Michigan comes alive in springtime, making May one of the best months to visit. From flower festivals and outdoor adventures to exciting events, there are so many fun things happening across the state. Here are my top 25 recommendations for making the most of Michigan in May.
1. Tulip Time Festival
Visitors can take self-guided tulip tours to see gorgeous flowers planted throughout the city and lining the streets. Popular photo spots include Window on the Waterfront park, the 800,000 tulips at Tulip Lane, and over 100,000 tulips framing the Dutch-styled Windmill Island Gardens.
Other Tulip Time highlights include parades with Dutch dancers and performers, a carnival midway, Dutch food and crafts market, concerts, woodshoe dancing, and more. It’s an excellent time to visit Holland. Don’t forget to try a Dutch treat like Poffertjes pancakes!
2. Detroit River Days Festival
Detroit River Days is a popular waterfront festival held annually in May. For three days, the Detroit Riverfront comes alive with free events, activities, and live music.
Festival highlights include watersports demos, Tall Ship tours, fireworks over the Detroit River, amusement rides, family activities, and nightly concerts. It’s a wonderful kickoff to summer in the Motor City!
3. Spring Migration Birding
For nature lovers, May is a fantastic time to spot migrating birds in Michigan as they pass through to their summer nesting grounds. Some hotspots I’ve been to include Kensington Metropark near Milford and Point Pelee National Park near Windsor.
Guided bird walks are also offered at various parks where you’re likely to see warblers, scarlet tanagers, flycatchers, orioles, and so much more. Bring your binoculars and get ready to spot colorful neotropical migrants!
4. Mackinac Island
Head to beautiful Mackinac Island before peak crowds hit in summer. This iconic Michigan destination banned automobiles way back in 1898.
Visitors get around by foot, bike or horse-drawn carriage. Highlights include the picturesque downtown, Fort Mackinac, Arch Rock, and indulging in fudge. May is also an ideal time to catch the Lilac Festival and see hundreds of lilac blossoms across the island.
5. Detroit Zoo
Address: 8450 W 10 Mile Rd, Royal Oak, MI 48067
The Detroit Zoo comes to life in springtime! This 125-acre zoo is home to thousands of animals like rhinos, penguins, tigers, bears, and giraffes.
May is an exciting time with new baby animal births to see, including endangered Amur tiger cubs, red panda kits, kangaroo joeys, and more. The zoo also hosts some spring-only happenings like the “Butterfly Encounter” where you can walk through an aviary with hundreds of freely fluttering butterflies!
6. Ann Arbor Art Fair
One of Michigan’s most acclaimed annual events is the Ann Arbor Art Fair, held each May. Four award-winning art fairs take place simultaneously downtown – the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair, State Street Art Fair, and South University Art Fair.
In total, over 1,000 artists participate selling unique works. It’s heaven for art lovers to browse endless booths filled with paintings, pottery, sculptures, photos, jewelry, glass art, mixed media pieces, and more while chatting with creators.
7. Detroit Grand Prix
Rev your engines for the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle Park! This exciting IndyCar race brings top drivers speeding along downtown Detroit’s riverfront.
Spectators can watch the action up-close from general admission areas or reserved main grandstands. The event also features concerts, food trucks, paddock access, and interactive displays. It’s an adrenaline-filled experience during the month of May!
8. Selfridge Air Show
Aviation fans will love attending the Thunder Over Michigan Air Show held annually at Selfridge Air National Guard base near Mount Clemens.
For two days, this exciting event features incredible aerobatic stunts, flyovers, demonstrations, static aircraft displays, and more from historic warplanes, show planes, jets, and helicopters.
You can watch all the action up close from the flight line and also enjoy interactive hangar exhibits, kid’s activities, vendors, and food trucks. It’s Michigan’s biggest air show spectacle.
9. Spring Wildflower Walks
See Michigan’s forests burst into color on a spring wildflower walk. Guided walks are offered in parks statewide where naturalists help identify fascinating woodland ephemerals.
Prime spots include Stony Creek, Kensington Farm, Hudson Mills, and Lake St. Clair Metroparks near Detroit. You’ll see trillium, trout lilies, bloodroot, hepatica, and many more native Michigan wildflowers on a 1-2 hour stroll. It’s a great family-friendly outdoor activity for May!
10. Ann Arbor’s Nichols Arboretum
Address: 1610 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Explore 123 acres of woodlands, gardens, and meadows at the University of Michigan’s beloved Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor. This urban oasis boasts over 4000 plant species to enjoy.
Highlights include the Peony Garden with fragrant blooms in May, Champion Trees walking tour, and excellent hiking/biking trails. Visit in springtime when colorful native wildflowers like trillium, trout lilies, and bluebells blanket the forest floor. Admission is free.
11. Detroit Institute of Bagels
Address: 4884 Grand River Ave, Detroit, MI 48208
Start your Detroit day right with amazing bagels from the Detroit Institute of Bagels in Corktown. This local shop makes incredible Montreal-style bagels boiled in honey water before baking.
The diverse flavors include classics like everything and rainbow confetti to creations like cinnamon crunch. Customize your order with different schmears and toppings too. It’s my favorite bagel spot in the Motor City!
12. Belle Isle Kite Festival
On Belle Isle in Detroit, you can experience the High Flyers Kite Festival. This free event happens in mid-May and features professional kite flyers showing off amazing airborne stunts and designs.
There are also kite flying lessons for kids, kite building workshops, food trucks, and more family fun. It’s an uplifting festival and one of Detroit’s most popular spring events.
13. Detroit River Raptor Watch
A unique event for bird lovers is the Detroit River Hawk Watch. From mid-March through May, thousands of raptors like bald eagles, osprey, harriers, and turkey vultures migrate along the Detroit River.
Two parks offer hawk viewing and counting programs – Elizabeth Park in Trenton and the Grosse Ile Nature Center. Volunteers help monitor the raptor numbers. It’s amazing seeing these majestic birds fly over the riverfront.
14. Detroit’s Eastern Market
Eastern Market in Detroit is one of the oldest and largest year-round farmer’s markets in the country. On Saturdays, over 350 vendors sell fresh produce, meats, cheeses, flowers, baked goods, and more.
In May, you’ll find spring favorites like asparagus, rhubarb, greens, berries, and sweet corn. I love grabbing ingredients here for weekend grilling. The market also hosts fun events like workshops, cooking demos, and craft fairs. Don’t forget to try a Cronut or cup of Mexican coffee!
15. Morel Mushroom Hunting
A beloved spring tradition in Michigan is hunting for tasty morel mushrooms. These flavorful mushrooms thrive in May after spring rains.
Some of the best spots to search for morels are elm, ash, poplar, and old apple orchards. Always be 100% certain of identification before consuming wild mushrooms. I’ve found success looking in state game areas and metroparks. Pack your mesh bag and be ready to explore!
16. Detroit’s Cinco de Mayo Festival
Mexicantown in Detroit hosts an incredible Cinco de Mayo street festival to celebrate Mexican heritage, culture, food and community. For one day, West Vernor Highway is closed for a vibrant parade with floats, bands, dancers and more.
The festival also features five stages of live entertainment, lucha libre wrestling matches, a low rider car showcase, authentic food, local vendors, piñatas, games, contests and fun for all ages. It’s one of the largest Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Michigan.
Michigan is a fantastic destination in the springtime. From culturally diverse festivals and nature adventures to exciting sporting events, there are so many amazing things happening across the state during the month of May.
The temperate climate, blooming scenery, and lineup of special events make May one of the best times to visit. No matter what interests you, planning a Michigan getaway in May is sure to make for an unforgettable trip.