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Best Things to Do in Traverse City, Michigan

Traverse City, located in northern Michigan, is a charming and picturesque destination that offers various activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. With beautiful natural scenery, a thriving wine industry, and a rich history, Traverse City is a perfect vacation spot for outdoor enthusiasts, foodies, and history buffs alike. Join ViewCation as we explore the best things to do in Traverse City, Michigan.

Visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

When visiting Traverse City, Michigan, one cannot miss the opportunity to explore the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Covering over 70,000 acres, this natural wonderland boasts towering sand dunes, crystal clear waters, and verdant forests, making it a must-visit destination for any nature enthusiast.

Whether you’re an avid hiker, a beach lover, or a camper, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has something to offer. Take a leisurely stroll along the shoreline, feel the cool waters on your skin as you swim in the refreshing lake, or hike up the sand dunes to take in breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore also boasts several pristine beaches, including the Platte River Beach, the Good Harbor Bay Beach, and the Esch Road Beach. These beaches offer crystal clear waters and soft sand, perfect for sunbathing or swimming.

Overall, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a natural wonderland that should not be missed when visiting Traverse City. With a plethora of activities to choose from, visitors can easily spend a day or several exploring the beauty of this breathtaking natural landscape.

Explore the downtown area.

Another great thing to do in Traverse City is to explore its charming downtown area. Strolling through its tree-lined streets, visitors will discover a variety of shops, boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants, showcasing the best of Northern Michigan.

Visitors can start by wandering through the historic Front Street, which is filled with boutiques, specialty shops, and art galleries, where they can find unique souvenirs and gifts to take home. For instance, Cherry Republic is a popular spot for cherry-themed products, including jams, salsas, and chocolates, all made from locally sourced cherries. The downtown area is also home to many art galleries showcasing local artists and their work, like the Traverse City Art & Design Studio.

Foodies will enjoy exploring the downtown area’s diverse culinary scene, which includes farm-to-table restaurants, breweries, and wineries.

History buffs will also appreciate a visit to the historic City Opera House, which has been entertaining visitors since 1891. Today, the opera house hosts a variety of live performances, including concerts, comedy shows, and plays.

Exploring the downtown area of Traverse City is a great way to appreciate the local culture and immerse oneself in the city’s vibrant arts and food scenes.

Take a wine tour.

Traverse City is also known as the “Cherry Capital of the World,” but it’s also home to a thriving wine industry. The region’s unique climate, with its warm summers and cool breezes from the nearby lakes, creates ideal growing conditions for grapes. As a result, Traverse City has become a hub for wine enthusiasts, boasting over 40 wineries and tasting rooms.

Taking a wine tour is a great way to experience the area’s wine scene. Numerous companies offer expert-led tours of the nearby wineries, allowing you to gain insights into the winemaking process and relish the award-winning wines of the area. You can pick from a variety of tours, from leisurely tours that take you to a handful of wineries, to full-day tours that visit several vineyards and include lunch.

A wine tour in Traverse City is an activity that should not be missed, whether you are passionate about wine or just looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Visit the Grand Traverse Bay.

The Grand Traverse Bay is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Traverse City. This stunning natural feature is located in the heart of the city, and it’s a great place to relax, unwind, and enjoy the great outdoors. The bay is formed by the convergence of two peninsulas, which gives it a unique shape that’s perfect for water-based activities.

It offers a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy, including swimming at the many beaches, with the East Bay being a quieter option. Kayaking and paddleboarding are also available for those who want to explore the water. Additionally, fishing is a popular activity, with opportunities to catch different types of fish from the shore, rental boats, or fishing charters.

If you prefer to stay away from water, you can still savor the beauty of the Grand Traverse Bay by taking a scenic drive along the shoreline. There are several parks and overlooks that offer stunning views of the bay, including the Old Mission Peninsula Park and the Clinch Park Overlook. You can also rent bikes and ride along the TART Trail, which offers scenic views of the bay as it winds its way through Traverse City.

Experience the National Cherry Festival.

The National Cherry Festival is one of the biggest and most anticipated events in Traverse City. The festival takes place each July and is a celebration of the region’s rich cherry heritage. The festival has been held since 1925 and has grown to become a major attraction, drawing visitors from all over the country.

The festival features a variety of fun and exciting activities for visitors of all ages. Among the popular events in Traverse City is the cherry pit-spitting contest, in which contestants participate to showcase their ability to spit a cherry pit the farthest. There are also parades, live music, and fireworks displays throughout the festival.

The festival is also a great opportunity to sample some of the area’s delicious cherry-themed cuisine, including cherry pies, jams, and cherry-flavored beers and wines. Visitors can also shop for cherry-related souvenirs and gifts at the festival’s many vendor booths.

Experiencing the National Cherry Festival is a great way to embrace the spirit and culture of Traverse City.

Explore the Old Mission Peninsula.

A visit to the Old Mission Peninsula is a must-do for anyone traveling to Traverse City. The 19-mile stretch of land that juts out into Grand Traverse Bay is home to charming villages, rolling hills, and breathtaking scenery.

One of the most iconic landmarks on the peninsula is the Mission Point Lighthouse, which was built in 1870 and still stands tall today. Visitors can climb to the top for sweeping views of the bay and the surrounding countryside. The lighthouse also houses a museum that showcases the history of the area.

In addition to the lighthouse, the Old Mission Peninsula is known for its wineries and vineyards. For those who enjoy the outdoors, the Old Mission Peninsula is also home to several parks and nature preserves. The Old Mission Peninsula Trail is a 17-mile paved path that winds its way through forests, vineyards, and along the shoreline. There are also several parks, including Haserot Beach Park, which is a popular spot for swimming and picnicking.

Take a scenic drive.

The Traverse City region boasts some of the most picturesque roads in the country, with breathtaking views of the Great Lakes, rolling hills, and lush forests. The M-22 highway is a particularly popular drive, offering 116 miles of stunning views along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Along the way, you’ll pass through charming small towns and quaint fishing villages, with plenty of opportunities to stop and explore local shops, restaurants, and beaches.

Another must-see drive is the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, which winds through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This 7.4-mile drive features a series of overlooks and boardwalks, providing stunning views of the dunes, the lake, and the surrounding forests. Be sure to stop at the Dune Climb, where you can climb to the top of a 200-foot sand dune for panoramic views of the lakeshore.

Other scenic drives in the area include the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail and the Betsie River Scenic Drive. No matter which scenic drive you choose, you’re sure to be enchanted by the natural beauty of the Traverse City area. Just be sure to take your time and enjoy the journey!

Hit the slopes.

Traverse City’s winter wonderland offers visitors plenty of opportunities to hit the slopes and enjoy winter sports. The nearby Crystal Mountain Resort and Shanty Creek Resorts are two of the most popular destinations for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter activities.

Crystal Mountain Resort, located about 30 miles southwest of Traverse City, boasts over 50 downhill ski runs, 30 kilometers of cross-country ski trails, and numerous snowshoeing and fat tire biking trails. The resort also features a variety of dining options, from casual cafés to upscale restaurants, as well as a spa and fitness center.

Shanty Creek Resorts, located about 30 miles northeast of Traverse City, offers over 50 downhill ski runs, three terrain parks, and a variety of cross-country ski trails. The resort also features several dining options, a spa and fitness center, and a variety of accommodations ranging from hotel rooms to private condominiums.

Learn about local history.

The Traverse City region has a long and fascinating history, and exploring its museums and historic sites is a great way to learn about the area’s past. Situated on the Northwestern Michigan College campus, the Dennos Museum Center boasts an impressive collection of art and artifacts from various parts of the world. It also has a particular emphasis on the art and culture of the Great Lakes region, making it a unique and enriching destination for art lovers and history buffs alike. Another interesting place is the Traverse Area Historical Society, housed in a historic building on Sixth Street. It offers a glimpse into the region’s history through exhibits and artifacts that explore topics ranging from the area’s Native American heritage to its logging and maritime industries. The society also offers a variety of events and programs throughout the year, including guided tours of local historic sites.

Whether you’re a history buff or just curious about the area’s past, the museums and historical sites of Traverse City are well worth a visit. You’re sure to leave with a greater appreciation for the region’s rich cultural heritage.

Go fishing

Fishing enthusiasts will find Traverse City to be a paradise for fishing. With the crystal-clear waters of the Grand Traverse Bay and the numerous rivers and lakes, there’s no shortage of fishing opportunities in the area. Traverse City is known for its world-class fishing, and the city hosts several fishing tournaments throughout the year.

The Grand Traverse Bay is home to several species of fish, including salmon, lake trout, and whitefish. Fishing charters are available throughout the year, and they provide all the necessary equipment, including fishing poles, bait, and tackle. So whether you’re a seasoned angler or a beginner, a fishing charter is a great way to experience the thrill of catching fish in the beautiful waters of Grand Traverse Bay.

For those who prefer river fishing, Traverse City is home to several rivers, including the Boardman and Manistee Rivers. These rivers are home to a variety of fish species, including brown trout, rainbow trout, and smallmouth bass.

Whether you prefer fishing in the Grand Traverse Bay or one of the many rivers in the area, you’re guaranteed to find an ideal spot to cast your line and reel in a big catch.

There you have it. It’s now time to hear from you. Which of the activities mentioned in the video has you obsessing over Traverse City, Michigan?