The Alarming Daily Ritual To Know About Before Visiting The Midwest's Mackinac Island

Mention you're traveling to Michigan and destinations with larger populations like Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor typically come to mind. However, Michigan is home to some inspiring small towns and perhaps one of the most unique is Mackinac Island. This charming vacation destination is accessible from the mainland by ferry and is home to between 500 and 600 residents. On Mackinac Island, there's an impressive amount of history packed into 3.8 square miles of land according to the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau.

Many visitors come here in the summer to enjoy time in a place where life slows down. Cars are prohibited so guests get around using horse-drawn carriages and bicycles. Hotels dating back to the 1800s are popular places to settle in for the night while quaint local shops and eateries are open to browse and enjoy between May and October. While the many museums and parks here are sure to please, the tranquility of a Mackinac Island stay can be interrupted for travelers by an alarming daily ritual if they're not prepared.

When you're here, don't be caught off guard by the fact that you'll be greeted by the sound of cannon fire each day. This morning ritual pays tribute to the island's military past, but can certainly be a surprise for those who aren't aware that it's part of the Mackinac Island experience. Once you understand the source of the sound, you'll likely be delighted to find you're more than welcome to participate in the ritual yourself.

Take part in a historical tradition during your stay

Mackinac Island's location in the Straits of Mackinac made it a vital hub for the fur trade and military fortification beginning in the 16th century and extending well into the 19th century. In 1780, British forces established Fort Mackinac on the island, where it remains today. This is where travelers interested in a hands-on experience with firing a canon can try it out for themselves during a Mackinac Island visit.

The Fort Mackinac cannon sits 150 feet up on a scenic bluff and offers a unique and immersive look into the past. When you reach the cannon, you enjoy a vantage point out over Lake Huron, downtown Mackinac Island, and the Mackinac Bridge. While the vistas are certainly gorgeous, the thrill of this experience is knowing you'll be the person to fire the first cannon of the day at one of the most incredible historical sites in the Midwest.

You'll need to reserve this experience for yourself a minimum of 48 hours in advance and those looking to prep and fire the cannon must be at least 13 years old. Firing the canon will cost $75 and the honor is only given to one person daily. Between May 4 and June 2, the cannon is fired at 8:45 a.m. while that time is pushed to 9:15 a.m. between June 3 and October 8. If you're arriving between October 9 and October 22, you'll be firing the cannon at 10:45 a.m.

Activities to enjoy after a cannon experience

Once a Fort Mackinac staff member loads and primes the cannon, you'll be ready to fire it off over Lake Huron's shores. Other travelers in your group can watch the event from behind a safety rope. There's something truly unforgettable about witnessing this important local tradition.

While firing the canon might be the highlight of your stay, Mackinac Island provides travelers with many historical activities to add to their agenda afterward. Here, fudge is a sweet local specialty that has been crafted by hand in the area since the 1920s. Mackinac Island is home to a collection of charming fudge shops to explore where you can watch it being made in real-time, sample the goods, and purchase your favorites.

Once you've had your fill of fudge, take quality time to travel across the island by horse and carriage. This is a mode of transportation visitors and locals have been using here since the 1920s as well, and it's a wonderful and relaxing way to not only get where you're going but enjoy the sites at your own preferred pace. If you're looking to learn more about the horses cared for on the island and get up close to antique carriages, be sure to make time for a stop at The Grand Hotel Stable and Carriage Museum. Over at the Benjamin Blacksmith Shop, you can learn more about how horses were shoed and carriage wheels restored from the 1880's through the 1970s.