Michigan’s Festival Fun | Fall & Winter

Smitten With The Mitten Michigan Ornament
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One of the grandest privileges for Michiganders is the distinct, Pure Michigan beauty of four, very diverse seasons! If you’re a lover of all seasons, or the “cold blooded” type looking for adventure that only the fall and winter seasons can offer, you’ll want to add these festivals to your bucket list!

And if you find you’re a snowbird or more of a fair-weather person (like me), you may want to jump on over to our highlight of spring and summer festivals. But before you go … let me just add, these amazing festivities may cause a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) and may be just the thing to draw you from hibernation; I know I am certainly tempted to bundle up and head out!


GRAND RAPIDS PROJECT 1 BY ART PRIZE

Anila Quayyum Agha's winning Art Prize exhibition, "Intersections"
📷 Photo Source: Hrag Vartanian for Hyperallergic.com

Pure Michigan, pure art. What is art? If art is subjective, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, than it’s no surprise that Grand Rapid’s Art Prize festival is “the most attended public art event on the planet.”1 Art Prize draws upwards of “3 million visitors”2 to view masterpieces on display throughout the city from thousands of artists in all sorts of mediums who exhibit their creations in vie of “cash prizes [awarded] by public and juried votes”1.

2018 marked the end of the decade-long, annual run for Grand Rapid’s Art Prize festival which has transitioned to a biennial celebration to make way for a new project — Project 1 to be more descript!😊

“Project 1 more closely resembles a traditional art exhibit – though the size and scale of it is anything but traditional. Project 1 organizers work with internationally renowned curators to select a handful of artists that devote significant time and resources to creating bold, expansive outdoor exhibits that transform the Grand Rapids landscape.” according to experiencegr.com.

With an already highly-esteemed reputation among Michigan’s art culture, you won’t want to miss history in the making and the chance at making your own mural of memories with the debut of Project 1 by Art Prize in Grand Rapids this fall!

And if Art Prize is just as new to you as Project 1 will be to all of us, here is a 10-Year Retrospective on the world-class art festival (which will return in 2020) from ArtPrize:

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BIG COUNTRY FEST

Hang up the lederhosen and kick out the boots; honky-tonk fun fills Michigan’s Little Bavaria during Frankenmuth’s Big Country Fest! Live music, free line-dancing lessons, mechanical bull riding, games and a food truck rally round out this weekend of fun that will have you out “’til the cows come home!” $5 entry fee into the Harvey Kern Pavillion. Check out Frankenmuth’s Big Country Fest guide.

Frankenmuth's Big Country Fest Fun
📷 Photo Source: BigCountryFest.com
Bronner's USA and "Country Living" themes ornaments.
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Pumpkin and Pumpkin Loaf Pie
Featured: Bronner’s Pumpkin Loaf Pie Recipe

HARVEST FESTIVALS

Apple orchards, cider, donuts, and bonfires … pumpkins, pumpkin squares and pumpkin-spice-everything … hay rides, crisp air, and crunchy leaves … hot cocoa bars, cozy sweaters and so. much. MORE! 🎶These are a few of our favorite things🎶 … that have us fall-ing head over heels — all over Michigan!

How do we know? By the abundance of Autumn festivals to choose from that celebrate Michigan’s delicious, fall harvest and the kaleidoscope of leaves that have us flocking “up North”!

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Many apple-themed festivals actually fall at the end of summer on the calendar, like Michigan’s premier craft cider and beer festival “Cider Dayze” at Blake’s Orchard & Cider Mill in Armada, MI. (The best ways to enjoy that apple harvest?! If you ask us, it’s a batch of Mother’s warm, crockpot applesauce or Apple Coffee Cake!)

Here are just a few (of many) of fall’s pumpkin festival options:

ZEELAND PUMPKIN FESTIVAL

Located about 15 minutes North-East of Holland, on Michigan’s West coast, Zeeland’s 2-day “Pumpkinfest” is packed full of fun events the whole family can enjoy. “Pick” from activities like a pumpkin seed spitting contest, pumpkin rolling, a pumpkin pie eating contest or the pumpkinfest 5K run/walk! If that’s a little pumpkin overkill for you, you may enjoy the pet costume contest, parade, treasure hunt, kid’s tractor pull or senior bingo. Enjoy a free glass of cider and a pumpkin donut (to the first 1,000 people). See the Zeeland Pumpkinfest events page for a full listing!

Zeeland Pumpkin Festival in MI
📷 Photo Source: Holland Sentinel
Hudsonville Urban Hay Day harvest festival in Michigan
📷 Photo Source: Hudsonville Urban HayDay

HUDSONVILLE URBAN HAY DAY

You’re sure to have a heyday at Hudsonville’s Urban HayDay! This harvest festival may only be a few short hours, but with so many opportunities for free or affordable family fun, finding an activity will be WAY easier than finding a needle in a haystack! Located about 20 minutes South-West of Grand Rapids, Urban HayDay features many kid-centric events like the hay-bale tower to climb, a scavenger hunt, coloring wall, corn feed play box (after all it’s more seasonally appropriate than sand!), 2 bounce houses, a “kiddo corral” filled with games, mini train, mechanical bull or pony rides, a kid’s tractor pull, critter petting farm or $3 laser tag games! Adults may also enjoy $1 pumpkin carving, eating contests, a corn hole tournament, great garden games, live music, and the food truck rally! And the whole family is sure to love the free hay rides and PUMPKIN DROP! Check out the Hudsonville Urban HayDay events page for full details.

BESSEMER PUMPKINFEST

If you’re looking to get as far away as possible to take in all the fall color without leaf-ing MI behind, Bessemer is about as far as you can go! Near the Western border of Michigan’s Upper Penninsula, Bessemer’s Pumpkinfest has been running strong for over 40 years. Enjoy family fun and exploration with their pumpkin geo-cache, free carnival rides or their new Zombie Crawl! With live entertainment, face-painting, pumpkin bowling, a classic car and tractor show and more, you’ll want to check out Bessemer’s Pumpkinfest event page for all the details. Not to mention Bessemer is just a pumpkin roll away (16 minutes) from Copper Peak where you can experience the only ski flying hill outside of Europe. “The Copper Peak Adventure Ride lets visitors rise to the same heights as the athletes who have flown down the hill in years past. After an 800-foot chair lift ride to the crest of the hill — a 360-foot copper-bearing volcanic outcrop — visitors take a thrilling 18-story elevator to the main observation deck. From there, the truly fearless can walk an additional 8 stories to the top starting gate.

Once at the top, visitors can enjoy the highest, most awe-inspiring, unobstructed vista in the Midwest overlooking over 2500 square miles, 3 states and even Canada on a clear day. ” as excerpted from Copper Peak’s site.

The UP's Bessemer Pumpkinfest
📷 Photo Source: (Left) Michigan RV & Campgrounds; (Right) Copper Peak
Frankenmuth Scarecrow Fest at the River Place Shops
Photo Source: (Top Left) Bavarian Inn; (Top Right) Frankenmuth; (Bottom) Frankenmuth River Place Shops

FRANKENMUTH SCARECROW FEST

  • October 19-20, 2019 (dog’s weekend)
  • October 26-27, 2019 (kid’s weekend)
  • Scarecrow Fest

Frankenmuth has it’s own version of spook-tacular fall fun for the entire family – including Fido! Each October, during Scarecrow Fest, the Frankenmuth River Place hosts activities, events and entertainment like the “Rock & Roll K-9’s Show”, a pet costume contest, trick-or-treating for the kiddos and doggos, face painting, pumpkin painting, pumpkin bowling, pie eating, pit spit contests, inflatables, arts and crafts and let’s not forget the opportunity to catapult your very own pumpkin on the trebuchet! It’s sure to be smashing fun!

Local businesses throughout town join in on the celebration in a scarecrow decorating contest for you to vote on!


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CHRISTMAS AT CROSSROADS HOLIDAY MAGIC

Christmas time has a magic all its own, but there’s just something extra special when you visit a place like Crossroads Village during the holiday season! It’s more than the lights or even the enchantment of the Baldwin Steam Locomotive whistling down Huckleberry Railroad — although they certainly are part of the wonder! It’s the feeling of stepping back to a simpler time, enjoying authentically dressed villagers and craftsman at work. It’s the smell of roasting chestnuts and music from the Colwell Opera House. Genesee County’s Crossroads Village “creates an impression of a ‘living village’ with the sights, sounds, smells, and activities characteristic of that period [1860-1880].  In addition to preserving buildings and artifacts, the Village serves as a place to demonstrate the crafts of the past.”3

Christmas At Crossroads Village in Genesee County
📷 Photo Source: (Top Left) My City Magazine; (Bottom Left) Crossroads Village; (Top and Bottom Right) My Fenton Times
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Every year, since 1984, Genesee County’s Crossroads Village has transformed the tiny town with 1 million lights and hundreds of displays to de-light the generations!

One tip Crossroads Village highly recommends is to purchase Huckleberry Railroad train tickets early as they often sell out in advance; tickets are sold year round online.

Christmas at Crossroads also offers special “drive-through” only nights at $5 a vehicle to enjoy the Christmas lights from the warmth of your car! Looking for holiday tunes? Let Bronner’s Spotify playlist be your companion.

Holiday Nights at Crossroads Village is sure to have you saying, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,”!


Tip Up Town USA Winterfest features ice fishing, snowmobile drags, carnival rides and a polar bear dip.
📷 Photo Source: Joe Ross on Flickr

TIP⭐UP TOWN USA

If you’re an ice fisher you already know … but if you’re like me and have been hiding in a burrow of blankets, you may just wonder how one of Michigan’s LARGEST winter festivals got its name?! A “tip up” is a device used in ice fishing in which a wire attached to the rod is tripped, “tipping up” to raise a signal flag when a fish takes the bait; but don’t worry, you don’t have to be an ice-fisher for this festival to be worth the visit!

Dating all the way back to 1951, Tip Up Town USA is hosted on Houghton Lake – Michigan’s largest inland lake and has grown from an ice fishing competition to winter fun for the whole family! Tip Up Town’s festivities include a parade, pony rides, petting zoo, live reindeer exhibit, entertainment, carnival rides and an ice slide. For those who have a bit of an adrenaline rush – there are snowmobile drags, helicopter rides and a “Polar Bear dive” if you care to take a dip!

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There’s no doubt in our mind after seeing this highlight of Tip⭐Up Town on Under The Radar Michigan with Tom Daldin that every one who’s experienced this winter wonder-fest would give Tip Up a thumbs up!

Bronner's Christmas Ornaments Celebrate Michigan's Largest Winter Festival, Tip Up Town USA.
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Zehnder's Snowfest in Fraknnemuth, MI features World Class snow and Ice sculptures.
📷 Photo Credit: Zehnder’s

ZEHNDER’S SNOWFEST

You’ll want to carve time out for Frankenmuth’s biggest winter festival, Zehnder’s Snowfest! “But MI weather can be so unpredictable” you might find yourself thinking … that’s OK, there’s always snow at Zehnder’s Snowfest and they’re building more than snowmen, Anna!❄️ Larger-than-life sculptures and intricate ice-carvings beyond your wildest dreams have been delighting guests for the past 27 years!

Zehnder’s Snowfest features “World Class Double and Single Block Snow Sculpting Championships, State of Michigan Snow Sculpting Competition, High School Snow Sculpting Competition, 100-Block Ice Carving Exhibition, U.S. National Collegiate Ice Carving Competition and much more” according to zehnders.com. Stop in town early to catch snow-sculptors and ice-carvers in action or come on the weekend to view the finished masterpieces! Stop in the warming tent to catch live entertainment, or head to the children’s play area for a petting zoo and $2 (ea.) pony and Carousel rides. A spectacular fireworks show warms up the cool winter sky Saturday night at 6:45.

Snowflake Ornaments from Bronner's Christmas Wonderland
Featured: Blue Snowflake Sparkle Glass Ornament (1172564) $12.99; (Bottom) Assorted Acrylic Snowflake Ornament (1182216) $3.99 (Available in-store or by calling Customer Service)

I’m a bit of a nut for nature – I love taking in the beauty. But I must confess, I’m a “play it safe” kind of girl … adventure is not my middle name unless someone is holding my hand! But this past summer I crossed off a few bucket list items, one of them being the chance to take in the rainbow of beauty from the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore! But it left me hungering for more of Munising – enter Michigan’s Ice Fest:

MICHIGAN ICE FEST

At a first glance this festival may look like it would only appeal to thrill-seekers who are familiar with the world of ice climbing until I found out just how first-time friendly Michigan Ice Fest is in this video by Pure Michigan:

Bronner's Christmas Wonderland offers a variety of old-fashioned, spun glass icicle ornaments
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From equipping you with supplies and educators to taking you out in the field, it was fascinating to learn that Michigan’s Ice Fest has grown in 30 years from 4 guys to almost 1000 participants and is the most unique ice festival in that a lot are first time climbers!

But if you happen to be an adventurer that likes to live life on the icy edge, Michigan Ice Fest has much to offer you as well! Even professionals will tell you Michigan’s UP is a world-class ice climbing destination! Imagine “Lake Superior kicking up, 20 ft waves pounding the rocks and your climbing out of that, it’s pretty exciting and you can’t do that anywhere else in the world. And so, right here in Munising, it’s just an unbelievable place to go ice climbing” said Bill Thompson, festival organizer.

From beginner to advanced, check out the adventure that awaits you in the UP in the courses and clinics lineup for the Michigan Ice Fest.

Perfectly portraying Bill Thompson’s description of the thrill of ice climbing over Lake Superior so you don’t have to imagine – enjoy this 4 minute film from Wanderlust Imagery of highlights from Michigan Ice Fest 2018:

Eben Ice Caves in Marquette, MI
📷 Photo Source: Emily Rose Bennett for Mlive

(And if ice climbing is still not your speed, but you are as entranced by it’s beauty as I am, a 45-minute drive West will take you to Marquette, where you can view the ever popular Eben Ice Caves as Lori first shared in our Small Towns Bring Big Pure Michigan Fun post! Check out some tips for visiting the Eben Ice Caves from Pure Michigan.


1. “Project 1 by ArtPrize.” Experience Grand Rapids 2019 www.experiencegr.com/events/project/

2. “ArtPrize Gets Ready for its Next Decade: Introduces Project 1, Shifts to Biennial Schedule” Art Prize 2019 http://www.artprize.org/blog/artprize-gets-ready-for-next-decade

3. “Village Buildings & Trades” Genesee County Parks 2019 http://geneseecountyparks.org/crossroads-village/attractions/colwell-opera-house/

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