Traverse City travel guide

Traverse City Tourism | Traverse City Guide

You're Going to Love Traverse City

Located in northern Michigan, Traverse City may seem remote, but it's quickly becoming one of the most popular inland tourist destinations in the USA. The reasons aren't hard to find. From high-quality food and drink to fine scenery, sailing opportunities, golf courses and comfortable resorts, Traverse City is an easy destination to love.

For one thing, Traverse City is great for gourmet food and drink fans. Join tour parties with By the Bay Transportation to explore the region's burgeoning wine scene. Gorge yourself on the freshest, most delicious cherry pie imaginable at the Grand Traverse Pie Company and relax in luxury spas at resorts like the Inn at Bay Harbor.

On the other hand, it's also a wonderful place for active vacationers. Sail on the bay, shoulder your golf bag at a Jack Nicklaus-designed course, hike in the coves and inlets, parasail, swim or go horse-riding - all of this can be enjoyed in Traverse City, so make it your next getaway destination.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Traverse City

The Wine

Traverse City may not be Napa Valley, but it's starting to get pretty close. Visitors will find one of America's up and coming wine regions, with world-class wineries like Bowers Harbor and Grand Chateau.

Fresh Juicy Cherries

Traverse City isn't called the "cherry capital of the world" for nothing. In fact, it grows most of America's cherry harvest. Dine on superb cherry pies all year-round at the Grand Traverse Pie Company or head there for the National Cherry Festival in July for pie tasting, stone spitting contests and much more.

Golf

The bay region around Traverse City is made for golf - at least from late spring to early fall. Golfers can spend days hopping between high-quality courses designed by some of the game's greats, with highlights including the Bear at Grand Traverse and the Gary Player-designed Wolverine course.

Sailing and Watersports

Traverse City lies on an inlet off of Lake Michigan. If you want to head out fishing in deeper water, you can rent boats and enlist local experts to venture onto the lake itself. But if you just want to sail in placid inland waters, the bay is the ideal place to do so. So there are options for novices and advanced sailors alike.

The Beauty of the Bay Area

Above all else, Traverse City is beautiful. That's why hundreds of thousands of people visit every year and major resorts dot the shores of the lake. Hike on Old Mission Peninsula, saddle up at Ranch Rudolph or soar over the city with a glass of champagne by flying with Grand Traverse Balloons.

What to do in Traverse City

1. The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park: Unleash the Nature in You

Stretching out on a 25-acre piece of land at the heart of Traverse City is the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park. It's home to various species of interesting wildlife and natural ecosystems like the marshlands, woodlands, great vistas and meadows. The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park is an ideal spot for recreation as well as education. Simply put, there's a little something for everyone here.

2. Grand Traverse Mall: Shop till you Drop

Shop away at Northwest Michigan's most famous shopping centers. This one-stop shopping hub houses more than 100 stores. It also boasts a movie theater, sit-down restaurants and a food court. Grand Traverse Mall has a family-business ambiance with on-site amenities to cater for everyone's needs. Sample the latest trends in fashion at the four main department stores: Macy's, T.J. Maxx, Target and J.C. Penney.

3. Mission Point Lighthouse: Travel Back in Time

Built in 1870, this Traverse City icon is a classic piece of Michigan history, and inspires awe in people simply by being looked at. It's located at the edge of M-37 drive and is set among beautiful vineyards and cherry orchards. Indulge in a self-guided historic tour and get a feel of life in the early century. Also, get to see Lake Michigan and its shores in their full glory and splendor.

4. Dennos Museum Center: Art Redefined

Find your way to the Dennos Museum Center on the Northeastern Michigan College campus. Be spellbound by around 2,500 contemporary and historical captivating artworks on display. This includes the museum's signature collection by the Inuit people from the Baffin Island area of Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic. The Dennos Museum Center's state-of-the-art 367-seat Milliken Auditorium is also a major hub for lectures and annual concert series.

5. Clinch Park: Seize the Magical Moment

Set in a beautiful waterfront location, the alluring Clinch Park offers Traverse City a picturesque beach. Shop and dine at the Front Street while enjoying the magnificent view of the crystal-clear water and 1,500-meter long beach. This is a fantastic spot for al fresco dining thanks to the public benches and picnic tables. Lifeguards, kayak rentals, clean restrooms, a splash pad and a snack bar are all available on-site. Relax as you watch the beautiful sunsets and simmer down for the evening with open-air music performed on summer nights.

1. The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park: Unleash the Nature in You

Stretching out on a 25-acre piece of land at the heart of Traverse City is the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park. It's home to various species of interesting wildlife and natural ecosystems like the marshlands, woodlands, great vistas and meadows. The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park is an ideal spot for recreation as well as education. Simply put, there's a little something for everyone here.

2. Grand Traverse Mall: Shop till you Drop

Shop away at Northwest Michigan's most famous shopping centers. This one-stop shopping hub houses more than 100 stores. It also boasts a movie theater, sit-down restaurants and a food court. Grand Traverse Mall has a family-business ambiance with on-site amenities to cater for everyone's needs. Sample the latest trends in fashion at the four main department stores: Macy's, T.J. Maxx, Target and J.C. Penney.

3. Mission Point Lighthouse: Travel Back in Time

Built in 1870, this Traverse City icon is a classic piece of Michigan history, and inspires awe in people simply by being looked at. It's located at the edge of M-37 drive and is set among beautiful vineyards and cherry orchards. Indulge in a self-guided historic tour and get a feel of life in the early century. Also, get to see Lake Michigan and its shores in their full glory and splendor.

4. Dennos Museum Center: Art Redefined

Find your way to the Dennos Museum Center on the Northeastern Michigan College campus. Be spellbound by around 2,500 contemporary and historical captivating artworks on display. This includes the museum's signature collection by the Inuit people from the Baffin Island area of Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic. The Dennos Museum Center's state-of-the-art 367-seat Milliken Auditorium is also a major hub for lectures and annual concert series.

5. Clinch Park: Seize the Magical Moment

Set in a beautiful waterfront location, the alluring Clinch Park offers Traverse City a picturesque beach. Shop and dine at the Front Street while enjoying the magnificent view of the crystal-clear water and 1,500-meter long beach. This is a fantastic spot for al fresco dining thanks to the public benches and picnic tables. Lifeguards, kayak rentals, clean restrooms, a splash pad and a snack bar are all available on-site. Relax as you watch the beautiful sunsets and simmer down for the evening with open-air music performed on summer nights.

Where to Eat in Traverse City

Home cooking is a big deal in Traverse City and there are a number of great places to dine on traditional dishes. Everyone should try the cherry pie at Grand Traverse Pie Company (after all, you are traveling to the "cherry capital of the world"). If you want a full meal, head to fine Italian restaurants like Trattoria Stella or Tuscan Bistro, seafood and meat joints like Scott's Harbor Grill or upmarket Mexican options like Red Mesa Grill. Expect to pay $20 for a midrange meal and over $30 at higher end restaurants.

When to visit Traverse City

Traverse City in May
Estimated hotel price
C$ 122
1 night at 3-star hotel
Traverse City in May
Estimated hotel price
C$ 122
1 night at 3-star hotel

The majority of visitors to Traverse City head there during the summer months, which is when the charter boats are busiest, and the shore is teeming with families looking for space to relax. If you can handle the crowds, July and August are the best times to go. You won't just get the best weather, you can also attend major events like the National Cherry Festival. For those wanting a more private trip, try April and May, or September and October.

Data provided by weatherbase
Temperatures
Temperatures
Average
Celcius (°C)
Data provided by weatherbase

How to Get to Traverse City

Plane

If you intend to fly into Traverse City, the closest airport is Cherry Capital Airport, which is served by major airlines like American and United and is a couple of miles southeast of the city center. You can take flights from nearby cities like Minneapolis or Chicago at any time of year, but during the summer season, tourist charters from cities across the USA fly into Traverse City, so check the seasonal schedules. After you touch down, there are two major ground transportation options. You can either rent a car from outlets like Avis or Budget, or enlist local cab firms like Chippewa Cab or Designated Rides.

Car

Those driving from Detroit can simply take I-75 and then switch to local route 72 via Kalkaska. If you are driving from Chicago, take I-94 to Kalamazoo, then switch to Route 131 to Traverse City. I-80 is the best road to take from cities on the Eastern Seaboard. Anyone coming from the west has a choice of routes. I-80 is best from San Francisco, while anyone driving from Los Angeles should take I-40 then change onto I-65 at Nashville.

Bus

Traverse City is served by Indian Trails, which connects the resort to nearby cities like Kalamazoo or Grand Rapids. In turn, these cities are stops on the Greyhound network, so it shouldn't be hard to organize a bus route from most midwestern and eastern cities. Traverse City bus station is located at 115 Hall St.

Airlines serving Traverse City

United Airlines
Good (2,464 reviews)
American Airlines
Good (3,897 reviews)
KLM
Good (290 reviews)
Air France
Good (293 reviews)
Delta
Excellent (2,654 reviews)
British Airways
Good (940 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (928 reviews)
Iberia
Good (661 reviews)
Alaska Airlines
Excellent (1,930 reviews)
JetBlue
Good (1,134 reviews)
Aeromexico
Good (787 reviews)
Aer Lingus
Good (301 reviews)
Korean Air
Excellent (113 reviews)
Virgin Atlantic
Good (194 reviews)
Air New Zealand
Excellent (36 reviews)
Allegiant Air
Good (227 reviews)
China Southern
Excellent (7 reviews)
Show more

Where to stay in Traverse City

Most of the best places to stay in Traverse City are located along the shores of Grand Traverse Bay. If you require luxury accommodation, the Inn at Bay Harbor is hard to beat, with a beautiful shoreside location and on-site championship standard golf course. However, families might feel more at home at Cedar Lake Lodge, which offers standalone cabins and plenty of activities. If you are on a budget, have a look at "motel mile" on US-31 or city center options like the Days Inn or the Heritage Inn.

Popular neighbourhoods in Traverse City

Traverse City – The heart of the Traverse City tourist region is the city itself, and it's one of America's most charming shoreline resorts. In Evergreen Market it hosts the best place to shop for fresh groceries (including cherries), along with the Turtle Creek Casino and theaters like the Old Town Playhouse. It's also just a great base from which to explore the wineries and shores of the area.

Old Mission Peninsula – To the north of Traverse City, a long sliver of land juts out into Lake Michigan. Old Mission Peninsula is a great place to stay, with great wineries like Bonobo and Old Mission and secluded bays like Haserot Beach. If you want to get away from it all with a fine vintage, it's a great place to be.

Greilickville – Greilickville is a few miles northwest of Traverse City, and it's one of Michigan's sailing and fishing capitals. Rent craft for leisure cruises from outfits like Two Brothers or stay on dry land and learn about the natural history of the area at the Great Lakes Children's Museum. There are also great places to eat like Tuscan Bistro, so it's an excellent vacation base.

Where to stay in popular areas of Traverse City

Most booked hotels in Traverse City

Cambria Hotel Traverse City
Excellent (9.1, Excellent reviews)
C$ 248+
Sleep Inn & Suites Acme - Traverse City
Excellent (8.4, Excellent reviews)
C$ 193+
Hotel Indigo Traverse City
Excellent (8.4, Excellent reviews)
C$ 268+
Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Traverse City
Excellent (8.3, Excellent reviews)
C$ 174+
Great Wolf Lodge Traverse City
Excellent (8.4, Excellent reviews)
C$ 264+
Best Western Plus Traverse City
Excellent (8.2, Excellent reviews)
C$ 211+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Traverse City

Public Transportation

The Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) operates a limited public transit system from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday across the Traverse City area. Schedules include a number of "village loops", which can be really handy for traveling between wineries and beaches, so get hold of a map when you arrive. Basic fares start at $1.

Taxis

Taxis are a very useful way to get around Traverse City and the surrounding wine country, and rates tend to be reasonably low. Typical rates will be about $2.40 as a meter drop for the first mile, then $2.80 for every subsequent mile. Most cab companies also charge more for extra passengers and items like bicycles. Uber are also active in the city, and may well be a good way to save money on local journeys.

Car

Five major car rental outlets have a presence at Cherry Capital Airport, and driving is a popular option for tourists, particularly watersports lovers and wine fans. Expect to pay around $30-40 per day for a standard vehicle rental.

Car rental agencies in Traverse City

Enterprise

Enterprise

Alamo

Alamo

Avis

Avis
Find car rentals in Traverse City

The Cost of Living in Traverse City

Shopping Streets

Traverse City is one of the best places in the USA to shop for fresh fruit and related products. For example, there are few better places to stock up on artisan preserves, cordials and fruit wines than the Cherry Stop on E Front Street. However, there are also conventional shopping opportunities as well. Grand Traverse Mall is definitely the best place for shoppers to visit, with major names like TK Maxx, JC Penney and Target.

Groceries and Other

Self-catering is a popular way to stay in Traverse City, and if you have access to your own kitchen there are plenty of places to shop. Supermarkets on the outskirts of town like Tom's Food Market and Oleson's offer the best deals, but Sara Hardy Farmers Market offers plenty of fresh fruit and other produce if you want to splash out. Food and drink isn't that cheap, with a gallon of milk costing around $2.80 and a pound of apples $2.30, but you can buy local produce cheaply when fruit and vegetables are in season. And the wine is always in season.

Cheap meal
C$ 12.87
A pair of jeans
C$ 51.48
Cappuccino
C$ 4.50
Other popular cities in Michigan