31+ Fun Things To Do in Traverse City



Are you looking for an exciting getaway that offers a variety of activities and attractions?

Many cities offer the same old tourist traps, but Traverse City is different. Traverse City has a lot to offer. With its vibrant downtown area, kayaking on the Grand Traverse Bay, unique restaurants and shops, and cultural attractions, there’s something for everyone seeking fun and adventure. The best things to do in Traverse City will keep you busy and entertained during your stay.

best things to do in traverse city
The Best Things To Do in Traverse City, Michigan

Discover all that Traverse City has to offer with our guide to the best things to do in this Michigan destination. From outdoor recreation to tasting local wines, your trip will be full of unforgettable Michigan experience!

Explore the Beaches of Lake Michigan in Traverse City

Traverse City could be considered the crown jewel destination of Michigan. Some of the state’s best Lake Michigan beaches are located here. Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to relax or an area with plenty of activities, there are plenty of options along the lakefront. Clinch Park Beach and West End Beach both offer spectacular views and amenities like playgrounds, picnic tables, volleyball courts, and boat ramps. Depending on the beach, visitors can take part in a variety of activities, such as swimming, sunbathing, fishing, kayaking, and more. Before visiting any beach, it’s important to check the local regulations regarding water safety and other activity-specific rules.

Additionally, Traverse City is known for its strong wave action and rapidly changing weather conditions. To be safe, make sure you are always aware of your surroundings while enjoying the area’s beaches.

Check out these best beaches in Traverse City:

Clinch Park Beach

Clinch Park Beach is a great spot for visitors of all ages. This beach has plenty of amenities to keep you entertained. You can enjoy a game on the volleyball court, take a dip in West Grand Traverse Bay, or explore the boardwalk and picnic areas. There’s also TART Trail access and bike racks to keep your bike secure should you decide to take a dip on the bay. It is located at 161 E. Grandview Parkway near downtown Traverse City.

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Keith J. Charters Traverse City State Park

I love swimming in Grand Traverse Bay, and the Traverse City State Park is one of my favorite spots. It’s a short distance from downtown and has plenty of amenities for visitors. You can take a dip in the bay, go fishing or boating, or explore the park’s trails and boardwalk.

Keith J. Charters Traverse City State Park Amenities:

  • 75 acres of lush woodland perfect for hiking, biking, swimming, and picnics
  • 27.5 combined biking trail between the TART Trail and the Leelanau Trail.
  • picnic areas
  • .25 miles of sandy beach on Grand Traverse Bay for swimming and kayaking.
  • A modern campground and mini cabins are also available.

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Bowers Harbor Park

Located on Old Mission Peninsula, Bowers Harbor Park is a public park situated on the shores of Bowers Harbor in Traverse City, Michigan. The park offers spectacular views of Grand Traverse Bay and the surrounding countryside. Old Mission Peninsula itself is on the list of the best scenic drives in Michigan to take because of its vast beauty, rolling hills, and peninsula views of Grand Traverse Bay. Bowers Harbor Park features a sandy beach, picnic areas, nature trails, fishing piers, and boat launches.

West Grand Traverse Bay

West Grand Traverse Bay is known for its crystal-clear waters and stunning coastal views. West Grand Traverse Bay is the 7th largest bay in Michigan, with a shoreline of approximately 37 miles, covering a total area of 28 square miles. It’s an ideal spot for activities such as swimming, fishing, kayaking, sailing, and Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP). It’s also popular for its picturesque sunsets, unique wildlife viewing opportunities, and a variety of trails suitable for biking and hiking.

Gens Park

Gens Park is a .62-acre park on East Grand Traverse Bay. Enjoy a peaceful and tranquil experience at Gens with its newly upgraded walkway through the marsh grass, which leads to the beach, as well as an onsite bathhouse equipped with flush toilets. The park also offers ample parking in its paved lot, while picnic tables and grills are available near their beach/deck area for your convenience.

West End Beach

Located on the West Grand Traverse Bay, this local beach is an attraction for many. It’s a few miles west of town and has available parking.

Bryant Park Beach

This beach is another one of my local Traverse City beaches. Get ready to be amazed! Located in the heart of Bryant Park is a stunning beach that’s perfect for swimming, with its expansive sandy zone and shallow water depths. If you’re looking for some respite from playing in the sun and sand, take joy under the leafy tree canopy offering both shade and comfort, or simply explore around on the exciting playground structure. With so much here at your fingertips, there’s no wonder why locals and visitors alike flock to this one-of-a-kind haven all year round!

Enjoy Local Wines & Brews at Wineries & Breweries in Traverse City

The Traverse City wine scene is growing rapidly, making it one of Michigan’s most popular destinations for wine lovers. The Traverse City area is known for its extensive network of wineries and vineyards. There are currently over 150 wineries, breweries, distilleries, and cideries in the region. Many of these Traverse City breweries are open to visitors who want to explore the local microbreweries and wine culture and sample some of the locally produced wines. From small family-owned wineries to large-scale estate producers, the area boasts a diverse range of viticultural experiences.

best things to do in Traverse City Wineries and Breweries

When visiting wineries in Traverse City, it’s important to know that the area is constantly changing and evolving. Make sure to check out the latest event listings and tasting room hours before you go so you can plan your trip accordingly. Wine tasting is a top pick for things to do in Traverse City. You can either drive yourself or use one of the many shuttle services available.

Additionally, certain wineries may have special packages or offer available that can make your visit even more enjoyable. Finally, be sure to check the local laws regarding open container laws and drinking in public spaces, as these vary by location.

Sample some of the region’s best wines and brews at the wineries & breweries listed below.

Visit Left Foot Charly for Wine & Ciders

Located in downtown Traverse City, Left Foot Charly is a fun, lively spot with live music from local and touring bands. The bar offers an array of craft cocktails and beers on tap to enjoy alongside the great music. You can also bring your dog, as they have an outdoor garden terrace for wine tasting. It’s a great option for wine tasting if you don’t want to travel far from the town of Traverse City, as it’s considered to be more of an “in-town” option.

Taste Local Wines at Chateau Grand Traverse

Located on Old Mission Peninsula just north of town, Chateau Grand Traverse is one of the oldest wineries in Michigan and has won numerous awards for their award-winning wines. I’m a top pick for Old Mission Peninsula wineries in Michigan. Here you can sample some of their unique wines, including their signature Gewürztraminer and Riesling. The knowledgeable staff will provide an informative tour that includes a walk through the vineyards and a visit to the wine cellar.

things to do in Traverse City wineries

Explore Ciccone Vineyard & Winery

Located near Traverse City on Old Mission Peninsula, Ciccone Vineyard & Winery is one of Michigan’s top wineries. Here you can sample some of the best reds and whites in the state, as well as enjoy beautiful views of Grand Traverse Bay from their hillside tasting room. The friendly staff here provides visitors with plenty of information about the history and process of making wine in Michigan. Be sure to try their signature Bordeaux-style blend while you’re there!

45 North Vineyard & Winery

45 North Vineyard & Winery is a family-owned winery located in the Leelanau Peninsula, just north of Traverse City. Here you can sample some of the best locally grown wines in Michigan and explore their scenic vineyards. The knowledgeable staff will provide an informative tour that includes a walk through the vineyards and a visit to the tasting room. They also offer wine tastings, food pairings, and dinner events.

They specialize in producing award-winning wines from European and California varietals, as well as their signature blend, Blue Ribbon Red. The tasting room here offers spectacular views of West Bay and Mission Point Lighthouse. 45 North also features outdoor seating areas, live music on weekends, and delicious food pairings to go along with your wine-tasting experience.

Visit Shady Lane Cellars

Shady Lane Cellars is a family-owned and operated winery in the Leelanau Peninsula, just north of Traverse City. The owners take pride in producing high-quality wines from European and California varietals, as well as their signature blend, Chardonnay. Here you can sample some of the best wines in Michigan while enjoying beautiful views of Grand Traverse Bay from the tasting room’s outdoor seating area. There are many Leelanau Peninsula wineries to explore, but Shady Lane Cellars stands out for its unique setting and wide selection of wines.

Enjoy Outdoor Recreation & Adventures in Traverse City

There’s no question that Traverse City is a major attraction for Michigan family vacations. The city offers many outdoor activities, from kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding on the Grand Traverse Bay to hiking trails in nearby state parks. There are also several marinas offering boat charters for fishing trips or leisurely cruises around the bay. Check out some of the best things to do in Traverse City involving outdoor recreation and adventure.

Best Things To Do in Traverse City Hiking and Camping

Hiking and Camping in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

On the outskirts of Traverse City, you’ll find the breathtaking Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This national park is home to miles of sandy beaches, dunes, and forests that are perfect for exploring.

Here are some of the reasons why it’s a great spot for tourists:

  • The dunes offer breathtaking views of Lake Michigan, Grand Traverse Bay, and surrounding areas.
  • There are plenty of ways to explore the area, from hiking and camping to swimming, fishing, boating, and kayaking.
  • Nature trails wind through acres of forests and wetlands with unique plants and wildlife.
  • Visitors can also enjoy local amenities such as boat launches, picnic areas, and interpretive centers that provide educational information about the area’s history and ecology.
  • In addition to outdoor activities, there are one-of-a-kind shopping spots offering souvenirs and regional specialties like maple syrup or locally made chocolates.
  • Nearby attractions include villages with rustic charm, wineries for tastings, art galleries featuring works by local artists, and museums dedicated to stories of immigrants who settled in the area centuries ago.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes are unique attractions in Michigan that you won’t find anywhere else.

Taking a Guided Tour of Local Lakes and Rivers

Michigan is home to thousands of miles of rivers and streams, so why not explore them while you are in Traverse City? Taking a guided tour of the lakes and rivers in Traverse City is an excellent way to experience the area’s stunning nature and wildlife.

Guided tours typically explore several different spots, including inland lakes, remote rivers, secluded beaches, and even historic landmarks. You may find yourself paddling through wetlands full of native flora and fauna or sailing along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The expert guides will provide information about the local ecology as well as stories about the history of the area. Some tours also offer hands-on activities such as fishing, birdwatching, or learning to identify local species of plants and animals.

After you’ve enjoyed your tour, you can take time to explore villages with rustic charm or visit one-of-a-kind shops offering regional specialties like maple syrup or locally made chocolates.

Explore Villages Near Traverse City

If you’re looking for a getaway that offers both rustic charm and natural beauty, look no further than the villages near Traverse City in Northern Michigan. Fife Lake and Kalkaska are two of the most popular rustic villages in the area, located along the North Country Trail. Both towns offer stunning views of nature, with plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking and camping.

Harbor Springs

The town of Harbor Springs is another great option for those looking for a small-town experience with plenty of charm. Located on Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan, Harbor Springs is known for its picturesque beaches and quaint downtown area. It also makes for a romantic getaway in Michigan because of these factors. The nearby town of Cross Village is also worth exploring, as it’s home to some beautiful scenery along M-119 and the Tunnel of Trees.

things to do in Traverse City wineries

Leelanau

Leelanau is a stunningly beautiful town located in Leelanau County, Michigan. Home to rolling hills, shimmering lakes, and miles of coastline along Lake Michigan, it’s easy to see why this region is a popular destination for nature lovers. Leelanau is home to several parks and nature preserves, such as the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, Glacial Hills Pathway & Nature Preserve, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The town itself offers a charming small-town atmosphere with unique shops, galleries, and restaurants to explore.

Petoskey

For a more traditional beach experience, head to Petoskey or one of the other beach towns in Michigan. With its stunning views and laid-back atmosphere, Petoskey has everything you need for a relaxing day at the beach without all the hustle and bustle that comes with larger cities. No matter where you choose to go near Traverse City, you’ll be sure to find plenty of rustic charm and natural beauty throughout Northern Michigan.

Boating, Canoeing, Stand-Up Paddleboarding, and kayaking on Lake Michigan or Grand Traverse Bay

Boating, canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, and kayaking on Lake Michigan or Grand Traverse Bay can be thrilling ways to explore the area. With crystal clear waters, beautiful sand dunes, and stunning views of the surrounding landscape, it’s easy to see why so many visitors choose these activities when they visit the area.

Boats are available to rent from local marinas and offer a wide range of amenities depending on what you’re looking for. A pontoon boat is a great option if you’re looking to seat up to 12 people and bring along some snacks and drinks. For more adventurous travelers, speed boats allow you to explore at higher speeds while still being able to safely navigate through shallow waters.

best boating kayaking paddleboarding in Traverse City

Canoeing and kayaking offer another great way to enjoy the lake and bay. Whether you’re out for a leisurely paddle around one of the harbors or doing a longer excursion into the heart of Lake Michigan or Grand Traverse Bay, there’s something for everyone. A guided tour is also available if you’d like someone else to take charge of your adventure.

Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is an increasingly popular activity among visitors looking for an even more exciting way to experience the area. SUP gives adventurers the freedom to explore further out on their own but offers access to shallow waters and difficult-to-reach areas that other crafts might not be able to reach.

If you plan to go canoeing or kayaking on Lake Michigan or Grand Traverse Bay, here is a list of some of the best routes in the area:

  • Bassett Island Route: For a beginner-friendly route, try paddling around Bassett Island. Sheltered deep in the west arm of Grand Traverse Bay, this route provides a great day trip or overnight trip for novice paddlers. The calm waters make it easy to navigate, and you can take your time exploring the many coves and bays along the way.
  • Power Island Route: If you’re looking for something more adventurous, consider kayaking out to Power Island. Located six miles north of Traverse City, Power Island lies only one mile offshore from the mainland and offers stunning views of Lake Michigan. There are plenty of places to stop along the way and explore, so be sure to bring along a picnic lunch.
  • West Grand Traverse Bay Route: For those who want an even bigger challenge, try tackling West Grand Traverse Bay Trail. This trail stretches over 20 miles and takes you through some of Michigan’s most beautiful scenery. Be sure to plan ahead, as this route can take up to two days, depending on your skill level and experience with kayaking or canoeing.

No matter which route you choose, kayaking or canoeing in Grand Traverse Bay is some of the best kayaking in Michigan and is sure to be an unforgettable experience!

Experience the Art and Culture of Downtown Traverse City

Downtown Traverse City is home to a vibrant art and culture scene. From the street murals, galleries, and music venues, there’s something for everyone in this charming city.

art and culture in downtown traverse city

Spend Time at the Dennos Museum Center

The Dennos Museum Center is a premier cultural facility located in Traverse City, Michigan, on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College (NMC). Opened in 1991, the museum offers an ongoing array of changing exhibits in the arts and sciences. It also provides educational programs, events, and activities for audiences of all ages.

Art and Culture Things To Do in Traverse City

The museum houses more than 3,000 works of art from around the world. Its permanent collection includes paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, and other media from various cultures and time periods. The museum also hosts special exhibitions featuring both local and international artists.

In addition to its art exhibitions, the Dennos Museum Center also offers educational programs such as lectures, workshops, classes, and field trips. These programs are designed to spark conversation and inspire change among its visitors. The museum also has a variety of community outreach initiatives that aim to build relationships with local organizations and schools.

The Dennos Museum Center is dedicated to providing a unique cultural experience for its visitors. With its diverse range of exhibitions and educational programs, it is sure to be an enriching experience for everyone who visits!

Explore Great Lakes Children’s Museum

The Great Lakes Children’s Museum in Traverse City, Michigan, is a fun and educational experience for the whole family. Founded in 1994, the museum offers interactive exhibits and activities designed to engage children of all ages. From Sea Lab to Bubbleology and Rocket Science, the museum has something to offer everyone.

Sea Lab Exhibit

The Sea Lab exhibit features touch tanks filled with fish, reptiles, and invertebrates from the Great Lakes Basin. This interactive experience allows children to explore the underwater world while learning about aquatic species native to this region.

Bubbleologuy

For younger kids, there’s Bubbleology, where they can make giant bubbles or explore different bubble machines. In addition to its hands-on activities, the museum also hosts science festivals and special events such as story time or dance parties throughout the year.

The Great Lakes Children’s Museum provides visitors with an opportunity to explore science in a creative way and encourages children of all ages to become lifelong learners. With its unique exhibits and interactive activities, it’s a must-visit destination in Traverse City!

Step into a World of Enchantment at The Fairy Trails

If you’re looking for a whimsical experience, be sure to check out the fairy trails in Traverse City! Located at the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park, these winding dirt and gravel trails feature enchanting Northwoods forest filled with fairy houses and a giant bird’s nest. The Friends of Barnes Park have added many photos to their Facebook page showcasing the beauty of this unique trail. The Wildflower Fairy Trail is especially popular as it contains clues on how to find hidden magic along the way. You can also pick up a map near the playground at the Shelter 6 parking area, so you don’t miss any of the features! Visiting the fairy trails in Traverse City is an unforgettable experience that will delight people of all ages.

Unwind With a Spa Day in Traverse City

Traverse City, Michigan is home to some of the best spas in Michigan and in the country. From hot mineral baths to relaxing massages, there are plenty of options for those looking for a luxurious spa experience. Whether you’re looking for a day of pampering or just a few hours of relaxation, Traverse City has some of the best options available for total spa relaxation.

Traverse City Day Spas

Living Light Massage

One of the top-rated spas in Traverse City is Living Light Massage. This spa offers a variety of massage therapies and skin care treatments that will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. They also offer manicures and pedicures to help you look your best.

Urban Oasis Salt Spa

Urban Oasis Salt Spa is another great option if you’re looking for a unique spa experience. This salt spa is the only one in Northern Michigan and features top-rated therapists who will make sure your visit is as relaxing as possible. From massages to facials, they have everything you need to feel refreshed and relaxed.

Solitude Float & Wellness Spa

If you’re looking for something more luxurious, then check out Solitude Float & Wellness Spa in Traverse City. This top-rated spa offers an array of services, from massages to facials, as well as a variety of float tanks for the ultimate relaxation.

The trained professionals at Solitude Float & Wellness Spa use only natural and organic products when performing their services. Their spa menu includes massages such as Swedish, deep tissue, hot stone, aromatherapy, and reflexology. They also offer facial treatments such as microdermabrasion and dermaplaning, as well as body treatments like herbal wraps and exfoliations.

But the real star of this unique spa is the float tanks. These specialized tanks are filled with 10 inches of water that is heated to 93 degrees Fahrenheit and saturated with 1,000 pounds of pharmaceutical-grade Epsom salt. This allows individuals to float effortlessly while the temperature and darkness help you relax your body and mind for a truly blissful experience.

Eat at the Local Eateries & Restaurants in Traverse City

Traverse City, Michigan, is home to some of the best restaurants in the country. Whether you’re looking for a fine dining experience, casual eateries, or something unique and special, Traverse City has something for everyone.

The Cook’s House

The Cook’s House is a popular restaurant in Traverse City, Michigan, that offers an ever-changing menu based on seasonal ingredients sourced from local farms. Guests can enjoy a range of classic American dishes with a modern twist. The cozy atmosphere makes it the perfect spot for date nights or family dinners.

Food and Drink in Traverse City

The menu features starters like roasted beets with orange and tarragon, grilled oysters with smoked gouda and maitake mushrooms, or pork rillettes with preserved lemon and crispy panko. The main courses include options such as pan-seared duck breast served with crispy potatoes, pickled fiddleheads, and juniper jus; house-smoked pork tenderloin accompanied by spaetzle, bacon, parsnips, and carrots; scallops served with celery root puree and hen of the woods mushrooms; and vegan risotto made with wild mushrooms.

For dessert, guests can enjoy sweet treats like warm sticky toffee pudding served with whiskey ice cream or dark chocolate crème brulee topped with candied hazelnuts. With its seasonal dishes crafted from locally sourced ingredients and its inviting atmosphere, The Cook’s House is the perfect place to experience Traverse City at its finest!

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Moomers Homemade Ice Cream

Moomers is the go-to spot for delicious homemade ice cream in Traverse City! With over 170 flavors and combinations, there’s something to satisfy any sweet tooth. The menu includes classic flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, as well as unique creations such as Rabbit Tracks, Black Raspberry Chip, and Peanut Butter Fudge Ripple.

Moomers is also known for their ice cream cakes, which can be customized with a variety of flavors and decorations, including fresh fruit or candy. If you’re looking for something special, try one of their specialty sundaes, such as the “Brownie Bottom” or “Snickers Apple Pie.”

In addition to ice cream, Moomers also offers an array of other treats, such as shakes, malts, floats, and more. Whether you’re grabbing a scoop to enjoy after dinner or ordering up an elaborate cake to celebrate a special occasion, Moomers has everything to make your day a little sweeter.

Slabtown Cafe and Burgerts

Slabtown Cafe and Burgers is a restaurant on Front Street in Traverse City, Michigan. The restaurant offers signature burgers made with high-quality local beef, topped with creative ingredients like applewood smoked bacon, pepper jack cheese, crispy onion strings, or beer-braised onions. Slabtown also serves up sandwiches and salads as well as breakfast options like eggs served with a choice of sides.

For those looking for a sweeter option, Slabtown has an impressive selection of homemade treats like thick milkshakes and decadent desserts. You can also enjoy coffee drinks from the full-service espresso bar.

The atmosphere at Slabtown is cozy yet modern, making it perfect for casual lunches or dinners with friends. With its signature burgers and delicious homemade goodies, Slabtown is the perfect spot to satisfy your cravings!

Raduno

Raduno is a neighborhood delicatessen and café located in Traverse City, Michigan. It offers a variety of fresh, house-made dishes for dine-in or take-home. Here are some of the features that make Raduno stand out:

  • Fresh pasta made daily
  • House-made sausages and pâtés
  • Delicious salads and sandwiches
  • Charcuterie selection
  • Dine-in or take-home options

Finally, Raduno provides gourmet wood-fired pizzas with craft beers in a relaxed atmosphere.

In addition to the features already mentioned, one of the great things about Raduno is that they use organic and locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. They also have a selection of imported Italian delicacies like olive oils, canned tomatoes, and cheeses.

Make Sure to Plan Your Journey to Traverse City for a Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience!

What is Traverse City Best Known For?

Traverse City, Michigan, is best known for its world-class beaches and wineries, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and recreational opportunities like kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, and snowmobiling. Traverse City is also known for its vibrant local food scene, with some of the best locally-owned restaurants in Michigan featuring fresh ingredients from local farmers and high-quality wines. Additionally, Traverse City hosts a variety of cultural events throughout the year, such as the National Cherry Festival and the Traverse City Film Festival.

How Many Days Do You Need in Traverse City as a Tourist?

Traverse City is full of incredible experiences and attractions, so it’s difficult to decide how many days you’ll need. However, if you’re looking for the perfect weekend getaway, two nights is a great starting point. With two nights in Traverse City, you can explore local wineries, check out the beaches, and hike the Sleeping Bear Dunes. For those looking for a longer trip, three or more days allow ample time to explore some of Traverse City’s outdoor adventures, like kayaking or mountain biking, as well as see the city’s famous sights.

Will I Need Transportation in Traverse City?

Whether you’re flying into Traverse City or just visiting, transportation is key to getting around. Fortunately, this vibrant city offers a variety of options to get around town. The Cherry Capital Airport and Traverse City Amtrak offer easy access for travelers coming from outside the area, and the downtown bus system provides public transportation throughout the city. Additionally, there are a number of car rental companies located both at the airport and downtown that provide rental cars for those who want to explore on their own terms. There are also several bike shops in town if you want to take advantage of Traverse City’s many trails and excellent road biking.

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BG Vance

Founder and editor of Inside Michigan, I started this site as a passion project for people who live in or are visiting the state of Michigan. I'm a lifelong resident of Michigan highlighting the best attractions and hidden gems Michigan has to offer. More about me...

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