Brian Jewell

State Spotlight: Michigan

Spring festivities taking place in different Michigan destinations offer a chance to experience the best of Michigan communities large and small.


Brian Jewell
Published January 16, 2014

After months of snow, ice and wintry weather, Michigan residents are always excited to see the beginning of spring and celebrate the season with a variety of special events around the state.

For groups looking to explore the Wolverine State, spring makes an ideal time of year for a visit, and the festivities taking place in different destinations offer a chance to experience the best of Michigan communities large and small.

In Holland, the Tulip Time festival is one of the best known annual floral festivals in the country. The Alma Highland Festival and Games attracts thousands of people from across the United States and Canada to celebrate Scottish heritage. The National Morel Mushroom Festival in Boyne City highlights some of the world’s most prized food items.

Michigan’s spring celebrations go beyond just seasonally themed events, too. In Frankenmuth, May brings the World Expo of Beer. And the Ann Arbor Film Festival in March highlights great independent films from all over the world.


Tulip Time

As its name would imply, the city of Holland enjoys a thriving Dutch heritage complete with a windmill park and a wooden shoe factory. The Dutch culture comes out in full force during Tulip Time, an annual festival that takes place over eight days in early May.

The Tulip Time festival is a multigenerational event that has been celebrated for more than 80 years. It features three parades, Dutch dance performances, music, concerts and more. Visiting groups can participate in special Dutch-themed meals or take trolley tours of the town.

The highlight of the trolley tours, as well as the entire festival, is the 6 million tulips that bloom throughout Holland in the spring. Visitors will find them in places such as Window on the Waterfront and Centennial Park, at tourist attractions and in sidewalk planters. Perhaps the most impressive displays are the Tulip Lanes, where six miles of tulip beds line the streets of downtown.


Alma Highland Festival and Games

The proud heritage of Scotland has taken up residence in communities across the United States and Canada, and each year thousands of people from both countries gather in Alma, Michigan, to celebrate that shared culture.

The Alma Highland Festival and Games will celebrate its 47th anniversary when it takes place May 24 and 25. Dozens of events happen during those two days, each highlighting a specific area of Scottish mountain culture. The Great Lakes Highland Dance Championship features some of the best Highland-style dancing teams in North America, and the Heavyweight Professional Athletic Competition is a contest in the famous Scottish caber-tossing event.

There’s plenty of music and entertainment during the festival, too, including the U.S. Open Pipe Band Championship, which features bands comprising dozens of bagpipers. A Saturday morning parade has pipe bands, floral floats and plenty of Scottish pageantry. During the evenings, professional Highlands musicians and entertainers perform.


National Morel Mushroom Festival

In the culinary world, morel mushrooms are highly coveted for their distinctive flavor and texture. In Boyne City in northern Michigan, locals celebrate a springtime harvest of this delicacy with the National Morel Mushroom Festival.

Always held the weekend after Mother’s Day, this festival has been a mainstay in Boyne City for more than 50 years. Mushroom experts lead visitors on guided hikes through the woods surrounding the city, hunting for wild morels as they go. There’s also a competitive hunt for those who think they have an eye to spot the treasured fungus.

Regardless of whether you find any on your own, you can taste plenty of morels and mushroom-inspired dishes during the gourmet Taste of Morels event, which features dozens of culinary applications of the mushrooms. The festival also includes wine tastings, gourmet wine dinners, a beer tent and carnival rides.


World Expo of Beer

Frankenmuth bills itself as Michigan’s Little Bavaria, which means that visitors can find plenty of German culture and cuisine in town. For two days in May, they’ll also find plenty of German-inspired brew as Frankenmuth celebrates the World Expo of Beer.

The expo, which takes place May 16 and 17 this year, is the state’s largest beer sampling event and features close to 300 beers from around the world. Each attendee gets a souvenir beer-sampling mug and entrance to Frankenmuth’s Heritage Park, where representatives from 50 breweries on five continents hand out samples of their finest beers.

If your group includes beer aficionados, you can include a “beer school” workshop in your itinerary. Past events have included Beer Schnobs classes and Very Important Beers sampling sessions. Even if your travelers aren’t big drinkers, they can enjoy the food, crafts, souvenirs and other attractions available at the expo.


Ann Arbor Film Festival

Groups traveling through Ann Arbor in late March have the opportunity to rub elbows with international filmmakers during the annual Ann Arbor Film Festival.

Though other national events have gone on to garner more fame, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, established in 1963, is the longest-running independent and experimental film festival in North America. The festival is recognized internationally as a premier forum for independent filmmakers, attracting more than 2,500 submissions from around the world. A jury selects around 180 films from more than 20 countries to show during the festival’s six-day run.

Attendees can see films from all genres, including experimental, animation, documentary, fiction and performance works. In addition to the film screenings, festival participants can take part in accompanying cultural events, including filmmaker retrospectives, gallery installations, panel discussions and artist programs.

The 52nd annual festival will take place March 25-30.