21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (2024)

There are plenty of things to do in Traverse City for all visitors, especially in the summer when it seems something is going on every day! Traverse City has been charming visitors for decades now, and it makes for a romantic getaway in Michigan.

Traverse City is well known for its beaches, abundant fresh produce from Michigan’s best farms, and some tantalizing restaurants. Also, the town is a stone’s throw away from the dramatic Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Of course, that is just scratching the surface as there is a lot to love about Traverse City.

Although there are many things to do in Traverse City, the best may be to enjoy the slower pace of life here. It won’t take long to learn why cherished as one of America’s best small towns.

What we’ll cover in this Traverse City Travel Guide

  • Where is Traverse City
  • History Of Traverse City
  • Best Time To Visit Traverse City
  • How To Get Around Traverse City
  • Where To Stay In Traverse City
  • Where To Eat In Traverse City
  • Best Things To Do In Traverse City

traverse city FAQS

Before we dig into the best things to do in Traverse City, here are a few essential things to know about the city. It may highlight some questions you may have about the city.

Where is Traverse City?

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (1)

Traverse City dates back to 1852 and lies at the southern end of Grand Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan. It’s easily one of the best small towns in the USA! Fifteen thousand residents call the lakeside city home year-round. It’s 140 miles north of Grand Rapids, and easily one of the best places to visit in Michigan.

It’s not more than a few hours drive from Grand Rapids, along with Lansing and Detroit. If you’d like to look on a map or get GPS directions head to Google Maps.

What’s The History of Traverse City?

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (2)

The region has a long history with indigenous peoples such as the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi. Extensive trade networks were in operation that connected the lakeside communities with the Rockies to the West and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.

English and French traders took advantage of the network and later Perry Hannah established a permanent village in the 1840s to build his lumber business. The industry exploded and Michigan eventually became the country’s top lumber producer.

As the lumber boom faded the region moved to agriculture. Traverse City is now the Cherry Capital of the world, a wine-growing region, and a great spot for a holiday. It’s popularity has grown throughout the years and now receives over three million visitors a year.

When is Best Time To Visit Traverse City?

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (3)

Traverse City enjoys a long tourist season as there are a lot of great times to visit the city. It all depends on what you’re seeking, but in general, the best season runs from May to October. May brings about the spring season and towards the end of the month the cherry blossoms bloom around the city.

As the days grow long and warm in the summer months it’s the perfect time to head to some of the lovely beaches along the lakeshore. Summer is also a great month to go enjoy water sports such as sailing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. The National Cherry Festival and Traverse City Film Festival are two events that draw in huge crowds.

Once summer wraps up and a chill begins to enter the air it’s the perfect time to witness the leaves change colors and enjoy the harvest. It’s a less crowded time of year and you’ll get to enjoy fresh apples and local products.

How To Get Around Traverse City?

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (4)

It’s best to come with a vehicle or to rent one while visiting the city. There a lot of things to do around Traverse City that can not be reached by public transportation. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a real highlight that requires a car to reach. There are also some great accommodation options outside of the city worth considering.

Traverse City is very walkable if you have accommodation downtown. It’s an easy city to get around and it’s very possible to spend a day without ever having to get inside a vehicle. The downtown core has easy access to restaurants, beaches, shops, and breweries.

If you’re flying into Michigan or Traverse City we recommend you rent a car. Our favorite website to compare car rentals is Discover Car Hire.

Where to stay in Traverse City?

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (5)

Where To Eat in Traverse City?

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (6)
  • Poppyco*cks: Fantastic New American cuisine that often features live jazz. Enjoy an extensive martini and wine menu.
  • Bubba’s: A laidback bar is known for serving up some excellent food in a family-friendly environment. They have a menu with tacos, burgers, BBQ, and a varied beer menu.
  • amical: European bistro that serves up seasonal menus in a light atmosphere. Good service and family-friendly with a kids menu.
  • Firefly Restaurant: The eclectic restaurant serves up various everything, such as small plates, stir fry, sushi, and burgers.
  • Trattoria Stella: A romantic Italian farm-to-table restaurant with a well-curated list from Italy and Europe.
  • Spanglish: Counter-service Mexican restaurant with authentic Mexican cuisines such as tamales, corn tacos, and tostadas.
  • The Filling Station: Microbrewery in a train depot that pairs their beers with housemade flatbreads and salads.
  • Grand Traverse Pie Company: Cafe with a mouth-watering selection of pies and pastries. You have to try the cherry pie.

Best Things to Do in Traverse City

Visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (7)

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a scenic stretch of dunes along the shore of the sparkling Lake Michigan. The dunes stretch for 35 miles and can reach up to 450 feet in height. The stunning park area includes two islands and several small inland lakes.

The area is home to diverse fauna, including bird species, deer, squirrels, raccoons, bats, bobcats, and otters. The terrain consists of wetlands and woodlands. The vegetation here ranges from long, hardy grasses and thistles to trees such as juniper, oak, pine, black cherry, and beech.

Call the Phillip A. Hart Visitor Center when you arrive to learn more about the area and pick up handy trail maps. Be sure to climb the giant dune found in the park’s center. The peak affords terrific views of the surroundings. There are numerous trails throughout the park, perfect for summer hiking, winter cross-country skiing, and Nordic walking.

Attend the Traverse City Film Festival

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (8)

According to the MPAA, one of the best movie theatres in the world lies in the city. The Traverse City State Theatre is on Front Street and hosts the famous Traverse City Film Festival held every year. Don’t miss it if you are in town for this extraordinary event!

Even if you are visiting outside the festival time, it’s worth it to stop by and look at the old theatre as it will transport you to another time.

Snap a Picture of The Hippie Tree

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (9)

An unusual attraction in Traverse City is The Hippie Tree as its vibrant, colorful, and worthy of a few Instagram pictures.

Although the old willow tree is long dead, local artists regularly come to daub paint on the trunk and branches to bring a new lease of life to the woodlands. Bright splashes and vibrant streaks create a technicolored piece of magic.

Near the Old State Hospital, urban myths tell of hauntings by the spirits who lurk in the old wards.

Spend an Evening at the City Opera House

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (10)

Built in the early 1890s, the City Opera House boasts exquisite designs both inside and out. Admire the handsome red-brick façade, complete with stately columns and arched upper windows, before stepping inside to marvel at the beautiful interiors.

Inside, the gorgeous frescoes and gold leaf help to create an air of splendor enhanced by the high vaulted ceilings, balcony, and regal-red seats.

Have a Flutter at Turtle Creek Casino

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (11)

A popular casino in the northern part of Michigan is the Turtle Creek Casino, as it boasts more than 55,000 square feet. You’ll find roulette tables and card games like blackjack and craps. There are electronic games, too, including three-card poker, baccarat, and Louisiana Stud, in addition to more than 1,000 slot machines.

Check out the on-site restaurants or bars to refuel. There’s something to appeal to all tastes, including a casual buffet, a sports bar, a retro diner, and a top-class steakhouse.

Climb the Steps of Mission Point Lighthouse

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (12)

Since 1870 the Mission Point Lighthouse has guided many sailors and prevented many tragedies during service. Although it hasn’t been in operation since the 1930s, it still attracts many visitors keen to climb up the steps to admire the far-reaching views.

The old building is on the National and State Historic registries. It’s well worth taking some time to explore the scenic surroundings, too, with lush vineyards and orchards. You can also sunbathe on the small beach.

  • Admission: $5 ages 13+ $2 — 6-12 ages
  • Hours: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Wander through The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (13)

The 1800s Victorian-Italianate buildings at The Village were once part of a hospital. After the institution closed, it was given a new life as a complex of restaurants, cafes, and offices.

Today, the 63-acre complex is home to offices, various stores, restaurants, cafes, and more, and the surrounding 450-acre nature-rich woodlands have several trails for walking and biking.

The inside areas are as attractive as the elegant exterior architecture, with heavy metal doors set into pale brick walls and many original features. If you want to dig deeper into the area’s past, you can book several tours, including an eerie twilight tour that takes you into underground tunnels and tells of mysterious happenings.

Appreciate Art at the Dennos Museum Center

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (14)

Part of Northwestern Michigan College, the Dennos Museum Center contains many pieces of splendid artwork. There are regularly changing temporary exhibitions and permanent collections, ensuring that there’s always something new to discover.

The gallery offers plenty of diversity, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, pottery, prints, and textiles. Works span the ages, and the gallery features art by both national and international artists. The gallery is especially famous for its fascinating collection of Inuit indigenous art.

  • Admission: $6 Adult, $4 Youth
  • Hours: Wed-Sun 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Address: 1410 College Drive

Camp in Traverse City State Park

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (15)

Covering some 48 acres, Traverse City State Park has a large camping area with around 250 pitches. Convenient and comfortable, the site has water facilities, electrical hook-up points, picnic areas, and fire pits for some al fresco dining.

Even if you don’t plan on spending the night, the park is still well worth visiting. Close to downtown, it has a section of beach along Grand Traverse Bay. Swim in the lake, soak up some sun, go fishing, and have fun on a boat ride. The park also has walking trails and a play area for kids.

Soar through the Skies in a Hot Air Balloon

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (16)

Get a bird’s eye view of the landscapes when you take to the skies in a hot air balloon with Traverse City Balloon Tours. Hop into the comfy basket beneath the giant multi-colored balloon and prepare for a fantastic trip.

If you’re looking for a romantic experience with that special someone, you can book a one-hour flight with champagne to watch as the sky changes color and the sun goes down over the city. Sunrise experiences are also available.

Sample Local Wines at Chateau Grand Traverse Winery

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (17)

One of the best things to do in Traverse City is enjoy a glass of local wine. Traverse City is a top spot in the country for fantastic local Michigan wines, and there are many fine wineries close to the city.

Chateau Grand Traverse Winery, located on the Old Mission Peninsula, is a top local winery where you can learn more about the wine-making process and taste delicious wines made using locally grown grapes.

Founded in the 1970s, the elegant estate is proud of its delectable Riesling wines. You can go on a 30-minute winery tour behind the scenes before relaxing in the sophisticated tasting room or on the pretty patio. It’s one of the best places to head to Michigan in the fall.

Ogle the Biggest Cherry Pie Pan in the World

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (18)

Another unusual attraction in Traverse City, the colossal cherry pie pan on Cass Road, is 18 feet wide and 26 feet deep and seeing it is one of the best things to do in Traverse City. It isn’t just a quirky art installation. The enormous cherry pie pan once housed an actual cherry pie!

The gigantic cherry pie was baked in 1987 by a team overseen by Chef Pierre Bakeries. Around 35,000 people enjoyed a slice of the finished pie! Michigan cherries are a source of pride in Traverse City. It’s not just locals who cherish the stone fruit as a half million visitors visit every year to enjoy the National Cherry Festival during the first week of July.

Take The Kids to Great Lakes Children’s Museum

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (19)

The Great Lakes Children’s Museum is a fabulous place for families with young children as it is fun and interactive.

The museum is filled with numerous hands-on exhibits and activities to encourage learning and pique curiosity. Exhibits are related to diverse topics, including science, art, mathematics, and design. The enchanting story-time sessions are sure to capture the imagination too.

Keep Fit at Grand Traverse County Civic Center

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (20)

The large sports center at Grand Traverse County Civic Center is open to the public. The complex spread across 45 acres has something to suit all fitness enthusiasts. Outside, there’s a one-mile-long track where you can walk or jog as well as a sledding hill.

There are seven softball/baseball fields, an indoor swimming pool, a skating rink, and an arena. The skate park is often popular with teens, while younger visitors can have fun at the community play area.

Buy Fresh Produce at Gallagher’s Farm Market and Bakery

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (21)

Open since 1971 and still operated by the founding family, Gallagher’s Farm Market and Bakery is an ample space where local farmers and producers can bring a wide array of wares to sell to the local community.

Open from June through to October. You’ll find fresh seasonal goods as well as year-round produce. You’ll find fruit and vegetables, baked goods, artisan cheeses, homemade jams, local wines, honey, and more. Pick up ingredients for a delicious dinner or picnic. Don’t miss stopping by to meet the farmyard animals if you’re visiting with kids.

Feel the Harmony at Music House Museum

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (22)

This unique museum is home to an extensive collection of musical instruments and machines from the past. Exhibits date from the 1870s through to the 1950s. Some items are rare, all are interesting.

Travel back through musical history, see photographs and documents relating to music, learn how musical instruments and equipment have developed over the years, and gain a deeper appreciation for craftsmanship. You will also have the opportunity to hear some of the exhibits in action.

There are ornate music boxes, early radios, jukeboxes, gramophones, and record players. A highlight is the beautiful Mortier Dance Hall Organ from 1922.

Sail on The Tall Ship Manitou

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (23)

The Tall Ship Manitou is a striking replica ship built to resemble an 1800s cargo schooner. Its sails tower over the marina, and the magnificent vessel can hold more than 50 passengers. Relaxing under the gigantic sails offers a different way of sightseeing around Grand Traverse Bay. Trips typically last for two hours.

Explore Slabtown

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (24)

Slabtown bears testament to Traverse City’s past in the west of the city. Woodworkers, sawmill employees, and millwrights occupied this part of the city, building their homes from large slabs of scrap wood rescued from the sawmills.

Many early workers came from central Europe, and the area retains a Bohemian atmosphere today. There are unusual eateries, stores, and bars, including the olde-worlde Sleder’s Family Tavern. Constructed as a workers’ social club, the 1882 establishment has kept its beautiful carved bar.

You’ll also find the Hickory Hills in Slabtown. It’s the city’s most popular skiing area, and there are eight downhill runs with skiing areas for all levels.

Unwind on the Beach at Clinch Park

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (25)

Popular with visitors and locals alike, the 1,500-foot beach in Clinch Park is an excellent place for swimming and relaxing. Alternatively, rent a kayak for even more watery fun. Lifeguards watch the waters in the summer, and there are picnic tables for an al fresco lunch. You can also cycle along the well-maintained trails.

Enter Wonderland at Historic Barns Park

As well as being home to a spectacular events venue – the Cathedral Barn – Historic Barns Park also has a large botanical garden.

Start in the Visitor Center, located in the granary of Traverse City State Hospital. Stroll through pretty gardens like the Native Plant Garden, the Pollinator Garden with its many bees, the Firewise Garden, the Rain Garden, and the Judith Groleau Healing Garden. Admire the views from the Overlook, have fun at the Labyrinth, and see the old Dairy Barns.

An unusual feature of the park is the grave of Traverse Colantha Walker – a world champion Holstein-Friesian cow! She was essential for providing milk for the former hospital.

A real highlight, however, is the magical Fairy Trails. Feel as though you’ve stepped into the pages of a children’s fantasyland as you peer at the whimsical tiny houses that live the path. Dainty and cute, the tiny homes utilize wood, stone, and other natural materials to look like dwellings for fairies.

Stroll along Silk Stocking Row

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (26)

Located in the historic central part of the city, Silk Stocking Row is the nickname given to Sixth Street. Wander along the street, and you’ll see why – it is full of elegant homes built by the city’s 19th-century affluent inhabitants.

Looking over the Boardman River, one of the most abundant is the former home of Perry Hannah, the founder of Traverse City. It draws inspiration from a small castle with turrets and chimneys, many windows, ornate stone carvings, and porticos resting on sturdy columns. Inside, the influential man used a different type of wood – including birch, maple, walnut, and cherry – in each of the 40 rooms!

Best Things to do in Traverse City Map

21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (27)

I hope you enjoyed this guide on things to do in Traverse City! Hopefully, you found it helpful. Here are a few relevant articles for more travel around Michigan.

  • Things to do in Frankenmuth
  • Things to do in Mackinac Island
  • Things to do in Petoskey
  • Things to do in Saugatuck
  • Things to do in Ludington
  • Things to do in Holland
  • The Best Waterfalls in Michigan

Plan Your Trip

  • Protect Your Trip:We don’t travel without travel insurance, nor should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
  • Travel Credit Card: If you’re a responsible credit card user, I highly recommend looking at these travel rewards credit cards and earning points and miles for your purchases
  • Travel Backpack: We like the Nomatic Travel Backpack for our travels. Check the price here.
  • Rent a Car: We use Discover Cars to find the best deals on car rentals. See our rental car tips here.
  • Travel Adapter –Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land.Purchase one here.
  • Travel Shoes –Allbirds are the ultimate travel shoe. They are sustainable and last forever while looking good.Read our full Allbirds review.
21 BEST Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan (2024)


What is Traverse City most known for? ›

Traverse City is known as the "Cherry Capital of the World." The area is also known for their natural attractions like freshwater beaches, vineyards, wineries and the proximity to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

How many days should you spend in Traverse City? ›

If you're looking for a perfect getaway for a long weekend, I'd put Traverse City right to the top of that list. While the city is fairly small, it offers a large variety of things to do, and three days is a perfect amount of time to spend here.

What type of food is Traverse City known for? ›

About Traverse City
  • Traverse City Local Food Scene. ...
  • Fruits: Ah, the sweetness of the tart cherries. ...
  • Fruit-Infused Spirits: The booming craft distillery scene in Traverse City owes much to the tart cherry. ...
  • Sauces and Salsa: It is no surprise that the versatile cherry inspires many northern chefs.
Feb 11, 2022

What is there to do in Traverse City today? ›

Top Attractions in Traverse City
  • The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. 1,550. ...
  • Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery. 484. ...
  • Front Street. 936. ...
  • Mission Point Lighthouse. 924. ...
  • Chateau Chantal Winery & Tasting Room. 511. ...
  • Grand Traverse Distillery. 268. ...
  • Dennos Museum Center. 174. ...
  • Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails. 198.

How many millionaires live in Traverse City, Michigan? ›

Traverse City, Michigan, is home to 600K millennial millionaires, fresh water beaches.

What fruit is Traverse City known for? ›

For many, the answer is the fruit that crowned Traverse City the “Cherry Capital of the World.” The state of Michigan produces over 70% of the national tart cherry crop annually, and the Grand Traverse region is especially suited for cherry production.

How long is it from Traverse City to mackinac island? ›

The fastest way to get from Traverse City Airport (TVC) to Mackinac Island is to bus and ferry which takes 4h 52m and costs $45 - $95. How far is it from Traverse City Airport (TVC) to Mackinac Island? The distance between Traverse City Airport (TVC) and Mackinac Island is 118 miles.

Why do people like Traverse City? ›

Traverse City is blessed with natural beauty, year-round outdoor activities, a thriving economy, vibrant arts and culture and an enviable dining scene. Living in Traverse City, MI, offers residents an experience like no other.

Is there a ferry from Traverse City to Mackinac Island? ›

The cheapest way to get from Traverse City to Mackinac Island is to bus and ferry which costs $40 - $90 and takes 3h 45m. What is the fastest way to get from Traverse City to Mackinac Island? The fastest way to get from Traverse City to Mackinac Island is to bus and ferry which takes 3h 45m and costs $40 - $90.

What is Michigan's most iconic food? ›

It is known for famous Mackinac Island fudge, Coney Island Hot Dogs, and Cornish Pasties, which were introduced by miners who came to the state from Cornwall, England. Tart cherries, Packzi (Polish Filled Donuts), and Superman Ice Cream are more popular foods you might enjoy when visiting Michigan.

What is the state meal of Michigan? ›

Guess what? Michigan is NOT on that list. It has neither a state fruit nor a state vegetable. There's no state dish, and (thankfully) we don't have a state meal.

What is the racial makeup of Traverse City Michigan? ›

The 5 largest ethnic groups in Traverse City, MI are White (Non-Hispanic) (90%), Two+ (Non-Hispanic) (3.1%), White (Hispanic) (2.04%), Black or African American (Non-Hispanic) (1.44%), and Asian (Non-Hispanic) (1.36%).

What is Traverse City, Michigan famous for? ›

Explore Traverse City

Famous for the scenic M-22 highway, dozens of wineries, quaint port towns, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, it's definitely a must-visit region in the Traverse City area.

Does anyone famous live in Traverse City? ›

Traverse City has also been either the birthplace or home to several notable people as well. Political figures like Chasten Buttigieg, actors, musicians and even Mr. Hockey himself have all called the city home at some point in their lives.

Why are people moving to Traverse City? ›

Traverse City offers a high quality of life, natural beauty, a friendly community, outdoor activities, four seasons, vibrant downtown, a strong economy, an affordable cost of living, a great education system, and excellent healthcare.

Who is the largest employer in Traverse City? ›

biggest companies in Traverse City, MI
  1. Munson Healthcare. Zippia Score 4.0. ...
  2. Hospitality West Llc. Zippia Score 3.8. ...
  3. Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District Tbaisd. Zippia Score 3.7. ...
  4. Northwestern Michigan College. Zippia Score 4.2. ...
  5. CEMA. Zippia Score 3.4. ...
  6. Oilgear. Zippia Score 4.4. ...
  7. Hagerty. Zippia Score 4.7. ...
  8. NMCAA.

Is Traverse City worth seeing? ›

Downtown Traverse City is a vibrant and charming destination that offers something for everyone. Whether shopping, dining or enjoying the arts, you will surely have a memorable experience in this beautiful area.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Wyatt Volkman LLD

Last Updated:

Views: 6168

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (46 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Wyatt Volkman LLD

Birthday: 1992-02-16

Address: Suite 851 78549 Lubowitz Well, Wardside, TX 98080-8615

Phone: +67618977178100

Job: Manufacturing Director

Hobby: Running, Mountaineering, Inline skating, Writing, Baton twirling, Computer programming, Stone skipping

Introduction: My name is Wyatt Volkman LLD, I am a handsome, rich, comfortable, lively, zealous, graceful, gifted person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.