mackinac lilacs

Mackinac Island Lilac Festival

Mark your calendars for the enchanting Mackinac Island Lilac Festival, scheduled to take place from June 9-18, 2023.

As the lilacs unfurl their delicate petals on Mackinac Island, a captivating fragrance fills the air, signaling the arrival of summer in northern Michigan and adorning the island in a charming shade of purple.

Now in its 75th year, the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival beckons visitors from far and wide to celebrate the blooming of over 250 diverse varieties of lilacs that have thrived on the island for more than two centuries.

When Do the Lilacs Bloom on Mackinac Island?

The blooming season for Mackinac Island lilacs begins in late May to early June, gracing the landscape with their beauty for approximately two weeks. However, due to the existence of early, mid, and late-blooming lilac varieties, visitors have a generous six-week window to witness the blooming spectacle.

While this extended timeframe allows ample opportunity to visit Mackinac Island, the crown jewel of the Great Lakes, and behold the charming purple flowers, it is highly recommended to plan your trip during the Lilac Festival to fully immerse yourself in the festivities.

Discover all the essential details about the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival, including information about the festival itself, how to reach the island, transportation options within the island, and accommodations on Mackinac Island. Start planning your journey by reading further, and don’t hesitate to use the comment section at the bottom of the page if you have any inquiries.

mackinac island lilacs

About the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival

The annual Mackinac Island Lilac Festival spans ten glorious days dedicated to celebrating the symbol of the festival: the lilac.

As the first and largest event on the island, this festival draws tourists from across the country. During these ten days, the Lilac Festival on Mackinac Island boasts various activities, including the esteemed “Taste of Mackinac” culinary event, a grand parade featuring horse-drawn carriages, a 10k run/walk, and the crowning of the Lilac Festival Queen.

The festival caters to all ages, offering outdoor attractions like carriage tours and guided walks to notable spots such as Arch Rock, Mackinac Island State Park, and Fort Mackinac. Additionally, visitors can enjoy special indoor activities, including afternoon tea at the iconic Grand Hotel.

Downtown Mackinac provides further delights, with its picturesque scenery and charming shops like Little Luxuries of Mackinac, a beloved destination among visitors. Day and evening horse-drawn carriage rides offer a delightful way to explore the island’s unique attractions, such as Arch Rock and Skull Cave. As night falls, witness the city’s transformation under the mesmerizing sunset over the Great Lakes.

round island lighthouse

History of Lilacs on Mackinac Island

While the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival commemorates its 75th year, the lilacs themselves have a longer history on the island. Although not native to the region or anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, lilacs made their way to Mackinac Island around 200 years ago.

According to Jeff Young, a master gardener and instructor at the University of Vermont, the lilacs on Mackinac Island trace their origins back to the Hubbard family, who migrated from New Hampshire. In New England, European immigrants would plant lilacs near their homes as a good luck charm. When the Hubbards settled on Mackinac Island, they continued this tradition and planted lilacs on the island’s western side.

Some of the lilac stems near the Hubbard farm, which eventually became known as Hubbard’s Annex, are descendants of century-old stems. The lilacs on Mackinac Island are believed to be around 100 years old, making them some of the oldest and largest lilacs in the United States and Canada.

The Success of Lilacs on Mackinac Island

While lilacs introduced in other parts of North America have thrived, the ones on Mackinac Island are particularly remarkable, with some boasting stems exceeding two feet in diameter at the base. The success of lilacs on the island, compared to other areas, can be attributed to several unique factors.

The shallow, well-drained soil with a high pH level, resulting from the underlying limestone, has provided an ideal environment for the flourishing of lilacs on Mackinac Island. Moreover, the adequate rainfall and the hardening process that occurs during winter have contributed to the strength and vitality of Mackinac’s lilacs, elevating them to the status of the largest lilacs in the country.

lilac festival on mackinac island

Unmissable Events at the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival

From June 9-18, 2023, Mackinac Island will pulsate with the vibrant celebrations of the 75th Annual Lilac Festival. Here are some of the noteworthy highlights of this cherished Michigan tradition:

Lilac Festival Queen Coronation

On Friday, June 9 at 5 p.m., make your way to Mackinac’s picturesque Marquette Park. Gather around the Father Marquette statue to witness a unique festival event presented by the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau. Accompanied by the harmonious melodies of the Grand Hotel orchestra, the 2023 Lilac Festival Queen will be officially crowned. This enchanting coronation marks the commencement of numerous exciting events that unfold during the Lilac Festival.

Mackinac Island Lilac Festival Run & Walk

Kickstart the Lilac Festival on the right foot with a refreshing morning race that allows you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Mackinac Island. On June 10, gear up for a run or walk along tree-lined paved roads that offer breathtaking views of the Great Lakes, with the majestic Mighty Mackinac Bridge gracing the horizon.

Lilac Festival Grand Parade

Concluding the week-long festivities, the Lilac Festival Grand Parade takes place on June 18. Follow the parade route along M-185 into Downtown Mackinac, as it wraps up the festival in a perfect flourish, accompanied by a special cannon salute from Fort Mackinac.

Complimentary Admission to the Mackinac Art Museum

During the Lilac Festival, from June 10-18, indulge in complimentary admission to the Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum. As part of the festivities, visitors can step into the museum and explore a unique collection of art and photography inspired by Mackinac Island.


How to Reach Mackinac Island for the Lilac Festival

Given that Mackinac Island is an actual island, reaching it requires either a ferry boat or a plane.

By Mackinac Island Ferry

Two ferry companies, Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry and Star Line Mackinac Island Hydro-Jet Ferry, provide transportation to and from the island, operating from both Mackinac City and St. Ignace. These passenger ferries run at approximately 30-minute intervals from late April until the end of October. Feel free to bring your luggage, leashed pet, and bicycle along for the ride.

By Airplane

Believe it or not, you can also fly to Mackinac Island. Great Lakes Air and Fresh Air Aviation offer charter flights from St. Ignace to Mackinac Island Airport, with a flight time of approximately 7 minutes.

mackinac island hotels

Getting Around on Mackinac Island

As automobiles are not permitted on Mackinac Island, it’s essential to plan your mode of transportation to explore the island and its magnificent lilacs. You can choose to walk, ride a bicycle (which can be rented), or opt for a leisurely horse-drawn carriage ride to navigate the island’s enchanting landscape.

mackinac island adventures

Mackinac Island FAQ

When is the 2023 Lilac Festival?

The 2023 Mackinac Island Lilac Festival will commence on Friday, June 9, and continue until Sunday, June 18.

What is the theme for the 2023 Lilac Festival?

The theme for the 2023 Lilac Festival is “Mackinac in Bloom.”

When is the Mackinac Lilac Festival parade?

The Mackinac Lilac Festival Grand Parade is scheduled for June 18, starting at 4 p.m.

How long do the lilacs bloom on Mackinac Island?

The Mackinac Island Lilacs start to bloom from mid to late May and early June. These vibrant flowers grace the island for approximately two weeks. However, thanks to the existence of early, mid, and late-blooming varieties, visitors have a generous six-week window to witness the lilacs in full bloom.