7 Best Things To Do In Traverse City, Michigan

downtown traverse city

If you should happen to make a trip to Michigan, then Traverse City will almost certainly be on your travel itinerary at some point. It may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of the state of Michigan; but nonetheless, this sizable city, perched on the shores of Grand Traverse Bay, is noted for its distinctive sense of place, its bustling social and cultural scene, and, of course, its array of outdoor recreation options, as befitting a state as beautiful as Michigan.

Top Fun Things To Do In Traverse City 

Below, we’ve gathered seven things you simply have to give a go during your time in this bustling bay-side hub. Enjoy your vacation!

sleeping bear sand dunes michigan

1. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

As mentioned, Traverse City is a hub of natural beauty, and for the nature-lovers out there, deciding which outdoor wonder to check out first can often be a bit of a dilemma.

But really, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is probably as good a place to start as any. Why? Well, simply put, Good Morning America named it “The Most Beautiful Place In America” for a reason. These dunes run for miles along the shore of Lake Michigan; and a stroll along them offers visitors the opportunity to soak in a sampling of Michigan’s diverse natural wonders, as they are host to meadows and hills, streams and wetlands, and lush hardwood and conifer forests.

grand traverse commons

2. The Grand Traverse Commons

But the wonders of Traverse are hardly limited to the outdoorsy type – visitors with a taste for the wonders of historical architecture owe it to themselves to take a stroll through Traverse City’s bustling interior.

And in doing so, no doubt one of their most striking experiences will be when they find themselves passing through the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Set in a leafy park, this unusual attraction, which centers on the structure of what was once a Victorian asylum, is emblematic of Traverse City’s approach to repurposing historic buildings, rather than simply tearing them down. The former asylum’s cream-colored buildings, which bear a resemblance to a fairy-tale castle, now host to an array of restaurants and shops, offering you the opportunity to peruse while soaking in the historical beauty of the setting.

downtown traverse city front street

3. Front Street

And speaking of interior attractions, those who find themselves in the mood for a night on the town, or just a simple waterfront stroll, will find all they’re seeking on Front Street, the hub of downtown Traverse City. Wander the riverside array of shops, restaurants, and boutiques – and don’t forget to stop over at Cherry Republic to sample some of the produce of Traverse’s famous cherry industry. Need a souvenir to take back home? There are plenty of gift shops for Michigan lovers who are looking for t-shirts, mugs, handmade Petoskey stone jewelry, and more!

old mission lighthouse

4. Old Mission Peninsula

Old Mission Peninsula might just be one of your prime opportunities to really take in all the main wonders of Traverse City – its natural beauty, historical buildings, and vineyards, all in one beautiful stretch of the peninsula.

Though only 19 miles long and three miles wide – thus accessible no matter how much time you have on hand – this gorgeous expanse boasts lush natural beauty; and lying at the heart of the Northern Michigan’s wine country, it’s a prime opportunity to sample some fine Michigan vintages right at the source. And to top it all off, sitting at the peninsula’s tip is the village of Old Mission from which it derives its name, and the cozy Old Mission Point Lighthouse, an enchanting relic from the late 19th century.

grand traverse distillery cherry whiskey

5. Grand Traverse Distillery

Odds are that you’ve heard a great deal about the opportunity to sample some of Michigan’s finest wines in the Traverse City region; and indeed, the area is home to some lush vineyards. But the array of fine local drinks doesn’t stop there – if you really want to be sure that you leave having sampled the true range of Traverse City Tastes, you need to do yourself the favor of visiting at least one of the city’s distilleries or microbreweries.

And if you’re going to be selective, well, your go-to option ought to be the Grand Traverse Distillery, located upon the outskirts of town. It is here that a range of vodkas, gins, and whiskeys are hand-brewed from locally sourced grains. Their distillation process is a rigorously quality-driven one beginning to end, as reflected in the array of local and international awards that the distillery and its brews have received. And during your time at Traverse City, should you have a taste for spirits, you owe it to yourself to stop off in the Grand Traverse Distillery’s tasting room and sampling some of its freshly distilled spirits.

inside michigan artists gallery

6. Michigan Artists Gallery

It may be an outdoorsman’s paradise, but no visit to a new community is complete without taking the time to also sample some of the cultural and artistic wonders of the region.

And when it comes to Traverse City, there’s no better opportunity to do so than at the Michigan Artists Gallery. Having only recently relocated from Suttons Bay, the Michigan Artists Gallery, now perched on the riverfront on Traverse City’s bustling Front Street, remains one of the best places to soak up some of the most remarkable artistic talents from across the state. Voted one of the three best galleries in the region by readers of Traverse magazine, Michigan Artists Gallery boasts displays of unique pieces in a wide variety of mediums, from prints to photography, stonework to ceramics, and everything in between and beyond. In short, it’s a must-stop for any Traverse tourist looking for a cultural experience.

botanic garden at historic barns park

7. The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park

A nod to the natural wonders of the region within a more contained environment, the Botanic Garden – a lush 25 acres located in Historic Barns Park in the city’s heart – is an expansive dedication to Michigan’s natural wonders. This region is a natural sanctuary dedicated to natural preservation and protection, offering visitors and residents alike an opportunity to lose themselves in the natural wonders of lush and beautiful Michigan, all within convenient walking distance of downtown Traverse City. It’s ideal for those days when you’re feeling outdoorsy, yet a little bit lazy. 

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