Events

The Top 29 Summer Festivals in Michigan

In states like ours that experience real winter, the need to indulge in summer’s brief glory manifests itself in literally hundreds of festivals, ranging from traditional and family friendly to hedonistic and just plain weird. Some are full of incredible artists and entertainment, others are more for people-watching or face-stuffing. There are actually so many that you could probably spend your entire summer hitchhiking from fest to fest with your guitar and tent in tow. But please don’t -- this isn’t California, hippie.
 
Because there are so many, this list leans more towards the bigger, multi-day affairs. Here are 29 you shouldn't miss.

National Morel Mushroom Festival

A festival in honor of one of the world’s most prized mushroom species (read: for its divine culinary qualities, not for its ability to break laws of the space-time continuum.) Expect lots of morel hunters from all over as well as secret recipes and songs about mushroom lore. They grow ‘em big up there. 

Movement Music Festival

Movement attracts an international crowd -- techno music pilgrims flocking to their musical Mecca. It’s just another form of music that Detroit gave to the world. This festival has zero shame, and you’re likely to see a lot of skin, sin, and slightly embarrassing dance moves. Visual effects and illicit substances go together like bass and drums, and when the buildings around Hart Plaza start to illuminate with neon colors, you get the overarching sense that you’re at one of the epicenters of the modern musical universe. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. 

Downtown Hoedown

If you have not yet in your life witnessed enough demoralizing behavior on behalf of the human race, here’s your chance to catch up. Over the course of two days, you could have enough material to write a thesis on how throngs of people from all socio-economic backgrounds are affected by copious amounts of light beer, American flag bikinis, and some of the worst bastardizations of country music known to man. 

Motor City Pride

For a completely opposite experience to the Hoedown, wait a week for when Hart Plaza is transformed into a gully of rainbows, unicorns, and free love. This festival, which celebrates the LGBT community and its allies, is never boring. 

Frankenmuth Bavarian Festival

Polka-dancing, kegs, a German car show, euchre, cornhole, wursts of all sorts, and lederhosen. If that doesn’t make you want to yell "ja!," you may need to seriously work on your psyche.  

Electric Forest

Equal parts fairy tale, commune, and rave. Expect the ubiquitous dreadlocks, bare midriffs, and mandals you’ll find in high quantity at other festivals. What makes Electric Forest unique? An eclectic line-up of artists and one of the finest locations for an outdoor camping and concert soiree -- nestled in the towering red pine forests of Western Michigan, close enough to fresh water so you can wash all that love off at the end of the weekend. 

Common Ground Music Festival

Common Ground hosts a pretty diverse line-up each year along Adado Riverfront Park, which is actually, really, really nice. Expect to see some degree of washed-up artists from the '80s, '90s and early aughts, plenty of CMT acts, but also some really solid artists who make Common Ground their only Michigan stop in the summer.  

Wyandotte Street Art Fair

Downriver takes a lot of slack around this state. But Wyandotte is a bit of a shining jewel amid the strip malls and blue collars. This festival has been around for more than 50 years and makes a trip down South more than worth it with its variety of arts and entertainment.

Michigan Elvisfest

There’s not a whole lot left up to the imagination with this title. Elvis impersonators, dancing, vintage cars, food & drink, and a candlelight vigil in honor of the King. Get those hips ready for the excessive swiveling about to commence.

Black Rock Medieval Festival

Michigan is a state where you can act out your Renaissance fantasies basically all summer long, so long as your therapist approves. Consider Black Rock, celebrating its fourth year at Old World Village, your pre-game for another festival coming up later on this list. 

Ann Arbor Street Art Fair

This fair is an institution, and if you can get past the parking hassle and the crowds, it’s a great reason to visit the People’s Republic of Ann Arbor and honor the Almighty Harbaugh among throngs of America’s future elite. 

Old Town Scrapfest

Teams of artists will transform up to 10,000lbs of scrap metal into artistic masterpieces, which will be displayed and then auctioned off at this festival which also features artisans, food, drink, and live music. 

Hiawatha Music Festival

The largest festival in the Upper Peninsula hosts what you'd expect it to -- traditional music, otherwise known as music to swing an ax to. We’re talking Celtic, Cajun, old-time -- you get the idea. If you’re heading north of the bridge this summer, preferably NOT in a Yugo, you now have yet another reason to visit Marquette, aside from tacos.

Au Sable River Festival

Arts, crafts, yadda yadda. What’s really interesting about this festival is it marks the starting point of the 120-mile Au Sable Canoe Marathon, during which competitors paddle nonstop through the night and have to portage six dams! Some of you city-folk may have trouble picturing this, but it is SERIOUSLY impressive. 

Michigan Summer Beer Fest

Everyone from Michigan knows that we are the nation’s best kept secret when it comes to beer production. Clearly, word has gotten out. Check out this festival to taste-test 800 beers (we dare you -- not really, but try a bunch!) and see why Mitten brews have been garnering international attention for years. 

Maker Faire

Dearborn offers more than just shawarma (though it has lots of mighty fine shawarma), namely this festival, which is all sorts of inspiring. Go check out the odds and ends, all manner of DIY, and support your own creativity with lots of opportunities to tinker around with more than 400 other makers. Don’t be surprised to see a 69ft-tall mechanical, fire-breathing dragon; time machines; or flaming skee-ball. 

Traverse City Film Festival

Founded by Michael Moore, you know, the guy who put Flint on the map, this film festival is one of the state’s biggest and most widely acclaimed, drawing people from all over the world. Not to mention, it lives in one of Northern Michigan’s best playgrounds with all the microbrews and freshwater you could ask for.

Back to the Bricks

Flint certainly is renowned for its fair share of troubles, but for a few days, the city goes classic-car crazy. The bricks in this case refer to the red bricks which line a historic portion of Saginaw Street, where the festival is held. Expect lots of Big Three muscle cars and Grand Funk Railroad on repeat. 

Hoxeyville Music Festival

This festival is held annually on 85 acres of farmland in the middle of the beautiful Manistee National Forest. Expect lots of bare feet and banjos (yes, another rootsy northern Michigan festival), and plenty of entertainment from national acts, as well as your brother’s jug band.

Cheeseburger in Caseville

This festival falls under the "Why does this exist?" category. Most people under the age of 45 hate Jimmy Buffet. Regardless, for 10 straight days, this town at the top of the Thumb goes nutso, becoming a weird paragon of Tiki culture for reasons likely kept under lock-and-key by some sort of Margaritaville brotherhood. Good food. Terrible music. Rednecks and retirees. If this sounds awesome to you, you just may have found your lost shaker of salt. 

Michigan Renaissance Festival

Hopefully you’ve visited Black Rock to get your liver primed and the finishing touches done to your costume earlier in the summer, because you’ll need it for this fanatical, frolicking, rowdy soiree. Expect lute solos, dirty jokes about syphilis, jousting, and of course, massive turkey legs. People quit their day jobs for this. Will you be one of them? 

Porcupine Mountains Music Festival

Nestled nearby some of the most beautiful wilderness in the North Country, this festival is a bit of an institution for music lovers and outdoorsmen alike. There’s even a busking stage set for the amateurs, and we hear tell there’s gold in them there hills. 
Detroit Jazz Festival

Detroit Jazz Festival

The line-up is always impressive; especially considering it’s free. This is where the worlds of Detroit collide and literally all forms of the human species are present. Be prepared for the old people (or young and lazy, we’ve got those too) who camp out in their Meijer-purchased fold-up chairs in front of each stage for hours. And do NOT, we repeat, DO NOT, try to steal anyone’s lemonade, lest ye be caned with a second-line parasol. 

Hamtramck Labor Day Festival

Stroll among the bright lights of the ferris wheel and Yoyo rides, among gutter streams of flowing, golden lager and clouds of sauerkraut pierogi to the soundtrack of a screaming electric quartet. Quite possibly the state’s most comprehensive collection of weirdoes, rock ‘n’ roll, hoodlums, and carnies that you could possibly hope to find on one street. Each Labor Day weekend, Downtown Hamtramck is transformed into a haven for local bands, artists, beer vendors, corn-holers, canoe-racers, fowlers, and every kind of human you can imagine.

Wheatland Music Festival

Northern Michigan plays host to all your folk/roots/bluegrass desires throughout the summer months. There’s absolutely no shortage of twang and harmonizing, no matter where you turn. Basic idea: you can’t swing a banjo north of Lansing in the summer without hitting some white people with stringed instruments. But there’s one festival that has stood the test of time, the grandpappy of them all -- Wheatland. 

Earthwork Harvest Gathering

OK -- one more folksy festival for the road. You do realize most of Michigan is rural, right? And rural folks love the folk. For the ultimate experience, hit this mostly underground, community-centered, organic, and extremely hippie music festival. Held each year since 2000 on the Bernard family farm in Missaukee County, Earthwork is an event in the vein of a traditional harvest celebration, where local farmers and musicians from Michigan and beyond wind down their summer touring schedules and come together to dance like a string of Grateful Dead bears among lots of delicious food and drink. 

Grand Haven Salmon Festival

A salmon cook-off, fishing contest, wine-tasting, and live jazz (because we all know fishing and jazz go together like Busch beer and corn dogs). Expect lots of rich Chicagoans and people from Grand Rapids wearing those creepy shoes with toes built in. It should be noted, Grand Haven has one of the loveliest shores in the entire state. 

Hellfest Hearse Show

We are making an exception to the multi-day requirement of this list in order to include one of Michigan’s weirdest festivals. Is there a better location for North America’s largest hearse show to take place than in Hell? We think not. Expect costume contests, paranormal experts, custom motorcycles, BBQ, a zombie dance party and maybe even a wedding. 

ArtPrize

Sure, this is getting into fall, but Michigan weather still tends to be reliably nice for this one. The city transforms into a living-art exhibit, featuring work from more than 1,500 artists from all over the world who put their pieces up to be critiqued and voted on by the public. Enjoy the last few weeks of warm weather, and if you get tired of walking, you’re never too far from a brewery in Grand Rapids.