From a drive-in movie screening in Honor to celebrating lilacs on Mackinac Island, here are four of our favorite ways to say hello to summer in Northern Michigan.

This article first appeared in Traverse Northern Michigan. Find this story and more when you explore our magazine library. Want Traverse delivered to your door or inbox monthly? View our print subscription and digital subscription options.

Northern Michigan knows how to celebrate summer’s arrival, and with it, those lingering hours of blissful sunlight just right for time spent at the beach, on the boat and with buddies around campfires. This month, join a decades-long party that greets the sun, a ritual cannon firing and the cheering on of a ferry launch.

Make it Mackinac

It’s tradition for the reigning Lilac Queen to fire the first cannon when Fort Mackinac opens for the season, then open the gates to waiting guests. This year brings back a popular program (after a hiatus) that lets visitors learn to drill like an 1880s soldier, as well as a new reading room offering the chance to learn history through newspapers of the day. Afterward, toast from the popular waterfront decks at Pink Pony, or book a discounted pre-season lodging package at a spot like Mission Point Resort and tiptoe amid the 33,000 tulips turning their many-colored faces toward the sun. You may even share a ferry over to the island with a horse or two; they start clomping back to the island this month from their winter pastures.

Learn more about what’s new on Mackinac Island.

Photo by Mackinac Island Tourism

Party with the Sun in Fishtown

The annual “Here comes the Sun” party has been rocking historic Fishtown every Memorial Day Monday for 30 years, with the Covid-19 years offering the first pause. This year, The Cove restaurant is bringing back the long-time traditions: live band, outdoor grill going all day, a rowboat icing down the beer as it floats on the Leland River. Make it a weekend at the newly renovated Falling Waters Lodge, opening this month, or catch Manitou Island Transit’s Mishe-Mokwa ferry to South Manitou as it launches Memorial Day weekend.

Photo by Anjanette Merriweather

Catch a Flick at the Drive-In

Nothing says season opener of summer-like Honor’s chance to catch the family-friendly double feature at The Cherry Bowl Drive-in. Pre-movie, make time for onsite mini-golf and taking in the cartoons that feature dancing hot dogs. Don’t forget to grab a bucket of popcorn topped with real butter made in the original 1953 popper. Get dessert first at another icon, The Cherry Hut, opening May 27 and celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The restaurant’s famous cherry pies were first made as a way for the Kraker family to use fresh cherries from their orchard and are now a summer staple. You’ll be out late, so stay at another Benzie County icon, (circa 1930s) Chimney Corners, known for breezy porches and laid-back vintage charm.

Photo by MyNorth Staff

Help Launch the Badger

The entire town, or so it seems, lines the streets of Ludington when the SS Badger sets sail for the season on May 12 and a fire department boat sprays it with a dramatic, boat christening-style bath. Even first-time sailors on this four-hour Lake Michigan ferry between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wisconsin, will find it hard to resist joining Badger Bingo (with prizes!), or catching an on-board movie. Look for themed shoreline sails, too, that cruise Ludington’s coast with live entertainment.

Here are the details from this year’s event- don’t forget to put it on your calendar for 2023! 

Photo by Steve Begnoche, American Coot Photography

Kim Schneider is a long-time travel writer specializing in Michigan adventures, food and wine. The Midwest Travel Journalist Association has named her Mark Twain Travel Writer of the Year, and she’s the author of “100 Things to Do in Traverse City Before You Die.”

Photo(s) by Mackinac Island Tourism