Traverse City, Michigan

Featured Businesses Category: Family Activities + Attractions


From the beauty of Lake Michigan to the wonder of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Traverse City is the ultimate travel destination for Michigan families.

Whether you’re looking to plan a family trip or hoping to escape for a few days with your significant other, the town offers a unique vacation opportunity for people of all ages.

Traverse City is a popular summertime destination. In fact, during the National Cherry Festival over Fourth of July, the population of this small city – which is home to 15,000 residents – sees a huge increase in traffic.

“When it comes time for the National Cherry Festival, we see about 500,000 visitors just that week of the festival alone, so it explodes pretty significantly,” says Jenny Jenness, the media relations manager for Traverse City Tourism.

Traverse City welcomes “a mixed bag” of visitors, with the two largest demographics being millennials and baby boomers. Different generations connect with the land in different ways, Jenness says, whether it’s through water sports, winter activities, taking wine tours or eating at one of the city’s top-notch restaurants.

Wine tours are incredibly popular thanks to the Traverse Wine Coast that boasts more than 40 wineries. Each tasting room has its own flavor, Jenness says. “All the wines have a different story, different flavor profile and a different consuming experience.”

Those looking for some fun downtown can take advantage of 150 shops, restaurants and galleries. When it comes to food, Jenness recommends Mama Lu’s Taco Shop and Harvest for its hash dish.

Explore the Warehouse District, too, and do some shopping at spots such as Wood + Cloth, or grab a coffee at Blk \ Mrkt. Jenness suggests setting aside a day for downtown and Warehouse District browsing.

While summer is a popular time to enjoy all that Lake Michigan has to offer – from sunbathing on the beach to kayaking and more – there’s plenty of fun to be had all year round.

“One of our largest missions at Traverse City Tourism is to develop the town to be more conducive for travel all year round,” Jenness says.

In the wintertime, Traverse City provides the perfect landscape for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and downhill skiing and other winter sports.

Throughout the year, there are a number of events to explore, including Traverse City Restaurant Week, which typically takes place at the end of February. Enjoy three-course meals at local eateries for $25 or $35 set prices.

In March, the adults-only Suds & Snow festival gives visitors the chance to mingle with 30 different craft drink makers.

Come May, enjoy Traverse City Uncorked. There’s loads of wine, less expensive lodging options and more – plus you’ll get to see the cherry blossoms bloom.

The National Cherry Festival is a big draw in late June/early July, and, in late July, moviegoers can take part in the Traverse City Film Festival.

Starting after Labor Day, there’s the Fab Fall package that features more lodging discounts and fun.

During the holidays, the town is “like Whoville on steroids,” Jenness says. Around the second week of December, hit up the downtown Cocoa Crawl, which is a free event geared at families.

No matter the season, every trip to Traverse City should include a visit to Sleeping Bear Dunes. And yes – even in the winter. “You can even go sledding on them,” she says.

“Traverse City offers a very dichotomous experience. On one hand, there’s a sophisticated culture that you can experience with the arts and the 40 wineries,” she says, “and yet at the same time, it’s very simple here. It’s still very much a small-town vibe.”

Visitors can go from walking in the city’s busy downtown to being in total isolation, just looking out on water that doesn’t end, she says.

Experience Traverse City for yourself. Not sure how to get started planning? Thanks to the folks with Traverse City Tourism, there are several itineraries right at your fingertips.

For more information, or to start planning your family’s trip, visit the Traverse City Tourism website.

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