The Best Things to Do in Traverse City, MI (2021) – 49

Looking for beaches with crystal blue water and don’t want to leave the U.S.? You need to learn about the best things to do in Traverse City, Michigan.

Traverse City Benefits From Its Unique Geographical Location

  • It’s a great hub for any Northern Michigan Trip!
  • 5 hours from Chicago, 4 hours from Detroit, 2 hours from Mackinaw City with Charlevoix midway
  • Perfect location for wine and cherries. (more in a few minutes)
  • Lots of beachfront facing east and west on Lake Michigan.
  • Several lakes.
  • Pleasant summer climate

Cherries and Grapes

The National Cherry Festival

Held every year in July. Scheduled for this year.

Visit in May to see the cherry blossoms.

  • Great climate for growing grapes. On the 45th Parallel along with Bourdeaux in France and Piedmont in Italy.
  • 40 different wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms.
  • Thus, several microbreweries
  • And plenty of dining.

The Best Things to Do in Traverse City Outdoors

The Best Things to Do in Traverse City Downtown

  • Pedestrian-friendly, relaxing
  • Shopping
  • Restaurants
  • Cafes
  • Galleries
  • Close to the shore and its beaches and parks
  • Accessible from the TART trails
  • Front Street

The Old Mission Peninsula

Extending up from the center of Traverse City. 18 miles long and often less than a mile wide. It separates the bay into 2 “arms.”

  • Great views of the bay
  • Great beaches
  • Mission Point Lighthouse
One of the best tours in Traverse City is the 5 Hour Traverse City Wine Tour: 4 Wineries on Old Mission Peninsula.*

Other Sites in and Around Traverse City

If you want something to do that’s not on a beach, the city of Traverse City offers many things to do that aren’t on sand or water.

Front Street

Front Street is the main street in Traverse City. It runs east-west along the north side of town, often walking distance to the bay and beaches. This is where you’ll find commerce with plenty of shopping and cafes.

Enjoy the caringly refurbished historical buildings for a quaint village feel. In addition to shopping, lots of events happen here: including galleries, symphonies, the Traverse City Film Festival, a comedy festival, and the National Cherry Festival in July. (Although, you may want to try to visit Old Mission Peninsula in May to witness the cherry blossoms.)

As of now, the National Cherry Festival looks to be a go for 2021!

Traverse Area Recreation Trail (TART)

Also known as the Tart Trails (Get it? Tart, like the cherries?), this is a system of multi-use trails around the traverse City area. One is a 17-mile paved off-road trail that goes all the way to Suttons Bay. Whether you want to cycle, walk, run, or inline skate, the TART Trails are a great way to get around Traverse City, get some exercise, and enjoy outdoor activities.

You can take these paths to get from West End Beach to Traverse City State Park, enjoy long walks along the waterfront, many other places. Several shops in town rent bicycles and in-line skates.

For maps and other information about TART, check out their website at

The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

Grand Traverse Commons is a former 1884 State hospital and Northern Michigan Asylum. It has been turned into one of the favorite places in Traverse City.

It is 480 wooded acres full of shops and restaurants lined with walking paths, lawns, an arboretum, hiking trails, and biking trails. These trails include some sections of the TART trails with access to cycle to Traverse Commons from other parts of town.

Since they have repurposed the original buildings, you get all this fun in gorgeous victorian architecture.

A great way to see downtown, Front Street, and the Grand Traverse Commons area is from a Rickshaw. Check out this Rickshaw Tour or Traverse City*.

Dennos Museum Center

Dennos is Traverse City’s fine art museum and cultural center.

It features a collection of Inuit art, a sound wall, an anti-gravity mirror, a laser harp, and a giant light bright board. It also has an outdoor sculpture collection if you want to relish the gorgeous Traverse City weather.

Great Lakes Children’s Museum

The Great Lakes Children’s Museum is on the west shore of the West Arm Grand Traverse Bay. It features hands-on activities and exhibits to help teach kids about the Great Lakes. As their mission states, they provide “a foundation for lifelong learning through play-based exploration.”

The museum features exhibits for ages 1 -3 and 5 – 8 as well as exhibits catering to children of all ages. It’s a great place to take your kids and let them learn while playing.

Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge is a resort with an indoor water park. They have several locations across the united states, including one in Traverse City. As of April 2021, the Traverse City Great Wolf Lodge is currently closed.

If you enjoy water parks, Great Wolf Lodge may be a great option for you. They also have the MagiQuest game, a live-action game that places you in the adventure with a magic wand!

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa is a 900-acre resort on the east side of the East Arm Grand Traverse Bay. Resort guests can enjoy:

  • 3 golf courses
  • a private beach club
  • indoor pool
  • outdoor pools
  • indoor and outdoor tennis courts
  • and a fly fishing school.

You’ll enjoy gorgeous accommodations, many with outstanding views while staying here.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National LakeShore

How cool does a 110-foot sand dune sound? What kid wouldn’t love that? Climb to the top and run to the bottom. The area also features more sand dunes, hiking trails, great beaches (including a few mentioned above), and places to swim.

A National Park boasting  71,000 acres of

  • Forests
  • Sand Dunes
  • Beach
  • Gorgeous blue water
  • Lakes
  • Streams
  • 100 miles of trails
  • Bike trail
  • Hunting
  • Fishing

Lots of beaches, coves, hills, and islands.

A Few Fun Activities in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Overnight on the Sleeping Bear Dunes

“Enjoy a guided, overnight stay at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Frankfort, Michigan. Michigan’s coast is the longest of any state, and access is open to public use. Walk alongside the waves, in the sun, and through spectacular forests.”

Purchase this multi-day camping trip* to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore!*

Daily Tours to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

“With 35 Miles of coastline designated as Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore… Our tour provides access to all of it. As well, you’ll be accompanied by a guide well-versed in the area History, Flora & Fauna and geologic formation of the Great lakes and Dune formations.”

Purchase an outdoor tour to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore* for your next trip to Traverse City, MI!*

Glen Lake

Just east of Sleeping Dunes is Glen Lake. This lake has gorgeous blue water and is great for swimming, fishing, and boating.

North Bar Lake

Right on the Lake Michigan coast, west of Glen Lake, lies North Bar Lake.

North Bar Lake Beach might be the most popular beach destination in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It has clear, shallow water, with a soft, sandy bottom. It is warmer and calmer than Lake Michigan.

North Bar Lake also has a small outlet connecting it to Lake Michigan. Kids love playing in that outlet!

Leelanau Peninsula

Another of the best tours in Traverse City is the tour of this peninsula, the 5 Hour Traverse City Wine Tour: 4 Wineries on Leelanau Peninsula.*

Lake Leelanau

Lake Leelanau is a large lake on the Leelanau Peninsula comprised of two bodies of water, North Lake Leelanau and South Lake Leelanau.

Where the two bodies of water meet is an unincorporated village called Lake Leelanau, Michigan. This village has several vineyards, a distillery, and several beautiful cottages and inns.

Grandview Parkway

Take a nice drive along Grandview Parkway that runs along Traverse City’s waterfront.

Wineries and Bars

Want to enjoy touring a vineyard or relaxing with an adventure of flavors in a tasting room? Traverse City has several opportunities. Visit one of the many Old Mission Peninsula wineries.

Downtown also features several lounges and bars with tasting rooms.

Check out episode 32, Funny and Scary Travel Stories, where Ryan first mentions Traverse City.

You’ll also want to know the best beaches in Traverse City.


What is your favorite thing to do in Traverse City, MI?

Please let us know in the ATT Show Facebook group!

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Ryan and Shayne are both Travel Advisers with Creating Magic Vacations, an authorized Disney Vacation Planner. Feel free to reach out to us for a free quote and to start making magical memories.

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Next on All Things Travel, Episode 50: Why not use a Travel Advisor?
Previously on All Things Travel, Episode 48: The Best Things to Do After Your Disney Vacation.

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