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Mackinac Island Lilac Festival 2023: Your Complete Guide

Lilacs at the Mackinac Island Lilac festival

Mackinac Island Lilac Festival

The Mackinac Island Lilac Festival is scheduled for June 9-18, 2023

When the lilacs bloom on Mackinac Island, their sweet, elegant aroma welcomes summer to northern Michigan and dresses the island in a debonair shade of purple.

For the 75th year, the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival will bring visitors from all around to celebrate the blooming of the over 250 different types of lilacs found on the island and whose plants have persisted there for over 200 years!

When Do the Lilacs Start to Bloom on Mackinac Island?

The Mackinac Island Lilac starts to bloom from mid to late May and early June. These flowers stay in bloom for about two weeks. However, there are early, mid and late-blooming varieties, giving us a bloom viewing window for 6 weeks!

While that means plenty of time to visit Mackinac Island, the jewel of the Great Lakes, to see the pretty purple flowers, you’ll want to be sure and plan your trip during the island Lilac festival.

We’re sharing everything you need to know about the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival. Find out about the festival as well as how to get to the island, how to get AROUND the island once you’ve arrive, and where to stay on Mackinac Island once you’re there!

Read on to start planning your trip and use the comment section at the bottom of the page if you have questions.

About the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival

The annual Mackinac Island event is a 10-day-long celebration of the symbol of the festival, the Lilac.

This is the first and largest event on the island and attracts tourists from around the country. For ten days, the Lilac Festival on Mackinac Island will include activities such as the prestigious “Taste of Mackinac” culinary event, a horse-drawn grand parade, a 10k run/walk, and the coronation of the Lilac Festival Queen.

The festival is truly fun for all ages. You’ll find outdoor activities like carriage tours, walking tours including spots like Arch Rock, the Mackinac Island State Park, Fort Mackinac and more.

You’ll also find special indoor activities, like special afternoon tea at the iconic Grand Hotel.

You can also head downtown and enjoy beautiful vistas shopping in the cute shops like Little Luxuries of Mackinac, one of our favorite stops on the island.

Horse drawn carriage rides during the day and evening provide a great opportunity to see the special attractions on the island, like Arch Rock and Skull Cave. Later, watch the city transform at night under a stunning Great Lakes sunset.

History of Lilacs on Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island’s lilacs are much older than the festival that celebrates them, however, they are not native to the region. In fact, lilacs are not native anywhere in the western hemisphere, so how did lilacs become so abundant on Mackinac Island?

According to Jeff Young, a master gardener, instructor at University of Vermont, and a horticulturist for the Lilac Festival, Mackinac lilacs got their start with the Hubbard family, who came from New Hampshire.

In New England, European immigrants would plant lilacs near their homesteads for good luck, so when the Hubbards moved to Mackinac Island, the tradition persisted and they planted lilacs on the west side of the island.

Some of the lilac stems near the Hubbard farm, later developed into what is now known as Hubbard’s Annex, are offspring of stems that are around 100 years old, and are about a century old themselves.

This means that lilacs were brought to Mackinac Island about 200 years ago. Young is unfamiliar with any lilac stems older or larger in all of the U.S. and Canada.

The Success of Lilacs on Mackinac Island

Lilacs introduced in other areas of North America have been successful, but the plants on Mackinac Island are noticeably larger, some with stems larger than two feet across at the base. The success of lilacs on the island as opposed to other areas can be attributed to a few unique qualities.

Lilacs have flourished on Mackinac Island thanks to the shallow, well-drained soil with a high pH level, thanks to underlying limestone.

Appropriate soil helps the lilacs take root and grow, but it’s the adequate level of rainfall and the hardening each winter that have strengthened Mackinac’s lilacs, making them the largest in the country.

Horse drawn carriage ride around Mackinac Island during the Lilac Festival
Photo from the Bicycle Street Inn

Don’t-Miss Mackinac Island Lilac Festival Events

From June 9-18 2023, Mackinac Island will celebrate its 75th Annual Lilac Festival. Here are some of the highlights of this Michigan tradidtion.

Lilac Festival Queen Coronation

Visit Mackinac’s beautiful Marquette Park on Friday, June 9 at 5 p.m. Stop by the Father Marquette statue to see a unique festival event presented by the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau. Music from the Grand Hotel orchestra will play and the 2023 Lilac Festival Queen will be crowned. The coronation of the Lilac Queen is one of the first of many fun events, kicking off the Lilac Festival.

Mackinac Island Lilac Festival Run & Walk

Start off the Lilac Festival on the right foot with a morning race that has you seeing all the seasonal beauty of Mackinac Island. On June 10, gear up for a run or walk-through tree-covered paved roads that offer spectacular Great Lakes views with the Mighty Mackinac Bridge in the distance.

Lilac Festival Grand Parade

Finish off the week of celebration with the Grand Parade on June 18. Following M-185 into Downtown Mackinac, this lilac parade wraps up the festival perfectly, starting with a special cannon salute from Fort Mackinac.

Complimentary Admission to the Mackinac Art Museum

For the duration of the Lilac Festival, from June 10-18, enjoy complimentary admission to the Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum. As part of the festivities, visitors can step into the museum and see a unique collection of Mackinac-related art and photography.

Lilacs on Mackimac Island

How to Get to Mackinac Island for the Lilac Festival

Because Mackinac Island is, well, an island, you’ll need to either get there by ferry boat or plane.

By Mackinac Island Ferry

There are two companies that provide ferry service to the island from both Mackinac City and St. Ignace. You can use either Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry and Star Line Mackinac Island Hydro-Jet Ferry. Both of these offer passenger ferries back and forth from the mainland. The ferries run every 30 minutes or so from late April through the end of October. You can bring your luggage, leashed pet and bicycle aboard with your as well.

By Airplane

Yes, you can fly to Mackinac Island. Two charter air services, Great Lakes Air and Fresh Air Aviation, offer flights from St. Ignace. The flight takes about 7 minutes, and you’ll land at Mackinac Island Airport.

Top 25 Places to Stay on Mackinac Island

How to Get Around on Mackinac Island

Since there are no automobiles allowed on Mackinac Island, you’ll need to plan how you will get around the island to see the lilacs other attractions. You can walk, ride your bicycle or rent one, or take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the island .

things to do in mackinac island

Mackinac Island FAQ

When is the 2023 Lilac Festival?

The 2022 Mackinac Island Lilac Festival will start on Friday, June 9 and run until Sunday, June 18, 2023.

What is the 2023 Lilac Festival theme?

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

When is the Mackinac Lilac Festival parade?

The Mackinac Lilac Festival Grand Parade is on June 18 and starts at 4 pm.

How long do the Lilac’s Bloom on Mackinac Island?

The Mackinac Island Lilac starts to bloom from mid to late May and early June. These flowers stay in bloom for about two weeks. However, there are early, mid and late-blooming varieties, giving us a bloom viewing window for 6 weeks!

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About the Author-

Bella DiMascio is a Content Editor for She grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland and later attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in English: Writing. Creative writing has been a hobby and interest of Bella’s since she was in elementary school. She is thrilled to be using her talents to highlight the Great Lakes State. Outside of writing, Bella enjoys getting outside with her two Australian Shepherds, playing video games, and binging shows on Netflix.