popular summer events – it was a bit of a question mark on how it would go with COVID-19 social distancing changes.

“All I heard from the vendors and from people attending the show is that it was better than ever,” said Spence, the executive director of the Mackinaw City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There were a ton of people in town and they walked through the show, shopped, talked and had a great time.”

Couple biking at sunset

Visitors will have that chance again on Aug. 29-30 to discover artists from around the country as they display their incredible work on hand-crafted jewelry, custom-designed clothes, woodworkings and paintings in beautiful Conkling Heritage Park, on the shore of the Straits of Mackinac that bridges Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. The show is set for 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

The show has changed to comply with social distancing restrictions by reducing the number of artisans and changing the layout to line the sidewalks in the park instead of being set up in the middle of the grassy areas.

“It worked out really well,” Spence said. “Everyone was spaced out and the set up made the traffic flow easy.

“I think the second weekend should be just as successful.”

It’s been an interesting year for the Mackinaw area, which witnessed a sharp reduction in visitors and business during the spring and in June because of the pandemic. There have been only 9 confirmed cases of the virus, and each businesses and residents are doing their part to stay safe by following the recommended safety guidelines.

Mill Creek Discovery Park in Mackinaw area

Restaurants in the city are open, as are outdoor attractions and activities, all serving visitors while being vigilant about sanitization and other precautions.

That has allowed the area to press on with many of its annual traditions, including Independence Day activities and the upcoming 7th annual Ford Mustang car show that is set for July 18 at the Straits State Harbor Park, next to Conkling Park.

The ultimate classic muscle car and the sleek late-model rides are a sight to see, and organizers expect roughly 100 vehicles to be on display from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will feature the annual car parade over the Mackinac Bridge.

Outdoor movies in a historic setting

The iconic bridge will also be the site of weekly “Movies by the Bridge” at the Michilimackinac State Park, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary. For themed weekends as well more information on movie times and locations, visit the Mackinac State Historic Park’s calendar page. The family-friendly movies begin at dusk and attendees are encouraged to bring a blanket, chair, or snacks. The movies began on July 3 and run through the summer. The schedules is as follows:

  • July 11: Mary Poppins Returns
  • July 18: A League of Their Own
  • July 25: Wreck-It Ralph
  • August 1: Space Jam
  • August 8: Finding Nemo
  • August 15: The Mighty Ducks
  • August 22: Moana
  • August 29: The Lego Movie
  • September 5: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Treat yourself to a Dark Sky experience

Take your stargazing outing to a whole new level at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, which was one of the first 10 such land areas in the world when it earned the prestigious designation in 2011. The park, which is open during the day for natural excursions that often lead to sightings of wildlife including bald eagles, osprey, coyotes and even black bear, also is free to enter.

Couple in chairs on the beach

There are trails that guide hikers and cyclists through nearly 600 acres of woodlands that are adjacent to two miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline. The land, which is protected and can never be developed, offers an exceptional view of starry skies because of the lack of ambient light from nearby homes or businesses. The location is ideal for photographers in all seasons.

Get outside

A trip Up North always calls for outdoor activities, and the Mackinaw area offers outstanding adventures from hiking and biking to parasailing, golf and fishing. The pristine beaches and blue waters of the Great Lakes are a perfect spot to get away from the rush and stresses life presents daily.

Walking along a beach in Mackinaw area

Mackinaw City also provides an easy centralized hub for day trips to Mackinac Island, the Soo Locks, Tahquamenon Falls State Park and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

“Up here, it’s one day at a time,” Spence said. “Pick what you want to do, head out and just relax. There are a ton of things for families to do and there are great places to visit. There’s always something new to do.”

To learn more about everything available in Mackinaw City, check out the visitors bureau here or give the friendly and helpful staff a call at 800-666-0160.