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!
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.
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.
Onto every vacation a little rain may fall. But don’t let bad weather ruin your trip to Traverse City. You just need to give your plans a little flip. Today we’re going to explore three indoor attractions that offer activities for everyone in your family. We’ll turn those rainy frowns upside-down!
Family Fun at Lucky Jack’s
When mother nature throws a wet blanket on your outdoor family fun, head to Lucky Jack’s, where blue skies are not required. Inside these doors you’ll find 50,000 square feet of boredom busting fun! Locally owned for over 50 years Lucky Jack’s is the largest bowling center in the region. With bumper rails and ball guides kids of all ages can stay out of the gutter and score a strike.
Need to burn off some excess energy? Suit ’em up for a challenging game of laser tag. Or test your skills in the arcade. Keep track of all your activities and points with the Fun Card, then cash in, for the loot of your choice.
Lucky Jack’s knows how to keep kids and parents happy. Did I mention they have a full bar, and some of the best pizza in town? That’s why they’re known as Traverse City’s FUN Destination.
Take Aim at Shooter’s Range
Let’s face it, the little kids aren’t the only ones pouting when plans get cancelled due to weather. When it’s too rough to fish, or to wet to golf, the temperature’s always perfect at Shooters Indoor Gun & Archery Range.
Northern Michigan is a hunter’s paradise. And this place, is where they come to hone their skills. Shooter’s 8 lane firearm range allows shoppers to try before you buy. They even offer lessons if you’re new to the sport – like me.
If archery is more your style take aim at one of 15 life-size targets in their 3-D course. Or step inside the technoHUNT simulator where you can stalk a whitetail deer or an animal on safari. From guns to ammo to bows and arrows Shooters can outfit any Michigan sportsman —or woman. So visit Shooters. Where they aim…to please.
Shop in Comfort at Cherryland Antique Mall
Update: The Cherryland Antique Mall is now closed. However antiquing in the area is still a great rainy day option.
On a sunny day you’ll find our downtown streets are filled with shoppers. So what’s a girl to do when she’s dying to buy something new, and window shopping is out of the question? How about searching for something new to you.
The Cherryland Antique Mall is filled with treasures of times gone by. It’s a far cry from the hot dusty flea markets and auctions my parents used to drag me to. Here you can browse to your hearts content, in air-conditioned comfort. I can spend hours strolling through these isles. Booth by booth you’ll find a wide variety of antiques, furniture, vintage jewelry, memorabilia and collectables.
Why not pick up a unique souvenir from your trip up north… one with a little history attached. The knowledgeable dealers at the Cherryland Antique Mall will help you find just what you’re looking for.
So when your plans are cancelled because the forecast is wet, remember these rainy day ideas for a Traverse City vacation you’ll never forget. Download the Traverse Traveler app for directions to these — and many more — rainy day attractions.
An Up North summer begins and ends on a holiday. That’s 59 days to soak up the sun. So I put together a list of 59 ways to squeeze in every last drop of Pure Michigan fun. This year, let’s all Be a Traveler in Traverse City. On your mark… get set… go!
- Hunt for petoskey stones. Point Betsie is a good stony beach with miles of shoreline for walking. Not sure what you’re looking for? Pick up a rock hunting guide from Korner Gem. Kevin’s an expert!
- Watch a movie under the stars. Get a bucket of popcorn with real butter and experience a time warp at the Cherry Bowl Drive-in in Honor. Or check out the Bike-in TC movies in F&M park, and the week-long Traverse City Film Festival with free flicks at the Open Space in August.
- Sip a cold drink under the warm sun. I love to look out over the marina from the deck at Harbor 22, or better yet… cocktails on a boat, in the harbor will do just fine.
- Read a paperback on the beach. Ok, so this one makes my list every summer for nothing more than pure selfish relaxation. I’m usually giggling at Stephanie Plum in the latest Janet Evanovich book, but if you’re looking for a new read I’d suggest a stop by Brilliant Books in Traverse City.
- Buy a flight at a local brewery. Our little town is one of the beeriest cities in the U.S. You’ll find a dozen craft breweries in Traverse City and new ones popping up in small towns, like Stormcloud in Frankfort. So grab a flight and drink local.
- Bike the T.A.R.T. trail or Benzie trail. Follow this stretch of the T.A.R.T. that runs along Boardman Lake behind the Traverse Area District Library and look for the planetary signs. It’s great fun for the kids.
- Celebrate our independence with fireworks. We park and walk for miles to Lake Michigan beach in Frankfort with a bag of licorice, glow necklaces and dig our pit in the sand to watch a spectacular show every July 4th.
- Reel in a king salmon. Forget the worm, up North, the early bird gets the fish! The best bite is at dawn and dusk, but the thrill of the catch is worth it. On a good day you’ll bring home dinner. On a bad day it was a still a nice boat ride that followed the colors of the sun.
- Fill a basket with fresh picked fruit straight from the orchard. Stop at a U-Pick farm for a hands-on experience or pull up to a roadside stand and select from nature’s best.
- Count satellites and ponder the stars. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore holds ‘Star Parties’ several times each summer where you can explore the night sky through powerful telescopes. Or kick back next to a campfire and watch for meteors.
- Try a new restaurant. Our region is blessed with fantastic local eateries. Try one that’s new —or at least new to you— this summer. On my list: The Franklin on Front and Cass in downtown Traverse City and Tucker’s in Northport.
- Walk barefoot along our freshwater coast. Take some time to feel the sand between your toes on a beach walk. You’ll find busy beaches along the shores of West Bay, Frankfort and Empire, or seek solitude at the end of a quiet road in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
- People watch at a festival. From the National Cherry Festival to the Northwestern Michigan Fair to the Traverse City Film Festival there’s entertainment to be found in the crowd. You may catch a glimpse of celebrity locals including Michael Moore, Carter Oosterhouse and Mario Batali.
- Buy art from a local artist. Local art makes a unique souvenir from your trip up north. Check out Michigan Artists Gallery in Suttons Bay, Gallery 50 at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, and Art and Soul in downtown TC.
- Drink the fruits of our land. The wineries are one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Grand Traverse region. But as a local, I’m proud to say I love them too. Take a trip on Old Mission or Leelanau county and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Before you go, check out my tips for wine-tasting in Northern Michigan.
- Jump off a dock. Swing from a rope, dive in a pool, take flight over a body of water and land with a splash. That’s summer lovin’ at its watery best.
- Marvel at a Museum. From unexpected treasures at the Music House Museum, to fine art at the Dennos to hands-on fun at the Great Lakes Children’s Museum, there’s indoor fun to be had in Traverse City too.
- Run down the dunes. The Sleeping Bear Dunes is a must-visit every summer. From the dune climb that overlooks Big and Little Glen, to the quieter spots in the National Park, find your spot to run with the wind in your hair and legs out of control.
- Eat dessert from a cone. Is there a more perfect summer food than ice cream? We make regular trips to Moomer’s for homemade deliciousness complete with farm views. But if you want to feel like a local order the Cosmo cone from the Dairy Lodge.
- Roast s’mores over an open flame. My secret for a perfect s’more: buy the giant marshmellos, roast until gooey, remove skewer and slip two squares of chocolate inside the marshmello. Squeeze between two grahams and enjoy. This will be the most delicious mess you eat all summer.
- Float down the Platte. Whether you like to bob on a tube, cruise in a kayak or navigate with a canoe, a trip down the Platte from Riverside Canoes is the best way to enjoy the river. Plan to spend some time at the mouth swimming in the warm current as it empties into Lake Michigan.
- Dinner at the Manitou. After spending my high school and college years as a waitress here I can’t let a summer go by without a trip to the Manitou Restaurant on M-22 near Crystal Lake. No skimping either. Start with the skinny dippers and finish with blueberry raspberry pie.
- Climb a lighthouse tower. Nothing beats the view from the top of a lighthouse in Michigan. We’re lucky to have several you can climb including the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum. Did you know you can see four islands from their tower?
- Ride the new Heritage Trail. Bikers will want to check out the brand new Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail that runs from the Dune Climb south to Empire. It’s a beautiful new addition to the park.
- Dine al fresco. I do a lot of grab-n-go dining as I’m on the road. But in the summer I try to slow down for a meal al fresco. Check out the seating at Morsels along the Boardman River for a coffee or snack. Or grab a bite from the food trucks that park at The Little Fleet.
- Buy fresh fruit from a roadside stand. Cruise up M-37 on Old Mission Peninsula and you’ll find lovely roadside stands all summer selling cherries, peaches, apricots and flowers. Some are washed and ready to eat.
- Play golf. This region is surrounded by world class golf courses so grab a tee time. My favorite course has waterfalls, pirates and a zipline that traverses over the go-carts. Yep, I’ll be working on my hole-in-one at Pirates Cove.
- Take the boat to South Manitou Island. If you want to experience true north, the way it was before settlements took hold, then take the Manitou Transit from Leland and visit South Manitou Island. Climb the lighthouse, walk the beach and look for shipwrecks off the coast.
- Shop around M-22. Some of my favorite summer shops are scattered among coastal towns along M-22. I always sneek up to Suttons Bay to visit The Happy Woman, and At Home, Haystacks has my favorite skirts, and check Wildflowers in Glen Arbor for great garden gifts and fun jewelry.
- Photograph a sunset at Point Betsie Lighthouse. The most photographed lighthouse in the state, Point Betsie is an iconic subject for so many reasons. Catch the light at sunset, with waves crashing along the sandy shore… it’s a moment worth capturing on film.
- Pick blueberries. It could be strawberries, or cherries, but every year I say I’m going to pick blueberries from one of the farms on Old Mission or in Benzie County but I never make it! This is going to be the year.
- Visit the Crystal Lake Alpaca farm. Along Grace Rd between Benzonia and Frankfort you’ll find the Crystal Lake Alpaca farm. Bring the kids to pet the animals, and bring your wallet to buy some of the amazing clothing and gifts they make on-site.
- Drink from Mineral Springs. I don’t know if this makes you a tourist or a traveler. But every year my family drinks from the Mineral Springs in downtown Frankfort. Drink for tradition, drink for good health, but hold your nose. I still don’t like the smell.
- Learn about our legends and lore. Our native American heritage fills this region with legends, artifacts and traditions. Spend a day at the History Center, or Eyaawing museum near Suttons Bay to learn about our native cultures, and the people who built these communities.
- Find a secluded beach. Most days I’m happy if I can squeeze my towel in between beach goers from all different states, and watch families enjoying the shoreline. But somedays I seek a quiet place to walk and think. Find a happy stretch along the shore and relax.
- Set sail on Grand Traverse Bay. Kids will love to help hoist the sails aboard the Traverse Tall Ship Manitou that cruises daily on the bay. Looking for dancing and cocktails? Check out the Nauti-cat. And if a romantic sunset is what you seek, set sail aboard Scout.
- Take a behind-the-scenes tour. Whether you’re a foodie, a history lover or wine geek there’s a tour to be had if you ask. Sign-up online for a tour at the Grand Traverse Distillery or take an historic tour of the old state hospital grounds at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.
- Listen to a concert at Interlochen Center for the Arts. We are so blessed to have a world renowned school for the arts in our woodland backyard. Once you’ve listened to an Interlochen concert at Kresge with the summer breeze on your shoulders and music in the air, you’ll make sure this is on your list every year.
- Catch up with old friends. From backyard BBQs to campfires to a night on the town summertime is my favorite time to schedule time with old friends. Each year I meet my college roommates for at least one weekend of out-of-town fun.
- Make new friends. When you sit down at the bar for a cup of coffee, or are waiting in line at a popular restaurant, strike up a conversation with the person next you. More often than not I’m amazed by our connections and what a small world this really is.
- Tour a local art fair. From craft fairs to fine art juried shows, there’s an artfair somewhere nearly every weekend in the summer. I never miss the Frankfort art fair in August, but not just for the art. I’m in love with the chicken dinners they cook in the park. Best Chicken EVER!
- Boat party at the sandbar. The party crowd heads to Torch Lake where the sandbar is legendary. But the locals? We hang at Power Island when the beaches get crowded. Don’t have a boat? No problem. Hitch a ride from Bowers Harbor over to Power Island on the new transit and you’ll find pop-up parties all summer long.
- Get soaked to the skin in the warm summer rain. Surprise your kids, and perhaps yourself, when you throw logic and reason out the window and dance in the rain. No umbrella, no shoes, just pure spontaneous fun. I promise this will bring a smile to your face on a rainy day.
- Pick a bouquet of wildflowers. Baby’s Breath, Queen Anne’s Lace, wild Thistle, there are dozens of lovely wildflowers growing along the roadside. Pick up a field guide to help identify flowers, rocks and animals found in northern Michigan. Just be sure you don’t pick anything protected.
- Watch a ball game. Traverse City has the Beach Bums to quench our thirst for America’s pastime. Their beautiful stadium just outside downtown Traverse City is fun for the whole family. And every game finishes with fireworks.
- Visit Fishtown. Browse the quaint shops that line the century-old fishing wharf, pick up some smoked whitefish from Carlson’s, have a Chubby Mary overlooking the falls or grab a pretzel bread sandwich from the Village Cheese Shanty. A day in Leland’s fishtown is a summer must-do.
- Tell stories around a campfire. Beach bonfires, campground fires surrounded by tents, patio hearths with potbelly stoves, pick your poison and enjoy one of summer’s iconic experiences. I like mine on the shores of a lake telling stories of summers past.
- Shop the farmers market. We are blessed to live in an agricultural paradise. And that’s never more apparent than on a trip to the farmer’s market. Every town has them.
- Eat cherries everyday! Well, maybe not that often. But when you live in cherry country why not enjoy it? Benjamin Twiggs has everything Cherry so you can shop to your heart’s content. And if you just want a sweet cherry treat: stop by Reflect Bistro inside the Cambria Suites for a cherry bread pudding that’s to die for!
- Party in the street. Wrap up the week with an evening at Friday Night Live in downtown Traverse City. Buy a balloon, enjoy live music, have your face painted. A perfect place to be a kid again…or bring one.
- Savor a simple homebaked snack. The smell of warm bread or cookies coming out of the oven is delicious any time of year. If I walk into Pleasanton Bakery I’m walking out with their Parmesan Olive bread and one of the fudgiest brownies I’ve ever tasted. So much yum!
- Get out on the water. Hop on a boat or a jet ski and ride out to where the deep water lives, clear and blue green as far as the eyes can see…and dive in! That is pure Michigan bliss.
- Eat your fill of fresh sweet corn. Nobody beats Hall’s farm on North Long Lake Road in Traverse City. For a fabulous summer salad try this corn and blueberry salad. It’s great served like a salsa with tortilla chips too. My secret potluck party weapon.
- Photograph the everyday moments. It’s not the parties and holidays that spark nostalgia but the details of summer memories past. Capture the special places, people and things in your life. You’ll thank me later.
- Play a sport on the lawn. Badmitten, croquet, bocce or new favorites like ring toss and bean bag games make fun family competitions a must-do for summer. For an entertaining contest try shooting ping-pong balls off of golf tees with rubber bands.
- Spend a hot day at a cool pool. My kids love the outdoor pool at Waters Edge at Crystal Mountain and can’t wait to try their new ropes course that lies above. Or you could stay and play at the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City, an indoor waterpark resort.
- Explore The Village. Wander the old state hospital grounds inside the Grand Traverse Commons, also known as The Village. Sip wine or cider at Left Foot Charley, pick up some Michigan gear at High Five Threads, or walk the trails that wind all around Traverse City’s version of Central Park.
- Watch a movie at an historic theater. Our community is lucky to have several renovated theaters back in action. The State Theatre in Traverse City, The Garden in Frankfort and the Bijou by the Bay (formerly the Con Foster Museum). Restored classic theatres where the movies are great, and so are the prices.
- Eat, drink and shop local. Summer is the absolute best time to enjoy the bounty of northern Michigan and support the businesses that thrive on the extra traffic. So eat at a local hotspot, drink our wines and beers, and buy something that will forever remind you of this summer. The summer you spent enjoying EVERY DAY in this beautiful land of ours.
I’m Brandy from Traverse Traveler, and this is my list. I hope you’ll find something on it to add yours. If you have a favorite that I’ve forgotten, please add it in the comments. I love to discover new ways to enjoy this community. Happy Summer everyone!
We couldn’t have asked for a better weekend to enjoy Winter in northern Michigan. There seemed to be a festival in every town. But event planners around the region were trumped by mother nature as thousands made the trek to see the ice caves on Lake Michigan.
My social media circles have been buzzing for days with stories and some spectacular photos showing 20′ and 30′ ice cliffs just offshore near Leland, the pinky finger of our mitten state. After reading the story on MLive.com I just couldn’t pass up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these formations.
This winter has been uncharacteristically cold, snowy, and now ice-filled. In fact, Lake Michigan is likely to break the all-time ice coverage record of 95 percent. Our frigid temps and windy weather are the perfect storm for creating these ‘ice castles’ just 500 yards off shore. They’re far from common, so it became my mission this weekend to make the migration.
Mission completed. Although at times it felt more like Mission Impossible. So I wanted to share a few tips in case you’re planning to make the trip to see the ice caves.
Tips to know before you go
- Park close to the lake. The top viewing area is off of Onomonee Rd and N. Gills Pier Rd. Do not make the same mistake we did and park the moment you find a space. We parked on N. Gills Pier Rd near M-22 since there were so many cars. It is an HOUR walk from there! Keep driving, even if the going is slow. You’ll find a space.
- Don’t forget to bring water. I know, obvious right? If it were summer and I were headed out on a big hike I’d have packed smarter. But I had no idea we’d be out there so long, or have to walk so far. I was ready to eat snow.
- Bring your camera, not just your iPhone. Guess what? iPhones don’t love the cold and snow. If you want to capture the beauty of this trip to share with those who didn’t join you, bring a point-and-shoot camera along with your phone.
- Wear good boots with traction. The terrain is a mixture of hard pack slick snow, smooth ice and sloping, unpredictable grade. It’s incredibly easy to lose your footing. Consider wearing crampons, or yaktrax if you have them. And just be slow and careful on the ice.
Was it amazing? Absolutely! But after traveling with my two kids, and my two parents we all agreed these tips would have been nice to know beforehand. I’m not sure how long the weather will permit visitations to this spectacular show of mother nature’s beauty and power. So get out there if you can, but be safe!
I know it’s challenging to find the time to scour the stores hunting for the perfect gift. So each year I sneak out to our local retailers in search of eye catching items for someone special on your list. I hope these suggestions will get the holiday spirit flowing. Each item includes a price (or price range) and the northern Michigan store where it can be purchased. I encourage you to shop local and help boost the economy in our own backyard. (more…)
Planning a wine tour in Northern Michigan this year? We’ve gathered a few tips to make the most out of your next wine tasting trip from Traverse City to Leelanau or Old Mission Peninsula.
What to Bring
• Camera. The wineries are beautiful any time of year, but especially in the fall during harvest season. You’ll want a few pics to remember your trip.
• Money. Many of the wineries now have tasting fees. Bring cash to cover fees where you might not purchase a bottle of wine. Each winery’s policy is different.
• Bottled water. Here’s a tip from the Kathy at Bel Lago, “For a successful wine tour, drink as much water as you do in wine. And be sure to eat.”
• Snacks. Cheese spreads, breads, crackers and fruit all pair well with wine and won’t spoil your palette for the wines you’ve yet to taste.
• Smartphone. The Traverse Traveler app was designed with the wine tourist in mind. This handy mobile guide will help you research, plan and navigate a wine tour in northern Michigan. And best of all, it’s a free download for iPhone and Android users.
What to Leave at Home
• “Don’t wear lipstick.” This tip is from Caryn at 2 Lads Winery. It’s not just the marks on the glass that are left behind. Lipstick imparts flavors like petroleum and other chemicals when wine passes over your lips.
• No perfume. It ruins your tasting experience, and everyone elses. The scent of one person’s perfume can contaminate the air in a tasting room for hours.
• Cigarettes. Your sense of smell is a large part of the wine tasting experience. And smoke is a very stong scent. Like perfume it affects those around you. So please leave the smokes in your car.
• Gum. You can’t taste past it, especially mint. So stow the Altoids and TicTacs too.
• Dogs & Kids. A wine tour is meant for the 21+ crowd. While you may see a few wine dogs throughout your travels, several of the tasting rooms offer food pairings, which means it’s against their health code to have dogs in the winery. So as a general rule, take the kids and pets to the beach or the park, but not on a wine tour.
Planning Your Wine Tour
With nearly three dozen wineries in our tip of the mitten it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out where to start. Here are a few tips on planning a wine tasting route from Traverse City.
• You can’t see them all. Make a list of favorites, or recommended wineries you want to be sure to visit, and squeeze in others as time allows.
• Stick to one peninsula. There are two distinct AVAs in our region: Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission. Stick to one or the other for a one-day trip. The wineries are scattered throughout each peninsula making it difficult to jump back and forth.
• There’s an app for that! Use the Wineries category on the Traverse Traveler app to choose which stops you want to make. The maps are great for navigating between wineries via backroads for a more scenic tour, or finding the fastest route.
• Map it. Pick up the large map from the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau. If you’re not a smartphone user this will be a hands-on resource for finding your way around both peninsulas.
• Beware of high traffic times. If you’re wine tasting during peak fall season your best days are mid week. If you must come on a weekend be prepared for crowds. Most of our wineries have small tasting rooms with even smaller tasting bars. On a busy weekend you may have to wait to get a turn at the bar.
• Go off the beaten path. Most tasting rooms in Leelanau and Old Mission are lucky to be located near the vineyard. But that vineyard isn’t necessarily on a major highway. Part of the fun is exploring and discovering new locations. Start at the top of the peninsula and work your way south. Or make a plan to stay inland and visit some of the smaller boutique wineries.
Group Wine Tours
There are some special considerations to planning a wine tour when you’re traveling with a group. Here are some tips to maximize the fun and minimize the hassle when planning a group wine tour.
• Size matters. Wine tasting with friends can be a wonderful experience. But if your group is too large it can cause problems which detract from your enjoyment. In our experience a group of 10 or less is the ideal size. Larger groups will have additional limitations on where you can go, how quickly you will move from place to place, and tasting room fees.
• Carpool. Part of the fun of a group wine tasting is comparing notes about each winery with your companions as your travel. Pile into one person’s vehicle, rent a van, or book a wine tour. And if at all possible, assign a designated driver. Listen to Ellie at Traverse City Tours who warns, “Don’t come on vacation and leave on probation.”
• Large groups call ahead. For wine tours larger than 10 you should call ahead to each winery. Some tasting rooms are so small they do not allow buses or tours at all, and others have per person tasting fees for the entire party. These are not things you want to discover after you’ve driven across the peninsula to visit.
• Label wine purchases. Hopefully your group will discover many wines they like and purchasing bottles at each location. Pick up a box from the first stop. Using a Sharpie marker label each wine purchased with your initials, or used color coded garage sale stickers. Add additional boxes as needed. When the tour is complete it will be easy to determine which wine was purchased by whom.
• Pack a picnic. It’s important to eat and drink water throughout your wine tour. For a fun experience pack a cooler with cheese, fruit, crackers and bite-sized appetizers or sandwiches. Many of the wineries have picnic tables or areas outside where you can stop and enjoy your snack along the route. There are also markets and farm stands scattered throughout the peninsulas to pick-up snacks along the way.
• Be patient. “Be respectful of other tasters and wait patiently if there’s a crowd,” says Chaning at Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery. When you’re traveling as a group this is especially important since you may have to break into smaller groups, or taste in shifts.
We’ve been on several group wine trips and completely agree with Kyle from Riverside Canoes who says, “My best wine tasting tip is to go tasting with your closest friends. The wine always tastes better!.”
Sip Tips from the Pros
Winemakers and tasting room staff are incredibly knowledgeable about their products and their craft. Here are a few of their tips for making the most of a northern Michigan wine tasting experience.
• It’s OK to spit. Ask Bel Lago winemaker Cristin Hosmer and she’ll tell you, “Spitting is OK. In fact it’s encouraged.”It cuts down on your consumption of alcohol. So remember, “The dump bucket is your friend.”
• Chew your sparkles. When tasting a sparkling wine, “You don’t want to drink bubbly like you kiss your grandmother.” If you’ve been pursing your lips when you sip sparkling wine from a glass you’ve got it all wrong. Instead,“Chew, hold and slowly swallow,” instructs Don at L. Mawby. By chewing the wine the bubbles explode in your mouth allowing the flavors to disperse. Try it. It’s a whole new experience.
• Eat mild not wild. “Don’t eat strong flavored foods — onion, garlic and spicy dishes — before or during a wine tour,” warns Coryn of Black Star Farms. While a bottle of wine may pair well with some of these dishes, the pungent flavors will linger throughout your wine tour affecting the rest of the wines you taste.
• Not a free drunk. Wine tasting is not a free ticket to inebriation. “Don’t treat a wine tour like happy hour at a bar,” reminds Tom at Peninsula Cellars. Guests in a tasting room are there to learn about wine, and are offered tastes (sometimes free) to determine which wines they might like best. If you’re more interested in hanging out at a bar and chatting with your girlfriends, you’ve got the wrong kind of bar. Just be respectful of the staff’s time, and the product that they’re freely sharing so that you’ll discover something you’d like to buy.
A wine tour is a great way to explore Traverse City and the countryside in Northern Michigan. With these handy tips you’ll be sure to make the most of the adventure. For more fabulous day trips in northern Michigan this fall check out our post: 22 Reasons for a Fall M-22 Roadtrip.
No travel plans for Spring Break this year? Chin up. Northern Michigan has plenty of family fun to keep everyone entertained on Spring Break. In fact, we’ve compiled 7 ways for 7 days of fun in Traverse City.
1. Take it Outside
In a typical winter I’d suggest a day of spring skiing. But this is no typical winter. With summer-like temps there’s no reason the kids can’t get outside and burn off some steam. The TART trails cover miles of terrain perfect for walking, biking, and inline skating. If you want a short trip stop at the Civic Center. Their paved track is great for runners and the children will be begging to play on the enormous structures at Kids Kove. If your backseat is full of little ones try taking them park hopping. Traverse City is has dozens of parks with play structures. Ask the kids to pick their favorite features of each one and draw an ideal playscape when they get home.
2. Explore an Exhibit
When is the last time you took a trip to a local musuem? This is the last week to enjoy the Regional Artists exhibit at the Dennos Museum Center. Museums are a great place to introduce your children to other cultures, so don’t be afraid to take them along. But if they really need to burn off some steam, The Great Lakes Children’s Museum is a perfect option. Or check out the Lego display at The History Center (formerly Grand Traverse Heritage Center) in Traverse City.
3. Take a Foodie Tour
Wander the streets of Downtown Traverse City and create your own Tasting Tour. Plan your route to include shops that offer flavorful but healthy treats. You’ll find great snacks and all things cherry at The Cherry Stop. Pop into Popkies and try ketchup flavored popcorn, or peanut butter and jelly! One of my favorite stops is Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars where you an create your own flavor combinations from their huge selection of balsamic vinegars and flavor infused olive oils. Challenge the kids to create an unusual combination. Their involvement in making decisions for your dinner table may intice them to try new foods. Our area is rich with locally made products. Find a new favorite and spread the word.
4. Play Away a Rainy Day
On every vacation a little rain must fall. But don’t let that discourage you from having a fun with the family. One of the best places I know to keep kids happy is Lucky Jacks. They have bowling, lasertag, arcade games, and Northern Michigan’s only spy-like laser maze. I’ve been to several birthday parties at Lucky Jacks and can attest to the fact that their pizza is fabulous. And while the kids are busy challenging their friends at air hockey, mom and dad can relax in the billiards lounge.
5. Wine Not Try Something New
Spring break isn’t just for the kids. Parents and teachers should get a chance to enjoy this time too. You don’t need to travel to California or Italy for a fabulous vacation in wine country. Our own backyard is bursting with wineries producing award winning products. Relatively new on the scene is Brengman Brothers on the Leelanau peninsula, but just a few miles north of Traverse City. This time of year is a great time to catch the winemaker’s on site. They’re in between the harvest season, and the growing season, so they’re often available to chat or provide a tour. Might I recommend using our Traverse Traveler app to take a wine tour with your iphone as the guide. It’s free!
6. Entertain Me
Goin’ to the movies is a classic staycation activity. And no one does movies in Traverse City better than The State Theatre. In fact, they’re geared up for Spring Break with a Free Movie Marathon everyday. Check out the full schedule here. If live entertainment is more your style, the Old Town Playhouse has weekend showings of Dr. Doolittle. Or head on over to the Dennos Museum where they’ll light up the stage with a fun performance from Honky Tonk Angels.
7. Start a Spring Project
We’ve got a week home with the kids, why not start early on some of those spring projects. Here’s a few starters from my to-do list:
- Clear out the clutter in the basement and donate items to Goodwill or the Women’s Resource Center. Or, consider donating to one of TC newest endeavors: TC Scraps. They’re a non-profit determined to repurpose, reuse and upcycle what would have ended up in landfills but could now be turned into art. Check out their brand new location in the Garfield Plaza (near Agave Mexican Grill).
- Take my advice and discover your Power Hour. Use one hour every day to accomplish tasks that are otherwise left undone. Clean out the junk drawer, back-up your hard-drive, vaccuum the curtains. You’d be amazing what you can accomplish with a week of power hours.
- Put away the last of the winter decorations (yes, I’m talking about the Christmas lights that still hang on your porch or the snowman next to the front door) and haul out the spring branches and Easter decorations.
- Start sowing seeds for a summer herb garden. Get inspiration and shop early with a trip to Garden Goods or Northwoods Hardware in Glen Arbor. You’ll love their personalize service.
Well there you have it. My 7 Ways for 7 Days. Now get out there and enjoy the beauty in our own backyard on your spring break staycation. And if you’ve got some great staycation ideas to share, let us know.
Hometown Highlights: The Village at Grand Traverse Commons
Did you know…the entire campus at the old Traverse City State Hospital, one million square feet of brick, wood and stone, was built from the ground up in less than 2 years? There’s 400,000 square feet of space in Building 50 alone! That’s an architectural feat that must have taken an army. And that’s just one of the amazing facts I learned from Ray Minervini, developer of The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, on my recent behind-the-scenes tour.
When I was in high school, here in Traverse City, the old State Hospital was shut down and abandoned. The grounds became a destination for vandals and daredevils who returned with stories of ghosts, eerie tunnels and mysterious bumps in the night. It was sad to see the such a huge piece of Traverse City history disappearing into the landscape as new developments surrounded it on all sides. Most of us just drove past the big stone pyramid on Division street and barely wondered about the towering structures that lie dormant behind the tall pines. (more…)
Take a Roadtrip this Fall along the M-22 Scenic Drive
Living in the heart of the M-22 corridor I’ve seen it through all seasons. Each has something amazing to offer, but none more varied and beautiful than autumn in Northern Michigan.
In case you’ve never planned an M-22 Roadtrip I’ve put together a list of some of the fun, food and activities to experience along the scenic drive. Named one of the top five greatest driving tours in America by Rand McNally, M-22 has something to offer everyone. But don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself. Here’s my list of 22 Reasons for a Fall M-22 Roadtrip. (more…)