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Go Back In Time | Fall 2005 Out Here Magazine

Automobiles are restricted on Mackinac Island, so horses are the primary mode of transportation, whether by horseback riding, pony rides, or equine taxi service.

Live the Victorian life on Mackinac Island

By Donna Alvis-Banks

Photography courtesy of Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau

If you don't believe in time travel, it must be because you've never experienced it. Those fortunate enough to have visited Mackinac Island — a Victorian utopia sandwiched between Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas — know what it's like.

The Boggioni family of Sylvania Township, Ohio, has traveled back in time to Mackinac — a place where horses prance past elegant 19th-century hotels, historic homes, and shops.

"It has to be the most relaxing place I've ever been in my life and I've been to a lot of places," says Myrna Boggioni.

Because the island doesn't allow cars, visitors are treated to horse-drawn carriage rides in the 600-horse town where horseback riding, pony rides, and equine taxi service are the primary modes of transportation.

"What we like most is the absence of cars," says Nicholas Boggioni, Myrna's husband. "It's amazing what a dramatic difference that makes in the atmosphere."

Tourists may, of course, hoof it alone or rent bicycles to explore the more than 2,250 acres that make up Michigan's first state park.

The Boggionis bring their own bicycles. "You can ride all eight miles of the island," he says. "It's just a nice place to go. It's got a lot of history."

Tourists came to the island in the 1880s to sport fish the nearby Les Cheneaux Islands. Soon, wealthy industrialists began building summer cottages, and a social life and recreational activities, including tennis and golf, took hold.

Today, the island offers recreational diversions year round.

"We have the most beautiful cross-country skiing you can imagine — 70 miles of trails," notes Mary McGuire Slevin, executive director of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau. "In the fall, the colors are outrageous."

Many visitors go just to see the graceful old hotels on the island, especially the Grand Hotel featured in the 1980 romantic epic Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. The Grand's front porch — all 660 feet of it — is reportedly the longest in the world.

The Grand Hotel was built in 93 days by 600 men working 24 hours a day and opened in 1887, says hotel historian Bob Tagatz.

"It's worth going to Mackinac Island to see the Grand Hotel," Myrna Boggioni says. "Everything about the Grand is grand."

They prefer to stay, however, at the Cloghaun, one of the island's many charming bed-and-breakfasts whose ambiance contributes to the island's slower, relaxing pace.

"We get up in the day with no plans," Nicholas Boggioni says. "We really love the place."

Donna Alvis-Banks is a features reporter for the New River Bureau of The Roanoke (VA) Times.