All hands on deck! Anchor that ship! With teams at the ready and awe-inspiring ships from around the globe sailing into port here in the Great Lakes Bay, the mecca of maritime merriment is returning July 14-17, when the 2016 Tall Ship Celebration: Bay City sails into our Pure Michigan waters once again.


Think four days and 75,000+ visitors, foot-stomping maritime musicians from Great Britain to the Netherlands, two parks jam-packed with activities, stilt-walking jugglers, a street festival, Pancakes with Pirates, Ballads & Brews - all the while boarding the majestic vessels and talking ship with the colorful crews - and you begin to understand the epic scene!  


Tall Ship Celebration - Juggler 


  • What: Tall Ship Celebration: Bay City 2016 
  • When: Noon, July 14 - 5 p.m. July 17 
  • Where: Tall Ships will dock along both sides of the Saginaw River between Veteran's Memorial Bridge and Liberty Bridge; music and activities will take place in both Veteran's Memorial Park and Wenonah Park. (Psst! Look for the free shuttles to easily "sail" between parks and performances!)
  • How Much: Tickets are $8 per day when purchased by June 30, $10 as of July 1. Advance-purchase savings apply to Passports, too: $8 in advance/$10 thereafter. Tickets and Passports can be purchased here, and, for the first time ever, at all 129 Michigan Kroger locations.

Heads up, Mateys! Here come the ships (including Bay Sail's schooners, the Appledore IV and Appledore V - and El Galeon, Draken Harald Hårfagre, and Sail When And If) making their Great Lakes debut this summer... and, now, here come the #GoGreat insider tips!


Tip #1: Don't Delay on Anchoring Your Place to Stay

Tall Ship Celebration Ship In Front Of Doubletree By Hilton Bay City Riverfront 


Consider the sheer magnitude of this international festival, and the honor of Bay City, Michigan being chosen for the sixth time as the port city host (receiving not only the Port of the Year Award for 2016, but also the coveted Ship and Crew Award given to the port city voted best by captains and crews of participating vessels) and you begin to see why this is the #1 tip!


  • Do book in advance. Options nearest the event include the Doubltree by Hilton and Bay City Inn, though many hotels in Bay City are quite close.
  • Don't worry. Nearly all hotels in the Great Lakes Bay Region are within less than a 30 minute drive, and you can snag your stay early and easily at book.gogreat.com
  • Looking to add another element of history to your voyage? Bay City's Historic Webster House B&B is award-winning and beyond charming.

Tip #2: Ahoy, Thursday!

Tall Ship Celebration - Boarding The Ship 


Tall Ships "buccaneers" know this festival is four days of excitement, and not a single one is worth missing.


  • Thursday Atmosphere: As noon rolls around, the tall ships sail in and on-lookers can experience the organized chaos of each arrival, as crews throw lines to volunteers on deck (that could be you!)
  • Psst! Attend the Street Party with Crewmembers: After day one of excitement and docking, all are welcomed (including crews) to the 8 p.m. Street Party in front of Golden Gallery to enjoy merriment - and the traveling exhibit, History of Tattoos, too!

Tip #3: Bring Your Dancing Shoes

Tall Ship Celebration - Musicians 


If you don't know maritime music - the genre of folk created aboard ships to make it easier for crew to keep in time - welcome to your new favorite sound! And welcome to whooping it up, stomping and clapping, and feeling the soul of sea wayfarers ... and pirates!


  • Listen for internationally renowned maritime musicians from Great Britain, Norway, Poland and the Netherlands-and Hooley, Whiskey & Water, Roane, and Bocca Musica out of Michigan, too!
  • Musical sets are 45 minutes, with 15-minute intervals (to grab a Michigan craft brew or an infamous coney dog from on-site vendor Mussel Beach Drive-In). Each band will perform at both Veteran's Memorial Park and Wenonah Park.
  • Who's playing where at what time? Read our next tip to find out!

Tip #4: There's An App For That

This could just as easily have been Tip #1, but it's worth the wait! For the first time, there will be an app that will provide up-to-date information during the Tall Ship Celebration: Bay City!


  • What ship has the shortest lines? Check the app!
  • What band is playing next? Check the app!
  • Places to park and entrance fees? Check the app!
  • What time on Saturday morning is Pancakes with Pirates, and how much? You've got it - the app!

Keep on the lookout for updates here!


Tip #5: Attend the Festival Within the Festival: Ballads & Brews

Ballads & Brews 

Shipboarding ends at 5 p.m. each evening ... right when Ballads & Brews begins at the Quarter Deck (Veteran's Memorial Park) from 5 p.m. - midnight, Friday and Saturday nights! 


  • Footstompin' fun, craft brews from Pure Michigan breweries and maritime music will be plentiful!
  • Psst! Special Sunday Show! Sunday, from 5 - 7:30 p.m., the Quarter Deck will be absolutely alive with an all-hands-on-deck gathering of musicians and free-flowing jam sessions!

Tip #6: Monday Meetings are NOT Worth Missing This

Tall Ship Celebration: Bay City is a four-day festival, July 14 - 17, but be advised: extend your stay well into Monday!  (Is Monday not the best day to take off anyway?)

  • The majestic vessels sail out in staggered fashion on Monday.
  • It's absolutely free and undeniably memorable to witness ... way better than meetings, sorry not sorry.

Tip #7: Study Up, Sailors and Pirates!

Tall Ship Celebration - Raising The Sails 


Tall Ship Celebration is a unique scene, with a lot of action, a wealth of history, and more behind-the-scenes happenings than you can handle. (For example, unlike seasoned seafarers, newcomers might accidentally pass on the one-time-per-event purchase of the Tall Ship Passport and miss out on access to all activities, priceless information, and having their hands on a special piece of history).


And there you have it, "Buckos" (friends)! Belt out a "chantey" (song) and enjoy some "grog" (rum drink) while boarding the beauties at Tall Ship Celebration: Bay City 2016!