PICTURE THIS: The sun sets over a lakeside backdrop as you sip a refreshing drink, bask in the warm spring weather, then tie it all together with some tunes. The Great Lakes region is made up of numerous waterside escapes to put you in this scene — if you look in all the right places.
From the northern Canadian border, stretching down through the five Great Lakes, the following outdoor venues, convention centers and concert halls provide a mix of all the things we look forward to this boating season: places to tie up, rock out, relax, mingle with friends and just enjoy life.
BAYFRONT FESTIVAL PARK
These festival grounds are one of Minnesota’s premier lakeside venues. Located next to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, the park hosts events ranging from concerts and arts festivals in the summer to ice skating in the winter.
Where to Dock: Lakehead Boat Basin
BARKER’S ISLAND FESTIVAL PARK
This waterfront setting presents a family-friendly venue and hosts the seasonal Bayside Around Town Concert Series. Grab a lawn chair and camp out during the summer festivities, or bundle up for annual holiday events throughout the winter.
Where to Dock: Barker’s Island Marina
LAKE SUPERIOR BIG TOP CHAUTAUQUA
This 900-seat canvas tent is a lively event venue situated along a gorgeous backdrop of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and Gaylord Nelson Wilderness area. Catch everything from open mic nights to concerts of various music genres.
Where to Dock: Apostle Islands Marina
South Haven, MI
This venue brings in a mix of national, regional and local acts, and also has a strong focus on community programs. Just off the shores of South Haven, its summertime Riverfront Concert Series at Riverfront Park presents everything from rock and roll, jazz and funk, to tejano and reggae.
Where to Dock: South Haven Municipal Marina South
ROTARY AMPHITHEATER AT DISCOVERY WORLD
Boaters love this waterside venue that offers more than 450 feet of dockage along Discovery World’s south side to use while attending concerts. Overnight transient slips are also available through the Lakeshore State Park. The intimate venue overlooking Milwaukee Harbor and Lake Michigan is an ideal summer concert destination.
Where to Dock: Lakeshore State Park
Nestled in the heart of Chicago’s bustling port, Navy Pier is a lakefront gem and gorgeous scene along Lake Michigan. The historic landmark is home to attractions and a lively concert venue hosting national and local acts throughout summer shows.
Where to Dock: Navy Pier Marina or Chicago Harbors
VETERANS WATERFRONT PARK
Port Austin, MI
Catch summer events while enjoying views of the Port Austin Reef Lighthouse at this outdoor venue. The park offers kayak launching, a volleyball court, picnic area and swimming at the beach.
Where to Dock: Port Austin State Harbor
BLUE WATER CONVENTION CENTER
Port Huron, MI
Overlooking where the Blue Water Bridge crosses over the St. Clair River, this waterfront convention center hosts events ranging from the Port Huron Boat Show to various banquets and galas.
Where to Dock: Bridge Harbour Marina
WENONAH PARK AT WORLD FRIENDSHIP SHELL
Bay City, MI
This bayside amphitheater and downtown park spans over six acres of green space and is home to tons of seasonal events. Vessels of all sizes can dock at the seawall, and guests can enjoy concerts at The Nicklass Family Community Pavilion or the historic State Theatre. statetheatrebaycity.com
Where to Dock: Bay Harbor Marina
HIGHMARK AMPHITHEATER AT LIBERTY PARK
This outdoor venue overlooks the southeast shores of Lake Erie’s sheltered waters along Presque Isle. Surrounded by beautiful scenery and recreation, it presents concerts and special events such as the 8 Great Tuesdays Port Erie Concert Series starting in July.
Where to Dock: Perry’s Landing Marina
NAUTICA WATERFRONT DISTRICT
In the heart of downtown Cleveland, this entertainment district is just minutes from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and notable attractions. Cruise Lake Erie, shop, dine, sightsee and catch live music at the Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica along the Cuyahoga River.
Where to Dock: Oasis Marinas at North Coast Harbor
LAKESIDE CHAUTAUQUA & HOOVER AUDITORIUM
The Lakeside Chautauqua nonprofit hosts seasonal events along the south shores of Lake Erie. Catch summer concerts at the waterfront pavilion or shows at one of the historic venues including Hoover Auditorium, Orchestra Hall and the Steele Memorial Bandstand.
Where to Dock: South Beach Resort Hotel Cottages & Marina
ONTARIO BEACH PARK
Enjoy events year-round at one of the Great Lakes’ top natural sand beaches along Lake Ontario’s 39-acre park. Experience seasonal festivities, ride the historic carousel, boat along the sandy shores and catch the free series, Concerts by the Shore.
Where to Dock: Port of Rochester Marina or Southport Marina
OUTDOORS AT THE SHAW
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, Canada
The Shaw Festival Theatre and Royal George Theatre festival grounds make up a gorgeous outdoor venue. The theaters host Broadway musicals, world-class musicians, outdoor plays, concerts and much more.
Where to Dock: St. Catharines Marina
Toronto, ON, Canada
In the energetic city of Toronto, this lively center is made up of dozens of outdoor stages, theatres, studios, galleries and parks along the banks of Lake Ontario. Catch year-round concerts and outdoor spring and summer events and exhibits. harbourfrontcentre.com
Where to Dock: Harbourfront Centre marinas (Marina Quay West, Marina Four or John Quay)
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