Michigan A to Z: Travel the Mitten’s 2017 Spring Guide
For many of us here in the Lower Peninsula, this has been a mild winter. We’ve already had a few brief stretches of spring weather, and soon warmer temperatures and sunshine will be here to stay. Spring brings the opportunity to take part in road races, visit fairs and festivals, check out historical sites, try seasonal favorite beers, and much more. We’ve put together this 2017 spring guide of things to do in Michigan from A to Z, and we hope there’s something here for everyone. Many of the listed activities are family friendly, and quite a few of them are free or reasonably priced. This Spring Guide covers the months of March, April, and May. Don’t see your favorite event listed? Be sure to leave us a comment of what we missed or should include next year.
Ai Weiwei Exhibit at Meijer Gardens – Meijer Gardens opened this landmark exhibit on January 27th featuring international artist and activist Ai Weiwei. The exhibit runs through August 20th, but spring may be the perfect time to visit. The Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens Natural State exhibit highlights many areas of the artist’s life. More than 30 pieces from Weiwei make up the collection. “In sharing his biography, ideas and concerns for freedom of speech and human rights, Ai Weiwei is truly a global leader. His sculptures, installations, photography and film engage, challenge, and astonish – and remind us that “Art is not an end, but a beginning.” Grand Rapids is fortunate to get an exhibit both based on its size and the level of artistry that is Ai Weiwei. Don’t miss this wonderful exhibit while it is in Michigan. Also be sure to vote for Meijer Gardens as the Best Botanical Garden in the 10Best.com awards through the end of March. For more on the botanical gardens, see our photo gallery and write-up.
Barry-Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race – On March 25 you can head to the Hastings area and watch bikers tackle the “largest gravel road race in the world”! Races of 22 miles, 32 miles and 66 miles will challenge riders on a course that is almost entirely gravel roads, two track and possibly winter weather. Find out more at http://barry-roubaix.com/. Founders Brewing Co. is the major sponsor of this event.
Charlevoix Restaurant Week – Head to Charlevoix the week of April 23-29 to check out special events and deals at local favorites like Bridge Street Tap Room, Thai Ginger, Harbor View Cafe, The Weathervane and more. The best place to check for updated information is https://www.facebook.com/CharlevoixRestaurantWeek.
Dark Sky Week 2017 – Multiple Michigan state parks will stay open later than normal during International Dark Sky Week April 21-28. Headlands International Dark Sky Park west of Mackinaw City will host several events during the week, noting that “because of the Moon phase, this year’s Dark Sky Week also coincides with the peak of the Lyrid Meteor Shower, a wonderful stream of falling stars from the Comet C/1861G radiant near the border between the constellations Lyra, the harp, and Hercules, the mighty hero.”
Enchanted Reef at Delta College Planetarium and Learning Center (Bay City) – “The vastness of our planet’s oceans guards unimaginable secrets. One of its most precious is Kaluoka’hina, The Enchanted Reef whose magic protects it against humans finding it. Kaluoka’hina’s colorful inhabitants live in peace until the volcano erupts, and the spell is broken. Now it’s up to Jake, the young sawfish, and his paranoid pal, Shorty, to restore the magic of Kaluoka’hina. Their only lead: the ancient legend that tells of touching the moon. An exciting adventure, packed with humor, sprinkled with conservationism, as well as educational flavor: a treat for the entire family. Spectacular underwater scenery, playful characters and the totally immersive environment of the Dome360 theater makes this show a must see.” Find out more at http://www.delta.edu/planetarium/index.html, shows every Saturday in April.
Fox Sports Detroit I Ran the D 5K – This first-year event will take place on Sunday, April 23 and gives runners the chance to run the streets of Detroit in a “D” pattern starting at the big Tiger and ending with a run around the field at Comerica Park. Find out more at https://raceroster.com/events/2017/11628/i-ran-the-d. Options allow for Detroit Pistons and Detroit Tigers ticket packages, as well as a “Virtual 5K” for those unable to attend in person.
Green Bay Packers Tailgate Tour – The 12th annual Green Bay Packers Tailgate Tour will make two Upper Peninsula stops in April. This is a chance for the team to thank fans in person and will include appearances by current players and staff as well as former players, food, games, with proceeds benefiting a local non-profit.April 6 at the Michigan Tech Student Development Complex, 600 Macinnes Dr., Houghton, Mich. To benefit Dial Help. Tickets on sale at the Michigan Tech University Student Development Complex or online at tickets.mtu.edu. April 8 at Ford Airport, 2300 Woodward Ave., Kingsford, Mich. To benefit the Northwood’s Airlifeline. Tickets on sale at Econo Foods, 1600 S. Stephenson Ave., Iron Mountain, and at WJNR Radio Station, 212 West J St., Iron Mountain. Read more: http://www.packers.com/news-and-events/article-press-release/article-1/Packers-12th-annual-Tailgate-Tour-set-for-April-4-8/149dd3d9-70a0-4018-9404-b2bf840c29c3#ixzz4bV75ncZT
Historical Reenactment Pageant at Fort Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City) – Every Memorial Day weekend, Fort Michilimackinac hosts “more than 400 cast members taking part in the three-day pageant that brings to life the 1763 Fort Michilimackinac battle between the French, British, and Native Americans. The cast members are clad in period costumes and demonstrate the way of life for residents of Northern Michigan in the 1760s. A highlight of the weekend is the Memorial Day period through the streets of Mackinaw City that includes more than 100 band, acts, and floats.” Keep up to date on a schedule of events by visiting http://www.mackinacparks.com/parks-and-attractions/colonial-michilimackinac/.
Irish Jig and Irish on Ionia – Grand Rapids will get into the St. Patrick’s Day spirit this weekend with a pair of events. The Spectrum Health Irish Jig 5K race takes place on Saturday, March 18 (https://runsignup.com/Race/MI/GrandRapids/IrishJig) and the Irish on Ionia street party returns for a seventh year on Saturday, March 18th. (http://www.irishonionia.com/)
Joe Louis Arena Farewell – The Detroit Red Wings are moving to a new home (Little Caesars Arena) next season, and with the playoffs well out of reach this season only a handful of home games remain at the legendary Joe Louis Arena. Since 1979 this arena has hosted concerts, basketball, college hockey and some of the most memorable moments in Red Wings franchise history. You can still visit for games against the Sabres (March 20), Lightning (March 24), Wild (March 26), Maple Leafs (April 1), Senators (April 3), Canadiens (April 8) and Devils (April 9). Remaining promotional giveaways include a Red Wings beach towel (March 26), Joe Louis Arena mini replica (April 8) and a Farewell to the Joe mini stick (April 9).
Kite Festival (Grand Haven) – Grand Haven State Park will once again play host to the Great Lakes Kite Festival, with this year’s events taking place the weekend of May 20-21. Events include kite ballets, giant kites, the world’s largest outdoor kite store, kiteboarding demonstrations and and open flying field. Find out more at http://www.mackite.com/glskc.htm.
Ludington Adventure Race – The Ludington edition of the Michigan Adventure Race will challenge competitors with either a 6 or 12 hour journey that features trekking/orienteering, biking and paddling at the stunning Ludington State Park. Head over to http://miadventurerace.com/ludington-edition/race-information/ for more information and even if this kind of race isn’t your thing, consider cheering on competitors during a visit to the park.
Mesick Mushroom Festival “Ever been out in the great outdoors, seeing the wonders of nature, hunting for the great morel mushrooms all on Mother’s Day weekend? All of this and more happens at the annual Mesick Mushroom Festival. Mesick is the mushroom capital in the United States. Come enjoy our adventurous fun filled days, for people of all ages. Hunt for mushrooms, participate in the Blessing of the Jeeps, feast on food of all kinds, enjoy concerts, events for kids, baseball and volleyball. We will have a grand parade as well.” Check out this unique Michigan festival the weekend of May 12-14. http://www.mesick-mushroomfest.org/
Northern Michigan University Freeze Tag Record Attempt (Marquette) – On March 28th, Northern Michigan University students will attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the largest game of freeze tag. The event will take place on campus at the Superior Dome, and there are rumors that Al Roker of NBC’s Today Show may accept an invitation to attend.
Octopus Exhibit at Sea Life Aquarium – The newest rotating exhibit at Michigan’s Sea Life Aquarium centers on the octopus. Five new tanks and several new creatures were brought in for the exhibit titled “Octopus Hideout“. Prior to this, Michigan’s largest aquarium had only one Octopus, a Giant Pacific Octopus. The new exhibit is one of several themed zones that your family will love visiting. See our review and photo gallery from our first visit in 2015. Sea Life is offering a buy one adult ticket get a child ticket (ages 3-12) for free deal through the end of March. Also remember, you can purchase a combo ticket with Legoland, also located in Great Lakes Crossing Mall.
Petoskey Restaurant Week – From May 19 to May 26, check out special deals at Petoskey area restaurants including City Park Grill, Twisted Olive, Noggin Room Pub, and Palette Bistro. Find out more at http://petoskeyrestaurantweek.com/.
Quill Pens & Calligraphy (River Raisin National Battlefield Park) – “Learn with Old World Craft Demonstrator, Mary Minney, how to craft your own Quill Pen and learn the art of Calligraphy. Two one-hour sessions available: 12-1pm and 1-2pm. Seats are limited; please call the Visitor Center at 734-243-7136 to reserve your place and time.” Event takes place Saturday March 25th – be sure to check out our Photo Gallery of the park as well.
River Bank Run (Grand Rapids) – The Fifth Third River Bank Run will celebrate its 40th anniversary when its 2017 events take place in Grand Rapids on May 13th. Runners can take part in a 25K run, 25K handcycle race, 10K run, 5K run or 5K walk. With a beautiful course that wins through downtown Grand Rapids, this race always draws a huge crowd of both participant and spectators. There is still time to register and start training! More info: https://www.53riverbankrun.com.
Soo Locks Open – On March 25th, the Soo Locks will open for 2017 shipping traffic. After eight weeks of being closed for winter and maintenance, the locks that connect Lake Superior with the St. Mary’s River will once again be filled with freighters carrying iron ore, grain, wind turbines and more. Be sure to check out our list of 10 Things to See and Do in Sault Ste. Marie, which includes several great boatwatching locations. More info: http://ht.ly/5EtU309YCcK.
Tulip Time (Holland) – An annual celebration of Dutch pride in Holland, Michigan, Tulip Time features parades, concerts, a carnival, a run, thousands of colorful flowers and more. Check out an events schedule at http://www.tuliptime.com/events/ – this year’s events take place May 6-14.
Unseen Enemies Exhibit (Monroe) – The Monroe County Museum will host this unique exhibit: “From 1834 to 1955, Monroe County, Michigan experienced its own series of pandemics, cholera and the Spanish Flu. This exhibit will explore the devastating and deadly effects each illness had on the county life and its history. In conjunction with the local “One Book, One Community” read, our own “Museum of Civilization” from each period will ask the question- what would life be like if these pandemics hadn’t been contained?” This exhibit will run for a limited time only, March 16 – May 28. Find out more at https://www.facebook.com/MonroeMuseums/.
Vander Mill Cider – The Grand Rapids tap room and restaurant continues to find success for Vander Mill, and now offers Sunday brunch from 9am-3pm. Stop and check them out at 505 Ball Ave NE, and be on the lookout for Cherry Chuckle, a special cider they put out for this year’s Gilda’s Laughfest.
World Expo of Beer (Frankenmuth) – Try beers from around the world at Frankenmuth’s annual World Expo of Beer, May 19-20. In addition to the usual Michigan favorites you will find national brands like Samuel Adams, Angry Orchard, Great Lakes Brewing Company, Leinenkugel’s and more. International beers will be offered from Guinness, Hofbrau, Nickel Brook Brewing (Canada) and Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery (Canada) . Other special events include the 1Beer1K “run” and a beer competition. http://www.worldexpoofbeer.com/
Xtreme Xperience – If you’ve ever wanted to drive a car that’s well out of your price range around a race track, you’ll have two Michigan opportunities this spring. A Kalamazoo/Grand Rapids event takes place April 7th and 8th at GingerMan Raceway in South Haven. Cars for that event include a Ferrari 488 GTB, Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4, Audi R8 V10 and a Porsche 911 GT3. A Detroit event takes place May 19-21 at M1 Concourse. Vehicles for that event include a Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport, Acura NSX, Lamborghini LP560-4 and a Mitsubishi Evo X Thrill Ride. Find out more about packages at http://www.thextremexperience.com/#. Be sure to check Groupon for possible deals as the events get closer!
Yellow Dog Falls – Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to more than 200 waterfalls, and spring is one of the best times to view them. Marquette County is home to many great waterfalls, but one of our favorite spots to visit after the snow melts is Yellow Dog Falls. There are many drops of various sizes on the Yellow Dog River and its surrounding tributaries. Check out our post about Yellow Dog Falls for hiking details, driving directions and more.
Zoo Lovers Day 2017 – Several Michigan zoos are open year-round, including Potter Park in Lansing and the Detroit Zoo. Other zoos open their gates for the first time of 2017 during the Spring season. John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids opened on March 11th. Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek will open April 13th. Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park opens on May 1st and they recently revealed that they have a pregnant giraffe with a baby expected later in the year. The Garlyn Zoo in the Upper Peninsula opens for the season in May. It is one of several animal attractions in the Upper Peninsula that we have profiled. National Zoo Lovers Day is April 8th, use the hashtag #nationalzooloversday on social media when you visit your favorite Michigan animal attraction.