Preparing Grand Hotel for its Grand Opening

Grand Hotel is open six months of the year, but retaining its exceptional style and beauty is an all-year process. Much is done during the winter months to prepare America’s Summer Place for opening so it’s ready for guests at the start of every season. Read more on just some of what it takes to get this iconic Pure Michigan destination ready for another year of visitors.

Photo Courtesy of Grand Hotel

Hammer, paint and polish — oh my!

Maintenance and construction takes place all winter. This year, approximately 1,000 pieces of furniture from 200 guest rooms were restored and repainted, and 16 bathrooms renovated. The west end of the iconic Front Porch has been redone for the first time in 50 years. This extensive project will take two years to complete, with the east end to be done next year. Security checks were completed on each one of 535 fire extinguishers that are throughout the properties.

Housekeeping starts its preparations about six weeks before the hotel opens. They clean every area of the hotel including guest rooms, public spaces and hallways. This includes all lights, chandeliers, drapes, valances, canopies and flooring.

Filling our cupboards

Beginning in late March, the season’s supplies begin to arrive. It takes about three weeks for coolers, freezers and dry storage to be filled. This includes all of the hotel shops’ inventories, room amenities and the initial food orders for the employee cafeteria, where up to 300 meals will be made per day for staff and contractors beginning April 1. All the supplies first arrive via ferry and then are transported to the hotel by horse-drawn dray, often filling the receiving dock several times a day. During the season, a kitchen staff of more than 100 prepares as many as 4,000 meals for our guests.

Photo Courtesy of Grand Hotel

Making it all happen: our staff

With more than 150,000 overnight guests each season, Grand Hotel’s staff is invaluable. Our human resources department is very busy during the winter months, finding and hiring the right candidates to fill positions throughout the hotel before we open our doors in May.

In the weeks prior to the hotel’s opening, as employees arrive they are brought up to speed on their roles working at Grand Hotel, including new-hire paperwork, orientation, uniforms and being assigned housing. We also help them adjust to island living by assisting them with essentials such as opening bank accounts, and locating the post office, medical center and grocery store.

Grand Hotel has 15 shops with a staff of 48 who come from all over the world. Working with more than 500 vendors, it takes eight to 10 people three weeks to unpack, price and display all the merchandise before the season begins.

Photo Courtesy of Grand Hotel

Make room for more blooms

The beautiful gardens at Grand Hotel are carefully planned. Springtime splendor begins with flower bulbs ordered the previous year and planted in October — lots of flower bulbs. This past year, more than 21,000 tulips were planted to announce the spring. You’ can enjoy them welcoming the sun and warmth in the triangle beds on the hotel’s east side, along the rose walk, outside Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor and along the steps by the tennis courts. In addition, 3,300 daffodils were spread out to the ground’s natural areas and golf course, and in some of our formal gardens.

Over the winter, the approximate 260 porch flower boxes are painted and prepped to house Grand Hotel’s roughly 2,500 geraniums. The 25-member grounds crew takes an entire day to place the boxes, fill them with our own compost mix of plant materials and hotel-used coffee grounds, and plant the geraniums. These flowers for which Grand Hotel is known bloom almost the entire season and their cheerful beauty is worth every detail.

Photo Courtesy of Grand Hotel

Then our horses, of course

Preparing Grand Stables for the season starts with opening the barn and turning on the water. Maintaining the various vehicles, many manufactured over a hundred years ago, actually starts in the fall so replacement parts can be ordered or made in-house. Each horse’s harness is taken apart, cleaned and oiled in the fall so that worn parts can be replaced or repaired, then re-oiled and reassembled again in spring. The summer feed supply arrives and the stables are ready for the horses’ return to the island about a week before opening. Finally, haircuts, baths and individual harness fittings take place and new horses are given time to acclimate to the island’s sights and sounds.

The grand finale

Before the first guest arrives, Grand Hotel President Dan Musser III and his sister Mimi Cunningham do a walk-through of every room. The red carpet is replaced on the front steps to the Front Porch, the doorman podium is reinstated, the parlor furniture set and the famous white rocking chairs positioned on the porch.

Only then is this third-generation, family-owned Historic Hotel ready to open for another grand season.

Be sure to check out Grand Hotel’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages!

Test Your Luck With These 7 Michigan Facts

Aye! Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all you lads and lasses. Celebrations around the world, and right ‘ere in Pure Michigan, involve public parades and festivals, the wearing of green attire and of course, celebrating the idea of luck!

We’ve gathered the list below that’s sure to test even the most-knowledgeable Michigan enthusiast. Try your luck at correctly guessing these Great Lakes state facts and let us know how many you got right!

1. We’ll start you off with an easy one. This university’s colors are green and white, and its mascot has origins are not far from Ireland itself! On the banks of the Red Cedar, you might be lucky enough to find yourself a four leaf clover.

Photo Courtesy of Thomas Gennara Photography

2. Bottoms up! This delicious brand of Michigan pop was made famous in Detroit after being introduced in 1866. Its cans and bottles are green, and the original mascot was a bearded gnome named Woody.  Drinking this pop is said to settle an upset stomach, so have some on hand if you’ll be drinking green beer!

3. This ‘painted’ creature is Michigan’s state reptile! With a green head, arms, legs and tail, these little fellows are probably celebrating St. Patrick’s Day relaxing on a log. Best leave them be in the wild, o’course.

4. These little green fruits, which can also sometimes be yellow, green or even light pink, are grown on rows of vines in northern Michigan. They are then crafted into delicious nodes wines and stored until the perfect time. Cheers!

5. If you’re looking for a healthier fare on St. Patrick’s Day, these vegetables, which Michigan is the nation’s number one producer for pickling, are a great option! Add them to your salad or dip them into a hummus spread. You can even pickle them in brine or vinegar if that’s your fancy!

6. Break out the ornaments! Michigan supplies three million of these fantastic timbers annually to the national market. We’re guessing you don’t have these shrubs in mind just yet, but the growers pay close attention all year long.

7. If you’re traveling to this particular destination in Royal Oak, you can find green-colored friends such as ball pythons, anacondas and toads! While you’re there, be sure to check out North America’s largest polar bear exhibit and have a picnic on the lush green grass in the summer.


How many of these did you get right? Let us know by commenting below!

Answers: 1. Michigan State University; 2. Painted turtle; 3. Vernors Ginger Ale; 4. Green grapes; 5.Cucumbers; 6. Christmas Trees; 7Detroit Zoo;

3 Destinations to Chase the Northern Lights in Pure Michigan

Michigan is home to nearly 200 waterfalls, over 200 miles of trails and 11,000 miles inland lakes, but did you know it’s also one of the best places in the world to view the northern lights?

Without getting too technical, the Aurora Borealis, more commonly known as the northern lights, are caused by the sun reflecting on particles in the atmosphere. We’re here to share three destinations within the Great Lakes state that give you a perfect glimpse of these celestial sky dances.

1. The Headlands International Dark Sky ParkMackinaw City

In 2011, the Headlands became the sixth International Dark Sky Park in the United States and the ninth in the world. This 600-acre parcel of old-growth forest sits on more than two miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline in Emmet County. Here you will find the darkest of skies, undiluted by light pollution and preserved in perpetuity by Emmet County. Monthly, free Dark Sky Park programs and special events are held at the Beach House and on the shoreline. Signs in the park direct visitors to designated Dark Sky Viewing areas. No camping is allowed, but the park is open 24/7 year ’round, with five miles of trails throughout the property. The park provides dazzling night sky for photographers, astronomers and dark-sky enthusiasts alike!

Photo Courtesy of Andrew Jowett in Port Austin

2. Port Crescent State ParkPort Austin

Nestled in the Blue Water Area, on the tip of the Lower Peninsula’s thumb in Port Austin, is Port Crescent State Park. The park has a designated area where no electric light exists for miles, giving star-gazers an unobstructed view of the night sky. The dark sky preserve is located in the day-use area where there’s a charge for parking, but no overnight reservations are needed.  Consider a day filled with kayaking to Turnip Rock, and then sitting back and enjoying the wonders of the universe in the evening.

Photo Courtesy of Shawn Malone, Lake Superior Photo in Marquette

3. Remote spots on Lake Superior – Upper Peninsula

As photographer Shawn Malone explained  in a previous northern lights blog, Michigan has many positive factors when it comes to viewing the northern lights, the most important being:

1). Latitude

2). Relatively low light pollution

The Upper Peninsula is blessed with hundreds of miles of shoreline along the south shore of Lake Superior, which provides some of the best northern lights viewing in the lower 48 due to the very dark night skies.  When looking north over Lake Superior, one can see right down to the horizon and take in a 180 degree unobstructed view of the night sky.  Having a dark night sky with little light pollution is necessary when looking for the northern lights, as the light of the aurora is equal to the brightness of starlight.

Inspired to begin your Aurora hunting? You’re in luck! March is one of the best months to see the northern lights because of its long, dark nights. There are even rumors that the beginning of spring brings greater solar activity as temperature begins to warm. Good luck, and be sure to share your northern lights photos on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels!

Where have you seen the Northern Lights in Pure Michigan? Share with us by commenting below!