Since 1968 the Traverse City National Cherry Festival has been celebrated as a week long event that celebrates cherries, cherries and more cherries in Traverse City. It is one of the most popular Northern Michigan events each year. The festival has upwards of 150 events ranging from music to Northern Michigan food and drink tastings. Plan your Northern Michigan vacation for the National Cherry Festival with our travel ideas that will help you take in the entire National Cherry Festival experience. Learn more at

Family Fun

Round up the whole family and head to downtown Traverse City to enjoy a day filled with family fun activities at the Traverse City National Cherry Festival. Camp out on Front Street while you and the kids watch the flags twirl and the bands play during either of the two parades. Another option is to spend the day browsing souvenir tents and munching on some fantastic food at the Festival Open Space. Or you could head down to West End and be amazed as the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds take to the sky to perform approximately 40 maneuvers.The free Air Show is on July 4th and 5th at 1:55 pm. Finally you could have some real family fun as you all try and compete to become the next Cherry Idol!

Bay Side Music Stage

More than a week of music performances, all on a stage located directly next to West Bay brings together artists of all genres. While Charlie Daniels Band and “Weird Al” Yankovic are this year’s headliners, there will also be a performance from Michigan’s own Gunnar & the Grizzly Boys. Catch a breeze right off Lake Michigan while your rock out at one of or all of the eight nights of great shows.

Foodie Events

It’s not just about individual cherries, but also the wonderful foods and dishes that can be made with cherries. There are numerous homemade cherry dishes being served up by many local Northern Michigan restaurants and chefs. Foodies can grab a bite at the Open Space, attend one of the farmer’s markets to buy some unique ingredients or purchase tickets to one of the food events.

Adults Only

Whether you’re parents who would like a night out, or a couple looking for special Cherry Festival date-night ideas, the Cherry Festival definitely has what you’re seeking. One option is to let loose and act like you’re eight again as you try your hand at a pie eating contest. Another choice would be entering the exclusive beer tent and enjoy some cold beverages, many Northern Michigan brewed, while looking out at the beautifully scenic bay. Or you could have a romantic evening underneath the opening or closing ceremony fireworks.

Runners, to Your Marks

Lace up your running shoes and head to the start line of one of these classic races in Traverse City:

  • Meijer Festival of Races: Since 1973, the original Traverse City footrace has seen over 50,000 participants cross the finish line. Join in for the 5k walk/run, 10k, 15k, or Half Marathon. Learn more at
  • Cherry Mile: The new and improved Cherry Mile presented by the Traverse City Track Club is a fast paced competition made up of elite runners, high school runners and for the first time 200 runners from the community. Learn more at
  • Fifth Annual Carter’s Kids Festival Fun Run: Local celebrity Carter Oosterhouse will start the one mile race for kids of all ages along the National Cherry Festival’s Touchstone Energy Junior Royale Parade route and then meet at the finish line with fanfare. Learn more at

Cherry Festival Lodging

There are plenty of amazing Northern Michigan hotels to choose from, however, we’ve mapped out the ones closest to the downtown festival.

Parking and Public Restrooms

Since most of Traverse City’s Front Street is reserved for festival activities, parking is very limited. Therefore it’s important to know where the closest parking spaces and public restrooms are, check them out here:

Photo(s) by David Weidner