Kids at Zehnder's Snowfest in Frankenmuth, MI

 

Wandering through an ethereal, festival-style flea market named among the top 100 in the country or hunting down heirloom treasures on the 80-acre grounds of Michigan's largest antique festival — autumn in the Great Lakes Bay Region brings vibrant hues and the colorful fall festival experiences to match!

And, when the hush of winter arrives? We turn up the heat for even more festival fun — from one of the top snow sculpting events in North America to joyful city lighting celebrations and bustling holiday makers markets! 

 


 

Button down your favorites from this list of fall and winter festivals in Michigan's Great Lakes Bay Region, and be ready to celebrate all the way from autumn's first fallen leaves to the final snow of winter!

 


 

September - October

 

Frankenmuth Auto Fest (September, Frankenmuth) "Ooh" and "ahh" at more than 2,500 classic cars, street rods, and muscle cars that fill Heritage Park for this can't-miss, three-day car show. Buy yourself a weekend pass — and don't pass up Friday night's show-stopping Big Block Party on Main Street!

Rebel Magnolia Fall Flea Market (September, Saginaw) A free-spirited, festival-style market and one of the "Top 100 Outdoor Markets in the U.S." (Flea Market Style Magazine, 2017). Shop a curated marketplace of items found and gathered, vintage and new — supplied by over 100 hand-selected vendors — and enjoy the on-site food trucks, too!

Frankenmuth Funtown Chowdown Food Truck Festival (September, Frankenmuth) Choose one (or many) from a mouthwatering lineup of 20+ food trucks, enjoy your eats beneath the shaded tents while the kids enjoy the on-site play village, and don't miss the Battle of the Breweries, where two competing breweries will take over the taps to see whose craft comes out on top!  

The Great Lakes Market - Autumn Market (September, Bay City) Autumn market in Uptown Bay City, filled with the artisan craft of local Mitten State makers.

Japan Festival (September, Saginaw) Traditional tea ceremonies to Tai Chi, Origami to calligraphy — even Ikebana flower arranging — experience it all during this authentic celebration at the Japanese Cultural Center, Tea House, and Gardens of Saginaw.

Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens Birding Festival (September, Midland) Inaugural birding festival inside the brilliantly reimagined Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens — bringing birders of all abilities together for three days of hands-on education. Learn from over 20 distinguished conservationists, researchers, photographers, and environmental educators, and take advantage of 30+ dynamic sessions and instructional workshops. Over a dozen guided field trip opportunities will whisk you through some of the region's most awe-inspiring wildlife refuges and conservancy lands — elevating this once-in-a-lifetime birding experience far beyond the ordinary!

Frankenmuth Oktoberfest (September, Frankenmuth) Hofbräuhaus beer, hand-rolled Bavarian Inn pretzels, and traditional German fare from bratwurst to buttered spätzle? It's just the beginning to this traditional Oktoberfest — the only outside of Germany's original to be officially sanctioned by the Bavarian Parliament and City of Munich!

Michigan Antique Festivals (September, Midland) Michigan's largest antique festival, held twice annually in Midland — stocked by over 1,000 quality dealers spread out across 80 acres of fairgrounds! Don't miss the Shabby Experience & Industrial Way, Taste of Michigan shop, or the massive classic car show and swap meet.

Hell's Half Mile Film & Music Festival (September, Bay City) Grassroots festival connecting filmmakers and musicians with festival-goers for an intimate, curated festival experience unlike any other — hosted at various venues peppered along Bay City's historic Hell's Half Mile and beyond. 

MI Made Marketplace (September, Bay City) Held in tandem with Hell's Half Mile Film & Music Festival, this artisan marketplace features the goods of proud Michigan makers — along the Downtown Bay City streetscapes and alongside a lineup of local food trucks!

Northwood University International Auto Show (September, Midland) North America's largest outdoor new car show — free to the public and featuring 500+ vehicles on display from over 65 top brands!

River of Time Festival (September, Bay City) Explore camp sites along the banks of the Saginaw River where re-enactors dress, work, and live as in eras past — from Native Americans to the Revolutionary War, the Civil War to the great World Wars.

Fall Harvest Festival (October, Midland) An authentic 19th-century experience of life on the farm at harvest time, set inside the 1,200-acre Chippewa Nature Center. Listen to live folk music and take a hay wagon to the 1870s-style Homestead Farm to encounter everything from woodcarving to woodstove cooking, beekeeping to apple butter-making.

Michigan's Big Country Fest (October, Frankenmuth) Live, boot-stompin' tunes from multiple country bands, mechanical bull rides, and a build-your-own bloody mary bar! Take free line dancing lessons, try your hand at the cornhole tournaments, and sample from an assortment of food trucks.

Scarecrow Festival (October, Frankenmuth) Face painting to pumpkin painting, pumpkin bowling to a pumpkin catapult — enjoy it all along with arts & crafts, kids' inflatables, and a scarecrow contest you can cast your votes in!

 

November - December

 

Riverside Saginaw Film Festival (November, Saginaw) Grassroots festival highlighting emerging filmmakers and their works at multiple venues within blocks of the Saginaw River.

Deal Hunters' Weekend (November, Birch Run) Shop the already-incredible savings at Birch Run Premium Outlets and enjoy all the added fun — games and giveaways to parties and raffle prizes.

Holidays in the Heart of the City (November, Saginaw) City lighting ceremonies, free holiday concerts, and horse-drawn wagon rides along luminary-lit streets bring the holiday spirit to life at the heart of Saginaw — all topped off by a festive fireworks display over Ojibway Island!

Holiday Celebration & Candlewalk (November, Frankenmuth) Hot cocoa and cookies at Frankenmuth River Place Shops, followed by a candlelit stroll to the Frankenmuth Chamber Platz for the lighting of the Tannenbaum (German for "fir tree") and visits with Santa.

Frankenmuth Christkindlmarkt (November - December, Frankenmuth) European-style Christmas market held under toasty-warm, heated outdoor tents in one of Time magazine's "9 Most Christmassy Towns in America". Shop everything from greenery and garlands to holiday gifts while you warm up with a cup of hot cocoa and snack on roasted chestnuts.

Santa's Village - The North Pole USA (November - December, Chesaning) A 25,000-square-foot Christmas wonderland — made festive by more than 175 trimmed trees, a model train display, holiday carnival rides, Christmas-themed craft stations, and Santa himself.

Sundays in the City (November - December, Bay City) A city stirring with holiday spirit, especially the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Take a free horse-drawn carriage ride to the sound of strolling carolers and stop to see a classic holiday film shown inside the historic State Theatre.

Midland Santa House (November - December, Midland) Home of the world's oldest Santa Claus school, open seasonally for visits with Santa and the Mrs. — not to mention, their real-life reindeer on select dates! Enjoy a magical family photo op, followed by a ride through Downtown Midland aboard the miniature, trackless Northern Star Train.

Nate & Mary Ida Doan Santa House (November - December, Bay City) Cozy, decked-out log cabin inside Veterans Memorial Park, offering visits with Santa from the first Saturday after Thanksgiving until December 22 — even special Reindeer Days where your kiddos can meet the ones who pull the sleigh!

The Great Lakes Market - Winter Market (December, Midland) Festive artisan makers market held on the heated concourse of Dow Diamond, with holiday gifts and handmade goods a'plenty.

Dow Gardens Christmas Walks (December, Midland) Stroll this garden for all seasons — snow-dusted and softly illuminated by candlelight — and listen to live carolers all along the paths. Greet Santa's reindeer, sip hot cocoa in the historic barn, and warm up at the conservatory, where you'll see a show-stopping poinsettia display! 

Midnight on Main (December, Midland) Colossal New Year's Eve celebration with an epic Times Square-style ball drop at midnight! Enjoy drinks, dinner, and dancing — plus a spectacular fireworks show — all within the warmth of the heated Dow Diamond concourse!

 

January - February

 

Zehnder's Snowfest (January, Frankenmuth) One of the top snow sculpting events in all of North America and an almost-30-year Frankenmuth tradition well worth braving the cold for! Make your way through a labyrinth of towering snow sculptures and delicate ice sculptures — watching them carved before your eyes as you walk — and take a break from the elements inside the warming tents. Afterward, stick around for an unforgettable fireworks display set off against the wintry night sky!

Winter Festival (February, Bay City) Adventure through the winter wonderland of Bay City State Park, enjoying everything from snowshoeing to a snow angel contest, winter wildlife workshops to a family ice fishing derby — all paired with Michigan's Winter Free Fishing Weekend!

Saginaw Spirit Ice Blast Weekend (February, Saginaw) Pre-game inflatables and activities for the kids inside The Dow Event Center Red Room, plus a Chili Cook-Off and live entertainment for the adults. Follow it up in the Arena with live Saginaw Spirit OHL hockey the whole family will love!