On Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, Traverse City is a haven for foodies, lovers of wine and outdoor adventurers. Each day you’ll wake up to a wide range of choices, from exploring the charming downtown to venturing to one of the many exceptional wineries along the Old Mission Peninsula.
Traverse Bay received its name due to its location in the center of Grand Traverse Bay. To the right is the aforementioned peninsula, but in the other direction you’ll find the Leelanau Peninsula. A place where endless hiking and cycling trails take you deep into the forests before rewarding you with beautiful coastal views.
Whether you venture into nature or explore the things to do in Traverse City itself, it’s calm beaches will welcome you upon your return.
12. Mari Vineyards
The first of several wonderful wineries on our list, Mari Vineyards, makes exquisite reds and whites from experimental Italian grapes. The vineyard is a part of the Great Lakes Winemaking Region and also produces a range of traditional appellation varieties.
Both grapes help make Mari Vineyards a must-visit on your travels through Traverse City. The vineyard is home to a beautiful wine tasting room that looks like it belongs more in medieval times than the 21st century.
Within the gorgeous chateau you can sample the best wines alongside a delicious charcuterie board, while taking in the splendid views of the winery. Visitors can also sign up for a tour that will take you through the production facility along with Mari Vineyard’s wine caves.
11. Bryant Park
On the eastern end of Traverse City, Bryant Park offers a quaint park experience with the added bonus of a day at the beach. One and a half miles from the heart of downtown, visitors can kick back and enjoy the peaceful scenery before diving into the revitalizing lake.
In the summer, lifeguards look out over swimmers, making the spot a popular place for young families. Beyond the sand, you’ll find expansive playgrounds and large lawns for gatherings and yard games. While at night, Bryant Park is a wonderful spot to take in the spectacular sunset.
The park marks the beginning of Peninsula Drive, from which you can embark on a breathtaking trip along the Old Mission Peninsula.
10. Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery
With plenty of sunlight and a cooler climate, Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery is able to produce an exceptional drop. The family-owned winery can be found on a historic homestead, where the 19th century farmhouse has been transformed into a beguiling tasting room.
After picking out your chosen wine, wander upstairs, where you’ll be able to look over the resplendent winery and across Grand Traverse Bay. Guests will also have the chance to wander down nearby trails to more elevated viewpoints, where the wind blissfully sweeps by.
Later, return to the old farmhouse to purchase some delightful cheese, which makes for the perfect pairing with the vineyard’s wine.
9. Traverse Area Recreation Trail
Known simply as the TART, the Traverse Area Recreation Trail is one of the best ways to explore the local region. The path stretches over 60 miles along the Leelanau Peninsula, showcasing the stunning coastline in all its glory.
The TART connects a number of smaller trails that provide a scenic way to get from A to B. The longest of the eight individual trails is the 27-mile Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. This links Traverse City to the famed shoreline, along with several other nearby parks.
Other popular trails include the 17-mile walking and cycling path that connects the town to charming Suttons Bay. While the VASA trail ventures into state forests where travelers can explore the adventurous terrain on mountain bikes in the summer and with snowshoes in the winter.
8. Bowers Harbor Vineyards
Overlooking the pristine Grand Traverse Bay, Bowers Harbor Vineyards is a beautiful, family-owned winery. You can reach the serene location with a drive along the Old Mission Peninsula. On arrival, you’ll be greeted by rows of vines leading you to the tasting rooms.
Looking out over the winery, you’ll have panoramic views as you sample the best that Bowers Harbor has to offer. The winery’s cool climate allows for superior pinot, chardonnay or riesling. Sample their award-winning reds, whites and sparkling wines with nothing but the sounds of glasses chinking and the rustling of the leaves.
7. Clinch Park
Steps away from the happening downtown area is Traverse City’s beautiful waterfront. The centerpiece of this part of town is the scenic Clinch Park. When the sun is out, locals flock to the wide white sand beach to sunbathe and dive into the refreshing waters of Lake Michigan, as the lifeguards look on.
Beyond the sand, visitors will find an array of modern amenities from picnic tables, snack shacks and bathrooms. To get out on the water, you can make use of the water sport rentals including kayaks. While the park is teeming with walking and cycling trails with splendid views of the nearby water. In the summer, evening concerts give you plenty of reason to stick around after sunset.
6. Dennos Museum Center
For elevated art and culture, travelers should make their way to Dennos Museum Center. The center is a renowned institution and a part of Northwestern Michigan College. It’s a fabulous art gallery that features an array of works from the last 250 years.
The 3,000 pieces of art on display come from a range of genres from textiles, portraits and sculptures. What gave the Dennos Museum Center its prestigious reputation, however, is the assortment of Inuit art from Baffin Island, in Canada, which makes up over half of the museum.
In addition to the Inuit art, you can also explore the Canadian Woodland Indian exhibit. Other highlights include an extension collection of art by the celebrated Jozsef Domjan. Regular events and workshops are also hosted by the center.
5. Downtown Traverse City
Despite its size, the core of Traverse City is stirring. The old streets are exactly what you’d want to see from a beloved small town. Wander along the welcoming paths flanked by lamp posts, leafy trees and endless shops. Along the way, you’ll find mouthwatering local eats, boutique stores, galleries and a vibrant culture.
Start your exploration on Front Street where you’ll find cozy cafes and bakeries for an early morning snack. Jump between independent stores, like West Bay Handmade, before treating yourself to some amazing fudge at Kilwin’s.
Downtown also hosts Sara Hardy Farmers Market on Wednesday and Saturday, along with the Traverse City Opera House.
4. Mission Point Lighthouse
Make your way along the Old Mission Peninsula on a scenic drive towards the Mission Point Lighthouse. The historic lighthouse guided weary sailors through the fog of Lake Michigan from 1870 to 1933 before it was automated. Even when operating, the beautiful location would attract travelers from far and wide. Today, the allure of the lighthouse hasn’t diminished.
Now a National Historic Site, you can climb up the many stairs to the top of Mission Point Lighthouse to incredible views. Afterwards, wander down to the nearby beach or explore the old log cabin, built long before the lighthouse was commissioned. There is beautiful nature around Mission Point, with trails meandering through the pines and hemlock trees.
3. The Village at Grand Traverse Commons
Once a state hospital and a local asylum, the Village at Grand Traverse has transformed into a popular destination for both locals and travelers. After facing elimination, the historic buildings were instead preserved, not just to maintain history but to protect the amazing architecture.
The old asylum is an especially grand building. It was designed this way in order to help the resident patients. The patients were also served food on fine China with each room decorated with flowers. Today, you can explore the village and its historic buildings on a guided tour.
The location is also a popular spot for picnics thanks to its opulent lawns. Afterwards, explore the hiking and biking trails along the edge of Kid’s Creek.
2. Chateau Chantal Winery
Renowned for its ice wine, Chateau Chantal Winery is both a beautiful place to explore and a great spot to try a vintage drop. The eye-catching chateau is just north of Traverse City, on the coast of the Old Mission Peninsula.
Start your experience here by sampling the ice wine, which is made from grapes that were picked frozen. Before exploring their range of native and vinifera grape varieties in their extensive tasting room. Afterwards, explore their expansive acreage that offers splendid views of the lakeside, the vineyard, and back towards the European-style chateau.
Stick around for sunset as the winery hosts live jazz music every Thursday night. The winery also offers cooking classes and workshops.
1. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Standing 400 feet above the deep blues of Lake Michigan, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will have you feeling on top of the world. The lakeshore is an awe-inspiring site and one of the most underrated locations in the United States. The dunes are located about 30 minutes west of Traverse City.
Sleeping Bear gets its name from Ashinaabe, the local Native American tribe. As a part of their lore, the two off-shore islands are cubs in an eternal slumber, with the mother laying on top of the dunes watching over them.
You can explore the spectacular lakeshore by climbing the towering dunes, or venturing along to Pyramid Point, which offers unforgettable vistas. Finish by visiting the charming village of Glen Haven, a place largely untouched by the passing of time.