You have to celebrate the Fourth of July at least once on Mackinac Island. From the all-American picnic at Fort Mackinac to fireworks over the Straits, it’s truly a memorable experience. To make the most of your Northern Michigan vacation to the land of lilacs and fudge, here are a few tips for a Star Spangled 4th of July on Mackinac Island.

Wake up! Get coffee from Lucky Bean Coffeehouse and head out for a morning bike ride around Mackinac Island. You’ll beat the heat and the crowds. Bonus points if you pack a picnic breakfast and find a secluded spot on the northern shoreline of the island. Here’s everything you need to know about biking on Mackinac Island.

Go island hopping. You’ve explored a bit of Mackinac Island; now it’s time for another—Round Island. You probably noticed the historic lighthouse on the small island during your ferry ride. Now you can go visit it. Spend some time exploring before paddling back to Mackinac Island. Rent a kayak to get to your island retreat.

Explore the fort. Spend your afternoon taking part in an 1880s Independence Day celebration at Fort Mackinac. Watch reenactor soldiers fire a 38-gun salute honoring the states of the period, listen to performances of patriotic music and partake in Victorian children’s games. Fort admission information, hours and more.

Eat grandly. It isn’t a Star Spangled Fourth of July without the American picnic presented by Grand Hotel at Fort Mackinac—isn’t it convenient you’re already here! Claim a spot for your blanket and fill your plate with barbecue baby back ribs, grilled chicken breast, pasta salad, red skin potatoes, cornbread, watermelon slices and coleslaw. When you think you can’t possibly eat another bite it’s time to head to the full dessert buffet. Get your tickets.

Light up the sky. The lights on the Mackinac Bridge glisten in the distance as the sky turns dark. A breeze is coming off Lake Huron and the evening air begins to cool. And then it happens. The sky is peppered with bursts of red, gold, green and silver and the “oohs” and “aahs” echo around Main Street. Stretch out a blanket on the shoreline or bring a folding chair to the schoolyard to watch Mackinac Island’s annual fireworks display over the Straits of Mackinac. It’s a show you aren’t likely to forget. For an extra special seat, reserve a spot on the Sip N’ Sail 4th of July Fireworks Cruise with Chris Calleja.

More 4th Up North Fun:

Photo(s) by David Weidner