Nestled on the shore of Lake Michigan, Traverse City is the place to experience outdoor adventure, vibrant history, and bustling nightlife. When it was settled in 1847, Traverse City was named for the grueling lake journey it took to get there. The city has become more connected, but it maintains a rugged charm. There are seasonal offerings throughout the year, from winter snowshoeing to the National Cherry Festival in July, but most activities in Traverse City are available year-round. Museums, world-class dining, unique harbor cruises, and local artisans make Traverse City, Michigan a perfect vacation destination.
The Eastern coastline of Grand Traverse Bay has gorgeous sugar sand beaches where you can relax, play Frisbee, or wade into freshwater shallows. Some beach areas, like Clinch Park and Bryant Park, are within walking distance of the city, while Esch Road Beach is more secluded. Unlike many beaches in the US, Traverse City's coastline goes through all four seasons. During the winter, the beach is covered in sparkling snow, and visitors can enjoy the explosion of fall colors from their beach towels in early autumn.
Traverse City is the entry point to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a thousand-acre landscape of islands, coves, and forest trails. You can take a ferry to unspoiled forest islands, kayak down sparkling rivers, or hike along peaceful pine groves with breathtaking views of Lake Michigan. Daring hikers can brave the Dune Climb, a challenging hours-long hike up and down the massive dunes near Glen Lake. It's important to remember that these are wild areas. Stick to marked trails where possible and bring plenty of water.
Grape vines grow famously well along the rivers and hillsides near Traverse City. Vineyards and wineries are located on sweeping hillsides, giving you a gorgeous view as you sip some of the best wine in the country. Beer lovers can enjoy amazing craft beers in local taverns. Sleder's Family Tavern was founded in the 19th century to serve the Bohemian immigrants who worked in Traverse City's sawmills. Over 130 years later, the tavern remains a popular spot for locals.
You can enjoy the famous Traverse City wines, craft beers, adventurous cocktails, and a stunning view at the Hotel Indigo Rooftop Bar. 7 Monks Taproom has 46 varieties of craft beer on tap and a speakeasy in the basement. Dancers can kick up their heels to live bands at Kilkenny's Irish Pub or on the beachfront patio of West Bay Holiday Inn's View Nightclub. If you get hungry, visit The Little Fleet. This lively outdoor venue houses an open-air bar and food truck lot with options to suit any palate.
There are multiple historic lighthouses to choose from in Traverse City. Visitors to Grand Traverse Lighthouse can explore the restored keeper's dwelling and climb to the top of the tower for a stunning view of Lake Michigan. Old Mission Lighthouse is located near Old Mission Settlement, a village that was originally built in 1839. For a wilder experience, kayak out to the lighthouses on Fox Island and South Manitou Island. These picturesque islands are some of the most isolated and beautiful in the Great Lakes, and the lighthouses provide a perfect view.
No other port in the Great Lakes has as many tall sailing vessels as Traverse City. Charter a massive catamaran, replicated 19th-century schooner, or luxury pontoon to take a turn around the Great Traverse Bay. Sailing the bay typically takes a few hours, with options for sunset tours, rugged day trips to the islands, and private three-hour cruises with food and drink. There are adventures to suit any taste or budget.
Once upon a time, the sprawling site of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons was a public psychiatric hospital. Northern Michigan Asylum founder Dr. James Decker Munson embraced a model of moral therapy which was focused on creating a beautiful space where his patients could feel at home. After the hospital was decommissioned, the site was redeveloped into a vibrant community center with shopping, dining, and apartments.
Farm Club is a farm-to-table restaurant and brewery that was praised in Bon Apetit Magazine. Ingredients are grown, picked, milked, and raised at the nearby Loma farm. Every employee spends at least one shift per week out in the fields, helping to grow the food they serve. Michigan was at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement long before it became a foodie trend, and there are several restaurants in and around Traverse City where guests can enjoy deliciously fresh local cuisine.
Interlochen Center for the Arts is an elite boarding school and arts camp located in the woods, just a 25-minute drive from Traverse City. Students come from around the world to study fine arts, drama, music, dance, and film. 200,000 visitors come every year to stroll the beautiful campus, see concerts by visiting celebrities, and take in student shows featuring Interlochen's rising talent. Famous alumni of Interlocken include Josh Groban, Daya, Vince Gilligan, Sarah Ruhl, and Our Lady J.
A half-hour drive north of Traverse Bay is Peshawbestown, the headquarters of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. This town is the home of the Eyaawing Museum and Cultural Center. You can learn about the Anishinaabek people who first settled the coasts of Lake Michigan and find traditional and modern Indigenous art in the museum shop.