10 Traverse City Sights to Explore

Thousands of visitors will flock to Traverse City from June 29 to July 6 for the National Cherry Festival. There’s no end of things to do at the festival – but you should still take a little time to get out and see the rest of this beautiful town. Mike Norton of the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau shares a few suggestions.

Hey, I LOVE the Cherry Festival! From the first window-rattling roar of the jets at the air show to the last float in the Cherry Royale Parade, I’m a big fan. But there are lots of must-see and must-do things in the Traverse City area, and you shouldn’t leave without checking out at least a few of these:

1. The Sleeping Bear Dunes
I never get tired of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a breathtaking 64-mile curve of beaches, coves, islands and dunes – some perched as high as 400 feet above the water. Its grandeur can be viewed from overlooks along the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. But it’s even better to walk its beaches, hike its trails or even take a ferryboat ride to the unspoiled Manitou Islands.

2. The Grand Traverse Commons
Traverse City’s most distinctive architectural treasure is the sprawling Grand Traverse Commons, our former mental asylum, whose castle-like buildings are slowly being converted into a complex of apartments, shops, galleries, offices and restaurants. Great shopping, and the 480-acre wooded campus is a beautiful place for people to walk, run and bicycle.

3. Wine Country Touring
Traverse City may be the “Cherry Capital of the World,” but the same water-cradled slopes that make this a perfect place for fruit orchards are now producing some of the best wines in the country. The Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas are dotted with vineyards and wineries — many in awe-inspiring hilltop settings that make them attractions in their own right.

4. The Interlochen Center for the Arts
In a secluded forest setting (about 20 minutes from downtown Traverse City) Interlochen is a magnet for lovers of music, drama and dance. Over 200,000 people visit each year. Come for a show, or simply for a stroll around the campus.

5. Beaches
You can’t go to TC without spending some time at the beach! On West Grand Traverse Bay, try Clinch Park, West End, and Bryant Park (a particularly good spot to catch the 4th of July fireworks). The entire southern shore of East Bay is one long beach of fine sugar sand, and it’s shallow enough for little ones. Check out the Traverse City State Park near Three Mile Road.

6. Slabtown
In the 19th century, Bohemian immigrants came to work in Traverse City’s waterfront sawmills. They built their homes with slabs of scrap lumber from the mills, so their neighborhood came to be known as Slabtown. Many of their cottages are still standing – and so are two great bars: Sleder’s Family Tavern, and the Little Bohemia Pub & Grill. Both places still preserve the feel of an earlier, more authentic Traverse City.

7. Tall Ship Sailing
Traverse City’s has more of these stately sailing vessels than any other port on the Great Lakes. Taste the exhilaration of the Days of Sail is to take a two-hour cruise aboard the 114-foot Tall Ship Manitou, a replica of a 19th-century schooner, or on the Nauti-Cat, the largest commercial sailing catamaran on the Great Lakes.

8. Lighthouses
At the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum near Northport, visitors can see how lighthouse keepers and their families lived in the early 1920s. One of the oldest lighthouses on the Great Lakes, it has been in service for over 150 years. The smaller Mission Point Lighthouse at the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula, is another scenic treasure.

9. Shopping
Traverse City is a shopper’s paradise. I love our shady, pedestrian-friendly downtown, with its scores of fascinating boutiques, restaurants and galleries, and lots of places to sit and relax. Nearby are picturesque lakeport towns like Leland, Glen Arbor, Elk Rapids and Northport — filled with hidden byways, cozy cottages, quaint shops and stunning galleries.

10. Fresh Food
This time of year, fresh fruits and vegetables – including cherries! – can be found almost everywhere around Traverse City. The community has lots of farmers markets, roadside stands, and U-pick orchards where you can enjoy picking your own fruit. It tastes so much better that way!

What would you add to the list? Visit michigan.org to learn about more things to do and see in the Traverse City area.

Mike Norton spent 25 years as newspaper writer and columnist before starting a second career as media relations director at the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau. He lives in the village of Old Mission.

  • http://youtu.be/Csed5pB14uA Hiroshi Konishi

    Hello, my name is Hiroshi and I live in Japan. I was a scholarship student at Nornern Michigan Univ. in 1985 and lived in Marquette.
    I would like to have friends in Michigan because I know Michigan is wonderful state and full of beautiful place and nice people.
    Please call me “Hiroshi” and be kind to be my friend !

    Thank you.

    Hiroshi

  • http://youtu.be/Csed5pB14uA Hiroshi Konishi

    Hello, my name is Hiroshi and I live in Japan. I was a scholarship student at Nornern Michigan Univ. in 1985 and lived in Marquette.
    I would like to have friends in Michigan because I know Michigan is wonderful state and full of beautiful place and nice people.
    Please call me “Hiroshi” and be kind to be my friend !

    Thank you.

    Hiroshi

  • http://guntzvillers.com Pat & Voss Guntzviller

    It’s a great state we live in and there is so much to see. We have a museum just north of Traverse City that shows all the wildlife we have in this great state plus a very large collection of Native American artifacts that have been collected in the family over the last 100 years. Stop in and see our wonderful collection. We’re open 7 days a week. You’ll love it.

  • Shirley Braman

    I moved to a near by area 5 years ago and still have so much to see. I would like to know where the museum is that the Guntzvillers talk about and also note anyone passing through Cadillac should take a drive around the lake. It is so nice to see so many people enjoying the outdoors.

  • Dianna Barrington

    Traverse City area is what dreams are made of. Just want to mention Leland area The Bluebird restaurant is quaint and charming, food delicious, view is free. Manitou islands just off the shore, ferries available if you’re feeling adventurous. Suttons Bay sweet little arts and crafty town. And of course Sleeping Bear sand dunes, and the sad Indian legind of how they were formed. Old Mission area offers breathtaking views, fine dining, Chateau Chantal and sooo many wineries, not enough time. Take a drive north and check out Elk Rapids,& Torch Lake, amazingly pristine, shown in National Geographic magazine. Bike trails downtown Traverse City along with ship building, the Manitou tall ship available for lunch/dinner cruises, fall color tours. Fish livery interesting, DNR very informative, kids loved it.
    We never get enough of the Traverse City area, can’t wait to visit again soon!

  • steve robinson

    top ten
    1) canoe , kayak or tube the boardman river
    2) Empire beach afternoon to play in the waves and then grill dinner then sunset
    3) Bike the tart trail
    4) Sleeping Bear dunes
    5) Lakeside Bar and grill on southern end of lake leelanaul (lunch)
    6) Boone’s Long Lake Inn Deck for after 4 drinks snd appetizers
    7) Hike the trailsalong the boardman north of bietner
    8) Rainy day option…Breweries Right Brain and so on
    9) Old mission peninsula drive maybe vist a winery
    10) Shoot the horn Leave Traverse City head north on 22 and go to northport then leland then cedar ending back in TC. OPtion stop at any bar restuarant winery what ever you want

  • Charlotte Stapor

    We spent at least 20 years vacationing at Glen Lake plus additional weekend trips. Beautiful in summer and fall! Fond memories for our children now grown, as they remember swimming, biking, fishing, Glen Arbor, Glen Haven, Leland, Sleeping Bear Dunes. The Bluebird at Leland is always a wonderful place to eat!…and Fishtown is a must. We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary with a stay at the Homestead Resort with our family.

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  • http://www.selectregistry.com Brandie

    We have lived in three states but are so happy to be back in Michigan. We are looking forward to an upcoming stay at the romantic and relaxing Stafford Bayview Inn later this summer. We love the Petoskey area.

  • Dr. Mayben

    The area does not like outsiders. What a horrible place to bring a family to. Horrible experience, terrible service, frankly just rude people. Sad to see families struggling among so much wealth.

  • Becky

    That is the absolute, furthest thing from the truth. The one thing I always tell people about Traverse City is, not only is the area GORGEOUS, but the people in traverse city are some of the most friendly people I have met and passed on the street. I have lived and visited all over the United States. My family and I love it so much in this sweet little town, that after we are done with our career moving from place to place, we will be retiring in Traverse City. Sorry that you had a terrible experience, but it was clearly not the residence of Traverse City, that made your stay so miserable.