Colors pop, the landscape unfurls lush and green, and that fresh spring air makes outdoor play delightful. Plan your Northern Michigan May vacation, or take a day this month and make it a staycation! These Northern Michigan festivals and events will invigorate your love for the outdoors.

Forest foraging. It’s the month of the morel, that delectable woodland treasure celebrated at the Mesick Mushroom Festival, now in its 57th year. Visit the village May 6–8 to honor the tasty and elusive ’shroom with a parade, carnival rides, games, 5K run, softball tourney and, of course, a who-can-find-the-biggest-mushroom contest. Northern Exposure Campground RV and Recreational Park offers camping and lodging ($60/day for large cabin).

Treat Mom. Take a Mother’s Day trek to the tip of Traverse City’s Old Mission Peninsula, stopping by Peninsula Market (on M37) for lunch-to-go. Picnic at the tip of the peninsula, next to Mission Point Lighthouse. End your day at Chateau Chantal Winery & Inn (back 5 miles on M37) with the 5-course Mother’s Day Wine Pairing Dinner ($69/person). The May 7 event includes a winery tour. Reservations: 231.223.4110;

Go green. An oral poetry contest for the best “Ode to Asparagus” is just one of several events at the Empire Asparagus Festival May 20–21 in the lakeshore village. Other asparagus fun: a 5K run, recipe contest, games and a parade. Camp at Empire Township Campground—rustic sites next to a tiny airport. Reservations: 231.326.5285,

Biking for all. The annual Ride the Keweenaw, May 27–29, showcases the vast and varied biking offered in the U.P.’s Keweenaw region. From guided rides to enduro racing to social events, the weekend-long fun will satisfy. Stop by Brickside Brewery in Copper Harbor for an après-ride cold one, and stay at nearby Keweenaw Mountain Lodge.

Sweat a little, smile a lot. Grab a friend for the annual Run the Ridge 10K Team Relay at Timber Ridge, Traverse City, May 14. Runners of all ages and abilities compete in a two-person relay format, with each runner completing a 5K trail run. Enjoy post-run local food and drink. Camp right there. Tent sites $18; deluxe cabin $60.

Stone skipping (and eating). The one-day Antrim County Petoskey Stone Festival celebrates Michigan’s state stone with stone-hunting, stone-skipping, demonstrations and prizes at Barnes Park near Eastport. New to the May 28 event this year: a 5K fun run/walk. Afterward, head north to Petoskey for Restaurant Week, May 20–28. Score three-course dinners for $25; $15 for lunch; some two-for-one deals.

Savor the Sunrise Side. Soak up spring while navigating hikes along the Huron Shores Heritage Route. Fuel up at Gourmet Delights, an annual food tasting event, the first Sunday in May, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., East Tawas. ($12/person, kids under 4 free.) Proceeds benefit Iosco County Hearing Impaired programs and disadvantaged families. 989.362.8643,

Golfing. Tap into Boyne Highlands’ Family Fundays, taking place each Sunday after 2 p.m. Boyne welcomes all family members to join your foursome at no extra charge during a round on The Moor course. Golf lessons also are offered to your crew.

Bird watching. The Sleeping Bear Birding Trail covers all 123 miles of M22, as it traces the Lake Michigan shore from Manistee to Traverse City. Diverse habitat, public access, and many miles of shoreline make the trail a birder’s paradise. Also catch feathered friends at the Leelanau Birding Festival this month. Bonus: a tall ship lets you watch birds up close as they cross open water.

Go back in time. Visit Mackinaw City over Memorial Day weekend to enjoy more than 400 cast members re-creating a battle that pitted the French and Indians against the British on June 2, 1763. The Fort Michilimackinac Pageant marks its 50th year in 2016, 231.439.4100. Stay at Stafford’s Crooked River Lodge in Alanson.

May cover


This article about 10 Northern Michigan May adventures was originally published in the May 2016 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.
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Photo(s) by Jordan Oster