It’s one of the biggest holidays of the year, and Metro Detroit and Michigan are bursting with celebrations this Independence Day.
For a weekend jam-packed with fun, we’ve got fireworks, parades, car shows and concerts. And while most communities will mark the official holiday Friday, a few just can’t wait, and get a jump on things Thursday.
Here’s our list of 50 totally cool ways to make this an Independence Day weekend for the books.
Star-Spangled Fourth on Mackinac Island:
Friday. A historic Fourth can be observed at an authentic Revolutionary War Fort — a real one, not one made out of plastic at a theme park. Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island will host a 38 Gun Salute, soldier demonstrations, dancing, cannon firing and more. There will also be a lush “All American Picnic” at Fort Mackinac catered by the Grand Hotel, a greasy pole climb and sack races at Windermere Point, hosted by the island’s fire department. www.mackinacisland.org/event/fourth-of-july-weekend/
Salute to America at Greenfield Village:
6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. An annual favorite, these Detroit Symphony Orchestra concerts are packed with patriotic opuses and conducted by Robert Bernhardt. Fireworks follow each performance. Events are held rain or shine, and umbrellas, folding chairs and lawn blankets are welcome. $20.50, $12.75 ages 5-12, $60 VIP, $5 parking. 20900 Oakwood, Dearborn. (313) 576-5111.
Clawson 4th of July Celebration: Friday. Clawson is so giddy about the Fourth, the city started celebrating last week, with an ice cream social and band concert. For the actual July 4 celebration, it’s a Yankee Doodle Dandy fantasy come to life, with a 7 a.m. pancake breakfast, a Beautiful Baby contest, a $1,000 Firecracker Mile run, a parade, fireworks, amusement rides and best of all, a water battle between the Clawson and Troy fire departments. Free. Downtown Clawson. www.clawson4thofjuly.org/
Red, White and You Fourth of July Celebration at Keyword Stadium:
5-10 p.m. Sat. The Hamtramck Fire Department was one of two nationwide to win Destination America and USA Weekend Magazine’s Red, White and You contest. The HFD’s winning essay earned a fireworks display and party for the city that includes pony rides, a petting zoo, carnival games, food trucks and commemorative art pieces coordinated with HATCH: A Hamtramck Art Collective. Free. 3201 Roosevelt, Hamtramck. www.hamtramckfirefighters.com
“The Capitol Steps” at Power Center:
5 p.m. Friday. They put the “mock” in “democracy” — and is there anything more American than making fun of politicians? — on both sides, of course. The Steps — some of whom were actually congressional employees — have been skewering the foibles of American politics for 30 years, and they have several troupes traveling the country, sort of like a political, satiric “Jersey Boys.” Their show closes the Ann Arbor Summer Festival. $40-$55. 121 S. Fletcher, Ann Arbor. (734) 764-2538.
Walk the Heritage Trail:
Ongoing. River Raisin National Battlefield. This is the only national battlefield park from the War of 1812, and marks the spot where American forces — a local militia, essentially — were attacked by the British, who had enlisted the help of local Indians. The outcome was not in our favor, but the death of American prisoners in the care of the British led to the cry “Remember the Raisin,” which helped spur the re-taking of the Northwest Territories, including Michigan. Walk the trail and ruminate about the British, French, Indians and Americans who battled over this land. 1403 E. Elm, Monroe. (734) 243-7136. http://www.nps.gov/rira/index.htm
National Cherry Festival in Traverse City:
Saturday-July 12. Started in the 1920s, around half a million people attend this annual summer event. Highlights are an air show Saturday and Sunday, a midway, beer tents, bingo, and cherry pit spit and cherry pie eating contests. Concerts are Collective Soul (Saturday, $15-$35) and Here Come the Mummies (Sunday, $10-$20). Later this week, check out the Bihlman Brothers, Gin Blossoms, George Thorogood, the Under the Sun Tour (with Blues Traveler, Sugar Ray, Uncle Kracker and Smash Mouth), Justin Moore and Tommy James & the Shondells (July 12, $10-$20). Open Space Park, 108 W. Grandview Parkway, Traverse City. www.cherryfestival.org
Fenton Freedom Festival:
Friday. In Fenton, Independenence Day kicks off with a pancake breakfast at the Community Center at 7 a.m., followed by 5K race and a parade at 10 a.m. starting at Rounds Drive and Shiawasee Ave. Also Friday: arts and crafts, a rubber ducky regatta and classic car display. The fest wraps up with fireworks at dusk. Free. Fenton Community and Cultural Center, 150 S. Leroy St., Fenton. (810) 629-5447 or www.cityoffenton.org
13th annual Pie Contest and Auction:
Thursday. Held on the Village Green in Pentwater, a postcard-perfect town on Lake Michigan, the annual pie contest raises money for college scholarships. More than 200 pies were entered last year. A pie-eating contest begins at 2 p.m. Other activities include a raffle, dunk tank, lemonade stand, and hot dog stand. 321 S. Hancock. Fireworks begin at dusk at Charles Mears State Park, 400 W. Lowell., Pentwater. pentwater.org
Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park:
Thursday-Sunday. What’s more American than baseball, hot dogs and fireworks? You can have it all Friday as the Tigers play the Tampa Bay Rays. Game starts at 7:08 p.m.; fireworks follow the game. What’s more, the ballpark is giving out Tigers Stars and Stripes Tumblers to the first 10,000 adults. The Tigers are in town all weekend, with games at 7:08 p.m. Thursday, 4:08 p.m. Saturday and 8 p.m. Sunday. detroit.tigers.mlb.com
Mackinaw City 4th of July: Friday. Lawn games during the day, a performance by the Straits Area Concert Band from 9 p.m. to dusk, leading into what is billed as the largest fireworks display in northern Michigan. Downtown Mackinaw City. www.mackinawcity.com/events/57/15/
Silver Lake Fireworks: Friday. Hang out on the sand dunes in West Michigan all day, check out Little Sable Point Lighthouse (a great spot to watch the sunset), hit the beach and then enjoy a fireworks display over the dunes at dusk. Mears. www.visitsilverlake.com
Ludington’s July 4th Freedom Festival: Friday. Enjoy a grand fireworks display over Lake Michigan at 10:30 p.m. The popular West Michigan event — held since 1874 — caps a two-day celebration that includes a parade (1:45 p.m. along Ludington Avenue) and an arts and craft fair. visitludington.com
Hudson Mills Metropark Fireworks: Thursday. Music begins around 7 p.m. at this small but scenic park along the Huron River northwest of Ann Arbor. Fireworks at dusk. Admission is $10 for cars without an annual Metropark vehicle pass. 8801 N. Territorial Road, Dexter. www.metroparks.com/Hudson-Mills-Metropark
Wolverine Lake Tiki Night and Fireworks: Thursday. Tiki torches illuminate the beach while fireworks light up the sky over this Commerce Township lake. Free. Fireworks begin at dusk. www.wolverinelake.com
Manchester Fireworks Display: Thursday. The 30-minute fireworks display begins at dusk in the Washtenaw County village’s Carr Park, 600 W. Main St., Manchester. www.manchestermi.org
Oakland County Boat Club Fireworks: Thursday. An annual fireworks extravaganza over Sylvan and Otter lakes in Oakland County. Fee for parking at Community Center. Oakland County Boat Club, 2330 Ferndale, Sylvan Lake.
Kids’ Patriotic Pet, Bike & Wagon Parade: 10 a.m. Friday. Brooks Fountain Circle, downtown Marshall. www.marshallmi.org/events
Independence Day Parade in downtown Wyandotte: Friday. Marching bands from across Michigan and Canada parade along Biddle from Mulberry to Pine streets starting at 10 a.m. (734) 324-4502. www.wyandotte.net
Fourth of July Parade in downtown Milford: Friday. Hosted by the Milford Historical Society, this annual small town parade marches right down Main Street starting at 11 a.m. www.meetmeinmilford.com
Independence Day Parade in Ypsilanti: Friday. Billed as Michigan’s longest running Independence Day parade, this 85th annual event kicks off at 11 a.m. and includes floats, marching bands, Elvisfest participants and classic cars. Oakwood and Cross streets, Ypsilanti. visitypsinow.com
Northville 4th of July Parade: Friday. This year’s parade has a “Celebrating America’s Heroes” them with bands, floats, pet, bikes, unicyclists and a military motorcycle unit. Downtown Northville. downtownnorthville.com
Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival: Through Sunday. The nation’s largest combined air show and balloon festival takes to the skies with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, six F-16 fighter jets, and a host of balloon flights. There’s also a carnival, a lumberjack event and a fireworks display at dusk Friday. Tickets: $5-$10. W.K. Kellogg Airport, 15551 S. Airport, Battle Creek. www.bcballoons.com/
Lakeshore Art Festival: Friday-Saturday. This juried art festival, which unfolds along the shoreline in downtown Muskegon, will feature more than 200 arts, crafts and food exhibitors. www.lakeshoreartfestival.org/
4th of July Blast: Through Sunday. Gibraltar Trade Center’s Taylor location blows out the 4th with a fair that includes rides, food, skill games and plenty more fun. All-day ride tickets run $20 today and Friday and $25 Saturday and Sunday. Eureka Road at I-75, Taylor. www.gibraltartrade.com/blast.php
Greatest 4th in the North: Through Sunday. Lake City, about 20 minutes northeast of Cadillac on Lake Missaukee, celebrates in style with a parade, pancake breakfast, fireworks, strawberry festival, a traditional ox roast, karaoke contests, and more. They had us at ox roast. Free. Downtown Lake City. www.lakecitymich.com/greatest-4th-in-the-north.html
Celebration on the Grand: Friday-Saturday. Michigan’s second-largest city created a patriotic powerhouse by combining the Celebration on the Grand with the Amway Family Fireworks. A two-day festival downtown with activities, games, food, and entertainment. Ah-Nab-Awen Park, Pearl Steet NW & Front NW, Grand Rapids. celebrationonthegrand.org
Thunder Bay Maritime Festival: Friday. A nod to all things nautical, the festival follows Alpena’s July 4th parade and is held at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Tour research vessels and fishing boats, attend a small boat workshop, enjoy live music, kids’ games and crafts, and sample local whitefish. 500 W. Fletcher, Alpena. thunderbay.noaa.gov/
Cedar Polka Fest: Through Sunday. An indulgence of all things polka, the annual fest draws big names like the Cynor Classic Polka Band. Dance under the big tent and on the tennis courts. There’s a parade Saturday and a polka mass Sunday. Cedar. www.cedarpolkafest.com
Camaro SuperFest 2014: Saturday-Sunday. What’s more American than muscle cars? Ypsilanti’s Riverside Park plays host to the biggest, friendliest all-Camaro festival in the country, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Enter at 5 Cross St. Admission: a donation to the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation of Michigan. www.camarosuperfest.com
Oakland County Fair: Friday-July 13. A smaller version of a state fair, with farm animals, petting zoo, a carnival, live music, contests, including racing pigs, at Springfield Oaks County Park, Davisburg. Fireworks at 10 p.m. Friday. www.oakfair.org
International Food Fest: Through Saturday. The 29th annual event will feature food and refreshments, live music and a fireworks display at dusk Friday. Ellwood Mattson Lower Harbor Park, Marquette.
Water, boats & more
Thunder Bay Cardboard Boat Regatta: Friday. We’re gonna need a bigger piece of cardboard! This fourth annual event sees rational-thinking human beings racing boats constructed out of cardboard across the Thunder Bay River, or at least making their best attempts. Bring a towel, the participants may need it. Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, 500 W. Fletcher St., Alpena. 2 p.m. http://thunderbayfriends.org/
Fishing Derby: Friday. What says “Independence Day” more than catch and release? Prizes will be awarded for the largest fish, and the most fish caught. Open to all ages, no fishing license required for those 17 and younger. Fishing pier, Maybury State Park, 20145 Beck, Northville. www.michigan.gov/natureprograms
BBQ Dinner Sail , Bay City: Ongoing. The Appledore IV cruises along the Saginaw River and into Saginaw Bay. Passengers will enjoy a barbecue meal while enjoying the scenery. (989) 895-5193. www.baysailbaycity.org
David Thauberger: Road Trips & Other Diversions: Ongoing. Escape the country for the Fourth. The handsome Art Gallery of Windsor, with its spectacular view of downtown Detroit, would be a highly civilized way to spend the holiday. Thauberger’s paintings capture a distinct and affecting sense of place. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily except Monday-Tuesday. Free. 401 Riverside Drive West, Windsor. www.artgalleryofwindsor.org
L.A.S.S.I. 5K Loop: Saturday. A 5K competitive run, benefitting abandoned or neglected companion animals, at Charles Mears State Park, 400 W. Lowell, Pentwater. 8 a.m. lassiloop5k.com
Clawson’s $1,000 Firecracker Race: Friday. The 9 a.m. Firecracker Mile is one of the fastest races in the Midwest, a sprint down 14 Mile from Crooks to Main Street. Arrive early, as 14 Mile will close at 8:30 a.m. Registration begins at 7:45 a.m. and is $20. Prizes range from $1,000 to $60. http://clawsonruns.com/Firecracker/
WWE Live Summerslam Heatwave Tour: Friday. World Wrestling Entertainment superstars will take over Windsor’s WFCU Centre at 7:30 p.m., with well-known rumblers like Christian, the Shield, the Wyatt Family and more. 8787 McHugh, Windsor. www.wfcu-centre.com/events
Yoga on the Riverfront: 6 p.m. Thursday. Bring your yoga mat and practice your downward facing dog and other poses at the wetland area of Milliken State Park on the Detroit RiverWalk. The event is free; no registration required. www.detroitriverfront.org
Saturday in the Park on Hines Drive: Ongoing. Grab your bike, Rollerblades or walking shoes and exercise on a 6-mile stretch of Hines Drive closed to vehicle traffic, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 27. Bike and Segway rentals are available at the Nankin Mills Interpretive Center. www.parks.waynecounty.com
Concert of Colors Tune Up Concert at New Center Park: 7-11 p.m. Saturday. Music by Afro-Latin band Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca at 9:30 p.m. and Chicago AfroBeat Project, 8 p.m. Food vendors, cash bar. Free. West Grand Boulevard at Second, Detroit. www.concertofcolors.com
Whitney Garden Party at the Whitney: Thursday. Start off the holiday weekend right with high energy pop/rock from local group the High Strung. The group plays outdoors as part of the Whitney’s summer music series. Have dinner, or just a cocktail. Oyster happy hour starts at 4:30, first set at 6:30 p.m. No cover. 4421 Woodward, Detroit. (313) 832-5700.
Soaring Eagle’s Stars & Stripes Spectacular: Through Sunday. Stars, stripes, monster trucks, motocross, food and bands. Events as follows: Monster Truck Madness, 5 p.m. Friday; tickets $20 and up. All-American concert featuring Switchfoot, P.O.D and Black Stone Cherry, 8 p.m. Saturday; tickets $12 and up. Freestyle Motocross show, 3-4 p.m. Sunday; free. Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort, Mount Pleasant. www.soaringeaglecasino.com/starsandstripes.aspx
“Grease Sing-A-Long”: Midnight Friday-Saturday. What could be more fun on a “Summer Night” than to sing along to those catchy John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John songs from the peppy 1978 musical? Main Art Theatre, 118 N. Main, Royal Oak. landmarktheatres.com
Libations & fare
Pioneer Wine Trail: Ongoing. Michigan’s newest wine trail covers a large swath of Southeastern Michigan, extending from the rolling Irish Hills to the farmland around the state capital. www.pioneerwinetrail.com
Campfire Cooking: 6 p.m. Saturday. Expand your campfire menu beyond hot dogs and marshmallows during a cooking demonstration at the Marshland Museum & Nature Center at Lake Erie Metropark. $5 fee. Registration required. www.metroparks.com/Lake-
Marshmallows & Graham Crackers: 8 a.m. Saturday. Zingerman’s Bakehouse offers an unorthodox (but perfect for summer) cooking class that takes s’mores up a notch. Fee. Zingerman’s Bakehouse, 3711 Plaza Dr., Ann Arbor. www.bakewithzing.com
Fork & Cork Festival: Friday-Sunday. Sample Ontario wines and more at Riverfront Festival Plaza, Windsor. Fee. www.forkandcork.ca
Abraham Lincoln Exhibit at the Plymouth Historical Museum: 1-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. A lock of Lincoln’s hair and books that belonged to the 16th president as a boy are among the highlights of this unusual collection for a Michigan museum. Fee. 155 S. Main, Plymouth. (734) 455-8940.
Contributors: Adam Graham, Susan Whitall, Michael Hodges, Melody Baetens, Greg Tasker