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 sailing on a replica schooner—color escapes to this Lake Michigan harbor town and its neighbors. Check out our guide to what to do, where to eat and where to stay in the Traverse City area.

By The editors of MidwestLiving.com
March 27, 2013

Due to possible coronavirus-related travel restrictions, please check destinations' websites for the current status of attractions, events, restaurants and lodgings.

Paddleboarding on Traverse City's Boardman River


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

Beaches Spend a day in the sun at one of the city’s six public sandy spots, like popular Clinch Park, with picnic tables and a snack bar. traversecity.com

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. brickwheels.com

Crystal River Outfitters Rent a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard and explore Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore via the meandering Crystal River. crystalriveroutfitters.com

Fishtown The working waterfront—one of the few unmodernized fishing villages on the Great Lakes—also houses cafes and boutiques in Leland, about 25 miles northwest of Traverse City. https://www.lelandmi.com/fishtown/

Dennos Museum Center On the Northwestern Michigan College campus, the center's collection includes 1,000 pieces of Inuit art. dennosmuseum.org 

Dennos Museum Center

Fishtown The working waterfront-one of the few unmodernized fishing villages on the Great Lakes-also houses galleries, cafes and boutiques in Leland, about 25 miles northwest of Traverse City. lelandmi.com

Grand Traverse Bike Tours Join bike tours leading to area wineries and breweries. grandtraversebiketours.com

Interlochen Center for the Arts Sign up for classes at the College for Creative Arts (think summer camp for grown-ups). Workshops cover topics such as painting, mystery writing and fingerstyle guitar playing. interlochen.org

M-22 Drive One of Michigan’s epic highways, the M-22 runs 116 scenic miles from Traverse City up the Leelanau Peninsula and then south along Lake Michigan to Manistee. Stop at wineries, roadside fruit stands, beach towns and hiking trails. m22michigan.com

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. trailscouncil.org

National Cherry Festival “Eat, drink and be cherry” at events like pie-eating contests, farm tours, a cherry farmers market and parade (July 4–11, 2020). cherryfestival.org

The River The outfitter rents gear (bicycles, stand-up paddleboards, tubes and kayaks) for guided or self-guided exploration. therivertc.com

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). Drive, hike, bike or paddle to take in some of the area’s most beautiful vistas. nps.gov

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Surf and Kayak Rent boards, kayaks or bikes in Empire. Aspiring surfers can take 11/2-hour lessons at Empire’s beach. sbsurfandkayak.com

State Theatre Filmmaker and founder of the Traverse City Film Festival (July 28–August 2, 2020) Michael Moore was one of the contributors who helped reopen the 1916 theater. Look for 25-cent kids’ matinees. stateandbijou.org

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. tallshipsailing.com

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

Warehouse MRKT Boutiques share the renovated warehouse space with a coffee shop, restaurant and fitness studio. At Darling Botanical, shop for innovative container plants, or build your own terrarium. warehousemrkt.com

Wineries Wine trails on the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas connect nearly 40 wineries. We especially love Chateau Chantal and 2 Lads Winery, both with great views out over the bay. lpwines.com, wineriesofomp.com


Aerie Restaurant and Lounge On the 16th floor, a wall of windows overlooks Grand Traverse Bay. The food (such as salmon with poached apples) matches the quality of the Grand Traverse Resort. grandtraverseresort.com

Amical The menu at this Traverse City bistro changes seasonally, but savory tomato soup served under a puff pastry shell is always available. amical.com

The Cooks' House Chefs work with Michigan farmers and producers to procure ingredients for meals in a simple 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. thecoveleland.com

The Franklin Ask for a rooftop table to see the bay in the distance at this upscale East Front Street restaurant; its big sister is Trattoria Stella. offthemaphospitality.com

Georgina's Asian- and Latin-influenced dishes bring a world of flavors to diners at a casual spot downtown. Georgina's on Facebook

Grand Traverse Pie Company Pie Company Michigan Montmorency cherries fill the top-selling cherry crumb pie. gtpie.com

Grand Traverse Pie Company

Higher Grounds Coffee Bar and Roastery Sip on organic, fair-trade coffee (bonus points if you bring your own mug). Reserve a spot for free tours and tastings on Fridays. highergroundstrading.com

The Little Fleet Food trucks surround an open-air beer garden and bar along East Front Street. thelittlefleet.com

Mama Lu's Modern takes on tacos cost just $4; try a couple with a mango margarita or beer cocktail. mamalustc.com

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. marthasleelanautable.com

Moomers Homemade Ice Cream Next to a dairy farm, Moomers makes more than 100 varieties of premium ice cream every season. moomers.com

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

Slabtown Burgers Picnic on a lunch in a paper sack, or stay inside for burgers, wraps and shakes. slabtownburgers.weebly.com

Spanglish Even the basics—chips, salsa, guacamole—win raves at this colorful cafe. On nice days, eat at one of the picnic tables outside. spanglishtc.com

Trattoria Stella Stone arches shelter diners enjoying traditional Italian cuisine in The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Trattoria Stella on Facebook

Trattoria Stella

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. boyne.com

Chateau Chantal Eleven rooms and suites look out on East and West Grand Traverse bays or vineyards producing the wines served in the tasting room on the Old Mission Peninsula. chateauchantal.com

Crystal Mountain Active families come to the Thompsonville resort to ski, hike, bike and golf—then recover at the spa. Lodging includes cottages, condos and inn rooms. crystalmountain.com 

The Homestead This laid-back retreat with spa in Glen Arbor makes an ideal base for exploring neighboring Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. thehomesteadresort.com

Hotel Indigo Unwind on a rooftop patio, then retire to a room where accents such as sawtooth-shape mirrors reflect local logging heritage. ihg.com

Tamarack Lodge Guests staying in these 29 luxury condos along East Grand Traverse Bay participate in beach bonfires, movie nights and wine tastings. tamaracklodgetc.com

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