A Little Rain Won’t Dampen Your Fun in Traverse City
I know the last thing you want to see on vacation is rain. But before you reach for the TV remote take a few moments to consider the great opportunities waiting indoors at some of Traverse City’s best destinations. Here’s a guide to some of my favorite rain or shine day trips.
1. Visit Local Museums
Traverse City has a thriving culture of artists, musicians, and the patrons who support them. Whether you’ve always wanted to know more about Inuit Art, or have wondered what ever happened the original “model city”, our local museums can show you.
The Dennos Museum Center on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College invites you to “Come Alive Inside!” They have several gallery exhibitions featuring fine art, science and the performing arts. Kids will love the Discovery Gallery with it’s hands-on exhibits. You’ll also find one of the largest and most historically complete collections of Inuit art.
For the lovers of history and music, you must check out one of Traverse City’s most unique museums. The Music House Museum, located just outside Traverse City on US 31 North in Acme, is a one-of-a-kind collection of music making machines from 1870 – 1930. To see an antique Nickelodeon or a phonograph is a treat, but to experience the music of these historical pieces is a memorable visit indeed. On the one-hour musical tour you’ll see the 1924 Wurlitzer Theatre Organ, rescued from the Cinderella Theater in Detroit, and the impressive 1922 Mortier Dance Organ from Belgium.
If you have young children to entertain I’d recommend the Great Lake Children’s Musuem. Their new location across from West Bay on M-22 has wonderful interactive exhibits for the young and curious. The museum teaches children about the Great Lakes through hands-on activities and water-themed play areas. Their giftshop is also a great place to pick-up learning based toys and books.
2. Tour the Wineries
Traverse City, and the peninsulas which surround it, are making a name for themselves in the wine industry. We share the same latitude as several famous wine-making regions in Europe. The bays that surround us help cultivate some of the best grape growing regions in our country. But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself how wonderful Traverse City wines can be.
The Old Mission peninsula is home to seven distinct wineries and counting. From small tasting rooms to expansive estates, there are many tasty stops along the wine trail. The first of which is Black Star Farms Old Mission tasting room. Some of you may know of their expansive agriculinary destination near Suttons Bay, but Black Star Farms is making fabulous wines from Old Mission vineyards as well. Their tasting room, on McKinley Rd, is the only place you’ll be able to taste some of their vintages, including 2007 Arcturos Pinot Noir Rose as it can only be sold on Old Mission Peninsula.
Just up the road you’ll find Peninsula Cellars in the little red schoolhouse along M-37. This tiny tasting room has refined big flavors into some award-winning wines including the region’s only white cherry wine. Peninsula Cellars is owned and operated by the Kroupa family, who also grow much of the fruit used in their production.
There are several other wineries on Old Mission peninsula well worth your attention including our well known Chateau Grand Traverse, and the estates of Chateau Chantal. However I’d be remiss if I didn’t send you back into the heart of the city to Left Foot Charley. Located in The Village, Traverse City’s own Central Park. The former Northern Michigan Asylum is home to a bevy of food artisans, shops and businesses including the area’s only urban winery. If you’re lucky you might catch wine-maker Brian Ulbrich behind the bar where he’s likely to serve a little wit along with his latest vintage.
3. Play Ball!
If you’re stuck in with a rain delay at the Traverse City Beach Bums baseball game don’t despair. I have some great ideas for the sports fans too. Whether you’re a bowler, a golfer, or prefer your sports with a comfy seat and a refreshing beverage, you can satisfy your athletic nature in Traverse City no matter the weather.
Just a few miles from the Beach Bums stadium, on the other side of Chums Corners you’ll find one of the the area’s newest and most entertaining venues. Wilderness Crossings sits back from the road just off US-31. This is family entertainment at it’s finest. The kids will love the arcade games, laser tag and cosmic golf course. Mom and dad, you can kick back in the sports bar or enjoy a meal in the Wild Pony Saloon. When you’re all back together don’t forget to slip on some bowling shoes for a game or two. And the best part is, the entire 34,000 sq. ft. facility is smoke free.
Golfers, if a downpour on the course sent you back to the clubhouse, I’ve got just the place for you. The Traverse City Golf Center on Secor road, near Boones Long Lake Inn, has everything you need keep your head in the game. From their extensive indoor pro shop with PING fitting center, to the indoor chipping stations and putting green, there’s more here than meets the eye. Ever wanted to play with the pros at Pebble Beach? Well step up to their golf simulator and you’ll get the chance. If the weather improves, be sure to step outside to test your shot on the driving range or improve your skills in their sand trap.
4. Celebrate Movie Magic
There’s been much ado about the movie industry coming to Traverse City, and rightfully so. We have so much to offer movie fans and movie makers alike. From art films in an historic theater to classic family entertainment, a movie is a great way to save a rainy day.
The renovation of downtown Traverse City’s State Theatre brought our community together in support a common goal. Michael Moore helped establish the area’s first Film Festival which put Traverse City on the map for cinephile’s everywhere. Become a Friend of the Festival and get a sneak peak at the upcoming films, as well as first shot at tickets. But you don’t have to wait for the Film Festival to enjoy a movie at the State. The marquee lights up every night with their feature presentation.
If casual family fun is more your style then you don’t want to miss stepping back in time at the Cherry Bowl Drive-In Theatre. Rain or shine dusk is the time. That’s their motto. I admit, it’s great fun to bring your chairs, pop the tailgate and enjoy the movie magic pouring from the original post-mounted speakers. But don’t let a little rain stop you. Tune your car stereo to their FM channel and enjoy the movie with windows closed, fresh barrel of popcorn in your lap and the big screen just outside. What better way to enjoy some classic americana.
5. Focus on Food
If you need an excuse to get out and sample the flavors of Traverse City I suppose a rainy day is as good an excuse as any. Personally I don’t need much encouragement. In all honesty I couldn’t possibly highlight all our great food options in one short list. Instead I hope to send you on a foodie excursion, where you just might pick up a few new favorites to share.
If you’re in Olde Town Traverse City there’s a new twist on fast food you’re going to enjoy. In fact, it’s fast food with no guilt, no grease, and no regrets. The Radish focuses on fresh ingredients with a 60+ item salad bar. No more, “hold the onion,” or, “dressing on the side,” you make just the way you like it. You can’t argue with that logic.
Downtown Traverse City is a great destination it’s own rite, with countless restaurants, eateries, brew pubs to explore. But let’s not forget the retail outlets that offer fantastic edibles as well. A couple of my favorites include Fustini’s, where you taste and enjoy olive oils and balsamic vinegars. The Cherry Stop is the only place to go for anything cherry. And if time allows I have to endulge in some gelato at American Spoon Foods.
My tour du jour wouldn’t be complete without mentioning some off-the-beaten path restaurants that spring to mind when family and friends come to town. For a fabulous view of West Grand Traverse Bay you can’t beat Scott’s Harbor Grill. Even in the rain you can enjoy the boats in the harbor from a window-side table. Everyone loves a good italian restaurant and my family is taken with Chef Mickey Cannon at the Tuscan Bistro. But if your trip takes you along the Old Mission peninsula I’d recommend the Old Mission Tavern. Don’t let the name fool you, it’s a top-notch white-tablecloth restaurant with a beautiful gallery to browse while you wait.
So next time you find yourself pulling out the umbrella with a sigh, just remember Traverse City is full of great ways to keep the whole family happy on a rainy day, or anytime for that matter.