Producing 75% of the country’s tart cherry crop, Michigan long ago added cherries to its list — think Coney Island hot dogs and Detroit-style pizza — of must-try foods. Every summer, Traverse City reminds the country of its state’s top cherry status with the National Cherry Festival.
The National Cherry Festival grew its roots a century ago, when cherry farmers began to throw annual “blessing of the blossom” ceremonies to aid the rapidly developing cherry production industry. Since then, the festival has evolved into a week-long spectacle hosting nearly half a million people.
Get ready to eat, breathe, drink and sleep cherries here. Cherry-printed fanny packs and baby onesies are for sale. Cherries are juiced, dried, pied and wined to create every flavored food you can think of. You can inhale pastries at the cherry pie eating competition, do some shopping at the cherry market or try your hand at spitting pits. (The spitting record is 95 feet, in case you were wondering.) Dozens of farms across the peninsula offer cherry picking. Determine how committed you are to the cherry bit, and select accordingly.
There are, however, plenty of activities for the less-than cherry enthusiasts. There will be food vendors offering non-fruity items like fries or turkey legs, and the festival will have an adjacent amusement park with rides, a Ferris Wheel and carnival games. Yoga sessions, pickleball tournaments and Zumba lessons let you take advantage of Michigan in July, one of the few times of the year temperatures rise above freezing. The National Cherry Festival is family-friendly too. Drop your kids off at the teddy bear tea party or a movie matinee before heading to the Bayside Music Stage to watch Flo Rida perform live.
- 500,000 people attend.
- Tickets are free, although some activities require registration and/or a fee.
- The festival is open to all ages, although parents or guardians are recommended for concert-goers under 16.
- Check out Fifty Grande’s guide to Michigan here.