Rock the Bay City Fireworks Festival this 4th of July with These Tips for Families

Credit: Craig Sterken Photography
Credit: Craig Sterken Photography


In case you haven’t heard, the Great Lakes Bay Fireworks Festival is kind of a big deal (understatement of the century, anyone?)

With two parks absolutely bursting with festivities – including the Skerbeck family carnival, live performances, entertainment tents, a car & bike show and one of the largest fireworks displays not just in Pure Michigan, but in the whole Midwest – the waterfront community of Bay City is absolutely alive with Independence Day sights, sounds, tastes, and treats.

Will you and yours join the approximately 250,000 who make it a tradition to attend the 3-day festival each year? We hope so! That’s why we’re sharing our tried-and-true tips for making sure your family has a blast at this year’s Bay City Fireworks Festival, July 2-4, 2015.

Get Ready to Rock

Credit: Craig Sterken Photography
Credit: Craig Sterken Photography

Before we get into all the extras ready to be soaked up by you and your family on your trip to Bay City this 4th of July, let’s talk essentials – like just how many fireworks you can tell your kids they’ll see, and where you should set up camp to view them from.

  • Location, Location!  Fireworks will be launched from 3 locations: Ball diamonds in Veteran’s Memorial Park, barges in the Saginaw River, and from a location in Uptown Bay City.
  • Epic Display: While celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2012, the Bay City Fireworks Festival (BCFF) fired off 50,000 shots in 50 minutes! For the grand finale on July 4, 2015, the BCFF plans to launch 35,000 to 40,000 shots in 36 minutes, creating an experience nearly on par with the commemorative blowout finale!

Your family could see the fireworks from just about anywhere in Bay City, but to truly soak up the action, Veterans Memorial Park (Westside, or west of the Saginaw River) and Wenonah Park (Eastside) are the places to be!

Eastside: Wenonah Park

The BCFF scene at Wenonah Park includes blankets spread about the grassy park as children and adults gobble up cotton candy, hot dogs and fresh-squeezed lemonade from the vendors and dance to live music- acts from Country to Blues begin at varying times each night.

  • Admission is $5 per person.
  • Coolers are welcome; pets, personal fireworks and alcohol are not. Hankering for an adult beverage anyway? Head to the entertainment tents to cool off and refresh with one.
  • Sponsored by AT&T, a VIP viewing area is available with multiple packages and options including a Thursday and Friday night $20 per person rate which includes a picnic-style dinner.  You can snag your spot now in the VIP area by calling 989-280-1591.

Eastside Family Secrets

  • There’s a Spot: Consider parking at the Dow Bay Area Family Y (paid parking, includes blocked off area to watch show from).
  • Eat Before The Show: Sorry, grillmasters. We know you were ready to flex that hotdog flipping, steak-charring muscle of yours, but no grilling is allowed in either park. Luckily, our Bay City restaurants are full of flavor and will help tide you over for the festival (but make sure the kids save room for some cotton candy!)
  • Slow Going: Be prepared for traffic afterwards – some say 1.5 hours, others say more. Fair warning. (And did we mention, totally worth the wait?)

 Westside: Veteran’s Memorial Park

Credit: Craig Sterken Photography
Credit: Craig Sterken Photography

Just across the river, the Westside scene is rockin’ at Veteran’s Memorial Park with live music, the Skerbeck carnivalTeen Zone Glow Party, Paint Party and Foam Party, the Car & Bike Show and more! John F. Kennedy Drive is closed to traffic for the festival, and “the main drag” is lively, colorful and packed with food vendors and entertainment.

  • Admission is $1 per person.
  • Coolers are welcome; pets, personal fireworks and alcohol are not. Again, if you’re looking to enjoy some adult beverages, cozy up nearby one of the entertainment tents.

Westside Family Secrets

  • Start Early: Early to mid-afternoon is the best time for families to visit the carnival. As the nighttime sets in, the carnival gets busier and less fun for teeny people.
  • Let’s All Go: Located next to Liberty Harbor Marina, the Teen Zone’s free Thursday-night “Glow Party” or Friday-night “Paint Party” and Saturday-night “Foam Party” ($10 pre-sale/$15 at gate) are a blast for kids of all ages! Parental supervision is required for youngsters. Also, just outside of the teen tent is a foam pit for little ones. Take advantage of this unique spot, families! It’s sure to be a hit with the kids.
  • Have a Ball Here: Hang out and watch the fireworks near the ball diamonds by the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge. Live bands play, and it’s not as crowded as the main drag. Also, the ballpark lights remain on after the show creating a safe, well-lit place to hang out until traffic clears.
Credit: Great Lakes Bay Magazine
Credit: Great Lakes Bay Magazine

Before You Go

  • Multiple Options: The Bay City Fireworks Festival is a 3-day get-down, with the grand finale event – July 4, 2015 – drawing the largest crowds. Many families attend all three days, visiting the carnival one day and returning separately for the finale, or visiting Wenonah Park one night and Vet’s Memorial Park the second. Others attend only pre-finale nights. So, spread the love over all 3 days of festivities and make the most of your time on Bay City’s waterfront.
  • Stake Out Your Stay: Especially if you’re packing up the little ones for the trip, finding a place to crash (and finding it early) is a must. After all, there’s no length of ride home we could imagine going well after the kiddos have a little too much fun and sun and a lot of cotton candy. Even if you don’t make it into one of our Bay City hotels in the center of the action, you can still book your stay at any regional hotel (many within a 20-minute drive).
  • How We Roll: Parking is available, but finding it can feel tricky. (Shhh! Many families park along the side streets of neighborhoods, and walk in approximately ¼ mile to the festival). Consider bringing a wagon for little ones, which doubles nicely as a mobile bed later in the evening.
  • Keep Cooler: With carnival treats and food vendors galore – locals rave about That Guy’s BBQ and B&C Pizza, by the way – who needs a cooler? If you do feel the need to pack a snack or two, coolers on wheels are the ticket; ice cold drinks and finger foods are the fare.
  • Wipe Out: Portable bathrooms with kids? Indeed. Pack sanitizing wipes? You bet! (Thank us later?)  Heads up: Even local families rent hotel rooms during the BCFF, if for nothing more than a personal restroom and a place to call homebase before, during, and after the celebration, regardless of whether they sleep there! Book from your choice of Bay City hotels or claim your room at one of our nearby regional hotels (and do it soon!)
  • Plan For Fun: Feeling spontaneous? Normally, we’re all for it! But with the size of this event, we think it’s best if you refresh yourself prior to your visit at the BFCC website to double-check information, times, prices, etc.

One Last Tip

Consider decking your family out for the BCFF in “glow garb” (available all over the festival) and pick something easy to spot, like three neon blue necklaces or two neon green bracelets on each wrist. After dark, in a sea of people, you’ll be able to easily spot your family, the kids won’t have to beg for the latest light-up toy at every turn, and best of all – instant souvenir! Be sure to get a picture of your family all aglow for a little takeaway from your Bay City Fireworks Festival experience, and hashtag your photos on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook with #GoGreat and #BayCityFireworks to share.

Credit: Great Lakes Bay Magazine
Credit: Great Lakes Bay Magazine

So you read this entire post of tips for families even though you’re not traveling with kids?

That’s okay.  We still love you (and we’d still love to have you here).  So, go ahead – treat yourself, your spouse, and your friends to a more adult-friendly version of the festivities. Try a Bay City Fireworks Dinner Sail aboard the Appledore IV Tall Ship (featuring a relaxing dinner aboard the ship, followed by VIP seating for the fireworks display), or a Bay City Fireworks Dinner Cruise on the Princess Wenonah on July 3rd or July 4th (featuring live entertainment and an Atrium-catered meal while aboard, followed by VIP Viewing Area seating at Wenonah Park for the fireworks show).

Want more insider travel tips from our local experts? Follow us on the #GoGreat Blog!

Meet The Blogger:

Jen Wainwright is a freelance writer in Bridgeport, Michigan. She specializes in marketing communications copy, feature articles and compelling content/blog posts. Jen enjoys experiencing multicultural opportunities in the Great Lakes Bay Region with her family, camping and laughing. You can find her at