Northern Michigan festivals turn small lakeside towns of Elk Rapids to Charlevoix to Bellaire into vibrant party hosts, pulling out all the big stops for 4th of July fireworks, pancake breakfasts, and extravagent parades. Be one with the summertime crowds at these Lake Country hamlets, and then make time to escape to quiet hiking trails and local eateries that are off the beaten track.
A little harbor town between Elk Lake and Lake Michigan, with a downtown beach, marina, and a handful of sweet shops and restaurants, including Chef Charles (147 River St.), one of our favorite pizzerias around. elkrapidschamber.org.
Don’t Miss: Harbor Days, July 31 – August 3
Elk Rapids’ big summer shindig, featuring music, parades, a carnival, sand-castle building, fireworks and other fun. elkrapidsharbordays.org.
A quiet Chain of Lakes hamlet on the shores of Ellsworth Lake, with a gorgeous public park home to a labyrinth garden and Michigan’s largest public outdoor archery range.
Don’t Miss: Ellebration, July 6 – 8
An all-American festival featuring historic trolley tours, a pancake breakfast, boat parade and fireworks, among other events. ELLEBRATION.COM.
This lively town is quintessential Up North: fudge shops, ferry docks, a beautiful marina, shopping and dining, and an in-town park with a band shell for outdoor performances. Kids love watching the drawbridge, which opens every half hour to let big boats through. CHARLEVOIX.ORG.
Don’t Miss: Venetian Festival, July 20 – 27
This enormous summertime bash has it all, including live music, kids’ games, a boat parade, midway, and much more. VENETIANFESTIVAL.COM.
A sleepy village at the crossroads of US 131 and M-88. Mancelona’s claim to fame is being the starting point for one of the Midwest’s premier annual marathon cross-country ski races, the White Pine Stampede.
Don’t Miss: Mancelona Bass Festival, June
The 58th annual Bass Fest features a parade, carnival, barbecue and more. Date not confirmed by press time; check online for updates. MANCELONABASSFEST.ORG.
Home to an artsy, outdoorsy community, East Jordan is perhaps best known as the gateway to one of the North’s coolest wild places: the Jordan River Valley, an 18,000-acre paradise laced with old-growth forest and the pristine Jordan River. EJCHAMBER.ORG.
Don’t Miss: Portside Arts Fair, August 3 – 4
Peruse works by Michigan artists at this juried fine arts fair, celebrating its 50th year. PORTSIDEARTSFAIR.ORG.
Don’t Miss: Fourth of July festival, July 4
Central Lake puts on a great Independence Day fireworks show; come on the 3rd to catch the boat parade on Intermediate Lake.
Old meets new in this burg, where longtime hometown businesses, like the beloved Ruthie’s Chicken & Dairy Twist (201 N. BRIDGE ST.), share the main street with hip bistros, cafes, boutiques, and Short’s, arguably the North’s most famous brewery. BELLAIRECHAMBER.ORG.
Don’t Miss: Rubber Ducky Festival, August 13 – 17.The main event is a rubber ducky race on the Bellaire River; there’s live music, games and a parade, too.
This Torch Lake village packs a lot into just a few blocks: boutiques, cafes, an old-fashioned ice cream counter in the back of Higgins General Store (9105 Helena Rd.), and more. visitalden.com.
Don’t Miss: Strawberry Festival, June 17. Get your fill of Michigan strawberries and shortcake at this beloved annual Depot Park event.