"Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Esther Williams!"
You can almost hear that introduction in the wind when you stand by the serpentine-shaped pool built for that aquatically inclined actress at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Mich. It was 1947, and she filmed "This Time for Keeps" at the Grand and in various locations around the island on Lake Huron.
Mackinac (pronounced "Mack-i-naw") and the Grand Hotel have hosted presidents, captains of commerce and filmmakers for more than a century. John Jacob Astor's profitable American Fur Co. was headquartered there. Built in 1887 of white pine, the Grand is billed as the world's largest summer hotel, and it is celebrating its 125th anniversary as "America's Summer Place."
It is easy to imagine what Mackinac was like when Victorian industrialists ruled the leisure class. Except for a few more fudge shops, very little has changed. Horse and buggy or bicycles are the favored modes of transportation. No motor vehicles are allowed, and the Victorian cottages, stables and clip-clop of horses all combine to conjure simpler times.
When you approach the island by ferry, the Grand Hotel dominates the vista (it boasts the world's longest porch). At the dock, horse-drawn taxis are available to take you to your cottage or hotel. If you stay at the Grand, you will find a stagecoach driven by a man in top hat and tails waiting to retrieve you. The walk back to Main and Market Streets from the Grand is easy enough, or you can rent bikes on the property.
In town, bike rentals are available by the hour, the day or the week. Charming Main Street is lined with bikes during the summer season as visitors shop or enjoy the restaurants. Running parallel and just behind is tree-lined Market Street with more shops, an island museum and some bed-and-breakfasts. If you are looking for a novel way to tour the 8-mile perimeter of the island, drive a horse and buggy. Rentals and quick lessons are available.
With fudge shops on every block, it's a good idea to move under your own power as much as possible, especially during the annual Mackinac Island Fudge Festival (Aug. 24-25).
Fudge, lilacs, turtles, bicycles and horses are all reasons for festivals or gatherings. The celebrations keep visitors coming from the mainland and summer residents entertained. Upcoming celebrations on the island include the Festival of the Horse (Aug. 8-12). In June every year, the island hosts its Lilac Festival (www.mackinac islandlilacfestival.org).
On your own, you can tour Revolutionary-era Fort Mackinac overlooking the harbor (www.mackinacparks.com) or take any of several hiking trails into the interior.
Movie buffs will know the picturesque island has been the setting for other films, including 1980's "Somewhere in Time," with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve. Evidence of their stay is all over the family-owned Grand Hotel and in shops on the island. The hotel hosts a "Somewhere in Time" weekend in which everyone dresses in period costume (Oct. 26-28 this year). (1-800-334-7263; www.grandhotel.com)
The island's Tourism Bureau website, www.mackinac island.org, lists more cottages, bed-and-breakfasts, inns and resorts on the island.
Park your car and take the ferry from St. Ignace or Mackinaw City, Mich., to Mackinac Island. The island is also served by Pellston Regional Airport. If you spend the night in Mackinaw City, you can take an early-morning ferry on the Star (www.mackinacferry.com) or Arnold lines (www.arnold line.com).