After spending so much time at home in Northern Michigan this summer, I’ve received tons of messages and comments from people wanting to know more about Traverse City and what to do, see and eat while in town. I was so surprised to learn how many people didn’t realize how beautiful the Great Lakes are and much there is to do Up North! I’ve shared a list of my favorites before, but wanted to create an updated guide for anyone wanting to visit Traverse City for a weekend trip!
A SUMMER WEEKEND GUIDE TO TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN
HOW TO GET TO TRAVERSE CITY
Traverse City does have a great small airport, Cherry Capital Airport, with a few direct flights or you can easily connect through Detroit or Chicago. Flights are pretty pricey during the summer months as it’s prime traveling time, but if booked enough in advance you can get a great price. You can also easily do a car trip from Detroit (4 hour drive) or Grand Rapids (2 hour drive) if you have the time and want to save a few bucks and see more of the great state of Michigan.
WHERE TO STAY
Traverse City is known for its incredible resorts that line the beaches on M-72 and M-22. Airbnb’s are a little harder to come by in TC, but I recommend finding a spot near downtown or West Bay so you can easily walk to the beach or shopping/dining. If you’re looking for a full hotel/resort experience, the Grand Traverse Resort has everything you need with the spa, restaurants, pool, beach access and golf courses (where my dad is the head pro!) so perfect to stay at if you have a car.
TRAVERSE CITY ITINERARY
Once you get to town on Friday, head to downtown Traverse City to check out the shops and restaurants on Front Street.
My favorites for lunch spots are:
The Dish Cafe: A favorite spot since middle school, this is the ideal spot to grab everything from quesadillas, grilled sandwiches, smoothies and salads.
Mama Lu’s: A fun taco spot for delicious Mexican and the best margaritas in town.
The Little Fleet: This fun spot has an array of food trucks to choose from, open patio seating and a bar with amazing cocktails. Perfect for the whole family.
Grand Traverse Pie Co.: With two locations downtown, grab something delicious for lunch and save room for a slice of their famous pies, like the Lakeshore Berry Crumb (my favorite!).
After grabbing lunch, walk around and shop from the amazing local boutiques like Cherry Hill Boutique (my mom’s the owner!), Ella’s, M-22 and much more. If it’s rainy, catch an afternoon flick at The State Theatre! Academy Award-winning director Michael Moore helped renovate this shuttered historic downtown movie theatre in 2007 and it’s grown now to be the ideal spot to catch a new release or classic favorite.
For the afternoon, head to one of the local wineries on Old Mission Peninsula for a glass or two at one of the amazing vineyards. If time permits, renting a bus with a driver to visit all of the Old Mission or Leelanau Peninsula wineries is the best way to spend the afternoon so you can sample all of the local wineries and get some incredible views as well. My favorites are Bonobo Winery, Brys Estate (get their frose and make a visit to their lavender farm as well!) and Mari Vineyards.
After relaxing, head for dinner back in town. Traverse City is foodie heaven thanks to the chefs using the huge assortment of local ingredients.
Our favorite dinner spots are:
Red Ginger: Even living in NYC, I crave Red Ginger sushi! Get a ton of appetizers and rolls to share, like my favorites the Crab Rangoon, Calamari and Dynamite Roll.
Sorrelina: Another downtown favorite if you’re craving Italian, this is a favorite spot for my family to share their famous Sorrelina salad and pasta dishes.
Trattoria Stella: Located in The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, this Italian restaurant features the freshest local ingredients and incredible meals. It’s perfect for a romantic date night.
After dinner, grab drinks at one of the local bars that feature favorite Michigan beers and wines. We rotate between 7 Monks Taproom, Rare Bird Brewery or head back to The Little Fleet if you didn’t make it earlier for a cocktail by the fire pit. Or if you’re looking for dessert instead, there’s nothing I love more than soft serve ice cream from The Dairy Lodge or Wares Brothers (my old childhood neighborhood spot!), which are a short drive from downtown. For hard ice cream, Kilwins downtown or Moomers is a bit of a drive but voted the best ice cream in America and always worth the long line!
For the morning, grab a hearty breakfast at a favorite brunch spot downtown. My family and friends always rotate between these three!
The Towne Plaza: The BEST blueberry pancakes ever. We love sitting outside in the courtyard with a stack of their giant pancakes and a mimosa.
Amical: A French favorite spot with indulgent dishes and adorable café feels.
The Omelette Shoppe: A long time TC favorite that has the best cinnamon toast and diner classics.
You can’t come to Traverse City without spending a day on the water! Rent a boat and spend the day on either West Grand Traverse Bay or East Bay where you can soak up the sun and enjoy swimming in the freshest water – they don’t call it Pure Michigan for nothing! Make sure to grab the BEST sandwiches from either Mary’s Kitchen Port or Chef’s In before you head to your boat for the day as well. I lived off these sandwiches in high school and they are always one of my first stops when back in town! If staying on land is more your speed, rent a bike and check out the TART Trail (Traverse Area Recreation Trail) or head up to charming Sutton’s Bay, a cute little village about 15 miles north of Traverse City.
Before leaving town, take a scenic drive out to Glen Arbor for a hike up Pyramid Point. Part of the historic Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Pyramid Point offers the most incredible views of Lake Michigan. The turquoise waters truly make you feel like the Caribbean and its worth the drive every time. Stop at the famous Cherry Republic or Art’s Tavern for lunch and soak up the last bit of Northern Michigan heaven! Another option is to drive out to the picturesque Mission Point Lighthouse for fantastic views of the bay.
Have you been to Northern Michigan? What are your favorite spots?