Traverse City Cherry Festival 2024: This Go-To Fun Guide Guarantees You’ll Have the Cherry Best Time!

traverse city cherry festival

All Roads Lead to the Traverse City Cherry Festival

The sweet and juicy National Cherry Festival returns to the Cherry Capital of the World, Traverse City, Michigan, from June 29 – July 6, 2024.

As one of Michigan’s premier festivals (500,000+ visitors are expected!) get ready to be entertained.

Over this eight-day community extravaganza, indulge in everything cherry, from pie to salsa, while enjoying thrilling airshows, headliner concerts, colorful floats, a princess tea, cherry-themed activities, dog shows and more.

Dunesmobile at the Cherry Festival

Even better? Over 85% of the attractions at the Traverse City Cherry Festival are FREE!

Top 10 Attractions at the National Cherry Festival

If you’re ready to take a bite out of the Traverse City Cherry Festival, be sure to put these events and attractions on your very-cherry menu:

Cherry Picking and U Pick Cherries in West Michigan

1 – The Parades

This year, the Cherry Festival will host two parades in Downtown Traverse City.

Community Royale Parade

Thursday, July 4, 2024: 6:30 PM

Route – Front Street to Union Street to 7th Street.

This is not just any parade! The Community Royale Parade is a 100-minute long celebration of the past, present, and future of the Grand Traverse Region.

Blending the best of the Heritage & Junior Royale Parades over the one-mile route, the Community Royale Parade features themed school floats, school prince & princesses, candy handouts, marching bands, and the Cherry Queen court, to name a few.

Cherry Royale Parade

Saturday, July 6, 2024: 11:15 AM

Route Front Street to Union Street to 13th Street.

The cherry on top of the Traverse City Cherry Festival, the Cherry Royale Parade brings together the festival’s best on the final day of this Northern Michigan celebration. The parade runs for over two hours long, marching through the heart of downtown Traverse City.

traverse city cherry festival parade 2022 petoskey steel drum band

Each year, the parade takes on a unique theme – last year, it was lighthouses. Floats, bopping marching bands, the new National Cherry Queen – it’s a sight you have to see.

lighthouse school parade float cherry festival  downtown traverse city mi

Parade Routes & Parade Maps

Parade routes and maps are officially released in the week leading up to the Cherry Festival, but you can be sure that the parades will travel down Front Street in Downtown Traverse City.

The 2023 parade route was altered last year due to construction, but it’s back to normal for 2024.

In general, the parades travel west from the corner of Railroad and Front down to Union Street and then head south.

2024 Cherry Festival Parade Route Map

Cherry Festival Parade Route Map
Yellow and pink lines mark the parade routes

The Community Royale Parade (Thursday evening) is the shorter of the two parades – it turns west on 7th Street, ending at Central Grade School.

The end-of-the-festival Saturday Cherry Royale Parade concludes at Thirlby Field on 13th Street.

helicopter flyover traverse city cherry festival
Helicopter flyover signals the start of the parade

People start putting chairs out on parade day at the crack of dawn. You can still get a good seat at the parade if you arrive an hour in advance – just target areas a few blocks away from the city center.

2 – The Cherry Festival Air Show

June 29 & 30, 2024: 1 – 4 PM

Saturday and Sunday of opening weekend feature the free-to-watch Cherry Festival Air Show.

The Blue Angels are a show highlight on alternating years. They did not attend the 2023 air show, but are making a return for 2024.

This is a FREE EVENT of the National Cherry Festival.

Traverse City Cherry festival United States Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration team
Traverse City Cherry Festival United States Air Force Thunderbirds

Several ticketed foodie events with Air Show View are available.

Traverse City West end beach boats
West End Beach is a popular hangout for airshow, fireworks & volleyball events

Any West Bay beach is a good viewing point for the air show.

TIPS: If you are in town on Friday, you will likely be able to catch the practice session and avoid the larger weekend crowds. Also, planes are extremely loud. Hearing protection is a good idea.

3 – Carnival Rides & Games at the Midway

June 29 – July 6th: 11 AM – 11 PM

Downtown Traverse City – Corner of Grandview Parkway at Union Street

The Arnold’s Amusements Midway is a beloved tradition at the National Cherry Festival.

carnival midway traverse city cherry festival

Enjoy cotton candy, elephant ears, Ferris wheel and rides next to the river and with a bay-front view on a warm summer night.

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4 – Headliner Shows

Catch the amazing line-up of ticketed shows at the National Cherry Festival in the Open Space, including Stone Temple Pilots, T.I, Leanne Morgan, Goo Goo Dolls, Dylan Scott and Gabriel ‘Fluffy’ Iglesias.

Traverse City Cherry festival concerts and shows in open space
Open Space Concert 📷 National Cherry Festival

5 – Arts and Crafts Fair

June 30, 2024: 9 AM – 5 PM

Make way for the Cherry Festival Arts and Crafts Fair on Sunday, June 30!

Union Street, starting South of Front Street and ending at the South Union Street Bridge at the Boardman River, will be transformed into an arts and crafts haven.

Cherry Festival Arts and Crafts Fair
Cherry Festival Arts and Crafts Fair

This vibrant fair is an annual favorite, featuring over 100 talented artists with one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted items and art.

From stunning paintings to unique jewelry and more, there’s something for everyone’s taste and style.

6 – The Open Space

The Open Space is hub of the Cherry Festival.

traverse city cherry festival cherry pie

Adjacent to Clinch Park Marina, the Open Space is the biggest park on the beachfront in the city, and is where you will find concerts, souvenirs, food tents, kids club and more Cherry Festival tidbits.

Cherry Farm Market
Enjoy cherry products from local businesses during the National Cherry Festival!
June 29 – July 6, 2024: 10 AM – 10 PM
Beer TentJune 29 – July 6, 2024: noon – 10 PM
Kids ClubJune 29 – July 6, 2024: 10 AM – 5 PM

The The Baby Comfort Station, First Aid Tent, Lost and Found are located here as well.

7 – Famous Cherry Festival Contests

Both adult pit spitting and the adult and kid pie eating contests are part of the 2024 Traverse City Cherry Festival.

Pit Spit Contest – Adults

June 29, July 1, 3 & 6, 2024: 6 – 7 PM

Open Space Park – Corner of Grandview Parkway at Union Street

Adults over 18 can register on-site just before the 6 PM contest, and there is no fee to participate.

Traverse City Cherry Festival Pit Spitting Contest - Cherry Festilva Facebook Page

Trophies will be awarded for 1st, 2nd & 3rd place for both women and men.

Pie Eating Contest – Kids

July 1, 2, 4, & 5, 2024: 1 – 3 PM

F&M Park at Railroad & Washington Streets

Age classifications from pre-school to 12 years old. Contest starts at 1 PM with the youngest contestants and goes until all age groups are completed. Please arrive 15 minutes early to register on-site.

Traverse City Cherry Festival Pie Eating Contest

Pie Eating Contest – Adults

July 1, 3, & 5: 5 – 6 PM

Open Space Park – Corner of Grandview Parkway at Union Street – Lay’s Cherry Blast Stage

Free registration will open 30 minutes prior to event at stage, no fee required. Prizes awarded.

8 – Tournaments & Races

Beach volleyball and pickleball tournaments, plus a golf scramble and foot races are slated for the Cherry Festival this year.

Festival of Races

Festival Foot Races July 6, 2024: 7:00 AM

5K, 10K, 15K, Half-Marathon and Kids Fun Run

festival of races traverse city cherry festival (1)
Traverse City Cherry Festival Race Finish Line

Beach Volleyball Tournaments at West End Beach

The National Cherry Festival Bayside Beach Volleyball Tournaments consists of 6 events. 2 person men’s, 2 person women’s, 2 person co-ed, 4 person open, 4 person rec, 2 person youth. Join us at the Volleyball courts at West End Park in Traverse City

traverse city west end beach cherry festival beach volleyball

9 – Ultimate Air Dogs

July 4 – 6, 2024 at Open Space Park

Showcasing nearly 100 skilled “dog athletes”, the Ultimate Air Dogs competition is consistently a huge hit.

Ultimate Air Dogs National Cherry Festival

Ultimate Air Dogs is all about dogs showing off their incredible jumping skills by launching themselves into the water from a dock. It’s a popular sport where dogs compete to see who can jump the farthest or clear the highest bar.

The Ultimate Air Dogs host events all over the US, coming back to the Traverse City Cherry Festival time and again.

Participants compete to progress in the regional competition, and pre-registration is mandatory. Viewing the event is free.

10 – Orchard Tours

July 1 – 5, 2024

Join one of the free cherry orchard tours at Michigan State University Horticultural Research Station on the Leelanau Peninsula (6686 S Center Hwy, Traverse City, MI 49684)

Explore educational exhibits, sample various cherry products, and take tours of the 137-acre farm in the heart of “Cherry Country.”

traverse city cherry orchard

For children, there is a 4-H petting zoo and a 4-H kids activity. (No petting zoo on July 4.)

Take a 20-minute shuttle ride to the orchard from downtown.

Shuttle Schedule:

  • Departs from Bata Hall St. Transfer Station at 9:30 AM and 10:30 AM.
  • Departs from MSU Orchard at 10 AM, 11 AM, and 12 PM.

Must Have Cherry Festival Tickets

While many Cherry Festival activities are free, there are several Special Events that require admission tickets.

Headliner Tickets

Every year, the Traverse City Cherry Festival brings a great entertainment lineup to Northern Michigan. 2024 is no exception; headliner acts include big names like Stone Temple Pilots, T.I, Goo Goo Dolls and more.

Get your tickets early – these outdoor, bayside events are well-attended and often sell out.

Ticketed Cherry Festival Special Events

Many of these to-dos involve food and some type of entertainment. The air show has several ticketed events to choose from.

Cherry Festival Shuttle

The free Cherry Festival Shuttle runs regularly during the event.

Special park and ride lots are available at:

  • Meijer on US-31- 3955 US-31, Traverse City, MI 49684
  • the Cherry Lot at Northwest Michigan College
  • Woodland Creek Furniture – 4290 US-31, Traverse City, MI 49685
cherry festival parade route 2023

Where to Stay

Traveling to the Traverse City Cherry Festival? Brace yourself for the highest demand season!

Traverse City Tourism has a great lodging finder for area hotels, resorts, and other lodging options.

traverse city lodging

Snagging a place to stay will require luck, timing, and some cash. Hotel rooms and vacation rentals will be pricey, but the fun is worth it! Many visitors stay in nearby Leelanau County and drive in to the festival.

On a budget? Look into neighboring towns or camping.

No matter where you put your pillow, make your reservations as far in advance as you can for the best selection.

Cherry Festival Vacation Rentals & Hotel Stays


Is the Cherry Festival free?

Yes, the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City offers a wide range of events and activities that are free to attend.

The festival features numerous concerts, parades, fireworks, and family-friendly entertainment that can be enjoyed without any admission fees. However, some specific events and attractions are ticketed and many events will sell out before the festival even starts.

Check the festival’s website or program for detailed information about each event.

Is there a shuttle at the Cherry Festival?

The Cherry Festival provides free shuttle via BATA transit. Several Park-n-Ride locations will allow visitors to find easy parking and shuttle in to the festivities.

Shuttles run daily during the National Cherry Festival every 12-15 minutes. Schedules and stops will be posted on the BATA website.

Can I pick cherries during the cherry festival?

Perhaps! If the cherries are ripe during the festival you will be able to head out to local U-pick cherry farms, climb and ladder, and get some of that tasty, juicy cherry goodness for yourself! Suggested destinations to check with include:

Cherry U-Pick at Third Coast Fruit Co: 555 Wilson Rd, Traverse City, MI 49686
Rennie Orchards – 11221 Monroe Rd, Williamsburg, MI 49690
Cherry Connection – 12414 Center Rd, Traverse City, MI 49686

Will politicians be in the parades?

Yes, but only seated official representatives elected by the people are permitted in the parade and are by invitation only. No campaigning is allowed in the the parades.

What if I bike to the festival?

Fantastic! Take advantage of the bike valet  just off of the TART trail in the southwest section of the Open Space Park.  Available throughout the festival from noon–10 PM.

Where should I park?

Traverse City has two fee-based parking garages. The parking garages are a good place to park for the parades.

Hardy Parking Garage- 303 E State St, Traverse City, MI 49684
Old Town Parking Garage- 125 E Eighth St, Traverse City, MI 49684

Several metered surface lots are also available in the city (see the map below). Many lots will be used for festival purposes and won’t be available for parking. Lots that are open have a 10 hour limit. Saturday, June 29 -Saturday, July 6, $1.50 per hour, $20 daily maximum.

Free parking is available along side streets in the neighborhoods.

The Downtown Traverse City Parking website has the most current information.

parking during the traverse city cherry festival

Have You Been to the Traverse City Cherry Festival?

Have you attended the national cherry festival? What tips do you have to share? Let us know in the comments below!

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