Guide to Traverse City, Michigan

Traverse City is a beautiful town in the upper peninsula of Michigan, known for its serene atmosphere and endless food and drink options. The first time my husband and I visited was before kids in 2014 and we had a blast. We stayed at a bed and breakfast with delicious food and the best hosts, visited a few wineries and enjoyed climbing the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Just being in Traverse City and walking along the water or driving through the hills is an experience in itself.

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We enjoyed it so much that we decided to plan a trip with the kiddos this summer. Traverse City was even better than we remembered! We didn’t have high expectations while planning our trip, because let’s be real, going on vacation with kids is still work, but it was such a memorable time. The kids were so good and it was such a blessing spending quality time together just the four of us. We did things the kids wanted to do and stuff we wanted to do too, so it was a great balance. Because we had done a lot on our previous trip, we didn’t feel pressured to do everything in a few days. We decided to pick a couple of activities and play the rest by ear.

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During our time in Michigan, we stayed at the Wren House, an Airbnb about ten minutes from the downtown area. It was hands down the coolest Airbnb we’ve ever stayed at. It was eclectic, beautifully decorated and so well thought-out. The style of the house was a mix of mid-century modern and bohemian. There was interesting wall decor throughout, incredible books and a vintage record player and records. Best part, the house had a bunch of puzzles and books for the kids. It was such a nice little touch and made them feel like it was home.

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We did a lot in a few day span, so the post is a little lengthy. I tried my best to break it down to make it easy for anyone planning a trip. Below is a recap of what we did, where we ate and where we sipped.

Wineries

I must say, the wineries have been my favorite aspect of Traverse City. Some of them are even comparable to Napa (maybe not quite the same level, but really beautiful). During  this trip and our last, we delighted in taking sips of wine while looking out into picturesque Michigan. Some of the wineries are spread out from one another (not too far), making each one a destination to look forward to. While visiting this summer, we stumbled upon two new wineries, one of them making it to the very top of our “favorites” list.

Rove Estate Vineyard & Winery 

Rove winery stole our hearts with its serene atmosphere and scrumptious wine, making it number one in our book. I came upon their website after searching for wineries near our Airbnb and it had great reviews. Rove is super peaceful and almost seems like a farmhouse. The wine and cheese plate offerings are refreshing, and the staff is super friendly. The woman serving us during our tasting was very knowledgeable and continued to offer the kids juice boxes and crackers while we sipped wine. It was so nice.

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Mari Vineyards

We enjoyed sipping wine here because of the incredible view. From the patio area, you can see the hills and lake. It’s beautiful. The one thing that tainted our time a bit was the musician they hired. The person singing and song choices definitely didn’t fit the vibe of the winery. Other than that, I’d absolutely recommend visiting.

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Black Star Farms Winery

I’m pretty sure Black Star has been around for a long time. We visited during our first trip as well. It’s a nice place to bring the kids because there’s a little walking trail and barn animals.

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During our last visit, we also visited Chateau Chantal and Brys Estate Winery – both of which we absolutely loved and would highly recommend.

Eats

There were so many fun places we ate and I could go on and on about how great of a foodie paradise Traverse City is, but I’ll keep it simple by just providing a list. Below were our favorites.

Little Fleet – a food truck parking lot near the downtown area. I loved The Happy Taco (so good!)

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Mundos – our favorite coffee spot in TC! It’s off of the main strip, but so worth it. Their homemade croissants are heavenly.

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BLK Market – place for good coffee and a quick bite for breakfast. It’s tucked in the Warehouse Market which is a cool place to visit.

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Raduno – a deli and cafe with fresh pastas, sandwiches and salads. So delicious.

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Grand Traverse Pie Company – so many pies!!!

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Moomers – unique and local favorite ice cream.

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Towne Plaza – a really great atmosphere and fresh, comforting food.

Alliance – we didn’t get a chance to visit Alliance because we had the kids with us, but I’ve only heard the best of things. I know it would have been our kind of restaurant. We will definitely visit when we go back.

Patisserie Amie – the one other place I wish we would’ve checked out.

Things to Do

With the water and nature surrounding Traverse City and beyond, there are so many activities to partake in.

Beaches

There are plenty of beaches along the water in Traverse City and the surrounding towns. We swam at Bryant Park Beach and Greilickville Harbor Park. We loved Greilickville Harbor Park because the sand in the water was soft and there was a park and restroom area for the kids.

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Shopping

I wish we would have had more time to spend shopping, but I didn’t want to take away from too many experiences with the kids. We stopped into a couple of local shops and of course, couldn’t pass up stopping in The Cherry Republic, where you can find all things cherry and samples galore. When we visited the first time, we went to the original location – it’s a nice place to visit if you’re spending a few days in the area. When we go back, I’d love to stop into some of the boutique clothing stores and checkout The Cheese Lady because CHEESE!

Farm Stands and Fruit Picking 

Michigan was full of farm stands. At one point the kids were getting a little hungry in the car, so we stopped and picked up some peaches and chocolate milk. There were wild chickens roaming all over and the kids were able to see goats, cows, and pigs up-close – it was great! We were also walking around downtown one day and noticed a local farmer’s market that takes place on Wednesdays and Sundays. The market was filled with fresh fruits and veggies and local vendors. If we visit another time, I’d love to go fruit picking – there were plenty of signs around to do so!

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Hiking 

Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pyramid Point are both really great trails to hike. We did both the first time we visited and I don’t remember whether they were easy or hard, so I’m guessing they were pretty tame trails.

That about sums up our favorites from this trip and our trip pre-kiddos. If you plan on making a trip to Michigan and pass through the Saugatuck area, I’d highly recommend stopping at The Southerner for a bite. One of the best fried chicken biscuit sandwiches I’ve ever had! And if you’re into antiques and plan on passing through Grand Rapids, there’s the most adorable antique shop called The Found Cottage. One of my good friends told me it was a must. You’ll want to buy everything inside.

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Feel free to comment below with some of your Traverse City favorites! I’d love to hear from you.

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4 thoughts on “Guide to Traverse City, Michigan

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