Michigan : Safety by City
- Ann Arbor
- Battle Creek
- Farmington Hills
- Flat Rock
- Glen Arbor
- Grand Rapids
- Mackinac Island
- Mackinaw City
- Port Huron
- Sault Ste. Marie
- Sterling Heights
- Traverse City
Mackinaw City, Michigan, is the milestone between the “Mitten” shape of the state and the Upper Peninsula (UP).
While it’s tempting to drive right past “The Tip of the Mitt” on your way to one or the other, you’ll soon see why this village is worth stopping in for a day or more.
Mackinaw City isn’t the same as Mackinac Island, though they are pronounced the same, “Mack-in-awe.”
Some travel deals are available for visiting both the city and the island.
The city’s northern boundaries face the Great Lakes, one side on Lake Michigan and the other on Lake Superior.
It’s technically on the Straits of Mackinac.
Visiting Mackinaw City feels like a trip back in time, where you’re an explorer, sailor, or pioneer.
Historical sites battle with beautiful water views for main attractions.
Plenty of hotels, inns, and campsites surround this village, with fewer than 900 year-round residents.
You also get the rare treat of the Headlands Dark Sky Discovery Park, with stunning celestial views.
A few lucky travelers will even see the Northern Lights.
Warnings & Dangers in Mackinaw City
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk and big reward in this unique part of Michigan. It's a safe community with low crime rates and so many activities you'll never be wandering around looking for something to do.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
A rental car is a wise investment since public transportation and taxis are limited in this region. You can get a shuttle to and from the Detroit airport. The city is less than eight square miles, so a bicycle is an option too. If you're visiting here and heading to Mackinaw Island, you should know that cars aren't allowed on the island.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
No pickpockets were reported in 2021, giving another low-risk category. Good safety practices will keep the risk low, especially since hardly any other Michigan cities are this safe. Good habits mean better safety for all travelers.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
Winter is the most intense season, with blizzards and ice storms common. Travel can come to a standstill during lake-effect snow, which reduces visibility and causes snow to pile up quickly. Spring and summer can bring severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Spring and fall could also bring severe thunderstorms and snow during the course of a week.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
The official crime data shows no robberies since 2018 when one happened, and then another in 2011, when a business owner was robbed on the way to a bank. That's a very low risk and very uncommon for Michigan cities.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here as Detroit would be the only city in the state with a medium risk. Of course, reporting suspicious activities or items should always be a priority.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
The Michigan Attorney General filed a complaint against several hotels and tourism entities accused of bait-and-switch and deceptive practices. Allegation range from offering hotel rooms at certain properties while knowing the hotel would be closed at that time, then switching the visitor to another hotel. Some visitors were denied a refund, and once enough complaints came in, an undercover law enforcement officer experience the same deception. Before booking a room, I highly recommend you read the "Agreement Reached with Mackinaw City Hotels Related to Alleged Deceptive Practices" on the Attorney General's website.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Yet another low risk here with safe and fun activities whether it's a mom traveling with kids or a solo female traveler. While you shouldn't become too comfortable, there's no overwhelming risk.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows a full slate of met or exceeded standards with no violations. Follow the city's social media pages for possible water issues during your stay, just to be cautious.
Safest Places to Visit in Mackinaw City
MackinawCity.com and MackinacParks.com (note the different spelling) will cover all the places to see in this region, but both span from the city to the island to the other cities on the Straits of Mackinac.
Unless otherwise noted, all attractions and places mentioned in this article will JUST be in Mackinaw City.
You can read “How Safe Is Mackinac Island for Travel?” to learn about that tourist destination.
Hotel options line the city’s eastern side with water views, with another cluster of hotels in the main entertainment district.
More than 2400 hotel rooms are available, so finding a place to stay shouldn’t be a problem.
Mackinaw Crossing is a charming shopping district with modern stores and a “Disney World” feel to it, with a laser light snow on summer nights.
Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park was once a revolutionary industrial site for sawmills, and this park takes you back to that era in a living museum.
You can take guided or solo nature tours, ride the zip line, or go on a forest adventure.
The Nature of the North Woods tour will introduce you to Michigan wildlife.
Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse sits facing the UP and has been guiding ships through the straits since 1889.
The tower is open for tours, and visitors get to watch a movie about notorious shipwrecks in the water, with an additional Shipwreck Museum to explore.
Colonial Michilimackinac offers many things to do, but it will also clear up any confusion about the name of the city and the island and why they are spelled differently but pronounced the same.
This reconstructed fort has 16 buildings with live demonstrations throughout.
Cannons are fired daily, and you can pay extra to be the person who lights the fuse.
Another historical village is on the other side of the city.
Heritage Village is less interactive but just as treasured as Colonial Michilimackinac.
It’s also a great place to stop on the way to Headland International Dark Sky Park, which is just across the road.
While the real show happens overnight while the stars are shining away from city light pollution, the park is open throughout the daytime too for walks along the water or hikes.
A one-mile trail leads guests to the Dark Sky Viewing Area.
McGulpin Point Lighthouse are on this side of the city as well, with a rare chance to stay overnight in the lighthouse cottage.
Don’t miss the rock they don’t talk about enough in history class – McGulpin Rock is larger than Plymouth Rock and has a great behind it.
Places to Avoid in Mackinaw City
Crime rates shouldn’t concern you here as they are uncharacteristically low for Michigan.
However, no city is safe enough to let your guard down or leave a car unlocked.
You can visit the city (or the island) during winter, but most attractions, shops, and restaurants will be closed.
Winter sports will be plentiful, however.
The island is much less desirable in the winter than in the city.
Winter means snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snow sledding.
Many hotels close in the winter, but a handful stay open.
Fewer than 10 restaurants are available, but you’ll have enough options to get three meals a day.
Check the tourism website for winter events that will mean more options for tourists outside winter sports.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Mackinaw City
- Mackinaw City has its own police force with officers using cars, snowmobiles, bicycles, and boats to get around. The department posts an annual report on the front page of its website, so you can see crime trends, ordinance violations, and traffic statistics.
- Sign up for a Nixle.com account to get emergency information from the regional law enforcement agencies. This will cover everything from Blizzard Warnings to traffic accidents to water main breaks. You’ll get the information as soon as journalists do, so you’ll be safer knowing the information immediately.
- As an extra safety step, you should also sign up for push notifications to your mobile device through the Tri-County BE ALERT Emergency System. This will give more in-depth weather information to help you plan activities or seek shelter.
- For fishing, hunting, or snowmobiling, you’ll need to abide by all laws, license requirements, and regulations according to the local and state jurisdictions. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources website is the best place to get an overview of the rules.
- If you are trying to plan a trip around the Northern Lights viewing, it won’t be that simple. While April, October, and November are the most likely months, only 24-48 hours of a heads-up can be given for the celestial event. Headlands International Dark Sky Park’s website has several links to check the schedule in the sky.
- Use designated parking spots if you’re taking a ferry to Mackinac Island. Some spots closer to the harbor have an associated fee, but there are free daily and overnight parking spots in monitored locations. Don’t just leave your car in a random parking lot.
- If you are approaching Mackinaw City from the south, you’ll need to exit I-75 at or before exit 339 or else you’ll pay a toll. This is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world, and it does sway a bit in high winds. For those who aren’t comfortable driving across the bridge, you can stop on the shoulder of the road near the booth and have a worker drive your car across for a $10 fee.
- The bridge can be closed due to high winds, falling ice, or severe snowstorms. You should sign up for bridge alerts by texting MacBridge to 67283.
- Winter drivers should have a car with all-wheel or four-wheel drive and ideally the vehicle has snow tires. Unless you’re from a snowy region, the heavy winter snow can be a challenge in itself. The county and state emergency management offices have plenty of safe winter driving pamphlets.
- The police department reports a trend of counterfeit money making its way through businesses. This could mean that fake money ends up in your pocket. The department’s website offers a link to the Secret Service website where you can learn how to spot counterfeit bills. Report any suspicious currency to the police.
So... How Safe Is Mackinaw City Really?
The Mackinaw City Police Annual Report from 2021 lists out the specific crimes against person, property, and society, per the FBI requirements.
The crime rates are low and follow a pattern of low crime rates for the past decade.
For example, check out these raw numbers from 2021:
- Felonious Assault: 2
- Domestic Violent: 14
- Criminal Sexual Conduct: 0
- Larceny: 1
- Driving Under Influence: 13
Even the list of ordinance and code complaints include things like overflowing dumpsters, dead opossums, and dog feces left on the ground.
Even the attractions here are generally in supervised and safe areas for families, but also use caution in the nature trails of the park.
Bring a flashlight with a red bulb or filter, so you can navigate the dark sky area without causing light pollution for others.
We can’t stress enough that winter visitors should know how to drive in snow and ice while being able to handle outdoor activities in bitterly cold temperatures.
Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
Summer visitors will get about as perfect weather as you can find in the country, but it just doesn’t last that long.
How Does Mackinaw City Compare?
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- Visas - A passport and visa are required to get through Customs at the airport, and you should start that process early since the visa process can be lengthy. Review options to shorten the processing time, like if you are from a country eligible for a Visa Waiver or if you can skip the in-person interview based on new 2023 State Department criteria.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar (USD) here and throughout Michigan. Even in Canadian bordering cities, you won't be able to use the Canadian Dollar on the American side.
- Weather - Spring and fall have fluctuating temperatures, so bring plenty of layered clothing options. Summers will be warm and sometimes hot, but humidity is the most important aspect to know when packing. You might sweat a lot and should have clothing that won't stain and can absorb it. Bug spray, comfortable walking shoes, and sunscreen are recommended.
- Airports - Shuttles are available from the city to Detroit's Wayne County Metropolitan Airport, which will take about four hours. That's really the closest option since the regional airports are just as far, if not farther.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is smart for a region with severe weather potential throughout the year. The insurance policy goes into effect as soon as you purchase it, which means a last-minute emergency will get your money back should you need to cancel.
Mackinaw City Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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