Every year kids eagerly await the highly anticipated National Cherry Festival. Trevor Tkach, Executive Director of the National Cherry Festival, believes in providing an array of low-cost, family fun activities that everyone can enjoy. “With three little ones of my own, I can truly appreciate the many opportunities there are for kids and families during the Cherry Festival. There are dozens of free events and activities for children throughout the week. The free family fun is what makes the Festival magical and memorable,” notes Tkach.

Now is the time to make the memories your family will cherish for a lifetime. Load up your car and head down to Traverse City for fun Cherry Festival programs, beginning July 4th. Enjoy food and drinks from street vendors and all the free festival offerings; fireworks, parades, air shows and more! You won’t want to miss anything exciting this Festival, so check out our list of eight must-do family activities and travel ideas.    

Boom! Hiss! Crack! Don’t miss the Fireworks Shows

Gather your friends and family for not one, but two nights of Cherry Festival fireworks. Cap off your 4th of July and the closing night of the Cherry Festival, July 11th with Fireworks over Grand Traverse West Bay. The show starts at 10:30PM each night, but be sure to arrive early in order to claim the best seats. Find the best views at West End Beach, Clinch Park, Bryant Park and at the Festival Open Space. This is a free event.

Watch Dogs Fly Right Before Your Eye

An event the whole family will love, the Ultimate Air Dogs Competition offers the perfect combination of entertainment and amazement. Watch as nearly one hundred “dog athletes” compete to leap the furthest into a pool! Located near West End beach volleyball courts, you can enjoy the Ultimate Air Dogs Competition on July 9th from 10:00 to 11:00AM, and July 10th from 10:00 to 11:00AM and 3:00 to 4:00PM. The Ultimate Dog’s finale will take place Saturday July 11th from 3:00 to 4:00PM.  This is a free event.

Revel in the Parades

As Michigan bands and colorful floats roll through downtown Traverse City, find a spot on Front Street to enjoy one of the two parades that occur during the Festival. Celebrating 89 years of tradition, The Touchstone Energy Junior Royale Parade will kick off Thursday, July 9th, at 6:30PM, and the DTE Energy Foundation Cherry Royale Parade will begin Saturday July 11th, at 11:15AM. Be sure to arrive early to find a good spot, and bring lots of sunscreen and water to this free event.

Take a Turn on the Ferris Wheel & Eat an Elephant Ear

Become a kid again while making new memories with your kids at the Arnold Amusements Midway and Street Food Vendors. Catch stunning views of Grand Traverse Bay from the Ferris Wheel, enjoy a spin on the Flying Swings, and get an adrenaline rush on the Zipper. Don’t forget to indulge in your Carnival favorites, ranging from hot dogs to Gibby’s Fries and the fairgoer’s favorite, Elephant Ears. Arnold Amusements Midway is open throughout the Festival. Tickets to partake in the rides can be purchased at this event.

Watch the Air Show Take Flight

Head down to West End and be amazed as the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds take to the sky! Watch as the Thunderbirds Air Combat Command Unit demonstrates choreographed flights. In a 75 minute show, the pilots will perform approximately 40 maneuvers highlighting some of the maximum capabilities of the squadron. We suggest bringing earplugs for the little ones. You can catch this free Air Show on July 4th and 5th at 1:55PM.

Mingle through the Arts & Crafts Fair

Yearning for a shopping spree or looking for a great gift? The annual Arts & Crafts fair will come to life on July 5th with over 200 artists and craftsmen who will display their work along Union Street in downtown Traverse City. Explore and shop the unique artistic and handcrafted items. This is a free event.

Be the next Traverse City Cherry Idol

Do you have what it takes to become the next Cherry Idol? The Cherry Idol is a fun festival event for all ages. Audition or watch the Cherry Idol Competition on Friday July 10th, 10:00AM to 2:00PM, and catch the finals Saturday, July 11th, 2:00 to 4:00PM. This is a free event.

Dig into Pie

Sit down and chow down! Head to the open space to get your fill of sweet cherry pie for free! Prizes will be awarded to the individuals who can devour their pie the fastest. The kids Cherry Pie Eating contest will take place July 6th & 7th from 1:00 to 3:00PM.  Adults will also get the opportunity to feel like a kid again by partaking in the Adult Contest on July 6th & 8th, from 5:00 to 6:00PM.

For more free family fun at the National Cherry Festival, view the complete 2015 schedule here.


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