Traverse City: A Holiday Shopper's Dream

Jennifer Lake loves to shop almost any time of year – but she’s especially enthusiastic when it comes to picking out the “perfect” holiday presents for family and friends. Luckily, she happens to live in Traverse City, where the opportunities for creative shopping multiply exponentially this time of year. Below, she shares a few of her recommendations.

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Right now, I’m doing everything in my power to resist the leftover Halloween candy that’s sitting just out of reach on my desk. The most helpful technique?  Distracting myself with thoughts of what lies ahead.

I'm not talking about snow (did I really see flurries this morning?!), I’m talking about the holidays and all that they entail: the family gatherings, the mouthwatering food and – oh yes, the shopping!  Admittedly, I'm a shopping enthusiast. I take pride in making the perfect purchase, and I love finding things that can't be found anywhere else. Being a designer, it's just engrained in my psyche to seek out the unique, colorful surprise that brings a smile to the people whose names are on my list.

Fortunately, I don't have to go far to find those special treats for my loved ones (or myself) this year, because here in Traverse City, the holiday shopping is very hip! It’s true that TC doesn't have big malls or zillions of choices of department stores, but what we lack in quantity we certainly make up for in quality. This is a place full of boutique shops and unique markets that make holiday shopping a downright joy! It's got one-of-a-kind items, friendly shop owners and affordability. What more could one want?

If you’ve been to Traverse City before, you know that the downtown district is brimming with old favorites and new stores to delight all kinds of cravings, especially when it comes to fashion, food, and furnishings. I could spend all morning browsing the wonders of Horizon Books and make my rounds to Sweet Pea (for my one year old), then What To Wear (for me) and on to several of the new salon boutiques (for friends) until I land myself in Amical for much needed nourishment and a big ol' glass of red wine. And then my shopping frenzy really starts to get interesting.

I've found that some of the best shopping in Traverse is popping up in the revitalized Warehouse District, the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, and at the increasingly growing number of artist markets around town. In the Warehouse District (Hall and Garland) I keep discovering amazing gift ideas like terrariums at the Green Room, eclectic decor goodies at The Red Dresser and plenty of stylish socks and accessories at freshly opened  Relish. The Grand Traverse Commons  continues to surprise me with new stores like 27 Stitches (local, handcrafted gifts and yummy yarn) and great collections of jewelry at Silver Fox Jewelry and Gallery Fifty. (Did someone say Fordite? I'm there!)

Finally, indie art markets are becoming very trendy in the area this year, and it’s exciting to see the talent and variety of items available at these events. I hit the local Makers Market in September and I'm already plotting to attend next year with my organic knapsack ready to fill. This weekend I'm headed to The Children's House Holiday Art Market to get my fix of adorable winter hats and scarves, pottery, soaps and ornaments – all handmade, all one-of-kind, all made right here in Traverse.

And did I mention that this shopping experience is beautifully enhanced by incredibly helpful people, no line-waiting and the numerous cozy restaurants that seem to appear around every corner just when you need a break? Traverse City shopping is a package deal! So, in case you need another excuse to visit our lovely city this season, put on your boots (from Robert Frost) and find out what holiday shopping is really all about. It's not a chore, it's a celebration!

'Tis the Season, after all.

Guest blogger Jennifer Lake is the founder of Brand Tonic, a boutique design and branding firm giving a daily dose of creativity to businesses throughout Michigan. Talk with her at