For nearly a century, Traverse City, Michigan has held bragging rights to being one of the country’s most popular lakefront getaway destinations. Enjoy the town’s unique history, culture, and entertainment. When you stay at a vacation rental in Traverse City, situated in the heart of Michigan’s wine country, you and your family will be just a few minutes away from great attractions. Look forward to shopping, live street performances, and long, sandy beaches where sunny days are most prominent from mid-spring to early autumn. Check out exciting things to do in Traverse City.
1. Black Star Farms Old Mission Winery
Traverse City is wine country, and more than a dozen vineyards pepper the landscape of the peninsula area north of the town. One of the most highly praised is the Old Mission, at Black Star Farms. Staff at this winery, which specializes in making crisp, dry whites, sweep up guests from the often-crowded lobby, hand out informative material about the establishment, and offer advice on the selection of wines for the tasting room. During the tasting, visitors are told about the process of making wine, the history of the winery, and even a little about the history of the surrounding town.
2. Traverse City Tours
Very few tourists drive from winery to winery on a tasting tour of Traverse City’s favorite beverage. Instead, most opt for a package tour, such as the group packages offered by Traverse City Tours. This service operates multiple buses that take upwards of a dozen people at a time through the area’s many historic vineyards, stop long enough for a tasting at each, and then safely return before sunset.
3. Yoga in the Vines
When you’ve heard the history of every winery in town, and merely tasting wine is no longer enough to satisfy the senses, you need some way to spiritually connect with the grapes themselves. Yoga in the Vines is just that — a spiritual and physical exercise carried out in the most dramatic setting Traverse City has to offer: in a vineyard at dawn, surrounded by nesting birds, and with a sweeping view of West Traverse Bay. Exercise complete and chakras aligned, don’t miss the wine tasting right after.
4. Light of Day Organics
When you’re settled in on the porch of your vacation rental in Traverse City, as the sun sets and the cool breeze starts blowing in off the lake, it’s good to enjoy a hot cup of tea. The experience is even better when you’ve bought the tea from Light of Day Organics, a local tea shop specializing in exotic and organic teas. Not only is it an experience to visit and meet with the tea experts on the staff, but you can try out select varieties before you buy and enjoy the area’s largest selection of organic herbal teas, cinnamon and spice teas, and old-fashioned orange and black pekoe, for the traditionalists who visit.
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5. Tall Ship Manitou
After a day or two of sitting on the beach and watching the surf of West Grand Traverse Bay with the kids, you’re eventually going to want to get out on the water yourself. The Tall Ship Manitou is waiting for you in the marina, and taking a two-hour noon cruise around the bay is an experience your family will never forget. The crew of this tall sailing ship meets guests at the dock and lets them know they won’t be mere passengers; during your trip around the bay, you’ll actually join the crew in raising and lowering the sails to catch the best breeze. There’s probably no better way in the modern world to really grasp the life of a 19th-century sailor better than doing the job yourself, and Manitou does everything possible to put you in the moment with your family.
6. Nauti-Cat Cruises
For those who’d like a tour of the bay without the work of trimming the rigging themselves, Nauti-Cat Cruises operates a fully staffed 40-foot catamaran with an onboard galley and drinks station. Enjoy craft beers from local micro-breweries while you’re drifting in the bay and watching the sun set over the water.
7. Traverse City Bass
Drifting and sailing aren’t the only activities you can enjoy in the bay’s clear waters. Traverse City Bass charters fishing excursions out to some of the hottest fishing spots Michigan has to offer. Captain Ben has years of experience at what he does, and both he and his guides take the time to instruct and coach their guests in the finer points of catching bass. Even experienced fishermen can learn a thing or two from an all-day cruise, while beginners should probably bring a notebook for later reference.
8. Dennos Museum Center
Operating from a tucked-away corner of NW Michigan University, Dennos Museum is an easy-to-miss must-see attraction that marks the high point of many people’s visit to Traverse City. The museum hosts a large and growing collection of permanent exhibits, a steady flow of temporary and special displays, and a large art gallery filled with original artwork from local and Native American artists. Much of the work is for sale, so you can go home with a permanent memento of your favorite part of the trip.
9. Front Street
Traverse City is very welcoming to vacationers, and the Front Street area downtown is a living testament to this attitude. With help from public and private funding, this mile-long stretch of town draws crowds every evening with upscale dining and shopping that’s fun for everyone, from teenagers on a first date to families with children and seniors enjoying a night out. Don’t miss the State Theater, at the heart of the restored Front Street, where filmmaker Michael Moore (a local resident) runs a vintage theater with decor and programs that harken back to the days of the silver screen.
10. Nolan’s Tobacconist
Cigar lounges tend toward the pretentious, with Old World decor and high-priced drinks, but Nolan’s Tobacconist has a sense of humor about itself that really lightens the mood inside. Featuring the standard fare of cognac, high-end cigars, and overstuffed leather chairs, the bar also offers drink/cigar combinations such as “the Dude Abides,” which is a macchiato-flavored smoke paired with a white Russian. The outdoor seating area is limited, but if you want to get out and enjoy the evening weather, there’s plenty of room on the property for your party.
11. Old Mission General Store
The Old Mission General Store has been described as the only game in town for getting groceries and other must-haves in Traverse City. That’s close to the truth, as most visitors eventually pass through the store’s old-fashioned facade and browse for locally sourced meat, specialty items, and farm-fresh produce. Far from being just another grocery outlet store, the Old Mission carries on the small town general store tradition of being a gathering place for local residents, who are happy to say hello from their bench by the front door to visitors passing by.
12. Secret Garden at Brys Estate
If you’ve ever wondered where lavender comes from, there’s a short answer: Secret Garden at Brys Estate, in Traverse City. This working vineyard, which welcomes visitors for tasting and tours year-round, encourages guests to check in between late June and mid-July for their prime lavender growing season. For a few weeks a year, the entire hillside blooms purple and smells, well, like lavender. Unique lavender products are available in the gift shop at the foot of the hill, and helpful guides are always nearby to walk new visitors through the estate.
13. Top Comics
If you’ve run yourself ragged from visiting all of the town’s attractions, and you need a day to rest in your vacation rental in Traverse City, make sure you have some entertaining reading material close at hand. Top Comics, the area’s top comics shop, has everything you need to enjoy a bookish day spent indoors. Take the kids for live events and signings by comic artists, and point them toward the quarter bin to grab an armload of cheap, fun four-color comics that will keep them enthralled for hours.
14. Kayak, Bike, and Brew
Have you ever wondered what the Iron Man Triathalon would be like if it had to be run by middle-aged parents on vacation? Kayak Bike and Brew answers that question for you: competitors would take two leisurely bicycle rides and two kayak excursions through calm local waterways, with each trip ending at a brewery where you can sample craft beer. Adults of any age can keep up with the pace your guides set on these trips, and older kids can enjoy everything except for the beer, though most breweries have soft drinks waiting for them when you arrive.
15. See the Beach Bums Play
The Beach Bums are a local AAA baseball team, and they play ball at Wuerfel Park, in Traverse City, with all the gusto of a small town team surrounded by rabid local fans. Parking at the stadium is usually wide open and not terribly expensive, concessions are reasonably priced and include all the old standbys of peanuts, hot links, and Cracker Jacks. Bring the kids and cheer for the home team of your hometown away from home.
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