Top 5 things to do in Traverse City, Michigan

Traverse City? Where’s that?

It’s true, many people outside of Michigan, not to mention the USA, have never heard of Traverse City. (Pronounced Travers).

But it’s a magical place.

The resort town of Traverse City is situated on the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay, an inlet off the mammoth Lake Michigan.

sunset in Traverse City Double-Barrelled Travel

The sun going down over Grand Traverse Bay

First thoughts about Traverse City

When we drove around the peninsula and into Traverse City, the lake sparkled before our eyes.

Unlike the lake we swam in in New Hampshire which was a muddy brown, this water shone a brilliant blue.

Driving adjacent to the main street of the town (it’s called Traverse ‘City’ but it’s more like town-sized), we passed a beach where children were playing in the sand as the sun set in the distance, turning the sky a purple hue.

“If I was going to live in the USA, I would choose to live here.”

Dave looked at me and smiled.

“Me too,” he said.

Beautiful view of Traverse Bay in Traverse City Double-Barrelled Travel

How could you not want to live in Traverse City with views like these?

So how can you make the most of your visit to Traverse City? Here’s my list:

Top 5 things to do in Traverse City

1. Explore the food culture.

Midwest Living magazine recently voted Traverse City the second best ‘food town’ in the region.

So what can you expect?

A variety of food served up in the town comes from neighbouring farms. So the food will be fresh. And the locals love their food culture so you can try anything from fine dining to The Towne Plaza – a restaurant dedicated to all things pork.

Cocktail at the Firefly in Traverse City Double-Barrelled Travel

Did someone say food? Traverse City has a whole host of options – this was taken at the Firefly Restaurant

Traverse City is known for its cherries and if there’s a meal that can incorporate this fruit, expect to find it on your menu.

Cherry wine, cherry chocolate, cherry salad dressing – expect to find it all.

When we were eating at The Firefly, we even ordered pan-fried scallops in a cherry sauce. It was tasty.

And of course you can’t forget all the cherry pies!

For more information about where to eat, read this post about the top 5 places to eat in Traverse City.

Delicious Cherry Crumb pie at Traverse City pie shop in Traverse City Double-Barrelled Travel

Yum… delicious cherry pie. A food staple of Traverse City.

2. Visit the wineries.

Because of the location of Traverse City, it has a microclimate, meaning the summers are beautiful and the winters are not too freezing (although it does snow a lot).

This microclimate makes Traverse City a good wine producing region and over recent years more and more wineries have sprung up in the area.

We visiting Brys Estate on the Old Mission Peninsula and tasted five wines for $5. This is the average price for tastings in Traverse City and you normally get to keep the wine glass as well.

At Brys Estate, we ordered a cheese and charcuterie platter to go with the tastings and for $9 we thought this was quite reasonable.

The wine was outstanding and has won awards throughout the world, including a gold medal in London for its Gewurztraminer at the International Wine and Spirits Competition.

Carmen and Dave on a Nauti Cat Cruise in Traverse City Double-Barrelled Travel

Dave and I on the Nauti-Cat Cruise in Traverse City

3. Sail on the lake.

Speaking of wine, we went on a sunset cruise with Nauti-Cat, enjoying a few glasses of champagne as the sun set over the water.

Being in the Great Lakes region, many of the locals in Traverse City are keen on sailing and if you want a true Traverse City experience then you have to sail out on the lake at least once.

If you’re into adventure activities you can go parasailing or jet skiing, or try your hand at stand up paddleboarding, which is very popular right now.

For me though, nothing beats champagne bubbles on my tongue, the wind tickling my face and the sound of waves lapping the sides of the catamaran as I watch the sun go down over the peninsula.

Jet skiing on lake michigan in Traverse City Double-Barrelled Travel

A boat pulling a jet ski on Lake Michigan, which is so big it looks like the ocean

4. Bike the peninsula.

We hired bikes one day and set off for the Old Mission Peninsula. More than 40km later, we returned, knackered, sunkissed but happy that it was a day well spent.

Apparently it’s only meant to take a couple of hours to cycle the entire peninsula but in two hours we’d only just passed halfway, so I’m not sure how right the guy at the bike shop was! Although maybe we’re just very unfit…

If you do decide to cycle the peninsula, make sure you keep to the roads on the edges as it’s relatively flat on the sides, unlike the hilly main road that runs through the middle.

We saw some beautiful views as we pedalled – lovely sandy beaches with trees that overhung onto the shoreline, ships sailing in the distance and grasses scattered with wild flowers.

The views were worth the exercise.

View from Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City Double-Barrelled Travel

The beautiful view from our bike ride along the Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City

5. Get cultured.

For a small town, Traverse City is very cultured.

As you walk down East and West Front Street, the main road that runs through the centre of the town, you will notice a number of art galleries selling unique pieces that you’d be pressed to find anywhere else.

There’s the Americana Gallery which has many pottery, glass, jewellery, wood and metal art from Michigan artists; the art gallery of Angela Schuler who paints beautiful abstract oil paintings, and the Art and Soul Gallery which houses clay, fiber, fabric, glass, jewelry, metal, paper, paintings, photography and wood art.

And this list is by no means extensive.

At first it seemed strange that there was so much art to be found in a town that’s relatively small, but the longer I spent in Traverse City, the more I realised why this was the case.

The area is so beautiful that I can easily see how it’d inspire all different types of artists.

Wildflowers on Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City Double-Barrelled Travel

It’s easy to see how views like this can inspire artists living in Traverse City

Although Traverse City wasn’t always so picturesque… it used to be an industrial town for sawmills and lumbering.

These factories may no longer exist but Traverse City residents are still into a product produced from trees – books.

In the centre of the town is Horizon Books, a multi-storey building choc-a-bloc full of good reads for bookworms like me.

While other book shops seem to be dying out, this one is always a hub of activity and one thing popular with the locals is attending author readings the store holds a few times a week.

Horizon Books also puts on Open Mic nights and live music.

Now that sounds like my kind of store!

Have you been to Traverse City?

What would you recommend that’s worth doing there?

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About the author

Carmen has been nomadic since May 2013 and the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel. She loves experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. She is having the most fun when skiing down a mountain, scuba diving in the Caribbean or curled up with a good book.

3 comments on “Top 5 things to do in Traverse City, Michigan”

  1. Pingback: The Nauti-Cat Sunset Cruise in Traverse City - Double-Barrelled Travel

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