Traverse City Area Trip Guide | Midwest Living

Traverse City Area Trip Guide

When you pack your bags for this region, include your sense of adventure. Lively experiences—wine-country tours by bike, pub crawls by water and summer camp for grown-ups—color escapes. No matter what direction you head, a visit to the Lake Michigan harbor town of Traverse City and its neighbors broadens your horizons.
Boyne Mountain water park
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2 Lads Winery Enjoy award-winning wine on the Old Mission Peninsula while taking in views of East Grand Traverse Bay (15 miles north of Traverse City).

Art and Soul Gallery Dog prints, pottery, oil landscapes, handblown glass and more local art fill the gallery on downtown’s Front Street.

Brick Wheels In addition to rental bicycles, snowshoes and skis, you can shop for new gear, get repairs, or ask for info on recreational areas and sporting events. In Traverse City. (231) 947-4274;

Clinch Park You’ll find public beaches all along the shore, but this 1,500-foot beach and marina is just a couple blocks from downtown Traverse City. (800) 872-8377; 

Crystal River Outfitters Rent a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard and explore Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore via the meandering Crystal River. Not sure where to start the journey? Join one of the self-guided kayak or canoe trips from Glen Arbor.

Dennos Museum Center On the Northwestern Michigan College campus, the center’s collection includes 1,500 pieces of Inuit art. (231) 995-1055; 

Grand Traverse Bike Tours Join bike tours through the vineyards of the Leelanau Peninsula or over trails leading to breweries.

Interlochen Center for the Arts Sign up for classes at the College for Creative Arts (think summer camp for grown-ups). The wide range of workshops includes topics like painting, mystery writing and fingerstyle guitar playing.

Little Traverse Wheelway Life eases to a slow pedal along the family-friendly, 23-mile trail linking Charlevoix, Petoskey and Harbor Springs. The paved path hugs the Lake Michigan shore for panoramas of sparkling blue water and for opportunities to stop and explore the shore. (231) 348-8280;

The River The outfitter rents gear (bicycles, stand-up paddleboards, canoes and kayaks) and arranges tours, such as Pedal Up, Paddle Back along the Boardman.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Lake Michigan sparkles below sand dunes and bluffs in this 35-mile-long park (26 miles northwest of Traverse City). In the distance, North and South Manitou islands make alluring destinations (accessible by ferry from Leland). (231) 326-5134; 

State Theatre Filmmaker and founder of the Traverse City Film Festival (July 26–31, 2016), Michael Moore was one of the contributors who helped reopen the 1916 theater. These days, edgy films show late on Fridays, Saturday kids’ matinees cost a quarter, and there’s free popcorn on Tuesdays.

Traverse Tall Ship Company Crew members invite passengers to try hoisting the sails on the Manitou, a 114-foot replica schooner. But there’s plenty of time to relax over snacks and drinks during the two-hour cruise.

The Village at Grand Traverse Commons Restaurants, as well as an art gallery, boutique shops and wine tasting rooms, fill what was built as a mental hospital in 1885.


Aerie Restaurant and Lounge On the 16th floor, a wall of windows overlooks sparkling Grand Traverse Bay. The food (like salmon with radish arugula salad and apple chips ) match the quality of the Grand Traverse Resort. (231) 534-6000; 

Amical The menu at this Traverse City bistro changes seasonally, but savory tomato soup served under a puff pastry shell is always available. (231) 941-8888;

Chandler’s Restaurant This cozy little Up North restaurant is good for exquisite grilled four-cheese sandwiches, sushi and everything in between. (231) 347-2981;

The Cooks’ House Chefs work with Michigan farmers, artisans and producers to procure ingredients for meals in the wood-frame house. The Cooks' House on Facebook

The Cove When you’re in Leland, try the Cove’s secret-recipe seafood chowder (made with shrimp and clams) and a surprisingly delicious Chubby Mary—a bloody mary garnished with a smoked chub. (231) 256-9834;

The Franklin Ask for a table on the roof to see the bay in the distance at this from-scratch restaurant; its big sister is Trattoria Stella. The Franklin on Facebook

Grand Traverse Pie Company This institution’s fruit pies are among the area’s best. Of course, Michigan cherries fill the top-selling one. (231) 929-7841;

Legs Inn Authentic Polish dishes and quixotic decor draw travelers here, north of Harbor Springs in Cross Village. Open seasonally. (231) 526-2281;

The Little Fleet Food trucks surround an open-air beer garden and pour craft brews along East Front Street.

Martha’s Leelanau Table Everything on the menu at this Suttons Bay (15 miles north of Traverse City) cafe is made from scratch. Try the Leelanau raclette, which you can order as a fondue. (231) 271-2344;

Moomers Situated next to a dairy farm, Moomers makes more than 100 varieties of premium ice cream every season. (231) 941-4122;

Morsels Espresso and Edibles Smooth coffee (Intelligentsia), $1 bite-size tastes (cakes, cookies, brownies and scones) and river views start the day.

Slabtown Burgers Picnic on a lunch in a paper sack, or stay inside, where burgers go for $2.95. Try a TC Cherry Burger.

Trattoria Stella Stone arches shelter diners enjoying traditional Italian cuisine in The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. (231) 929-8989;

Underground Cheesecake Company The most fun item on the menu is cheesecake on a stick, but purists will enjoy the traditional offerings as well. In Traverse City. (231) 929-4418;

Where to stay

Boyne Mountain This sprawling resort in Boyne Falls offers a variety of lodging and recreation options, including ziplines and an indoor water park. (800) 462-6963;

Chateau Chantal Eleven themed rooms and suites look out on East and West Grand Traverse bays, Power Island or the vineyard producing the wines served in the tasting room on the Old Mission Peninsula. (800) 969-4009;

Crystal Mountain Active families come to Thompsonville to ski, hike and golf—then recover at the spa. (800) 968-7686; 

The Homestead Resort The laid-back retreat in Glen Arbor makes an ideal base for exploring neighboring Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. (231) 334-5000;

Tamarack Lodge Guests staying in these 29 luxury condos along East Grand Traverse Bay participate in beach bonfires, movie nights and wine tastings. (877) 938-9744;

For information: Charlevoix Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (800) 367-8557;

Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce (231) 271-9895;

Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau (800) 845-2828;

Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau (800) 872-8377; 

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