25 Best Things to Do in Traverse City, Michigan
Traverse City is in Northern Michigan, the main inland port of Grand Traverse Bay, home to approximately 15,000 people. Its main industry is tourism. The Grand Traverse area grows more tart cherries than anywhere else in the United States, and is home to the annual National Cherry Festival, which draws in nearly half a million visitors every year. Its temperate climate is ideal for growing grapes, and the area around Traverse City has over fifty wineries. Beautiful beaches, an excellent cycling trail network, and superior fishing are popular within the community and its visitors. Photo: shrirampatki/Fotolia
Traverse City has transformed itself into the cultural, business, and educational center of Northwest Michigan. Its downtown core has been loving refurbished, its historical buildings brought to a fresh sheen, making it both a spectacle and a place to shop, dine, and attend cultural events. Residents and out-of-towners love the performances by the symphony orchestra, by its opera guild, and by its actors in the Old Town Playhouse.
Traverse City has a vibrant annual film festival centered around Front Street’s two historic movie houses, a National Cherry Festival every July, and a Winter Comedy Festival that draws talent from all over the United States. With a thriving farmer’s market, antiques, art galleries, and so many places to dine, Front Street is at the forefront of Traverse City life.
Traverse Center Downtown Development Authority:
Address: 303 E. State Street, Suite C, Traverse City, MI 49685, Phone: 231-922-2050 Photo: sebra/Fotolia
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»The Village at Grand Traverse Commons
The Village at Grand Traverse Commons is a historical preservation site that, instead of demolishing buildings, has chosen to re-purpose them into eclectic shopping and dining locations. Once the Traverse City State Hospital and the Northern Michigan Asylum, these beautiful Victorian buildings are now a family destination for shopping, dining out, and for enjoying the sixty-three acres of surrounding property.
With pedestrian walkways, broad lawns, and historic arboretum, the Village is a popular picnicking site, and the hiking and biking trails in the 480 acre preserve around the property are in frequent use by those wishing to exercise along the banks of Kid’s Creek. Guided tours of the historical buildings are available.
Address: 830 Cottageview Drive, Traverse City, MI 49684, Phone: 231-941-1900 Photo: The Village at Grand Traverse Commons
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Sutton Bay is a coastal community on the shores of Sutton Bay, an inlet of Lake Michigan. On the M-22, Sutton Bay is only twenty minutes north of Traverse City, and has delightful ways to spend a day with family or friends. Marina Park has a lovely beach on the turquoise waters of the bay.
The town has several art galleries, an historical museum, a casino offering games and entertainment, and there are dining options for everyone’s taste. The majority of the restaurants and cafes serve locally-grown food, and many have patios for those who like al fresco dining. Kids will love the ice cream shop and the candy store which has forty different flavors of award-winning fudge.
Address: Sutton Bay Visitor Center: 100 Dame Street, Suttons Bay, MI 49682, Phone: 231-271-3077
Photo: vetdocadam /Fotolia
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»Mission Point Lighthouse, Traverse City, Michigan
A beautiful nineteen-mile drive up the Old Mission Peninsula, through cherry orchards and vineyards, is Mission Point Lighthouse. It was in use from 1870-1933, and now is open to tourists who come to climb to its top and look out at Lake Michigan and its shores. The lighthouse has a small gift shop, and is surrounded by miles of trails that run through the park.
On the same property can be found the Hessler Log Cabin, home of Joseph and Mary Hessler, who built the cabin in 1854. The pioneering Hesslers crafted their cabin out of white pine and hemlock trees, and cleared sixteen acres of land to grow corn and wheat. Every third Sunday of the month the cabin is open for visitors, who will be greeted by home-cooked goodies made over the Hessler’s stove.
Address: 20500 Center Road, Traverse City, MI 49686, Phone: 586-224-7434
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»Things to Do in Traverse City: The Dennos Museum Center
The Dennos Museum Center is an art gallery affiliated with Northwestern Michigan College. It has an enormous collection of Inuit art from the Baffin Island area of Nunavut in northern Canada; there are prints, drawings, sculptures, and textiles by Inuit artists.
The second largest of the museum’s collections is of Canadian Woodland Indian art. Beyond that, there are a significant amount of woodcuts by Hungarian-American artist Jozsef Domjan, 19th and 20th century American and European graphic art, and 18th and 19th century Japanese prints. The gallery has a shop, is open for school visits, has a concert series, and provides adult, youth, and family programming.
Address: 1701 E. Front Street, Traverse City, MI 49686, Phone: 231-995-1055
Photo: The Dennos Museum Center
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»Great Lakes Children’s Museum
The Great Lakes Children’s Museum is a hands-on, interactive educational museum designed for children between the ages of 1-10. Open since 1988, the museum has engaging exhibits that teach children about gravity, the water cycle, the Great Lakes watershed, allows children to play on a Great Lakes freighter, and gives them opportunities to test out a water table, to build bridges, and to use a periscope.
There is a puppet theater which encourages children to use their imaginations, and a room designed to help youngsters develop their fine and gross motor skills. The museum has a gift shop with carefully-selected products, are open for field trips and birthday parties, and have science and nature programming, along with story time and craft classes.
Address: 13240 S. West Bay Shore Drive, Traverse City, MI 49684 Photo: Great Lakes Children’s Museum
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»Traverse Tall Ship Company
Traverse Tall Ship Company offers sailing experiences on Grand Traverse Bay on their replica tall ship or on their yacht. The Manitou is a replica of a 19th century cargo schooner, 114’ long, and capable of carrying 59 passengers. The Scout is a 38’ foot sailing yacht designed for small groups. Aboard the Manitou, sailors can take two hour cruises, overnight bed & breakfast sailings, and in fall, can join 4-6 day cruises in the waters of Lake Michigan.
The Manitou has regular entertainment nights, ice cream sailings, and wine tasting cruises with catered Mediterranean-style cuisine. The Scout does private charters that can last as little as two hours, all day long, or overnight. It is a wonderful yacht for watching fireworks, or for sailing to Power Island for its swimming, hiking, and picnicking facilities.
Address: 13258 S.W. Bay Shore Drive, Traverse City, MI 49684, Phone: 231-941-2000
Photo: Traverse Tall Ship Company
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»Grand Traverse Balloon Tours
The Grand Traverse Balloon Company began in 1987 in order to offer residents of the region rides in a seven-story tall hot air balloon. All flights are undertaken by an F.A.A.-certified pilot, and are very safe. Most flights last an hour long, soar to heights of two to three thousand feet, and are followed up by both a champagne ceremony, and the presentation of a First Flight Certificate, a Color Photo, and a commemorative pin to the riders.
Summertime flights over Grand Traverse Bay are beautiful, and look down upon wineries, forests, lakes, rivers, and farms. Fall color tours head over the Michigan forests to enjoy the changing colors of the seasons. Private charters are also available.
Address: 225 Cross Country Road, Traverse City, MI 49686, Phone: 231-947-2337 Photo: Grand Traverse Balloon Tours
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»Clinch Park, Traverse City, Michigan
Clinch Park enjoys a waterfront location, giving residents and travelers to Traverse City a beautiful beach to enjoy only steps from Front Street’s shopping and dining. The water is crystal clear, the beach is 1500’ long, and its picnic tables and benches make it an excellent location for al fresco dining.
This popular beach has lifeguards from June until August, a splash pad, kayak rentals, a snack bar, and clean restrooms. The beach has access to bike trails and bike racks for those who wish to rest at the beach after pedalling hard. Open air music is performed on summer nights. Clinch Park is a terrific location for relaxing for watching either the boats in Grand Traverse Bay, or viewing the spectacular sunsets.
Address: 161 E. Grandview Parkway, Traverse City, MI 49684, Phone: 231-922-4903 Photo: Sean/Fotolia
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»Grand Traverse Adventure Company
The Grand Traverse Adventure Company and its professional guides lead tours of Northern Michigan wineries, breweries, distilleries, and cider makers. Wine tours on the Old Mission Peninsula or on the Leelanau Peninsula include pick-up and drop-off at hotels, the pleasure of tasting rooms at estate wineries and creative winemakers, and scenic drives.
Traverse City Craft Beer Tours take guests around breweries, and give them the opportunity to chat with brewers, pair great beers with fine food, and visit hops fields from which the beers originate. An exciting outing offered by Grand Traverse Adventure Company gives visitors a kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding experience on Boardman River, followed by visits to wineries or breweries for celebratory after-exercise drinks.
Address: 1177 Dyer Lake Road, Traverse City, MI 49685, Phone: 231-735-9135
Photo: Grand Traverse Adventure Company
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»TART Trails, Traverse City, Michigan
The TART Trails provide recreational and transport trails through Traverse City and on the Leelanau Peninsula. The non-profit organization advocates for healthy outdoor living, and works to preserve and maintain open space and bike corridors. It has eight multi-use trails covering over sixty miles. The longest of the trails is the 27-mile long Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, which connects major parks with local communities.
In Traverse City itself, there are several point-to-point routes throughout the downtown. Traverse City residents can easily access the town of Sutton Bay along the paved, 17-mile path along a former railway corridor, and the Vasa Pathway, on state forest land, offers challenging terrain for mountain bikers, joggers, snowshoe users, runners, and hikers. The Boardman Lake Trail is a lovely, winding, heavily wooded trail that has a bridge to cross the Boardman River.
Address: No address beyond a P.O. Box., Phone: 231-941-4300 Photo: TART Trails
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»Traverse City Beach Bums
The Traverse City Beach Bums are a professional baseball team in the Frontier League, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. The team played its first game in 2006, in its 4,660-seat home stadium of Wuerfel Park, which is in Blair Township, a suburb of Traverse City. At an estimated 200,000 fans per season, the Beach Bums are one of the most popular teams in independent baseball.
The team is very family and child oriented, and have a baseball academy for youth which holds several mini-camps each year to instruct young players. The team also has a school reading program, hosts birthday parties, and has a Kids Club for ages 12 and under which includes free lawn tickets to each of its forty-eight home games.
Address: 333 Stadium Drive, Traverse City, MI 49685, Phone: 231-943-0100 Photo: Traverse City Beach Bums
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»Gallagher’s Farm Market and Bakery
Gallagher’s Farm Market and Bakery is family owned and operated, and has been serving the Traverse City area since 1971. Open June until late October, the farm market sells seasonal fruit and vegetables, as well as award-winning pies, breads, pastries, jams, jellies, and salsa, all homemade.
The store also sells local wine, cheeses, maple syrup, and honey. Children will enjoy interacting with the farm’s animals, which include sheep, pigs, chickens, and goats, and the farm market makes an ideal location for school field trips. In the fall families can enjoy the corn maze and picking their own Hallowe’en pumpkins from the large pumpkin patch.
Address: 7237 M-72 West, Traverse City, MI 49684, Phone: 231-947-1689
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»Things to Do in Traverse City: Light of Day Organic Farm and Tea Shop
Light of Day Organic Farm is the only biodynamic tea producer in Michigan. The idea of biodynamics is credited to Dr. Rudolf Steiner, who in the 1920s developed a philosophy of farming that involved using the Lunar calendar to guide planting and harvesting, using positive thoughts and prayer while farming, and having reverence for everything in creation.
On the twenty-five acre farm outside Traverse City are grown organic, Fair Trade teas, which are hand harvested, made up in small batches, and sustainably packaged. The teas are believed to contribute to holistic emotional and physical health. Light of Day Organic Farm holds tea wellness classes as well as tea tastings, and its teas have won awards locally and nationally.
Address: 3502 E. Traverse Hwy, Traverse City, MI 49684, Phone: 231-228-7234 Photo: Light of Day Organic Farm and Tea Shop
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»Long Lake, Traverse City, Michigan
Long Lake is a 4.5 square mile lake in Northern Michigan, just outside of Traverse City. It blends peace and quiet with easily accessibility to the restaurants and shops of Traverse City. The lake’s 88,000 feet of shoreline includes sandy beaches, of which the most popular is at the lake’s northwest end. The lake’s sandy bottom makes it perfect for swimming in the crystal clear water.
To the unmistakable call of the common loon as a backdrop, Long Lake is an ideal place for fishing, waterskiing, sailing, and kayaking. Public boat launches are available at the west end of the lake, and at the north end in Gilbert Park. The four islands on the lake are great picnic sites, and South Island is a natural preserve with hiking trails open to the public.
Address: There isn’t an address for the lake, Phone: 231-946-2249 Photo: Long Lake
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Flyboarding is an adventure sport that combines wakeboarding and skateboarding, with the power of a jet ski. Flyboards are attached by a 55 foot hose to the front of personal watercraft, and allow the rider to fly above the water, up to forty feet in the air. Flyboards work best attached to 130 horsepower Seadoos, or Yamaha, Kawasaki, or Honda personal watercraft.
Flyboard TC offers packages for beginners, experienced riders, and groups; packages include dedicated instruction and supervision, flight time, a wetsuit, helmet, and life jacket. A frequent flier discount is available. Flyboard TC has safety-conscious licensed instructors who wish their riders to have the utmost fun high above the water.
Address: Clinch Park Beach, 181 E. Grandview Parkway, Traverse City, MI 49684, Phone: 231-715-1135 Photo: Flyboard TC
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»Chateau Grand Traverse Winery
The Chateau Grand Traverse Winery is an estate winery – meaning that the grapes are grown on the property – on the Old Mission Peninsula, just north of Grand Traverse. This area of the Old Mission Peninsula is on the 45th parallel, the same as the Bordeaux wine region in France.
The winery has several tours every day, which cover the history of the winery, which was established in 1974, the agricultural and bottling process, and the Northern Michigan wine industry; the tours last approximately thirty minutes. The winery has a large tasting room with an enclosed patio, and a shop that sells wine, wine paraphernalia, and apparel.
Address: 12239 Center Road, Traverse City, MI 49686, Phone: 231-223-4105
Photo: Chateau Grand Traverse Winery
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»Things to Do in Traverse City: Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery
The Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery is a family owned and operated business on the Old Mission Peninsula just north of Grand Traverse. Its ideal location grants it warm sunlight, a temperate climate, verdant soil, and soft bay breezes from Grand Traverse Bay. The vineyard and winery are situated on an 1890s homestead; its owners have transformed old farm buildings and built a beautiful brick and mahogany tasting room.
Upstairs from the tasting room is an Upper Deck, which overlooks the vineyard and Grand Traverse Bay, and where guests can purchase wine by the glass, in addition to trays of cheese or charcuterie. A walkway leads to a lookout point where guests may overlook the growing grape vines, a feature unique amongst Michigan wineries. Read more
Address: 3309 Blue Water Road, Traverse City, MI 49686, Phone: 231-223-9303
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»Bay Meadows Family Golf Course, Traverse City, Michigan
Bay Meadows Family Golf Course is a family owned and operated facility, founded in 1995, and located only five minutes west of downtown Traverse City. It has a 9-hole executive course, a 9-hole par three course, three practice greens, a practice sand trap, and a large driving range.
Award-winning PGA professionals provide training to men, women, and children using the latest video equipment, launch monitors, and teaching aids. The instructors use a video system that allows them to e-mail students video of their lessons to review for later use. For children there are golf camps, as well as membership in the PGA Junior League, including tournaments, uniforms, instruction, golf fees, and balls.
Address: 5550 Bay Meadows Drive, Traverse City, MI 49684, Phone: 231-946-7927 Photo: Bay Meadows Family Golf Course
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Scuba North covers every aspect of diving. Whether it is buying the right equipment, learning to scuba dive, taking advanced scuba diving specializations, or joining local and international diving trips, Scuba North is the place to be. Since 1971, the instructors at Scuba North have been teaching beginners to gain their open water diving certification, a process that starts with scuba diving in a swimming pool, and has trained experienced scuba divers in rescue diving, technical diving, ice diving, and becoming instructors themselves.
Scuba North hosts local diving expeditions in the Great Lakes, and takes interested scuba divers to international sites, which have included the locations in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and the South Pacific.
Address: 883 S. Garfield Avenue, Traverse City, MI 49686, Phone: 231-947-2520
Photo: Scuba North
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»The State Theatre, Traverse City, MI
The State Theatre is owned and operated by the Traverse City Film Festival, which in turn is run by Michael Moore, activist and film-maker, whose movies have won him an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Palme d’Or at Cannes. Every year in late July, more than 250 movies from around the world are previewed at this historic theater.
The theater building was first erected in 1916, has been destroyed twice by fire, but is now open with comfortable seating, affordable concessions, and over four hundred movies annually shown on its screen. Its sister theater is nearby, the Bijou by the Bay, also owned and operated by the Traverse Bay Film Festival.
Address: 233. E. Front Street, Traverse City, MI 49684, Phone: 231-947-3446 Photo: The State Theatre
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»Things to Do in Traverse City: Old Town Playhouse
The Old Town Playhouse is a theatrical production group dedicated to bringing local theater to Northern Michigan. It began in 1960, with performances held in local high school auditoriums. Presently a theater was built, and then a second, smaller stage. The MainStage on East Eighth Street holds 277 people, while the Studio Theater on Railroad Place holds 80.
Every year the Old Town Playhouse brings five productions to the MainStage, four productions to the Studio Theater, and does several children’s theatrical shows. The Old Town Playhouse has a commitment to educating children in the arts, and has an extremely popular four-week summer theater camp.
Address: 143 E. Eighth Street, Traverse City, MI 49684, Phone: 231-947-2210 Photo: Old Town Playhouse
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»Traverse City State Park, Traverse City, Michigan
Traverse City State Park is an urban park of forty-eight acres located only two miles from downtown Traverse City. Its quarter-mile of sandy beaches on Grand Traverse Bay draw campers and day-trippers from all over the state and beyond. The park is a convenient location for sunbathing, swimming, fishing, hiking, and metal detecting, and boats are available for rent. The beach has a snack concession and a playground.
The campground is a short walk across a bridge from the beach, and has sites with electrical and water hookup, picnic tables, and fire pits. In the campground there are clean modern bathrooms with hot showers, and wood and ice are available for purchase. Bike and hiking trails run through the park; they are part of the Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) network.
Address: 1132 US-31 North, Traverse City, MI 49686, Phone: 231-922-5270 Photo: Sean/Fotolia
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»What to Do in Traverse City: The River Outfitters
The River Outfitters rents equipment and leads tours. Located on the shores of Grand Traverse Bay, the company rents out paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, bicycles, tubes, and rafts. For adventurers who enjoy outdoor activity and good beer, the KaBrew Tours are just the thing: part bike ride, part paddling a kayak, and visiting four of Traverse City’s best breweries. The KaBrew Tours can be taken by individuals, couples, and groups.
For guests with their own kayaks, the BYOK tours allow modified KaBrew tours, minus the kayak rental. Guided bike and paddle eco-tours around the wetlands and dams of Northern Michigan can be arranged, and hike, bike, and paddle tours of the Boardman River watershed can be taken by groups with a minimum of five participants.
Address: 1910 W South Airport Rd, Traverse City, MI 49686, Phone: 231-883-1413
Photo: All king of people/Fotolia
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»City Opera House
The City Opera House in downtown Traverse City was built in 1892, and called an “opera house” rather than a “theater”. The magnificent structure, which has been lovingly tended to and restored, has an impressive barrel vault ceiling, fresco paintings, gold leaf accents, and massive amounts of Victorian charm. With seating for 650 people, the City Opera House’s superior acoustics make it the perfect location to sit back and enjoy operatic performances, plays, Broadway musicals, concerts, and comedians.
The City Opera House regularly hosts public and private events, and is one of the venues of the annual Traverse City Film Festival. Arts education is an important part of the opera house’s offerings to the community, and programs are available for ages 8-18.
Address: 106 E. Front Street, Traverse City, MI 49684, Phone: 231-941-8082 Photo: City Opera House
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25 Best Things to Do in Traverse City, Michigan
- Front Street, Photo: Courtesy of sebra - Fotolia.com
- The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, Photo: The Village at Grand Traverse Commons
- Suttons Bay, Photo: Courtesy of vetdocadam - Fotolia.com
- Mission Point Lighthouse, Traverse City, Michigan, Photo: Courtesy of shrirampatki - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in Traverse City: The Dennos Museum Center, Photo: The Dennos Museum Center
- Great Lakes Children’s Museum, Photo: Great Lakes Children’s Museum
- Traverse Tall Ship Company, Photo: Traverse Tall Ship Company
- Grand Traverse Balloon Tours, Photo: Grand Traverse Balloon Tours
- Clinch Park, Traverse City, Michigan, Photo: Courtesy of Sean - Fotolia.com
- Grand Traverse Adventure Company, Photo: Grand Traverse Adventure Company
- TART Trails, Traverse City, Michigan, Photo: TART Trails
- Traverse City Beach Bums, Photo: Traverse City Beach Bums
- Gallagher’s Farm Market and Bakery, Photo: Gallagher’s Farm Market and Bakery
- Things to Do in Traverse City: Light of Day Organic Farm and Tea Shop, Photo: Light of Day Organic Farm and Tea Shop
- Long Lake, Traverse City, Michigan, Photo: Long Lake
- Flyboard TC, Photo: Flyboard TC
- Chateau Grand Traverse Winery, Photo: Chateau Grand Traverse Winery
- Things to Do in Traverse City: Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery, Photo: Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery
- Bay Meadows Family Golf Course, Traverse City, Michigan, Photo: Bay Meadows Family Golf Course
- Scuba North, Photo: Scuba North
- The State Theatre, Traverse City, MI, Photo: The State Theatre
- Things to Do in Traverse City: Old Town Playhouse, Photo: Old Town Playhouse
- Traverse City State Park, Traverse City, Michigan, Photo: Courtesy of Sean - Fotolia.com
- What to Do in Traverse City: The River Outfitters, Photo: Courtesy of All king of people - Fotolia.com
- City Opera House, Photo: City Opera House
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of shrirampatki - Fotolia.com
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