Head to a myriad of events all in celebration of the delicious cherry. Runners can enjoy the challenge of a race and the beauty of the cherry orchard as they compete in the National Cherry Festival Race. Join a group of Zumba enthusiasts and dance to get hyped for the week. Or, if you are more into serenity, take part in a yoga class by the bay.
This unique and widely varied festival has goings-on in several different locations. Like the Zumba and yoga, golfing is enjoyed off-site as is a fashion show featuring the festival queen and her court. Experience much of the festival in one location and then explore the other venues day by day. This event is a week of fun and learning in Traverse City, Michigan.
Music stages are set up and ready for entertainers to take the floor and please the crowd. A Cherry Idol event sees singers compete for the title of top singer. The midway will thrill the younger set and an arts and crafts fair highlights the talents of creators from all over the midwest. Airshow aerial demonstrations, a Nasa exhibit, and even an adult cherry spitting contest round out the entertainment.
The majority of the events held during the National Cherry Festival are free, including the exciting air shows. See www.cherryfestival.org to find out which categories of fun interest you. Tickets are required for some of the festival gatherings and goings-on such as the very cherry pancake breakfast (tickets cost up to $10). Race entrance fees can range up to $80, and concert performances vary between $20 and $150.
US Route 31 runs north and south and will get you to your destination along with the input of coordinates on your GPS. If you stay on this major route, you will travel along Grand Traverse Bay, a bay in Lake Michigan, where you will see beautiful cherry orchards and grapevines that supply local wineries. Keep in mind that the National Cherry Festival offers events in a few places and is somewhat centralized to Open Space Park in Traverse City.
Having a convenient place to park downtown will depend on the size of your rig. It is recommended to contact Traverse City Parking Services to find out more. There are parking garages and street spots; finding out ahead of time, the best place to park is ideal so that you are informed about parking garage clearances and outdoor spot sizes. There is valet parking for those arriving by bicycle, a fun and healthy way to attend.
Bay Area Transportation Authority has an informative website that allows for quick and easy planning of your route into the festival area. Remember, there are a few places in town that will be hosting events. Hop on the bus for a stress-free form of transportation from venue to venue. There is a free shuttle to the National Cherry Festival from certain stops so check the festival website for specifics.
With the National Cherry Festival taking place at Open Space Park downtown, there are no camping options available on location. However, within minutes of Traverse City, there are options sure to please both the kids and the adults. The proximity to the events will allow for easy commuting from the campground to town.
Outdoor lovers will be in their element at any number of campgrounds near the city. Hiking, wildlife watching, swimming, and paddling are just a few of the activities that you can take part in as you camp near the festival. This beautiful area boasts wide open spaces with views that allow an appreciation of nature. Most offer full hookup; some have only electricity but do have washrooms and showers on site. They all offer peace and tranquility, which will be welcomed after a busy day in town.
The festival is wheelchair, stroller, and wagon friendly since the venue is so spread out. Wear the comfiest of shoes and consider bringing a second pair in case your feet need a change of support. From the bay to the grandstand, to watching a marching band in the parade, the willingness to move is key. For grandstand events, mention when you purchase your ticket that you will use a wheelchair and they will assign you accessible seating.
Pack your clothing with versatility in mind. A sunny festival day will call for shorts and a t-shirt while a rainy one will bring the need for billy boots and a jacket. A hat is a must in either case. For the campground, easily washed attire will permit the kids to get as dirty as they want while searching for bugs and collecting rocks.
The music grandstand performances have a few restrictions as this is an organized seating venue. With general admission, though, you can bring along a chair. Rain gear is suggested (umbrellas cannot be brought into the events), as is sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. You can tote a clear plastic bag or a small purse. Expect your bag to be checked. Coolers and outside food and drink are not allowed, but you can bring a factory sealed water bottle. Cell phones are permitted, and you can use the camera; however, no outside cameras or recording devices can be brought into the festival.
Sunscreen and bug spray are a packing list must. Apply both often and remind the kiddos to take a break in the shade to drink water and rest. If you are taking part in events like Zumba or volleyball, refill your water bottle often and don’t overdo the activity if the temperature is hot. Service animals are welcomed to attend. Take care with their paws on any paved areas and take a seat with them in the shade as much as possible.
With the wide open spaces of the campground, campfire cooking is a great option as long as there are no fire hazard restrictions. Pack the portable barbecue and camp stove just in case and plan on an easy menu of burgers, hot dogs, and sausages. Quinoa and couscous round out the main course, and a green salad will top off the dish. Make sure that the RV has plenty of water and propane for cooking and cleanup.
After the parade or car show, head to a local restaurant for Asian food, Mexican tacos, or a hearty dish of Italian pasta. Patronize a food truck and try a unique and fun way to sample food. Traverse City has a blend of tastes sure to please the palate of every family member. For dessert, head to a cherry u-pick for fresh and delectable fruit.
The trip won’t be complete without buying some National Cherry Festival merchandise. Clothing, cherry designed Christmas ornaments, parade float products, and cherry art are just a few of the goods that can be purchased. Local vendors and food stalls will be in abundance, too. Support the hard work of the local people and take home a very special souvenir.
Volunteers work hard to organize the event and to make sure that it is a happy and safe place for everyone. You cannot bring alcohol into any of the venues, and photo ID must be presented if purchasing an alcoholic drink at the festival. Festival staff welcomes guests to report questionable behavior.
As with any outdoor venue, preparing for the weather is key to an enjoyable time. A little rain blowing in off the bay won’t stop the party if you are dressed for the occasion. The National Cherry Festival takes place rain or shine, so whether it’s rain gear or a sun hat, enjoy the day.
A well-stocked RV makes room for a full medicine cabinet and a portable first aid kit to soothe the inevitable bumps and bruises certain to occur. Top the packing list with needed medications, band-aids, antibiotic ointment, and peroxide. Avoid heatstroke at this large venue by stopping in a store if need be to take advantage of the air conditioning.