Michigan A to Z: Travel the Mitten’s Summer Guide
Michigan is all set for a hot summer packed full of festivals, events, sports and more. Fairs, festivals, races, and can’t-miss vacation spots are all highlighted in our summer guide. From Detroit and Grand Rapids to the far reaches of the Upper Peninsula, there’s something for everyone on this list and there’s a good chance at least one is close to where you live. If you’re looking for an idea for vacation or an add-on event to plans already on the calendar, check out the list below for our A to Z look at June, July, and August events in Michigan.
Alpenfest – From July 12 – 16, downtown Gaylord is transformed into the Alpenstrasse, home to more than 60 vendors with crafts, food an more. Other events include a carnival, a parade, the Queen’s Pageant, live music, and much more. Find out all the details at: http://www.gaylordalpenfest.com/, where you’ll also find a full schedule of events.
Bay City Tall Ship Celebration – From July 14-17, vessels including the Appledore IV (Gaff Schooner), Appledore V (Gaff Schooner), S/V Denis Sullivan (3-masted Schooner), Draken Harald Harfagre (Viking Longship), El Galeon Andalucia (Spanish Galleon), Pride of Baltimore II (Topsail Schooner) and more will make port in Bay City for the Tall Ship Celebration. There are events for the entire family, including ship tours and excursions, concerts, a street party, “Ballads and Brews,” art, crafts for kids, games, and more. Find a full schedule of events and more details on the Tall Ships Challenge at http://www.tallshipcelebration.com/#intro.
Coast Guard Festival, Grand Haven – West Michigan’s premier summer event is Grand Haven’s Coast Guard Festival, which is a weeklong celebration that features parades, fireworks, concerts, food, children’s activities, a car show, a carnival, ship tours, and more. This year’s festival runs from July 29 to August 7 and will have three US Coast Guard vessels in port as Coast Guard City USA honors those who have served and those who continue to serve. Check out an events schedule and all the other necessary information: http://www.coastguardfest.org/.
Detroit Lions Summer Camps and Training Camp – Beginning in early June the Detroit Lions will be hosting youth summer football camps in cities across Michigan. You can find a full schedule of events at http://www.detroitlions.com/youth-programs/summer-camps-schedule.html. Academies focus on specific positions and are more advanced, while other events teach basic skills in a relaxed and fun environment. In August, select training camp sessions are open to the public and offer a chance to meet players and get autographs. The Lions’ training facility is located in Allen Park at 333 Republic Drive. Family Day is always a popular event with plenty of events and mascot Roary on hand for photos with kids’ club members. Keep checking www.detroitlions.com for details as they are posted.
Engineers Day at the Soo Locks – One day each year, visitors to the Soo Locks are allowed up-close access to large freighters and the chance to walk across the lock walls. This year’s event takes place on June 24, and the Cloverland Hydroelectric Power Plant will be open for tours as well. The International Bridge Walk takes place the following day, making for a great weekend full of events in Sault Ste. Marie. More information is available at http://www.saultstemarie.com/soo-locks-engineers-day-june-24-2016/.
Fayette Historic State Park – One of the hidden gems of Michigan’s state park system is Fayette Historic State Park in the Upper Peninsula, a restored “living museum” showing what life was like in an industrial community in the late 1800s. Two special events this summer offer extra fun for visitors: Christmas in June takes place on June 18th and will feature outdoor games, children’s projects, food and more while Fayette Heritage Day takes place on August 13th and features period displays, food, music, and a vintage baseball game.
Gilmore Car Museum – One of Michigan’s best car museums can be found in Hickory Corners, where more than 300 vehicles are displayed in vintage buildings. Summer events this year include a vintsage motorcycle show (June 12), an antique tractor, engine and machinery show (June 24, 25, 26), Deutsche Marques: A German Auto Event (July 9), Mad Dogs & Englishmen’s British Auto Faire XXVI (July 10), and the Relix Riot Show & Swap Meet (August 20). Find out more about this awesome automobile attraction just north of Kalamazoo: http://www.gilmorecarmuseum.org/.
Hastings Summerfest – This annual festival in Barry County features something for everyone in the family, and draws thousands of visitors to downtown Hastings each year. The 2016 Summerfest takes place August 26-28, and “the event features arts & crafts vendors on the courthouse lawn, concessions, free trolley rides, children’s activities, a softball tournament, 3-on-3 basketball, 10K/5K run, 3-on-3 soccer, roller hockey tournament, weight lifting contest, parade, car show, soapbox derby, live entertainment and a refreshment tent.” http://www.hastingssummerfest.com/
Insane Inflatable 5K – This unique and exciting event gets away from the timed competition of a normal 5K and instead focuses on fun. Inflatable obstacles like stairs, slides, wrecking balls, bounces and more are mixed in to the race course. This summer will see events take place in Kalamazoo (July 9 at Gilmore Car Museum), Lansing (July 30 at Hope Sports Complex), Detroit (July 23 at David Shepherd Park), and Grand Rapids (August 20 at Millennium Park). Find out more at http://insaneinflatable5k.com/locations/.
Jackson Events – The city of Jackson is where it’s at for summer festivals and fun. Check out the Bluesfest (June 2-4) http://jacksonbluesfest.com/, ART BEER WINE 2016 at the Ella Sharp Museum (June 4) http://ellasharpmuseum.org/?page_id=886, the Jackson County Rose Festival Parade & Picnic in the Park (June 5) http://jacksonrosefestival.org/, the Michigan Shakespeare Festival (July 9-24) http://www.michiganshakespearefestival.com/, the Hot Air Jubille (July 15-17) http://www.hotairjubilee.com/, and How Bazaar Jackson (July 30-31) http://www.howbazaarjackson.com/.
Kid’s Fishing Tournaments at MI State Parks – June 11-12 is a Free Fishing weekend, and several state parks will be hosting kids’ fishing tournaments. Check out events at Young State Park, the Cheboygan Field Office, Bald Mountain Recreation Area, Bewabic State Park, Bay City State Recreation Area to take advantage of this great opportunity to introduce a younger generation to Michigan’s amazing fishing opportunities.
Lakenenland – You won’t find another roadside attraction in Michigan quite like the Lakenenland Junkyard Art Sculpture Park. Easy to find on M-28 near Marquette, this free attraction features more than 50 scrap iron sculptures made by Tom Lakenen. Check out our Photo Gallery Friday: Lakenenland post for more pictures, and visit http://lakenenland.com/ for directions and more information.
Meteors & S’mores at Michigan State Parks – Michigan will be treated to a Perseid meteor shower in early August, and several state parks are hosting “Meteors & S’mores” events. Head out to Bald Mountain Recreation Area (August 13), Clear Lake State Park (August 12), Fort Wilkins Historic State Park (August 10-11), Holland State Park (August 13), Leelanau State Park (August 10) for a night full of campfires and stargazing.
National Trails Day – June 4th is National Trails Day for 2016, and Michigan offers many options for anyone looking to get out and celebrate. The Chief Noonday Chapter, Grand Traverse Hiking Club and the Spirit of the Woods chapters of the North Country Trail Association are all hosting events, or you can check out the Petoskey Trail Town Celebration or the Grasslands Birds Hike hosted by Oakland County Parks. You can find other ideas by checking out our Trails tab, or check out https://northcountrytrail.org/ or http://www.michigantrails.org/ for more ideas and maps.
Ontonagon Historical Museum and Lighthouse Tours – The Ontonagon Historical Museum features a collection of memorabilia detailing the area’s history of logging, mining, farming and social events. The museum also coordinates tours to the historic Ontonagon lighthouse three times a day (Monday-Saturday) from May to September. This is the only way to gain access to the lighthouse grounds and climb the tower for stunning views of Lake Superior and the city and harbor. The lighthouse was built in 1866 and is a brick building in the schoolhouse style. Find out more about the museum and tours at: http://www.ontonagonmuseum.org/lighthouse1.htm. This makes for a great stop if you’re in the area to visit the Porcupine Mountains or if you’re headed north to the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Petoskey Rocks! – Friday nights in one of Northern Michigan’s favorite destination towns will be extra fun this summer thanks to the addition of live music, movies, and more. You can find a full listing of music and movies at: http://www.northernmichiganeventscalendar.com. While in the area be sure to check out some of our favorite spots: Petoskey Brewing, Beards Brewery, and Mackinaw Trail Winery and Brewing Company. You can also take a walking tour of places from author Ernest Hemingway’s time in the area.
Quilt Barns of Mason County – There are eleven barns in the Ludington area that feature 8′ x 8′ squares colorfully painted to look like quilt patterns. Much like the barns we profiled on the Old Mission Peninsula, many of these barns are more than 100 years old and an important part of the area’s farming and cultural heritage. Find a full list and addresses: www.pureludington.com. Also consider checking out Mason County’s Agricultural Trail, Lumber Heritage Trail, and Sculpture Trail.
Rendezvous in the Sault – If you’ve ever wondered what life was like in the late 1600s when Michigan’s oldest city was founded, head to Sault Ste. Marie July 30-31 to experience Rendezvous in the Sault. A $10 admission gets families in for both days, where storytellers, musicians, period authentic food, colonial games, historic re-enactors, guided tours of the area’s historic homes, and more will keep everyone entertained. Visit www.historicwaterstreet.org for more information.
Silver Lake State Park – If you’re looking for sand dunes this summer, consider heading to Silver Lake State Park, where there’s more than 2,000 acres of dunes to explore and even ride on/over. There is a campground with 200 modern sites, and an ORV area that is the only place east of Utah where a private vehicle can be driven in a dune area. If you don’t want to drive it yourself, another section of the park is rented to Mac Woods Dune Rides. A southern section of the park features a day use beach and the historic Little Sable Point Lighthouse, which can be toured during summer months.
Torch Lake – You may not want to head there for the party on July 4th, but consider a summer trip to Michigan’s longest and second largest inland lake. Well known for its turquoise colored water and massive sandbar, Torch Lake is popular for swimming, kayaking, boating, and fishing. It’s also just a short drive from Traverse City, and pretty close to Short’s Brewing Company.
Upper Peninsula State Fair – Michigan’s only state fair (since 2010 when the downstate Michigan State Fair was discontinued) takes place in Escanaba, August 15-21. Visitors can check out exhibits, experience Skerbeck Entertainment Group rides, munch on fair food, midway entertainment, concerts and more. Head over to http://www.upstatefair.org/ for more information, and be sure to take advantage of special events for Family Day and Ladies’ Day.
Volkslaufe – Consider heading to Frankenmuth on July 4th weekend to take part in “the people’s race” – the annual Volkslaufe. Featuring 5K, 10K, 20K and 2K (fun run) races, this family friendly event begins and ends at heritage park and features many nods to the area’s rich German heritage. The race route runs through historic Frankenmuth and crosses the Holz Brucke covered bridge. Head over to http://volkslaufe.runfrankenmuth.org/ for more information, and also consider checking out Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland (World’s Largest Christmas store), Zehnder’s restaurant and Splash Village, and the famous Bavarian Inn.
West Michigan Whitecaps Tiger Fridays – The Detroit Tigers’ Class A affiliate in Grand Rapids will bring in several former Tigers players this season as part of the ever-popular Tiger Fridays. Appearances include: Jack Billingham on June 10 (Michigan and Trumbull beach towel giveaway), Joel Zumaya on July 8 (bobblehead giveaway), Frank Tanana on July 22 (oven mitt giveaway), Duke Sims on August 5 (cooking apron giveaway), Mickey Lolich on August 12 (bobblehead giveaway), Vince Coleman on August 19 (mini base giveaway), and Lloyd Moseby on September 2 (bobblehead giveaway). Tickets are more information at: www.whitecapsbaseball.com.
Xtreme Xperience at M1 Concourse – The Detroit area’s newest motorsports facility features a 1.5-mile track and more, and in August it will host the Xtreme Xperience. You can experience the 10 turns and 2,000 foot straightaway of the course while driving dream cars like the Ferrari 458 Italia, Ferrari F430, Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4, Nissan GT-R, Porsche 911 GT3, McLaren 570S, or the Lamborghini LP560-4. TO find out more about this awesome experience with “Real Supercars. Real Racetracks. Real Instruction.,” head to http://www.thextremexperience.com/tracks/m1-concourse/ and keep an eye on social media for potential special offers and discounts.
Yoopers Ride Free Days – Upper Peninsula residents can experience the Pictured Rocks Cruises for free on June 11 or 12 by showing a valid photo ID with their UP address – limited to the first 1,500 riders each day. The Alger County Chamber of Commerce will also be hosting Pictured Rocks Days that weekend, with vendors, food, free music, kids activities and more at Bayshore Park in Munising. Find out more at the Alger County Chamber of Commerce website.
Zoo celebrates 125 years – Grand Rapids’ John Ball Zoo will continue their celebration of 125 years of operation into the summer, with a handful of special events planned. Be sure to check out the tigers, lions and bears as well as Sting Ray Lagoon. RendeZoo (a casual, outdoor zoo party and fundraiser) takes place on June 10 and the public celebration week is August 15 to August 19. Find out more at: http://www.jbzoo.org/125/events.