Special Issues » City Guide

No FOMO: Here’s a thicc list of must-do annual events in Southeastern Michigan

by

comment
Movement Music Festival. - STEPHEN BONDIO
  • Stephen Bondio
  • Movement Music Festival.

April

Detroit Tigers Opening Day

March 26, 2020; Downtown Detroit

It could be argued that all major cities really friggin’ love their sports teams. But when it comes to Detroit, the first Tigers home game of the season is basically an alcohol-fueled religious holiday. Warning: do not mess with a Tigers fan on Opening Day. Curious? Head to Comerica Park or the Tigers’ old neighborhood, Corktown, and you’ll encounter swarms of metro Detroiters drunkenly partying in bars, under tents, or in the streets. Oh, and there’s baseball. (Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, sometimes it snows.)

Ann Arbor Hash Bash

April 4, 2020, at high noon; Ann Arbor; hashbash.com



There’s nothing more beautiful than people coming together to smoke weed and celebrate all things cannabis, which is exactly what Ann Arbor’s annual Hash Bash has set out to do since it was first established in 1972. Though originally organized as a protest, this year’s pre-emptive 4/20 celebration marks the first Hash Bash since Michigan dispensaries were given the green light to sell recreational weed.

FoolMoon and FestiFools

April 3 and 5, 2020; Ann Arbor; wonderfoolproductions.org

On FoolMoon, the streets of Ann Arbor are invaded with illuminated costumes and contraptions. For its sister event, FestiFools, a “flash mob” army of papier-mache puppets takes to the streets for one kooky celebration.



Detroit Music Awards

April 19, 2020; Detroit; detroitmusicawards.net

Celebrating the finest acts and artists from metro Detroit — of which there are plenty — is the annual Detroit Music Awards. From blues and jazz to garage rock and folk, the Detroit Music Awards recognizes local trailblazers and music makers with a soiree worth dressing up for.

Stratford Festival

April–December, 2020; Ontario, Canada; stratfordfestival.ca

Thanks to our properly insured neighbors to the North-ish, we can stamp our passports and catch some incredible theatrical productions, with an emphasis on Shakespeare, all season long. This year, the Stratford Festival, which is North America’s largest repertory theater company, will offer productions of Chicago, Monty Python’s Spamalot, Much Ado About Nothing, and Wendy & Peter Pan, among others.

May

Cinetopia International Film Festival

May 8-17, 2020; Ann Arbor, Detroit; cinetopiafestival.org

Cannes. Sundance. Tribeca. These might be among the most recognizable names when it comes to film festivals, but Michigan, too, has earned a place in the ranks of independent film havens, thanks to the Cinetopia Film Festival. The annual event, now entering its ninth year, handpicks 10 days’ worth of independent programming from all over the globe. This year will screen more than 60 feature narrative and documentary films, as well as shorts programs across a handful of metro Detroit locations in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Dearborn, and elsewhere.

Motor City Comic Con

May 15-17, 2020; Novi; motorcitycomiccon.com

Last year, Motor City Comic Con turned the same age you should probably move out of your mom’s basement and stop using your comic book storage boxes as furniture by. No, we’re kidding. Nerds have finally gotten their revenge, thanks in part to the massively successful mainstream Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise and Game of Thrones, which made dragons sexy again. Entering its 31st iteration, Motor City Comic Con will welcome celebrity guests like Jennifer Morrison, Kiefer Sutherland, Meat Loaf, Mario Lopez, and, She’s All That cast members Freddie Prinze Jr., and Rachael Leigh Cook. As always, there will be a massive artists alley and marketplace, an anime room, cosplay contests, and guest panels.

East Lansing Art Festival

May 16-17, 2020; East Lansing; elartfest.com

It’s an art thing, baby. Since its inception in 1964, the East Lansing Art Festival has morphed into a community undertaking that offers hundreds of artists, performers, and craftspeople the chance to show off their work to thousands of art-hungry visitors.

Movement Music Festival

May 23-25, 2020; Detroit; movement.us

It’s all the rave! Lovingly referred to by electronic music fans as “Techno Christmas,” the annual Movement Electronic Music Festival draws fans and DJs from all over the world. Considering that Detroit is the undisputed capital of techno, there’s only one place you should be Memorial Day weekend. This year’s lineup includes veteran British techno group Underworld, deadmau5 alter ego Testpilot, Jamie xx, A$AP Ferg, Nina Kraviz, and Detroit techno vets Carl Craig, Kevin Saunderson, and Mike Huckaby, among many others.

Ferndale Pride

May 30, 2020; Ferndale, 2020; ferndalepride.com

All that glitters is gay at Ferndale Pride, the annual inclusive celebration of our local gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, nonbinary, intersex, and ally communities. Hundreds of vendors, as well as participating businesses along Ferndale’s main Nine Mile Road drag, will raise their rainbow flags in solidarity while Pride’s thousands of attendees let their rainbow flags fly. Pride also hosts DJs and live music, a 5k Rainbow Run, wellness planning opportunities (HIV/STI testing), and a mass wedding on the main stage.

June

Motor City Pride

June 6-7, 2020; Detroit; motorcitypride.org

Let your pride flag fly! As Michigan’s largest pride event, Motor City Pride turns up with an average of 40,000 participants to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community with a blowout like no other.

Hoedown

June 12, 2020; Clarkston; wycd.radio.com

Country music has a little bit of somethin’ for everyone these days, which is why metro Detroit’s annual Hoedown lassos thousands of country music fans with a day packed with country-fied entertainment, major musical headliners, and vendors galore.

Ann Arbor Summer Festival

June 12-July 5, 2020; Ann Arbor; a2sf.org

Ann Arbor’s massive festival practically takes up all summer with 22 nights and more than 175 events, featuring music, art, film, and more.

The Art of Fire Festiva

June 13-14, 2020; Royal Oak; artoffirero.com

Not to be confused with the social media influencer-led scam Fyre Festival, the Art of Fire Festival in Royal Oak is the real deal. Honoring the artistic creations forged from fire, the annual Art of Fire Festival features over 100 artists working in clay, glass, and metal, and hosts live glass blowing, metal working, and workshops.

GM River Days

June 19-22, 2020; Detroit; riverdays.com

“Take me to the river,” world-famous wall-hanging Billy the big mouth bass once said. During summer, the revived Detroit riverfront comes alive with music, special events, food, and plenty of activities for the kids.

Summer Solstice Jazz Fest

June 19-20, 2020; East Lansing; eljazzfest.com

Returning for its 24th year, East Lansing’s Summer Solstice Jazz Fest features hours of top-notch jazz performances and includes youth and community education programming. The two-day event is free and also offers a New Orleans-style parade and an avant-garde jazz picnic.

Jobbie Nooner

June 26, 2020; Gull Island

Old heads know: As legend has it, Jobbie Nooner started in 1974 when some coworkers played hooky on a Friday to celebrate a birthday with a day out on the lake. In the years since, Jobbie Nooner has developed into the “Mardi Gras of the Midwest,” attracting up to 10,000 boats and more than 100,000 people around Lake St. Clair’s Gull Island — and unprecedented levels of public intoxication.

Electric Forest

June 27-30, 2020; Rothbury; electricforestfestival.com

There’s nothing quite like Electric Forest, which is probably why the annual psychedelic summertime music festival sells out so dang quick. Not only does the weekend-long event welcome a massive lineup of heavy-hitting jam bands, electronic artists, and psych rockers, but EF basically erects a neon hippie commune in rural Michigan where the trees are truly aglow, making whichever trip you decide to take all the more trippy.

Ford Fireworks

June 22, 2020; Detroit; theparade.org/ford-fireworks

Detroit is pretty good at blowing shit up, which is why the city’s pre-Fourth of July fireworks show is among the best, brightest, and bangiest. The big blowout takes place just ahead of the national holiday along Detroit’s scenic riverfront. You’re welcome, Canada!

High Times Cannabis Cup

June 2020; Detroit and Clio; cannabiscup.com

Now that recreational weed is legal in Michigan, expect more of High Times’ Cannabis Cups events. Previously, the premier stoner mag has hosted events in Detroit and Clio, where cannabis connoisseurs could sample strains, edibles, and other products. It’s also a legit hip-hop festival in its own right, with previous iterations hosting big-name acts like Wu-Tang Clan, Busta Rhymes, 2 Chainz, and Wyclef Jean, among others.

Detroit Fireworks. - KAREN WAMPLER, DETROIT STOCK CITY
  • Karen Wampler, Detroit Stock City
  • Detroit Fireworks.

July

Wyandotte Street Art Fair

July 8-11, 2020; Wyandotte; wyandotte.net

For 59 years, downtown Wyandotte has transformed into a walkable, art-filled oasis for one weekend in summer. The event draws in more than 200,000 visitors and 200+ artists from Michigan and beyond.

Blue Water Festival

July 8-11, 2020; downtown Port Huron; thebluewaterfest.com

Don’t rock the boat. Downtown Port Huron’s annual event includes a parade, a carnival, live music, and other activities all leading up to the 2020 Bayview Mackinac Sailboat Race.

Concert of Colors

July 8-14, 2020; Detroit; concertofcolors.com

Diversity is not the name of an old wooden ship. It’s the very heart of Detroit’s free annual cultural kaleidoscopic festival, better known as Concert of Colors. This year will mark its 26th year and will, once again, feature world music, culinary flavors from around the world, and more.

Michigan Elvisfest

July 10-11, 2020; Ypsilanti; mielvisfest.org

Elvis Presley, the “King” of rock ’n’ roll, has been dead more than 40 years. And yet some people still find themselves all shook up. Celebrate the ol’ hunk of burnin’ love with some of the country’s best Elvis impersonators.

Ann Arbor Art Fair

July 16-19, 2020; Ann Arbor; theannarborartfair.com

Ann Arbor is already a total destination for arty academic folks, but the city’s nationally celebrated art fair offers up a dizzying display of contemporary fine arts and crafts.

Pig and Whiskey

July 17-19, 2020; Ferndale; pigandwhiskeyferndale.com

This smoky, sweet, and perfectly barbecued shindig celebrates perhaps the most iconic culinary duo. Pig and Whiskey is part music fest, part meat-lovers paradise, and, well, as much whiskey as your poor little liver can take. Did we mention it’s free?

Faster Horses

July 17-19, 2020; Brooklyn; fasterhorsesfestival.com

Yee-haw. Now in its eighth year, the Faster Horses Country Music Festival is expected to draw more than 40,000 country music fans each day. 2020 headliners include Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett, Jason Aldean, Kelsea Ballerini, and Jon Pardi.

Sterlingfest Art and Music Fair

July 23-25, 2020; Sterling Heights City Center; sterling-heights.net

Last year’s free fest featured musical acts Sugar Ray, Mötley Crüe lead singer Vince Neil, and cover band the Mega 80’s, along with an arts and craft festival, children’s activities, and fireworks.

Michigan Summer Beer Festival

July 24-25, 2020; Ypsilanti; mibeer.com

Crack a cold one. In fact, grab a few at the festival that celebrates the nectar of the hoppy gods by serving a selection of 1,000 Michigan-made craft beers from 150 Mitten state breweries.

Mo Pop Festival

July 25-26, 2020; Detroit; mopopfestival.com

Started in 2013 and hosted at West Riverfront Park, Mo Pop spoils Detroiters with some of the biggest music acts around. The fest is, however, plotting a location change that has yet to be revealed, but the yacht passes being offered online makes us think Belle Isle might just be the new pop-off point. In past iterations, Mo Pop acts have included Lizzo, Tame Impala, the National, Billie Eilish, and Run the Jewels.

August

Milford Memories Summer Festival

Aug.7-9, 2020; Milford; milfordmemories.com

Milford’s annual founding celebration includes an art fair, music, beer tent, kids’ activities, and more.

Renaissance Festival

Aug. 22-Oct. 4, 2020; Holly; michrenfest.com

Huzzah! Rejoice as medieval worlds, once again, clash with fantasy realms for the ultimate throwback reverie. Costumes, jousting, and turkey drumsticks shall be plentiful.

The Woodward Dream Cruise

Aug. 15, 2020; various; woodwarddreamcruise.com

Who gives a shit about your carbon footprint when you can just, you know, sit in the best damn traffic jam this side of Eight Mile? The Woodward Dream Cruise combines classic cars and the cruisers that love them.

Hydrofest

Aug. 21-23, 2020; Detroit; detroitboatraces.com

Fast, furious, and splashy. More than 100 years strong, the APBA Gold Cup is the oldest active motorsports trophy, featuring high-speed hydroplanes on the Detroit River.
Detroit Jazz Festival. - COURTESY OF DETROIT JAZZ FESTIVAL
  • Courtesy of Detroit Jazz Festival
  • Detroit Jazz Festival.

September

Michigan State Fair

Sept. 3-7, 2020; Novi; michiganstatefairllc.com

Nothing can stop the 160-year-old family-friendly state tradition. The Michigan State Fair may have been canceled in 2012, but it immediately rose from the dead and relocated to Novi with all the family-friendly fun you’ve come to expect.

Arts, Beats & Eats

Sep. 4-7, 2020; Royal Oak; artsbeatseats.com

The best things come in threes, and such is true of Soaring Eagle’s massive Arts, Beats & Eats festival. Now entering its 23rd year, AB&E presents performances by local artists, as well as nationally acclaimed music acts from past and present. Don’t forget the Arts or the Eats, as this event is packed with metro Detroit’s tastiest restaurants and some stellar artisans.

Detroit International Jazz Festival

Sep. 4-7, 2020; Detroit; detroitjazzfest.org

Jazzheads, this one’s for you. The world’s largest free jazz festival just so happens to take place in Detroit. The Detroit International Jazz Festival spans several city blocks downtown, including Hart Plaza and the scenic Detroit waterfront. The weekend-long event honors jazz in all forms with an incredible lineup of world-renowned artists, as well as a celebrated resident artist.

Dally in the Alley

Sept. 2020; Detroit; dallyinthealley.com

There’s dancing in the streets — and then there’s Dally in the Alley, Detroit’s largest community festival. From 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Cass Corridor is transformed into a winding celebration of art, music, and one very cramped alley. For 43 years, Dally in the Alley has withstood Cass Corridor’s ever-changing landscape to maintain its reign as Detroit’s largest community festival — and it’s free.

Hamtramck Labor Day Festival

Sep. 5-7, 2020; Hamtramck; hamtownfest.com

For more than four decades, Hamtramck has put on a weekend-long Labor Day festival boasting local acts across all genres.

Art & Apples Festival

Sept. 11-13, 2020; Rochester; pccart.org

Rochester might be a wee bit out of the way for us Detroiters, but it’s a destination year-round, especially during the annual Art & Apples Festival. The festival, presented by the Paint Creek Center for the Arts, takes over 30 acres of Rochester Park to exhibit work by more than 250 artists from across the country.

Murals in the Market

Sept. 2020; Eastern Market, Detroit; muralsinthemarket.com

Out with the old, in with the new. Each year, Detroit’s Eastern Market district gets a bold overhaul when renowned local and national muralists take over for one week. Murals in the Market gives visitors an up-close look at the entire process and includes a walking/driving map of all the new works.

DIY Street Fair

Sept. 18-20, 2020; Ferndale; ferndalediy.com

We all like to do it ourselves, usually in the privacy of our own homes. But thanks to the annual DIY Street Fair, you can do it yourself without, you know, the impending shame. Each year, Ferndale rounds up some of metro Detroit’s craftiest crafters, makers, and shakers to hawk their wares. Oh, and there’s always an enviable local music lineup and delicious eats because, well,
Ferndale. Duh!

Funky Ferndale Art Fair

Sept. 18-20, 2020; Ferndale; funkyferndaleartfair.com

Not to be confused with DIY Street Fair, which is on the other side of Nine Mile Road, the Funky Ferndale Art Fair caters to lovers of eclectic fine art with a, well, funky selection of works for sale, as well as vendors, food, and various events at the shops along the strip.

October

Theatre Bizarre

Oct. 2020; Detroit; theatrebizarre.com

The freaks come out at night — well, technically they come out for two weekends every October as the Masonic Temple is transformed into a wicked wonderland, and the “Greatest Masquerade on Earth” commences just in time for All Hallows’ Eve with fire dancers, demons, devils, a secret invitation-only human absinthe fountain, and Zombo.

Detroit Fall Beer Festival

Oct. 24, 2020; Detroit; mibeer.com/detroit-fall-festival

It’s inadvisable to do math while drunk, but we can’t help ourselves when it comes to the Detroit Fall Beer Festival at Eastern Market. More than 800 craft beers from 120 Michigan-based breweries, plus tasty food from several Detroit area restaurants and live music from local musicians equals one hell of a good time (and an Uber ride).

November

Youmacon

Oct. 29-Nov. 1, 2020; Detroit; youmacon.com

Why be yourself when you could be yourself as literally anything else? Metro Detroit’s annual anime convention seems to grow every year, featuring guest speakers, cosplay costume contests, concerts, live gaming, live art, dealers, vendors, and even such “live-action gaming” versions of Mario Party and Donkey Kong.

America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Nov. 26, 2020; Detroit; theparade.org

No, you’re not tripping on some pre-Turkey Day LSD. That really is a larger-than-life Spongebob floating down Woodward Avenue, followed by a drowsy Kermit, and Rainbow Fish. Before you endure a family meal (god, those words make us uncomfortable during an election year), Detroit is home to one of the country’s largest and most spectacular parades. America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade lures thousands of folks from all over to take in the sights and sounds, many of which are provided by incredible marching bands, as well as the man of the hour, Santa Claus.

December

Detroit Urban Craft Fair

Dec. 2020; Detroit; detroiturbancraftfair.com

Sew many crafts, sew little time is the name of the game for Michigan’s longest-running indie craft bazaar. Now entering its 15 year, DUCF welcomes thousands of visitors over the weekend-long event, during which more than 100 juried vendors will showcase their handmade wares, including jewelry, clothing, accessories, home decor, bath products, paper goods, children’s items, and edible treats.

Noel Night

Dec. 2020; Detroit; noelnight.org

The North Pole may be, well, north of here, but for one day during December, Midtown Detroit becomes a festive winter wonderland and a holiday shopping paradise. Welcome to Noel Night, the city’s beloved holiday tradition of more than 40 years, which draws tens of thousands of visitors. Not only does Noel Night offer ice sculptures, caroling, and hot cocoa, the event opens the doors to dozens of venues, museums, and shops where folks can shop and catch more than a hundred live performances.

January

Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Jan. 29-30, 2021; Ann Arbor; theark.com

For 43 years, the Ark has hosted a folkin’ good time, showcasing some of the most influential folk acts of our time while shining a well-deserved spotlight on up-and-coming singers and strummers. In 2020, the festival was headlined by Nathaniel Rateliff and Iron & Wine with Calexico; in previous years, the festival has hosted Rufus Wainwright, Brandi Carlile, Emmylou Harris, Arlo Guthrie, Kris Kristofferson, Kacey Musgraves, Jenny Lewis, and John Prine.

February

Quicken Loans Winter Blast

Feb. 2021; Detroit; winterblast.com

Winter blows, but it can also be a blast. For 15 years, Winter Blast has brought some festive wintertime magic to downtown Detroit with a weekend-long family-friendly event that boasts live music, marshmallow roasting, free ice skating in Campus Martius, food trucks, and, in recent years, skiing and snowboarding demonstrations. Other event mainstays include zip lines, the Winter Slide, and the Polar Plunge, which invites brave folks to take a chilly dip to raise money for the Special Olympics.

The Dirty Show

Feb. 2021; Detroit; dirtydetroit.com

In 2020, Detroit’s Dirty Show turned 21 and, with that came, well, it came. Art impresario Jerry Vile’s international erotic art show features burlesque performances, the Cinerotic Film Festival, a pop-up gay leather daddy bar, and a titillating selection of thoughtfully curated paintings, photos, sculptures, and other odes to erotica. Oh, and there’s a spanking booth if mixing pleasure and punishment is your bag.

Cupid’s Undie Run

Feb. 2021; Detroit; cupids.org

This is the only time of year that running around in your underwear won’t get you arrested. The Cupid’s Undie Run is both a charitable event and a cheeky one, taking place in various cities across the country each year in an effort to raise money toward finding a cure for Neurofibromatosis. The catch? Willing participants strip down to their skivvies in Michigan’s frigid temperatures.

Erotic Poetry and Music Festival

Feb. 2021; Detroit; tangentgallery.com

Detroit’s oldest community arts festival just so happens to be one that celebrates provocative, performative erotica. The annual Erotic Poetry and Music Festival has been making the hairs on the backs of necks stand up for 34 years. The event invites Detroit poets, writers, and performers to explore the power of sensuality and sexuality with readings, interpretive art performances, and burlesque, as well as art, food, and whatever else gets your engine goin’.

Marche du Nain Rouge. - COURTESY OF MARCHE DU NAIN ROUGE
  • Courtesy of Marche du Nain Rouge
  • Marche du Nain Rouge.

March

Nicolas UnCaged

March 2021; Hamtramck; planetant.com

For seven years running, UnCaged has served as a costume-encouraged film festival dedicated to notorious over-actor and master of the unnecessary freakout Nicolas Cage. The fest honors his many cinematic contributions — the good, the bad, and the bees! — and a Cage fan’s fantasy. One year, the organizers set Cage’s stuntman on fire in an attempt to break a world record.

Hamtramck Music Fest

March 2021; Hamtramck; hamtramckmusicfest.com

If you want to know what Detroit sounds like, look no further than the Hamtramck Music Festival, where dozens of Detroit-area bands, DJs, and solo artists take over Hamtramck’s bars and nightclubs for a three-day showcase that’s the largest local music festival in Michigan.

Motor City Tattoo Expo

March 2021; Detroit; themotorcitytattooexpo.com

Got ink? Do you want some? Since 1996, the Motor City Tattoo Expo has connected ink lovers and the needle-wielding artists that make very permanent dreams come true. This event draws tattoo aficionados from all over, featuring seminars, vendors, live music, and, yeah — tattoos.

Autorama

March 2021; Detroit; autorama.com

Since 1952, the grit, grease, and muscle of Autorama has been known as America’s greatest hot rod show. The event offers a glimpse at custom rides, celebrity guests, car tips, demonstrations, rockabilly tunes, and pinup girls, including a Miss Autorama contest.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

March 15, 2020; Detroit; detroitstpatricksparade.com

Feeling lucky? Good! Because we’re seeing green — a lot of green. Detroit’s historic Corktown neighborhood will once again honor the long-standing celebration of its Irish heritage with a shamrock ’n’ rollin’ parade, traditional music, beer, and a family fun zone for all the non-alcoholic shenanigans.

Marche du Nain Rouge

March 22, 2020, from noon to 3 p.m.; Detroit; marchedunainrouge.com

OK, Detroit might just be one of the world’s weirdest cities, and our annual celebration of a mythological red dwarf does little to prove otherwise. Marche du Nain Rouge is a Mardis Gras-style fête where the city bands together to banish the Nain Rouge, the dreaded little red devil of local lore. The event, which marches along the Cass Corridor, concludes at the Masonic Temple, where the Nain delivers a speech filled with pop-culture references and double entendre. Oh, and then we dance. Don’t want to shame the Nain? You’re encouraged to defend the misunderstood imp, if you dare.

Ann Arbor Film Festival

March 24-29, 2020; Ann Arbor; aafilmfest.org

We get it — you love movies. But do you love movies? If you answered yes, then the 58th annual Ann Arbor Film Fest is the must-see event for cinephiles like you, especially those with adventurous tastes. The weeklong event features more than 180 independent and experimental films across 40 different programs.

We have a new events newsletter! Find out the best things to do in the area every Thursday morning in your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.