Traverse City is already famous as a great place for winter fun. Just this past year, Budget Travel named it one of the 11 “Coolest Winter Places in America” and Livability.com called it one of the nation’s 10 best winter vacation destinations, with “all the ingredients for a great winter vacation – a quaint downtown with beautiful views of Lake Michigan, microbreweries, restaurants, shops, performance venues and lots of snow.”
But many people don’t know about one of Traverse City’s most enjoyable winter activities – great holiday shopping.
It makes sense, when you think about it. All those imaginative shops, boutiques and galleries, those cozy restaurants and coffee shops that you’ve enjoyed in the summertime are still there in winter, just as lovely and just as customer-centered. (Maybe even a little more so!) What a wonderful alternative to the chaos and crowds at those big-box megastores.
Front Street, Traverse City’s main shopping thoroughfare, is a charming 19th-century street filled with delightful little places to browse, snack and explore, with the kind of small-town flavor that makes you want to stay around just to enjoy the feeling.
Just around the corner, on Union Street, is the small but captivating Old Town District, and on nearby Garland Street you’ll find the edgy and fun Warehouse District. A few blocks to the west is the Grand Traverse Commons, where the rambling Victorian-Italianate buildings of a 19th century asylum have been reborn as an elegant new retail district.
Elegant shopping – and a whole lot of candy – can also be found in the Tower Gallery of Shops at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, where you can find locally-made gifts, logo-wear, toys and clothing for children and adults, in addition to Dylan’s Candy Bar, the wildly popular candy emporium.
An entirely different experience awaits you in any of the picturesque freshwater port towns that surround Traverse City. To the west is the Leelanau Peninsula, with laid-back little villages like Suttons Bay, Empire, Glen Arbor, Leland and Northport – chock-full of charming shops, dramatic views and cozy little eateries. To the east is Antrim County, where the picturesque villages of Elk Rapids, Bellaire, and Alden are secret jewels of the shopper’s art.
Traverse City really works hard to make holiday shoppers feel welcome, too – every December weekend, there’s at least one event designed with them in mind. In downtown Traverse City, it starts off with the December 6 arrival of Santa and a community sing-along at the town Christmas tree, and follows with a series of late-night shopping sprees: a December 12 Ladies Night and a December 19 Men's Night, both featuring entertainment, food and drink specials in addition to the usual in-store sales.
Speaking of food and drink, winter is a splendid time to enjoy some of Traverse City’s fabled cuisine. Thanks to its award-winning wines and talented chefs, this town now enjoys an international reputation for its cuisine, its wine, its craft brews and liquors. (Bon Appetit says it’s one of America’s top “foodie” towns, and the Travel Channel calls it one of the country’s emerging microbrew destinations.)
This year, do your holiday shopping in Michigan’s “True North!”