10 Things to Do and Places to See in the Traverse City, Michigan Area

If there is a state that has surprised me in ways I would never imagine, it would be Michigan. Last summer we took a road trip around the Upper Peninsula near Lake Superior. This summer, we decided to switch things up a bit! We spend a week in the Traverse City area of Michigan, and it was a week we will never forget. Traverse City is located in Leelanau County, and is located at the head of the East and West arms of Grand Traverse Bay. Grand Traverse Bay has 32 miles of shoreline, and is a bay of Lake Michigan.

If you are traveling from Minnesota, Wisconsin or anywhere out north west, I highly suggest taking the route to Michigan via Upper Peninsula. This way, you can avoid a lot of traffic, tolls and you also get some stunning scenic stops and overlooks along the way. These stops really helped my kids withstand the 10 hour drive. Plus, you will be able to see the iconic Mackinac Bridge!

From turquoise, clear waters, a fishing village, Sleeping Bear Dunes to the rolling hillside of cherry trees and wineries on Old Mission Point, northwestern Michigan is a beautiful area with tons to do! Save this list for your Michigan adventure!

Where We Stayed- The Anchor Inn

When you are deciding on lodging, what are some details you look for? For us, we wanted fresh air, a cozy cabin with a private beach-and Anchor Inn Resort delivered! Anchor Inn is located in Traverse City, right across from the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay shoreline. They have one & two bedroom cottages as well as their largest lodging option, the Lake House. Anchor Inn can be used as a wedding venue, host groups and is kid and dog friendly.

I love all the rustic details Anchor Inn incorporated into every detail of their resort. It felt nostalgic coming here, from the gorgeous open fields to play yard games in, to the cloth beach folding chairs and the wood burning stove. All with a modern twist, of course! Anchor Inn has an office where you can purchase adorable gear, or pick up yard games, supplies for a fire or roasting marshmallows. There is also a playground, large fire pit, volleyball net and a sauna in the cottage area.

The private beach is as magical as it sounds. The water is a clear blue and sparkles no matter what the weather is. There is a cute dock that my kids enjoyed jumping off of all day. I loved waking up early and having some coffee on the dock. There is a fire pit if you want to do a fire on the sandy shores of the bay. There are also life jackets, beach chairs and kayaks at the beach area. We kayaked a couple times and had a blast. We would definitely come back here again!

10 Must See Places to Go and Things to Do in the Traverse City, Michigan Area

1. Try Moomer’s Ice Cream in 3 Different Ways!

First, not only did Moomer’s have some of the most delicious ice cream in unique flavors, but you also get to experience it in three different ways! First, Moomer’s has a downtown location in Traverse City. The vintage ice cream shop is not far from the downtown parks if you want to have a scenic stroll by the lake with your ice cream.

You also have the option to drive into the countryside and have some ice cream on a darling patio overlooking the farm. We got to see the rolling hills with the cows grazing below us. This location also has ice cream flights! If you want a really unique experience, you can book an ice cream sail experience where they serve Moomer’s ice cream (departs from Discovery Bay).

2. Go Cherry Picking

If you ask me what time of year to visit Traverse City, I will always say summer time. I think any time of year would be lovely, but during the summer you have the opportunity to pick blueberries, strawberries, lavender bundles and cherries! We loved driving the rolling hills of Michigan and viewing all the cherry trees drooping with hundreds of cherries. Cherry picking is no joke in Traverse City-and lucky you, there’s tons of U-pick experiences (my kids really enjoyed this!).

We visited Harbor View Lavender Farm, and had the best cherry picking experience! We loved that we could view the lavender fields, shop and pick cherries in one spot. This scenic farm is located on the Old Mission Peninsula. The drive alone to the farm is worth it! Other great cherry picking experiences available are Gallagher’s Farm Market, Edmonson’s Orchard and Jacob’s Farm. Make sure to save this printable list of all cherry farms in the surrounding area.

3. Visit a Lavender Field Farm

There’s nothing like walking through a lavender field on a sunny day. Harbor View Lavender Farm gave us a spectacular experience. The smell of the lavender fields was amazing, and they even let guests cut their own bundle of lavender to purchase.

There is a little shop where you can buy various products made from lavender grown right on the farm. We were even able to try some lavender ice cream, which I highly suggest you try! Make sure to check their hours prior to visiting as they can vary throughout the seasons.

4. Hit the Beach!

I am going to tell you a secret- you don’t have to travel all the way to Florida, Hawaii or even the Caribbean to experience sandy white beaches and clear blue waters. Michigan is definitely the Caribbean and wine country of the Midwest! They have countless lakes, rivers, bay area and Lake Michigan that all offer sandy beaches with beautiful waters.

First, we visited Van’s Beach in Leland, Michigan. This was about thirty minutes away from our resort & was well worth the drive! The trail head to the beach is just past Van’s Garage at the end of Cedar Street in downtown Leland. We loved the white sand, turquoise blue water and all the gorgeous greenery lining the shores. We visited the beach after we explored the Leland historic fishing village.

Second, we visited Old Mission Lighthouse Park, which is located at the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula. The drive here was stunning & this was actually 10 minutes from Harbor View Farm. You will get to see the 1870 Lighthouse and a settler’s cabin. There is also a picnic area and bathrooms in this area under the trees. Beyond that is a trail to the Old Mission Beach. This beach was unique in the way the waters were so shallow. There was a playground on the beach for the kids, the waters were calm and warm. We adored this park, but suggest bringing water shoes with the cut up shells on the beach.

Third, we visited Traverse City’s bay front beaches, West End Beach and Bryant Beach. Both are located near the downtown and we enjoyed the views at both. Bryant Beach is a bit smaller but also much less crowded with all the amenities you need (picnic tables, playground for kids and bathrooms).

5. Experience the Butterfly House & Bug Zoo

If you are traveling with kids, make sure the Butterfly House & Bug Zoo is on your itinerary. You will get to walk through a butterfly garden, followed by engaging experiences with the bugs (my daughter got to hold a stick bug & play games with the staff). The staff do a great job with entertaining the kids and making them think about what they are seeing. Outside there is also a delicious concession stand. (Don’t forget to take a picture with the butterfly wings!). Their season begins in May and ends Labor Day Weekend. Cost is $14 for adults, $8 for kids and 3 & under are free.

6. Walk the Historic LeLand Fishing Village

You can’t leave the Leelanau County area without paying a visit to the Leland Fishing Village. One tip I have for you? COME EARLY. As the day goes, it can get packed & parking is difficult to find. Let’s start off with some great places to eat here. I suggest grabbing a sandwich from the Village Cheese Shanty-so delicious! For some delicious seafood and unique dining experiences, try The Cove or Riverside Inn, both with spectacular views of the water. Below the Cove is Rick’s Cafe, which is a breakfast place as well.

Walking around Leland is half the fun! We loved checking out the falls and the different shops. There is a Dam’s Candy Shop for the children to experience, an eclectic shop called diversions and neat souvenir shops like Tug Stuff, Fish Hook and Find North. Also check out Carlson’s Fishery to pick up some delicious smoked fish to go. We also loved walking the docks and seeing all the boats in the marina. Leland is also home to Van’s Beach- a perfect way to spend your afternoon with a Village Cheese Shanty Sandwich!

7. Explore Glen Arbor & Cherry Republic Tasting Room

If you are looking for a unique, artsy town with a love for the outdoors, look no further than Glen Arbor! This cute town is home to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore, so the two destinations pair well together for a day trip. It’s also off the scenic M-22 drive, which by itself is stunning! We parked and walking the downtown area to find the most unique shops we have ever seen. We suggest you check out Cottonseed Apparel, Coastal Clothing, Imagine That Eclectic Art & Gifts, Cottage Book Store and Petoskey Pete’s.

This little town is bursting at the seams with good food. I suggest starting off with the Cherry Republic Tasting Room. This store has everything cherry-except you get to sample a lot of them for free! We tried cherry salsa, different jams, cherry candies, chocolates, BBQ sauce and more! They also have a restaurant with darling patio seating serving cherry pies and American cuisine. If you want a proper dining experience, try Blu or Good Harbor Grill. They also have Cafe Manitou, Leealanau Coffee Roasting and The Pine Cone- all unique places worth checking out!

8. Hike Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore

We were beyond excited to experience the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore– and it did not disappoint! Sleeping Bear Dunes is made up of sandy beaches, 450 feet bluffs above Lake Michigan, lighthouses, coastal towns and dozens of clear inland lakes. You can start your visit at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire, Michigan (pssst- empire has some great ice cream shops!). We started off with the 2 mile Empire Bluff Hike to the Sleeping Bear Dunes. I loved this hike because we had the best view of Lake Michigan and the dunes cascading around the shoreline. It was the perfect length of a hike and easy for kids.

We also cruised the 7 mile Scenic Pierce Stocking Drive, which leads to several stunning overlooks. I also suggest a visit to Loon Lake and the Maritime Museum. If you are biking, take the 20 mile scenic Sleeping Bear heritage trail from Empire to the Bohemian Road.

9. Explore Traverse City’s Downtown Area

Let’s start off with some delicious food spots in the downtown Traverse City area. For breakfast or coffee, give Frenchie’s a try. This adorable restored house was remodeled into a delicious food restaurant known for it’s twist on French Toast. It has a patio area in the backyard, but is small- come early to get a spot! Other must try places are The Omelet Shop (another place to visit early!), The Original Flap Jack Shack, Espresso Bay, The Remedy Cafe, Mundos and Hexenbelle.

For lunch or dinner, we really loved Oakwood Proper Burgers. The food is delicious and the entire place is a vibe, with outdoor seating. Another great burger place is Slabtown Burgers, which has a delicious black bean burger. Both places have vegetarian options! We also liked the Filling Station for their pizza, the classic Don’s Drive-In, The Taproot Cider House and of course the Grand Traverse Pie Company.

If you are looking for some neat shopping spots, here are my favorites. If you are a cherry lover, check out Cherry Republic (the downtown version) for everything cherry. Clothing stores I loved are M22 and Critters (great souvenir shops) and Cali’s (I spent way too much here!). Other neat shops are Planty AF, Eelos (house ware items), the Cheese Lady (try before you buy from over 140 types of cheese) and La Macaroon if you have a sweet tooth!

10. Cruise the Old Mission Peninsula: For the Views, Wineries, Wildflower Fields, Lighthouse & the Beach!

The Old Mission Peninsula is a scenic drive that takes you through the rolling hills of Michigan’s cherry trees, vineyards, wineries and the shoreline of the bay area. Along here during the summer time, you will find U-Pick cherry farms, lavender fields, wineries to visit and the Old Mission Flowers Field. This field is a self serve cutting garden. You can walk the fields, put together a bouquet and leave your payment. At the tip of Old Mission Peninsula you will find the Old Mission Beach and Lighthouse.

BONUS: Traverse City National Cherry Festival

Traverse City is home to the National Cherry Festival, which is a week of special events-and there is something for everyone! Each night there are concerts and during the day time parades. The iconic air show also opens up the exciting week. Family activities like amusement park, dog show, pie eating contests, orchard tours and fireworks also take place. Check out the National Cherry Festival website for the schedule and to plan your visit for next year!

  • 10 Things to Do and Places to See in the Traverse City, Michigan Area

    10 Things to Do and Places to See in the Traverse City, Michigan Area

    If there is a state that has surprised me in ways I would never imagine, it would be Michigan. Last summer we took a road trip around the Upper Peninsula near Lake Superior. This summer, we decided to switch things up a bit! We spend a week in the Traverse City area of Michigan, and…

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