Traverse City Tourism, northern Michigan’s largest destination marketing organization has formed a merger with the Benzie County Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Traverse Traveler has worked closely with both communities since our inception. So we’d like to give you some perspective on how this regional approach to marketing affects the hospitality industry in northern Michigan. We’ll talk about how the merger impacts hotels and travelers. And we’ll share some perspective from the local business members of both organizations.
Let’s Start with a Regional Approach to Marketing
When we first went into business with our little card displays in 2001 one thing was certain. We knew our marketing was going to represent businesses all around Traverse City, including those in Benzie and Leelanau county. While Traverse City had the most hotels—an important factor since our distribution is based in the hotel lobby—some of the best restaurants and attractions to visit lie off the beaten path, in the small towns that surround the city. So we took a regional approach to marketing. We have displays in all three counties and promote businesses all across the area. I think we had the right idea.
Since 2001 we have worked with hotels, restaurants, and attractions across Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, and Antrim county. We’ve learned that travelers who stay in one community are here to enjoy and experience northern Michigan. That itinerary doesn’t stop at the county line. Guests that stay in one town are more than willing to drive 40 minutes to enjoy a fabulous meal, explore our parks and beaches, shop for souvenirs and wander through our historic towns. But when it comes to our destination marketing organizations (DMOs), whose job it is to market this region nationwide as a vacation destination, lines had to be drawn in the sand. Until now.
When 2 + 1 = 2
As of March 1, 2020 two of our region’s DMOs will become one. The Benzie County Area Convention and Visitors Bureau announced they will be merging with Traverse City Tourism. This merger not only impacts the Benzie CVB members but the Benzie Chamber as well. The Benzie Chamber and Benzie CVB shared staff, offices and a Visitor Center at the corner of M-115 and US-31 in Benzonia. This merger will bring two organizations together and leave one to stand alone.
In the fall of 2019 Mary Carroll, the Executive Director of the Benzie CVB and Benzie Chamber president announced she was leaving. This left the boards with big decisions to make about the future of their organizations. The Benzie Chamber selected Rick Coates to lead their organization starting in January 2020. In a letter to Benzie Chamber members announcing the merger, he shared their perspective,
“Tourism, along with agriculture are the largest economic drivers in Benzie County. Many of our businesses in Benzie are directly impacted by the tourism economy. This transition will serve as a great opportunity to strengthen our tourism industry which is vitally important to the economic health of Benzie County.”
At this time the Visitors Center in Beulah will remain open at the Chamber office in Benzonia. The Chamber will refocus its efforts on the economic development of Benzie county businesses. Lodging members of the Benzie CVB, who voted by referendum to support this union, will see some changes.
The room assessment percentage in Benzie county, a fee which is levied to lodging properties to fund the marketing organization, will increase from the current 2% to 5% to match that of Traverse City Tourism. All assessments and the responsibility for marketing the Benzie CVB members will shift to Traverse City Tourism in March.
In a press release from Traverse City Tourism, director Trevor Tkach shared some insight into the new marketing efforts.
“Collaborating with Benzie County allows us to tell bigger stories about our area’s greatest attractions, like skiing, fishing, golf, trails, watersports, and more.”
Affect on Local Business
We spoke with several of our Benzie County partners in hospitality to get their perspective on this regional approach to marketing and found overwhelming support for the merger.
Steve Campbell, owner of Harbor Lights Resort in Frankfort, is also a board member for the Benzie CVB.
“As a lodging property in Benzie County, we are very excited about this partnership with Traverse City Tourism. It allows our county to leverage the power and reach of TCT to help tell the story of Northwest Michigan not just on a state level, but more regionally, nationally and internationally. This is now more important than ever given the uncertainly of Pure Michigan funding. I am confident that the entire area will benefit from the increased exposure, not only from a tourism standpoint, but the potential long term impact on the economy. Job creation in the tourism industry is one aspect, but long term, the more people that are exposed to this region, the greater the potential to attract more home buyers, entrepreneurs to start or move businesses here, etc. I think this is all very positive.”
There are more than just the lodging properties who will be impacted by creating a larger regional CVB. Restaurants, retailers and attractions also stand to benefit from the increase in marketing that comes with greater resources. Riverside Canoes is located on the Platte River in Benzie county, inside the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Owner Kyle Orr sees the upside potential for Benzie county businesses.
“I think it’s an excellent opportunity for Benzie county businesses to scale our marketing. By partnering with TCT we gain a larger audience. And the additional dollars collected by the room tax should benefit the Benzie economy greatly, just as the Pure Michigan dollars do for all businesses. We know first hand how many people come from Traverse City to visit us for day trips. This is a win-win for all local economies.”
Impact on the Traveler
Travelers staying in Benzie county will notice the fee assessment increase this season, rising to 5%. That’s the cost of a large ice cream cone on a typical room rate, but for weekly vacation rentals, the hike will be more noticeable. The benefits to both travelers and businesses in the region comes in the form of access to information. Traverse City Tourism will be a broader resource for lodging choices and attraction information. And member properties will have a much larger marketing machine in their corner selling the benefits of Benzie county to travelers from across the globe.
How Can We Help
Traverse Traveler has a variety of marketing opportunities for local businesses to reach travelers staying in hotels. Since Traverse City Tourism will have more buying power to bring visitors to the region, we’re here to make sure they can find out about all this region has to offer.
- Restaurants, wineries and breweries can feature their menu in our Dining Guide.
- Our little card displays located in the hotel lobby are the first choice for guests wanting grab-and-go inspiration. And maps. They love the maps.
- Our visitor channel that plays in-room engages guests through storytelling videos that entertain and inform.
- The Traverse Traveler app includes all you need to know to navigate the region. It’s all-inclusive so every business has a chance to be seen.
As we mentioned at the start, Traverse Traveler has always had a regional approach to marketing. We represent businesses across Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau and Antrim county on ALL of our marketing platforms. We look forward to working with more Benzie county businesses who would like to reach travelers staying in Traverse City. And vice versa, we will continue to expand our distribution of content in Benzie county. We want to ensure their guests can learn about the amazing businesses that make up our little tip of the Mitten state.
Healthy Dining Options in Traverse City
It can be hard to stay on a healthy eating plan when you know you’ll be dining out. If you’re like me you walk in the door with the intention of ordering a salad only to be tempted by the creamy pasta, fried fish or cheesy pizza. Lucky for us Traverse city is bursting with restaurants whose primary focus is on providing healthy food options. We put together a list of 7 local places where you can eat out and still eat healthy. Whether you’re looking for a wholesome place to dine-in or nutritious options to carry-out, you’ll feel good about your choices here.
Third Coast Bakery
If your day begins with a trip to the coffee shop, try stopping at Third Coast Bakery. They offer a wide selection of coffee, tea, and other specialty blends that pair perfectly with their baked goods. As a gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and vegan bakery these bakers have the talent of making something taste as good as it looks while still being healthy. Look for their tasty treats in the bakery section of local stores like Oleson’s as well.
Grand Traverse Salad Company
Need to grab lunch on the run? Grand Traverse Salad Company who just opened this past June in a perfect grab-and-go location at the corner of Cass and South Airport. Don’t let the name fool you, they have more than just salads. With over 40 salad toppings or sandwich stuffings, soups, smoothies, and more, they have something green for everyone in between.
Press on Juice
Juices are a convenient and popular way to get the nutrition we need. Press on Juice is known for just that. Here they have juice, juice, and more juice. But it may surprise you to learn they also have tacos, burgers, and other raw foods that are both delicious and nutritious.
Dining out is always fun, but what about quick and easy pick-up or hand-delivered meal prep? FYT or Fuel Your Tomorrow, located in The Village at Grand Traverse is a meal prep service and a grab-and-go retailer. They offer breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and dessert options that taste good to you and are good for you. After just a few bites I fell in love with their summer rolls with peanut sauce. A perfect package to bring back to the office for lunch.
In Traverse City we are spoiled with 2 in 1’s–a market and deli all in one. Oryana is one of those magical places. Here you can shop for local, bright, and organic groceries or consume them off the ‘menu of the day’ in their cafe. Help yourself to the hot bar, with rotating dishes where you pay by the weight. Choose from a variety of soups or have a sandwich made to order.
Edson Farms is another local stop-and-shop or sit-and-sip. Thanks to their expansion there’s plenty of room to place your order in the deli and enjoy a meal on-site. Try a wrap or pressed sandwich, and bring your appetite; they’re huge! Their smoothies and juices are made to order. From bulk foods to vitamins Edson Farms provides a variety of products that cater to customers with special dietary needs. And I can’t leave the store without a bag of fresh popcorn for $0.25.
Last but not least, Traverse City is home to a Lucky’s Market. Here you can grab groceries to make a meal or look for their prepared foods section to pick-up something to go. Build a salad, select some sushi, or grab a meal for two right out of the case.
There you have it: 7 healthy eating spots for 7 days of the week, or for whenever you are in the mood for good food. Cheers to all the healthy options so near, and to the farms that grow right here.
It’s easy to plan activities in the summer, but what are the best things to do in Traverse City in the winter? When out-of-town guests come to visit it can be challenging to think of new ways to entertain them, especially in the winter. Let Traverse Traveler be your guide. We put together 25 winter activities in Traverse City for guests of all ages. With these ideas, you’re sure to get the kids outdoors, send the in-laws out of your kitchen, and keep the peace this holiday season.
- Take a History Tour at The Village
Book a tour at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons and spend 2 hours learning about the history of the buildings that once housed an asylum for the mentally insane. Explore the underground steam tunnel, go inside untouched buildings and discover how an abandoned asylum was transformed into a modern community. Try the Taste the Village tour which includes wine tasting at Left Foot Charley and beer flight at Earthen Ales. Reservations required. Online booking available here.
- Hit the Ice for a Twilight Skate
Turn the music up, the lights down, and ice skate under the disco lights at a Twilight Skate at Howe Arena. Traverse City brings back the rockin’ rink to create memories for the next generation. This family-friendly winter activity is only $5/person with $3 skate rental available on-site. Evening skates on Fridays/Saturdays and extra hours during holiday vacations. Check Twilight Skate schedule here.
- Experience a Theater Performance
Traverse City is home to several theaters with fabulous performances throughout the year. Check out the calendars for the City Opera House, Interlochen Center for the Arts, and Old Town Playhouse to see if there’s a concert, play or music performance while your guests are in town. Pair that with a dinner out and that’s a full evening of great entertainment.
- Drink Beer in an Igloo
We can’t hide the fact that it is winter, so why not embrace it? Hoplot in Suttons Bay was the first to employ igloo seating in the winter and the idea took off. It’s so popular in fact that you’ll want to book your igloo in advance! If you prefer to take your chances you’ll also find the geodesic domes at St Ambrose Cellars in Benzonia.
- Go Sledding on the Dune Climb
You’ve probably taken your guests to see the Sleeping Bear Dunes in the summer. But if you want a real adventure grab some sleds and head to the Dune Climb this winter. There’s plenty of parking and one giant hill that won’t disappoint. A word of advice: if it’s windy, don’t let go of the sled. You won’t be able to run fast enough to catch it. And don’t park too close to the bottom of the hill. It’s not uncommon for sledders to end up in the parking lot! National Park Pass required.
- Snowshoe at a Winery
Turn wine tasting into an active adventure. The 45 North Vineyard Trail is a 3-mile groomed recreational trail for biking, skiing or walking located at Forty-Five North Vineyard and Winery on the Leelanau Peninsula. Take your guests for a hike followed by wine and cider tasting at the winery. Check their Facebook page for trail conditions.
- Hike in an Art Park
At Crystal Mountain Resort you can explore an outdoor sculpture garden known as Michigan Legacy Art Park. More than forty larger-than-life sculptures are nestled along the trail which loops through a 30-acre forest. The park is open every day year-round. Donations accepted for park access. Snowshoe rentals available through Crystal Mountain.
- Catch a Movie at The State or Bijou
When the wind chill drives the kids indoors, head to the movies. Downtown Traverse City is home to two beautifully restored theaters. The State Theatre and Bijou are non-profits operated by volunteers. Which means you can buy a ticket, popcorn, and a drink for less than $20! They host a kids 25 cent matinee every Saturday at 10am, and a calendar of special events that take movie fun to a whole new level. Visit their website for showtimes.
- Instagram an Art Walk Downtown
Within the Downtown district, you’ll discover outdoor art throughout the city. Why not make it an Instgrammable adventure. Pose with the statue of Perry Hannah, Traverse City’s founding father on Union Street. Make heart hands in front of the heart wall on Park Street. Witness our native heritage as you walk through the Cass street tunnel. Find your wings on East Front Street and a mosaic mural on West Front. It’s a fun way to enjoy a winter activity in downtown Traverse City.
- Shop for a New Winter Hat
When you live in Michigan we need hats for skiing, headbands for hiking, hats we wear outdoors to cover our ears, and hats we wear indoors just to be stylish. So naturally, a trip to Traverse City in the winter should include hat shopping at Diversions. Check out the Michigan-made Stormy Kromer for a fashionable yet functional hat, or the Yooper Chook to cover everything but your eyeballs in polar fleece!
- Get Some Homework or Detention
There’s a one-room schoolhouse on Old Mission Peninsula that made homework and detention tasteful. In fact, these wines by Peninsula Cellars are downright delicious. Stop by the century-old schoolhouse on M-37 for wine and cider tasting. You’ll find playful blends like Pop Quiz and Exchange Student, as well as estate varietals like Riesling and Pinot Noir. Take your guests to school and bring home a little class.
- Take the Toddlers for a Bounce
When your guests have kids it’s nice to know there’s a place to go where it’s safe to run around and burn off some energy. The Busy Bodies Bounce Town in the Cherryland Center will pull the kids away from the screen time for some physical fun. Wristband entry means you can come and go all day, and parents play for free. Just remember to bring your socks.
- Eat Giant S’mores Indoors
The Filling Station Microbrewery has something for everyone in the family, including the kids. Try the s’mores pizza for a sweet and gooey unexpected treat. Chocolate, marshmallow and a crispy crust are baked in their wood-fired oven. You’ll also find savory flatbreads, tasty salads and of course, the Filling Station’s own craft beers brewed on-site. Enjoy a meal, a drink or dessert on their new enclosed outdoor patio for a fun winter activity in Traverse City.
- Play Old School Arcade Games
Who’s ready to take on the pinball king? The Coin Slot in downtown Traverse City is home to dozens of ‘80s and ‘90s classic arcade games just waiting for a new high score. From Donkey Kong and Galaga to Frogger and Centipede, there’s a blast from the past on every wall. Think arcades are just for kids? Well there’s beer in here, so don’t count on it. Pinball still takes quarters, or you can buy a package by the hour.
- Try to Escape at Incredible Mo’s
Looking for things to do with teens? How about an activity that challenges their minds. At Escapology, you have one hour to try and solve the puzzles and free your team from one of three escape rooms. Book the room for two to eight players, ages 12 and up. When you’re done grab a meal at Sauce or break out the bowling shoes. Incredible Mo’s has you covered for a whole day of fun.
- Experience Inuit Art at The Dennos
The Dennos Museum on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College has one of the largest collections of Inuit Art in the Nation. Exhibitions change throughout the year in the other gallery spaces in this beautiful museum. Kids of all ages will enjoy the hands-on exhibits in the Discovery Gallery where they can play a musical sound wall and laser harp, and interact with the light wall. Admission is just $6/Adults $4/children.
- Tour a Distillery and Warm Up from the Inside Out
Sip a custom cocktail from one of a dozen spirits made on-site at the Iron Fish Distillery in Thompsonville near Crystal Mountain. Sign up for a tour to learn how they make small-batch craft spirits like vodka, bourbon, and gin from the grains grown on this century-old farm. Then grab a seat at the bar for a Salted Maple Old Fashioned or a Manistee Mule. Tours $12/person, includes tasting for 21+.
- Take a Snowy Sleigh Ride
For an up north experience your out-of-town guests will remember, take a sleigh ride through the snowy hillside. At Black Horse Farm in Empire, you’ll hear those sleigh bells jingling as a team of Percheron horses pulls the 12-person sleigh through the Leelanau woods. Visit a warming station overlooking Glen Lake for some hot cocoa and an unforgettable Michigan memory.
- Shop an Indoor Farmers Market
What do Michigan farmers do when the cold wind blows the farm stand closed? They bring the harvest indoors. Every Saturday throughout the winter you can shop the indoor farmers market in the halls of The Village Mercado. Merchants set up booths with winter greens, eggs, honey, mushrooms, homemade treats, fish, milk, meats and more. Open 10am–2pm on Saturdays November–April.
- Test Your Golf Skills
The greens may be under a blanket of snow, but you can still hit the virtual links at X-Golf Traverse City. Rent a simulator by the hour for up to 6 people per bay. Practice and get feedback on your skills or play a simulated round. Plan on one hour per person to play 18-holes. Simulators can be reserved for up to four hours. So when your competitive relatives come for a visit, why not challenge them to a round of golf. Plan on $35-$55/hour.
- Learn to Curl
There’s a restaurant in Maple City where you can eat, drink and learn to curl. That’s right, Broomstack Kitchen & Taphouse is also home to the Leelanau Curling Club. They have a designated curling rink on-site. Bring your out-of-town guests and learn to toss the rock and sweep your way to victory. It’s a fun winter activity for kids and adults of all ages. Learn to curl classes include 45 minutes of instruction and one hour playtime. $25/person
- Go Snow Tubing
With Mt Holiday on the east and Timberlee Hills to the west, we have your snow tubing winter activities covered in Traverse City. Both resorts offer warming stations, tube rental and towing to get you up the hill, so you can enjoy the ride down. Timberlee Hills is open Fri–Sun, tickets $14/hr. Mt Holiday is open Tues–Sun, tickets $11-$13/hr.
- Make a Kid-Friendly Tasting Tour
Plan a day trip around town and introduce your guests to the flavors of Traverse City with your very own tasting tour. Many shops encourage you to try before you buy. Sample cherries at Cherry Republic, taste olive oils and flavored vinegars at Fustinis, try gelato flavors at Espresso Bay, and you can even sip the seven soups made fresh daily at The Soup Cup.
- Take a Musical Walk Through Time
Located just north of Traverse City in Acme, the Music House Museum is filled with treasures of another era. Docent-led tours will guide you through the museum. From simple music boxes and early radios to the grand 1922 Mortier dance hall organ, you’ll see and hear our musical past come to life. The Music House is open weekends November and December, and by reservation for groups of 10+ in January–March. Tickets $15/adults, $5/kids. Special pricing available for families, veterans, AAA. Active military are FREE.
- Eat and Drink a Massive Mary
The Massive Mary is an attraction all its own. This giant Bloody Mary from Boone’s Prime Time Pub in Suttons Bay is a meal in a glass. And it’s definitely Instagram-worthy. With a Buffalo chicken slider, a burger slider, onion rings, pickle chips, green olives, celery, lemon, lime and a snit of beer… your friends won’t believe you ate and drank the entire thing.
25 things to do, and one app to find them all
There you have it: 25 ways to keep your out-of-town guests busy with winter activities in Traverse City. And just to make life a little easier we put them all in one place. You’ll find all of these locations on the Traverse Traveler app, your handy guide to the Traverse Area. Be sure to share that tip with your guests too! Now get out there and enjoy the winter.
The Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism was held in Traverse City last week. Representatives from convention and visitor bureaus and hospitality professionals from across Michigan gathered to learn about the state of our tourism state.
We had a legislative report from a panel of lobbyists in Lansing. Our keynote speaker addressed the State of the American Traveler. And Dave Lorenz provided an update from Travel Michigan including plans for this year’s Pure Michigan campaign.
Since I know many of our clients missed out on attending I thought I’d share a recap of the event. Here are some of the hot topics, statistics and strategic plans discussed at the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism that caught my attention.
Pure Michigan Legislative Report
Panelists: Michael Krombeen, Partner, Midwest Strategy Group; Matt Sowash, lobbyist, Michigan Legislative Consultants; Justin Winslow, President & CEO, Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association; Evelyn Zois Sweeney, Legislative Consultant, Muchmore Harrington Smalley & Associates. The panelists discussed topics of legislative interest to the hospitality industry and weighed in on the current climate in Lansing.
Pure Michigan Funding
Governor Whitmer’s proposed budget includes cuts to funding for Pure Michigan. Panelists agreed this is too early in the budget talks to be certain of funding dollars for this year. Lobbyists from Michigan Legislative Consultants agreed they are going to educate and push for as much Pure Michigan funding as they can.
Post-Labor Day Start
This is not only an issue of economic importance, but a workforce issue as well. Currently over 165 districts have waivers for pre-Labor Day start. Legislative discussions are exploring alternative schedules. These include allowing Tues-Thurs classes in August, as well as options for year-round classes.
Legislation has been proposed to allow schools options to deal with the increasing number of snow days. Possibilities include tacking on additional hours to the school day, and snow day forgiveness for Governor-declared emergency days.
Short Term Rentals
Panelists discussed addressing short term rentals in terms of regulation. The primary goals are to ensure everyone is paying into the same taxes & assessments. They are also seeking some form of registration, possibly by directly licensing platforms such as AirBnB.
Auto No Fault
This is becoming a hot button issue for the hospitality industry as employees struggle to afford insurance. Panelists discussed the likelihood of making significant changes this year, with mixed opinions.
State of the American Traveler
Keynote speaker; Erin Francis-Cummings, Destination Analysts
Erin’s presentation, “The State of the Global Traveler – Drawing Wanderlust to Michigan,” presented statistics and trends to watch in 2019 among travelers. Here research reflected the mindset of global travelers, indicated some key demographics to focus on, and gave insight into the changes we’re seeing. Here are few take-aways that illustrate the current state of the industry.
- The bad news: Leisure trips are down from 4.2 trips annually to 3.8 trips, and budgets are down 5.6%. Personal finances, work and the cost of travel are the primary reasons for the decrease.
- The good news: Travel is still listed as the second most important leisure activity, just under spending time with friends and family. For younger travelers, however, travel competes with a lot more activities.
- 4 primary traveler types: Generation Z, the National Park Traveler, Family Travelers and Aspiring Michigan Travelers.
The youngest travelers are that of Generation Z—ages 15-24. To reach this audience you’ll need video. You can find them on Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat. Believe it or not they already make up 13.9% of the travel market.
National Park Travelers
This audience tends to be young and travels with their children. They use all types of planning resources. Primary interests include culture and food. They make up 31% of American travelers.
Representing 47% of American travelers, this is clearly a popular target audience. This group is largely made up of women who frequently travel outside the U.S. This is a very social audience with 50% using Facebook to post both before and after their trips. They like AirBnB and are drawn to cultural and culinary experiences.
Aspiring Michigan Travelers
This is an ethnically diverse audience, largely made up of millennials and Generation X. They like to research travel destinations through travel apps, social media and tourism bureaus. Online video is important and influential.
Only 16% of American travelers aspire to visit Michigan. So how can we compete with other states and attract more travelers to Michigan? (Can you believe we fall behind Ohio!) The number one reason a destination remains top of mind to visitors is because they’ve been there before. The influence of friends and family impacts 65% of travelers. To grow our Michigan brand we need to gain loyalty. We need our visitors to continue to share their love of this region with friends and family—especially if they’ll share it on their social channels.
Michigan Cares for Tourism
This 501c3 non-profit is made up of volunteers from the tourism industry who want to give back to projects across the state of Michigan. They tackle small projects throughout the year and host an annual multi-day volunteer event in a select location. This year’s project is in our own backyard.
Michigan Cares for Tourism is seeking volunteers for the 2019 event at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse in Leelanau State Park, September 16-17, 2019. There are enough projects for 325 volunteers! To register visit michigancaresfortourism.org. C’mon Traverse City, let’s send some volunteers to help our neighbors. It’s a good excuse to hang out in a park on a Monday and Tuesday in the fall.
To kick off the conference, MC4T held an event at Munson Manor where volunteers donated toiletries, cooked food and tackled painting projects. Check In Michigan, the organization behind the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism, donated $10,000 to MC4T, with donations made on behalf of the conference speakers.
Pure Michigan Campaign Update
Dave Lorenz, Vice President of Travel Michigan made his annual trip to the stage to provide an update on the state of our tourism state. He delivered a report on the investment and returns on the 2018 Pure Michigan campaign. Next he shared a few highlights and top performing projects which earned significant results. And we wrapped up by hearing about some focus points for 2019. Here are a few of the take-aways.
Measurable Results from the $16.5 Million Advertising Investment in Pure Michigan in 2018
- Influenced 6.4M person-trips
- $2.5B in visitor spending
- $153M generated in state taxes
- $9.28 return on investment
Want to check out all the details? Here’s a link to the Pure Michigan Advertising Effectiveness Study. You can find more about what Travel Michigan is doing for you on Michigan.org. At the bottom of the page click Travel Industry and then look for Research.
Social Media Summary
Nick Nerbonne, MEDC Digital Media Director responsible for Pure Michigan social media accounts provided some additional insight during one of the social media sessions. Facebook engagement is down, however user base is still growing. Instagram engagement is up by 75%, due in part to the popularity and use of Instagram stories.
Pure Michigan has been exploring some longer-format feature videos to provide in-depth experiences. They include interviews that explore why people are passionate about these activities.
Two hugely popular social media campaigns were hashtag projects that drove user-generated content. The #FallFilter invited fans to share fall photos. Pure Michigan selected 5 photos each Friday and reposted. Another campaign debuted on billboards in Chicago seeking images at #LongLiveSummer. The digital billboard published user photos from that hashtag, sharing them on billboards for all to see.
Top social media post subjects in 2018 from Pure Michigan included images of the Mackinac Bridge, fall foliage, wildlife, ice waterfalls, Vernors lighthouse cans and blue ice on the Straits of Mackinac. Favorite fan subjects to share were sunsets, fall colors and Michigan lakes.
Pure Michigan Ad Campaigns and Projects
Pure Michigan partnered with influencers and publications last year to grow their brand awareness. Ginger Zee, meteorologist on Good Morning America and a Michigan native, was part of a social media promotion. They also teamed up with Outside Magazine for an engaging online experience that involved video creation, a landing page and interactive trail map.
Other notable projects included the Pure Michigan 18 – featuring 18 signature golf holes across the state in a season-long invitation to share your experience playing that hole. And an Urban DNA video series with Jason Hall was created to boost the state’s appeal for travelers seeking a world-class city experience.
We wrapped up with some sneak peeks into plans for 2019. Pure Michigan intends to focus more on digital platforms, targeting millennials, promoting the Upper Peninsula and highlighting our Dark Sky Parks.
Accessibility Takes Center Stage
One other significant take-away which made me very proud is our state’s focus on accessibility. If there was one buzz-word of this year’s conference that would be it. All three winners of the Stars of the Industry award for tourism innovations were programs and organizations supporting accessibility. Pure Michigan is embracing the opportunity to make our state more friendly to people with disabilities. And I for one couldn’t be happier to see it.
With three days of meetings, events and networking there was a lot to take in at the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism. It was great to see the new conference center at the Park Place Hotel, and the remodeled Governors’ Hall at the Grand Traverse Resort & Casino. Traverse City Tourism played host to a bustling crowd of tourism professionals from across the state. And I even had a chance to meet a few people who mentioned they tuned in to our channel and saw me on TV!
Now it’s time for us all to return to the business we live everyday: celebrating the reasons we choose to call Pure Michigan our home.
Spend a morning at the farmer’s market in northern Michigan and you’ll see how lucky we are to live in Michigan. But the farmer’s market certainly isn’t just for farmers anymore. It’s a gathering place. It’s where locals and visitors meet the growers and makers.
Did you know…
Michigan agriculture is leading the nation in many ways. Here are a few fun facts about how we rank:
- Fourth in the country as a net exporter of hops
- Third in the nation for the number of farmers markets (300+)
- Second most agriculturally diverse state in the Country, next to California
- First in the Country for the production of blueberries, tart cherries, dry black-beans, picking cucumbers and squash
Picked and Processed
- Upward of 1 billion pounds of sugar is produced annually in Michigan
- Thanks to our local farmers, we are the nation’s leading producer of potatoes for potato chip processing
Buy Michigan Made
The best part about farmer’s markets is the opportunity to buy local. Whether we’re talking fruits or vegetables, beer or wine, soaps or lotions, salt or sugar, buying locally-produced goods supports the area economy.
National Lighthouse Day dates back to 1789. On August 7th many moons ago, Congress approved an act for the establishment and support of lighthouse, beacons, buoys, and public piers. It was not until 200 years later, in 1989 that this important Act received it’s own day of recognition. Happy National Lighthouse Day! Celebrate today and visit a lighthouse that’s not far away.
Old Mission Point Lighthouse
Located on 45th parallel the Old Mission Point Lighthouse is a popular park and playground along the shore. Pack a picnic and spend the day. There are beautiful hiking trails surrounding the lighthouse. It’s also a museum open for tours, and in search of volunteer keepers to serve as tour guides.
Directions: take M-37 to the end of Old Mission peninsula, approx. 22 miles from Front St. in Traverse City.
Point Betsie Lighthouse
The oldest operating light in Michigan —and perhaps the most photographed— Point Betsie is a must-see on a visit to Benzie County. It’s a great spot to hunt for fossils like Petoskey stones and Charlevoix stones. The lighthouse is open for tours in the summer Thursday – Sunday.
Directions: take M-22 to Pt. Betsie Rd, 4 miles north of the blinking light in Frankfort.
South Manitou Island Lighthouse
Guiding ships safely through the Manitou Passage, the South Manitou Island Lighthouse is an important beacon in Lake Michigan. It’s part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, with tours that take you to the top for an incredible panoramic view of National Lakeshore.
Directions: South Manitou Island may be reached by ferry from Leland. The lighthouse is located 0.6 miles from the ranger station and dock
Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum
At the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula you’ll find the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum. For a glimpse into our maritime history take the tour, or better yet, ask about their guest lightkeeper program. The lighthouse and museum are open May through October, and weekends in November.
Admission: Adults $5, Children 6-12yrs $2, under 5yrs are free
Directions: 9 miles north of Northport inside Leelanau State Park (entry fee charged)
Frankfort North Breakwater Lighthouse
The Frankfort Lighthouse marks the entrance to the Betsie Bay, a popular port for fishermen and sailors. You’ll find kids jumping from the pier in the summer, surfers riding the waves well into the fall, and the most storm watching along the north and south piers when the wind is high. Plus it’s a spectacular spot to watch the sun say goodnight to Lake Michigan.
Directions: Take M-22 past the blinking light to Main St, then west through downtown to Frankfort beach
We Love Our Lighthouses
The importance of lighthouses is hard to ignore. Especially when you consider the fact that at one time, the beacon of light could be seen across almost all of America’s shoreline!
Have you visited any northern Michigan lighthouses? Let us know your favorite in the comments below.
For more information on lighthouses in the area, and get directions right from your phone, download our mobile app. You’ll find them listed under the Attractions section. The Traverse Traveler app is a handy way to navigate through the Traverse area and discover must-see destinations like these.
See you on the beach!
It’s time for the annual Traverse City Film Festival. It’s a great chance to discover new movies, attend fun events and enjoy the hospitality of our city. We thought we’d share a few tips on how to be a traveler — not a tourist — during the film festival.
Film Festival Tips for Travelers
- Take advantage of the free festival shuttle provided by BATA. The Bayline will bring you into town from your hotel. And look for details about their festival loop traveling between film venues. The buses are all ADA accessible, air conditioned and have wifi.
- Travelers know it pays to be flexible. If you didn’t get tickets to a movie, try the standby line. You just might get in, even if you don’t get to sit with your friends.
- Not all the movies are shown at The State and The Bijou. Make sure you know where your movie is playing before you get in line.
- Speaking of lines, bring a little patience. Don’t be that tourist who thinks lines are for other people.
- As long as you’re here to binge watch, why not be a traveler and venture out to our surrounding communities and take in a movie at The Garden in Frankfort, the Bay Theatre in Suttons Bay or check out northern Michigan’s only drive-in movie theater at the Cherry Bowl Drive-In in Honor.
- The outdoor movies in the Open Space are not to be missed. They’re free, they’re family-friendly and there’s usually something for everyone. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and arrive before dusk to claim your spot on the lawn. Here’s the Open Space lineup for this year:
Tuesday | Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Wednesday | 9 to 5
Thursday | The Greatest Showman
Friday | Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Saturday | Black Panther
Sunday | Coco
- The Traverse City Film Festival is the perfect excuse to spend the day downtown. Try a new restaurant, grab a drink with some friends, or do a little wine tasting. Our Dining Guide can be a helpful resource if you’re looking to try something new. It’s fun to be a traveler for the day, even if you’re a local.
Check out this year’s TCFF promotional video below:
We hope you use our tips to be a traveler during the Traverse City Film Festival. Enjoy the shows!
We are excited to sponsor the Traverse Traveler Choice Award at the Frankfort48 Film Contest. The 2nd annual event will take place June 21-23, 2018 at the Garden Theater in Frankfort. This unique contest offers teams of all ages and experience levels a chance to share a story of their creation using the power and beauty of film. We’re proud to showcase this region in film on our Traverse Traveler Visitors Channel everyday. That’s why we jumped at the chance to get involved in the Frankfort48. If you love movies, love making videos, or just love Frankfort, you’ll want to read on.
Here’s How the Frankfort48 Film Contest Works
Participants have 48 hours to create a 3-5 minute film celebrating the beauty of northern Michigan. The Frankfort48 Film Contest is open to teams of any size or age, amateur or professional. Registered teams will be given three required elements that must appear on screen: a character, a prop and a line of dialog. They will have from 9am on June 21st to 9am on June 23rd to develop a concept, scout locations, film, edit and submit their film via Vimeo. That’s 48 hours of frantic fun in Frankfort!
The contest awards will be determined by an experienced panel of celebrity judges including Michael Bofshever, Jamie Donnelly and Stephen H. Foreman. Members of the Visitors Media team will participate in the judging to select the winner of the Traverse Traveler Choice Award.
What’s at Stake
The Frankfort48 Film Contest cash prizes include:
1st Place: $500 plus 2 VIP passes to the 2018 Frankfort Film Festival
2nd Place: $250
3rd Place: $100
Traverse Traveler Choice Award
The Traverse Traveler Choice Award winning film will be featured in a promotional ad for next year’s Frankfort48 Film Contest. The ad will air on our Traverse Traveler Visitors Channel, playing in over 3000 hotel rooms in the greater Traverse City area. We’ll put together a special prize package for the winning team along with the opportunity to take part in the ad creation.
In honor of Michigan Wine Month Traverse Traveler created the Northern Michigan Winery Guide. This at-a-glance reference is designed to help travelers who are wine tasting in the Traverse City, Michigan region.
Which winery should you visit?
With 45 tasting rooms near Traverse City—and counting— it’s hard to decide where to go. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. However, we can offer some guidance to help you make an educated decision for your next wine tasting adventure. When you ask us which winery to visit we often answer with more questions:
Are you visiting Leelanau Peninsula, Old Mission Peninsula or another part of our region?
Are you wine tasting only, or are you looking for cider or mead?
Do you want vineyard views, or a view of the water?
Every winery has something unique to offer their guests. For the Northern Michigan Winery Guide we focused on answers to commonly asked questions. We gathered information on tasting fees. We noted the wineries with wine clubs. And, since destination weddings in Traverse City are so popular, we highlighted wineries equipped to host special events. This infographic provides the answers to the most common questions about planning a wine tour in Traverse City.
The Northern Michigan Winery Guide
Recommended Reading for Traverse City Travelers
Looking for an easy read to kick off your next adventure in northern Michigan? Support a local writer and pick up 100 Things to Do in Traverse City Before You Die. Author Kim Schneider draws upon her experience as a travel writer and long time resident to share 100 ways to navigate northern Michigan.
Our Book Review
As a fellow foodie, explorer and consumer of the “best of” this region I was anxious to dive into the pages. I wondered if we would share similar tastes, favorite familiar hangouts or if, by chance, I might learn something new from her recommendations.
We tout many of the same places to eat, drink and shop like a local. And we agree on dozens of must-see destinations like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, visiting area wineries and learning how to spot a Petoskey stone. But I was thrilled to discover that I too could pick-up something new in her pages of recommendations.
One of my favorite things about the book are the author’s tips shared from personal experiences. For instance, I didn’t know there’s a secret garden on Sixth street welcoming visitors when the sign says “Open”. I did appreciate the reminder that you had better bring cash to Art’s Tavern as they don’t accept credit cards. (I learned the hard way on that a time or two.) And who wouldn’t appreciate the handy reference lists of businesses associated with each suggestion. Like shops that rent fat tire bikes? You never know when you’ll want to try one of those.
100 Things to Do in Traverse City Before You Die would make a great coffee table book for the cottage, gift for the mitten lover in your life, or glove-box reference guide for locals looking to flip the pages and set off on an adventure.
You can pick-up a copy of 100 Things to Do in Traverse City Before You Die at local book stores including Brilliant Books, Horizon Books and Nifty Things in Traverse City, as well as Dog Ears Books in Northport (open seasonally).
To meet the author, pick her brain and get a signed copy, why not stop by one of the following launch parties and special events.
April 7, 2018 | Brilliant Books | Traverse City
May 12, 2018 | Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate | Empire
Book signing and chocolate tasting
May 20, 2018 | Chateau Chantal Winery | Traverse City
Book signing with TC Bingo after Blessing of the Blossoms
For More Things to Do in Traverse City
For details on events and info from the author follow 100 Things to do in Traverse City Before You Die on Facebook
We love supporting local authors, artists and creators. They are a vibrant part of our community. If you enjoy the topic of this book review and are looking for more food for thought on Things to Do in Traverse City, explore our Dining, Shopping and Attractions pages for inspiration. And don’t forget to download our free Traverse Traveler app.
Is a vacation or staycation in Traverse City on your mind this spring? The kids have been cooped up at home long enough. Spring Break is a popular time for the locals to get-away, which means it’s a little less crowded on the streets and in the hotels. So here’s my list of 9 things to do with kids on a Traverse City staycation. Watch the videos for more details on each destination!
Breakfast at Round’s
If you’re traveling for vacation odds are nobody has to cook. So, I think it’s fitting that a staycation includes going out for breakfast. If you’re an early-riser check out Round’s, a true local hang-out, where the raspberry french toast is out of this world. Look for their menu in our Dining Guide.
Free Movies at The State
The State Theatre and Bijou by the Bay have a once-annual free movie fest, which lines up with Traverse City’s spring break. That means free movie tickets, and lots of family-friendly films all week! If your break doesn’t match ours don’t despair! These arthouse volunteer-run theaters offer great kids programs including $.25 kids matinees EVERY Saturday. And you can’t beat the popcorn and candy prices either.
Bounce it Out at Busy Bodies
Sometimes you just need a place to let the kids run, skip and bounce out that energy they’ve been storing all winter. Busy Bodies Bounce Town is the solution. With wristband access you can spend an hour, go grab a bite to eat and come back later that day to wear them out before the car ride home.
Hike through the Art Park
The Michigan Legacy Art Park is a hidden gem, and worth a drive to Crystal Mountain in Benzie County. Discover larger than life sculptures tucked between the trees along a beautiful hiking trail. These permanent art installations are impressive any time of year. March and April can still be snowy in the woods, so wear your boots, or rent a pair of snowshoes.
Eat Lunch at Scalawags
Scalawags Fish & Chips in downtown Traverse City is the perfect lunch spot for the whole family. The restaurant is decorated tip to tail in fishing-themed memorabilia and artwork. The fish is incredibly fresh and prepared right after you order. Tell the kids to watch for Spongebob as he pops up every time the front door opens.
Bowling and Laser Tag at Lucky Jacks
If you’re entertaining teens or tweens and the weather isn’t cooperating, I’ve got just the place for you. Lucky Jacks has indoor fun for the whole family. From bowling and laser tag, to arcade games, bumper cars and did I mention they have a full restaurant and bar? Yep, this spot checks a lot of boxes for some good old fashioned family fun.
Explore History at The Village
One of the nation’s largest historical renovations is taking place just off the beaten path in Traverse City. The Village at Grand Traverse Commons is a former state asylum with stunning 19th century architecture, and a fascinating history. Sign-up for a guided historic tour of the buildings, or spend your time hiking the trails all around Traverse City’s central park. Ask for the path to the hippy tree for an instagrammable discovery.
Play at the Great Lakes Children’s Museum
Traverse City is blessed to be surrounded by water. As Michiganders we want to ensure the importance of the Great Lakes is not lost on our youngest adventurers. Kids can explore our watery resources in hands-on exhibits, playscapes and activities at the Great Lakes Children’s Museum.
Discover Sleeping Bear Dunes
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is always on our list of things to do with kids. On a sunny day the views of Lake Michigan are blue and beautiful no matter the season. Hiking the dunes or riding a bike along the Heritage trail are great springtime adventures. Start at the Visitors Center in Empire and ask about the Jr Ranger program for some activities that will entertain and educate the youngest visitors.
So when it’s too warm for snowmen, but too cold for swimming, there are still plenty of things to do with kids of all ages in Traverse City. If you live here, it’s a good reminder to get out and enjoy the reasons why. If you’re traveling to Traverse City…welcome! The trees might be leafless, and the pot holes large, but activities abound for you and your traveling band.
Battle of the Rieslings
Who needs basketball match-ups when you can battle it out to see which Riesling reigns supreme! Left Foot Charley is getting in on the March Madness with a Riesling wine contest.
Beginning Thursday March 15 and running for four weeks they will match up current and previous vintages of Left Foot Charley Riesling in a bracket-style tournament. Stop by their winery located at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons to taste, compare and vote for the winners on Thursday and Friday of each week.
Left Foot Charley has chosen 8 wines for the field that range from dry to sweet, pulling from vintages as far back as 2008, including a rare Riesling collaboration never previously offered for tasting or for sale.
The cost is $5 for the samples and the opportunity to vote. Guests who participate each week will be entered to win a $25 Left Foot Charley gift certificate.
We can’t resist a good Riesling, and Left Foot Charley has been producing them for years. Get in on the March fun and join the Riesling Madness. Specialty food pairings from Trattoria Stella as well as cheese and accoutrements will also be available for purchase. Glass pours and bottle sales are a way to extend the enjoyment – and perhaps pick up something unexpected.
Open House at Becky Thatcher Designs
Visit Becky Thatcher Designs in downtown Traverse City this Saturday, April 25th from 1-4pm for ‘Chocolate & Pearls,’ an open house event for jewelry lovers. Get a glimpse of new designs featuring pearls in earrings, necklaces and more. Pearls come in all shapes, sizes and many colors. At the open house event you’ll learn about the differences between Cultured, South Sea and Tahitian pearls.
Becky will be in store to share her knowledge of these traditional adornments. Browse her displays of creative handmade jewelry or peruse the loose pearls available for a custom design.
For a truly unique learning experience ask about the upcoming gemstone roundtable event, where dealers present a collection of gems from around the world. Here’s a peek inside last year’s event.
Becky Thatcher Designs is located at 234 E. Front Street in downtown Traverse City, across from the State Theater.
Traverse Traveler is proud to announce several free events this week to celebrate autism, promote awareness, and raise money to purchase iPads for students with autism in the Traverse City community.
This year we have once again teamed up with the Northwest Michigan Autism Resource Network (ARN) to bring three free events to the Traverse City community.
April 21: Free Film at The State Theatre | 6 pm
All community members are invited to a free screening of the brand new 2015 documentary, How to Dance in Ohio at the State Theatre. This film has been well received on the film festival circut and will make its debut at The State for our event. The documentary follows a group of teens with autism who spend 12 weeks preparing for a typical teenage rite of passage: a spring formal. Learn how these students tackle the social skills needed to ask someone on a date, invite them to dance and explore the complex world of social dynamics. More information about the film here.
April 24: Light up the Lanes at Lucky Jacks | 4-7 pm
Families of children with autism are invited to join us for a special party at Lucky Jack’s on Garfield Ave where we will Light up the Lanes in their honor. We’ve planned an evening of fun and games including free bowling, treats, and activities. The eight-lane, private 300 Club at Lucky Jack’s as well as the adjacent party room will be reserved for this special event. This is an open house event with no reservations required.
April 25: Sensory-friendly Film at The Bijou | 10:30 am
Sound and light levels will be moderated for this free showing at The Bijou in honor of Autism Awareness Month. Children of all ages will enjoy Rio2, while parents relax knowing that if they get a little loud, or need to get up and move, it’s OK.
Supporting Autism in our Community
Traverse Traveler remains committed to our mission of building awareness about autism, and fundraising to support children with autism in our local schools. In the last three years we have raised over $27,000 and purchased 52 iPads for students with autism in the Traverse City area public schools and T.B.A.I.S.D. We are grateful for the support of our sponsors and donors. If you would like more information about donating or supporting students with autism in our schools please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A holiday weekend is the perfect time to enjoy one of northern Michigan’s favorite outdoor activities: ice fishing. And it’s not just locals who are itchin’ to go fishin’. Visitors come from miles around to catch their limit on our frozen lakes.
Here are a few tips from a local for the casual weekender who wants to give ice fishing a try —from advice on equipment, to safety and a fish finder for area lakes. These tips won’t guarantee a prosperous catch, but they’ll set you up for a fun, safe angling adventure on Michigan’s frozen playgrounds.
Licensed to Catch
The first thing every angler needs is a license. And the MDNR offers several options.
- You can now buy an e-license online anytime at mdnr-elicense.com.
- There are three licensing options: one-day license, season license and a new 72-hour all species license. The last option is great for the weekender as it’s available to residents and non-residents for $30.
- Fish for free on one of Michigan’s free fishing weekends. Mark you calendars for February 14-15, 2015 for this winter’s free weekend.
Here’s a list of the basic equipment and supplies you’d need for an afternoon out on the ice. And like most sports and hobbies, there are the necessities, and then there are thousands of variations, and upgrades that can expand the options, and empty your wallet. These are the nuts and bolts. You take it where you want to from here.
- Valid Michigan fishing license, see above. Children under 17 can fish for free;
- Ice Auger or spud, depending on the depth of the ice. More than four inches of ice and you’ll probably want an auger;
- Sled to pull your gear, depending on how much you have;
- Portable shanty, foldable chair or bucket to sit on;
- Tip-ups or ice fishing rods;
- Bait: for tip-ups use minnows like golden shiners or blues. For rods use wax worms or artificial bait like jigs and spoons.
Tip: Don’t forget to keep the receipt from the bait shop if you buy live bait, like minnows. Live bait must be certified to prevent the spread of disease. DNRE officers may ask for proof of purchase.
- Safe ice is thick ice. Four inches is recommended for safely fishing on Michigan’s inland lakes. If you’re heading out with a snowmobile or ATV, err on the side of caution and wait for 5″-6″ of ice.
- Watch for holes, cracks and open ice. Freshly abandoned ice fishing holes are a quick way to twist an ankle or worse. Anglers often leave branches or markers in their abandoned ice holes as a warning, so keep your eyes open.
- Bring emergency gear. Safety spikes are a great solution, and can be worn around the neck. They look like a short jump-rope with handles on the end, each equipped with a spike. If you fell in the ice you could use the picks to pull you out. A lifejacket and some rope are a good back-up plan.
- Don’t fish alone. It’s not as much fun anyway, so bring a buddy.
Tip: If you’re unsure about the safety of lake ice, get some advice from the bait shop or a local. Many small inland lakes are not ideal for ice fishing because they’re spring fed. The way the ice forms can also determine whether it’s strong enough to support additional weight. So if you don’t see any tracks, or evidence of activity on the surface, don’t venture out, especially alone.
There are dozen of lakes in northwestern Michigan that could be great for fishing. And certain species thrive in specific lakes. Here’s a short guide to some of the most popular species, and where you can find them.
- If your fishing for pike check out Portage Lake in Onekema and Green Lake in Interlochen;
- For smelt try Crystal Lake in Benzie county, and Green Lake;
- For perch Crystal Lake and Glen Lake near Glen Arbor;
- For walleye visit Long Lake in Traverse City, and Lake Leelanau on the Leelanau Peninsula.
Tip: Know your limit, and stay within it. The DNRE limits the catch on each species, and limits vary. Check out the MDNR website for all the details.