National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Michigan


Northern Michigan is the world’s leading producer of Montmorency tart cherries, growing 70 percent of the United States’ supply. Situated on Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City, Michigan, known as the Cherry Capital of the World, presents the National Cherry Festival.

You’ll find sweet and fresh Michigan cherries in season from late June through August, while Montmorency tart cherries come in various forms — dried, canned, frozen, or juice. Tart cherries are great for baking in pies and cookies. In dried form, we often use them as salad toppers and add a cherry vinaigrette to intensify the cherry flavor. And, of course, sweet and fresh cherries are perfect for eating as a snack. Growing up, my mom regularly baked cherry pies, and it is still difficult to turn down a slice when it’s on the menu.

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What Is the National Cherry Festival?

The National Cherry Festival began as an informal “blessing of the blossoms” in 1910 when cherry growers held spring festivities in May to celebrate the beautiful blossoms. On May 22, 1925, they celebrated the first “Blessing of the Blossoms Festival.” It was a partnership between the cherry farmers and Traverse City businesses, where they promoted the growing cherry business. They also crowned the first Cherry Queen that year, a tradition that continues today.

The following year, 1926, a Traverse City bakery created a cherry pie 3 feet in diameter that contained more than 5,000 cherries. They presented it to the then-President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge.

Three years later, the festival continued to grow, and in 1930, it became a 3-day event, where President Herbert Hoover celebrated the opening-day festivities.

In 1931, the Michigan state legislature voted to make the celebration the National Cherry Festival. Seven United States Navy Great Lakes training ships celebrated in Traverse City. In 1964, the festival became a 5-day event, and the week of July 6th became National Cherry Festival Week. Four years later, it became a week-long festival. Today, thousands of people from all over the world attend to celebrate the cherry harvest.

In 1987, Traverse City baked a world-record-setting pie. It weighed 28,350 pounds and measured 17 feet and 6 inches in diameter.

Traverse City Cherries Photo Credit: Traverse City Tourism
Traverse City Cherries Photo Credit: Traverse City Tourism

Where is the National Cherry Festival?

The festival takes place in Traverse City, Michigan. The main festival grounds are on the West Grand Traverse Bay in the Open Space Park near West Grandview Parkway and Union Street. In this area, you’ll find Grand Traverse Cherry Pie, a food court with booths from local restaurants, a Cherry Farmers’ Market, Gibbyville for snacks, and Cherry Festival swag at the souvenir tent.

You’ll also find necessities like the First Aid Tent, Lost and Found, and the Baby Comfort Station.

When is the National Cherry Festival?

Every year, at the beginning of July, 500,000 visitors descend on Traverse City for the 8-day National Cherry Festival.

What Does the Festival Offer for Visitors?

This family-friendly festival features over 100 festival events that occur throughout town.

With eight days of food fun, foodies will have a great time—kick off with a cherry pancake breakfast to start the day. Then, of course, they have cherry pie-eating contests for adults and kids. Finally, they have a Cherry Farm Market offering the bounty of local cherry farmers. While you’re there, try Grand Traverse Pie Company’s Cherry Crumb pie. Another delicious option with Michigan flair is Vernors Cherry Pie, where the ginger ale adds a bit of a zip to the dessert.

While at the National Cherry Festival, explore the local roadside farm stands in the area.

Piper’s Pro Planning: Bring cash when shopping at these stands, as many don’t take credit cards.

They offer other non-cherry, food-related activities, like the beer tent and “Blues, Brews, and BBQ.”

In addition to all the food and drink events, you’ll find the find parades, a family sand sculpture contest, fireworks, a classic car show, orchard tours, a series of ticketed concerts featuring nationally known performers, and even a pickleball tournament. Other popular events include the air show and the Meijer Festival of Races.

For other things to do while you’re in the area, check out these articles:

Blue Angels Air Show
Blue Angels Air Show

Air Show

In addition to the foodie activities, the air show is one of the most popular events. In 1978, five T-38 fighter jets from the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds entertained the crowds for the first time. In 2024, the United States Navy’s Blue Angels will perform. Typically, the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels alternate years, but occasionally, other groups come together to provide the air show event. The skill level of these pilots is remarkable. The event is free, and you can view the show from the beaches of West Grand Traverse Bay.

Piper’s Pro Planning: Hotel Indigo’s swank rooftop offers an opportunity to view the air show, but you must purchase tickets beforehand. You’ll also find other opportunities to watch the air show during lunch. But, again, buy tickets online before the event.

Meijer Festival of Races

As the sun rises on the final day of the 98th National Cherry Festival, Saturday, July 6th, 2024, thousands prepare to run one of four races that make up the Meijer Festival of Races. You can participate in a 5K, 10K, 15K, or a Half Marathon are the selection of races that start on the east side of Traverse City and end on Front Street, in the heart of Downtown Traverse City, as thousands more in the streets to cheer the runners on.

How Much Does the National Cherry Festival Cost?

This festival features over 100 family-friendly activities, and 85 percent are free. So, the event is affordable. Activities occur throughout town. Check here for a schedule of events and to buy tickets where necessary.

Where do I park for the National Cherry Festival?

Traffic in Traverse City can be challenging During the summer, even without the festival. Traffic often backs up along the central north-to-south route, U.S.-31. You’ll want to avoid all that during the festival and take a shuttle to the various events. The shuttle runs about every 15 minutes during the festival. The primary pick-up areas for the shuttle are on the west side, the Meijer parking lot next to the car wash, Northwestern Michigan College’s Cherry Lot for the central region, and Woodland Creek on the east side. Check out the shuttle route here.

Where can I take a cherry orchard tour?

During the festival, the Michigan Cherry Committee sponsors orchard tours of Michigan State University’s 137-acre research farm in the heart of “Cherry Country.” You’ll find educational exhibits, samples of cherry products, and farm tours. These tours are a great family-friendly activity with cherry fun for the kids. You’ll find a 4-H petting zoo and a 4H kids’ activity. They won’t have the petting zoo on July 4th.

Piper’s Pro Planning: Tour shuttles leave from

  • BATA Hall Street Transfer Station at 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
  • MSU Orchard: 10 a.m., 11 a.m., and Noon

Are dogs allowed at the National Cherry Festival?

While the festival has pet-friendly events, like the Ultimate Air Dogs and the Kids Pet Show, only service animals are generally allowed.

The area offers many farm-to-table dining experiences. The Leelanau Peninsula and Mission Point Peninsula both feature outstanding opportunities for wine tastings. You’ll find several wine trails in the area as well.

Getting There

American, Allegiant, Delta, and United Airlines service the Cherry Capital Airport (TVC). The best way to get around is to rent a car when you fly in.

Pin this to your favorite festival Pinterest Board!

Pinterest Graphic for the National Cherry Festival
Amy Piper
Author: Amy Piper

While Piper is a lifelong Michigander, she’s had adventures worldwide. Bomb-sniffing dogs chased her in the middle of the night in Bogota (working late), gate agents refused her boarding to Paraguay (wrong visa), and US Marshals announced her seat number on a plane while looking for a murder suspect (she’d traded seats). It’s always an adventure! She even finds exciting activities in her home state of Michigan, where she lives in Lansing with her husband, Ross Dingman, her daughter, Alexis, and two granddaughters.


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  1. Sonia

    The cherry festivals sounds like a fun event. The orchard tour sounds neat–any chance that let you pick your own cherries too?

    • Amy Piper

      There are some U-pick orchards in the area.

  2. Michael Taylor

    This sounds like so much fun! And I’m impressed that it got started so long ago. Imagine making the three-foot pie to give to the president. I wonder what he did with it?

  3. alexa meisler

    I’ve got to plan to come for this one year. I LOVE cherries and those blossoms are gorgeous!

    • Amy Piper

      I’ll be there around the same time, let me know when you’re in town and perhaps we can have coffee.


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Welcome to Follow the Piper! Discover interesting destinations, and practical planning tips for packing more travel into your everyday life.

Our founder and author, Amy Piper, is a freelance travel writer, blogger, photographer, and author specializing in traveling through a food lens and multi-generational travel. She is a native Michigander who travels through the lens of a food lover and has been to 41 countries and 45 states.


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