Springtime in Michigan is that glorious season when the gray of winter melts away and blue skies, green grass, and colorful flowers start to return to the state. As temperatures reach the 50s, you’ll see locals enthusiastically sporting shorts and flip flops (even when it’s maybe still a little too chilly) and flocking to local parks to enjoy the outdoors. There’s a lot going on as the state reawakens and warms up. Here are some of my favorite things to do in spring.
Tulip Time Festival
The small town of Holland on the western side of Michigan, is famous for its Dutch heritage. For two weekends each May, the city comes to life for the Tulip Time festival celebrating its heritage and famous tulips. Events and attractions can be found throughout the city and include everything from parades and Dutch folk dances to concerts and carnival rides. Food is of course plentiful. You can even tour a working Dutch-style windmill at Windmill Island. Amidst all of the fun, don’t forget to take time to enjoy the gorgeous colorful tulip gardens the festival is named for. It’s one of my favorite spring activities in Michigan. More information about the festival can be found here.
Tigers Opening Day
There’s something magical about the start of a new baseball season. The Tigers haven’t won the World Series since 1984, but that doesn’t stop their faithful fans from throwing a party before the first game of the season each year. Many co-workers and classmates will be suspiciously absent from offices and schools on Opening Day as playing hooky to attend the game is a time-honored spring tradition for many in the Detroit area. Combined with the gradually warming weather and lengthening days, the celebration brings a sense of reawakening to the city after a long, cold winter. The return of the ‘boys of summer’ is a sure sign of spring in Detroit.
Bars around Comerica Park pull out all of the stops with live music, parties, and special barbeques. Don’t have a ticket to the game? You can still join in the fun. Block parties sponsored by bars and local radio stations can be found all over the area, and you can usually find a way to watch the game’s broadcast.
Mackinac Island Lilac Festival
Mackinac Island is a small island located between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas in Lake Huron. It’s one of the state’s most popular destinations and allows visitors to step back in time to an age without motorized vehicles. For ten days in early June each year, the island celebrates its iconic lilac trees that bloom during the spring.
Highlights of the festival include a 10k run/walk as well as a kids’ race, live concerts, a parade, and wine tastings. While you’re there, you can enjoy a carriage tour or explore the island on your own via bike. Don’t forget to pick up some of the island’s famous fudge while you’re there. Learn more about the Lilac Festival here.
Marche du Nain Rouge
The Nain Rouge, French for “red dwarf,” is a mythical creature that has been mentioned in Detroit lore for centuries. Reported sightings of the Nain Rouge typically precede disasters like the 19th century fire that destroyed much of the city, the surrender during the War of 1812 that temporarily handed the city over to the British army, and the 1967 riots.
In recent years, Detroit residents have banded together to banish the Nain Rouge from the city to prevent disasters from striking in the upcoming year. The parade happens on a weekend day in early spring Participants often dress in costumes and masks – some in a Mardi Gras style – so that if the Nain Rouge returns, he won’t be able to recognize them to take revenge.
There is a parade down Cass Avenue in the Midtown Detroit area, which is followed by a ceremonial burning of the dwarf in effigy. And who knows? Maybe it’s working. Since the first Marche du Nain Rouge back in in 2010, Detroit has seen steady improvements, a thriving restaurant scene, and a rebounding population. It’s fun. It’s quirky. It’s unlike anything else. Check the event schedule here.
Eastern Market Flower Day
If couldn’t make it to Tulip Time – or just need more flowers in your life – make sure to attend Flower Day at Eastern Market, a large public market in Detroit. The area is a great place to visit year round, but it especially shines on Flower Day in the spring. Every year on the Sunday after Mother’s Day, Eastern Market is packed with flowers for shoppers to purchase. Dating back to the 1960s, this annual tradition allows buyers to interact with the growers for tips to keep them blooming as they make their purchases. Food trucks and live music are also typically present during the event. More info here.
Visit a botanical garden
For even more flowers, check out one of the state’s botanical gardens. During spring, the flowers will be in full bloom and you’ll be able to enjoy the gorgeous colors on display. Try the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids or the Dow Gardens in Midland for your best options.
Springtime at the Detroit Zoo
The Detroit Zoo, located in the suburb of Royal Oak, offers great animal experiences year-round. However, it really shines during the spring, as I’ve found that the animals are at their most active during this time of year. While many of the animals prefer to rest during the hot summer days, cooler spring weather offers the perfect opportunity to see them actively exploring their habitats.
The Detroit zoo offers several events and lectures throughout the spring as well. There is an Earth Day celebration called GreenFest, which features crafts, zookeeper talks, and a community art project. Around Easter, kids will enjoy the Bunnyville event that includes egg hunts around the zoo as well as a chance to meet the Easter Bunny himself. Adults will also enjoy the Zoo Brew event in May, which gives guests over the age of 21 access to the zoo in the evening, as well as live music and samples of beer from some of Michigan’s best breweries.