Great (Outdoor) Reasons to Visit Traverse City This Spring

From hiking sand dunes to touring vineyards, the whole family will find something to love in Traverse City.

Even with the end of the pandemic in sight, the safest plans for this summer will be outside activities where social distancing protocols can still be observed.

Here’s some great news. You don’t even need to be an outdoor adventurer to take full advantage of Michigan’s abundant natural beauty and world-class amenities.

“There is so much natural beauty to experience in and around Traverse City, you don’t have to be an extreme athlete, or even consider yourself ‘outdoorsy’ to have a great time here,” says Mike Kent, public relations manager at Traverse City Tourism. “Just be ready to take in the wide-open spaces and refreshing lakes and rivers.”

It’s true that just being outdoors is good for the body, mind and soul. And we’re so lucky to have the Traverse City area to escape to. Here’s a list of the most exciting and accessible activities that the Traverse City area has to offer. Each one will be a hit with your family.

Hit the Highway M-22 Scenic Drive for a gorgeous lakeside road trip packed with history and unique Michigan culture. With 116 miles of road, everyone will find something they love along the way. Take in the views at the pristine beaches of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, immerse yourself in Michigan history at the historical lighthouses, or take hike along the picturesque Leelanau Trail, a 17-mile, wheelchair-accessible paved trail that runs between Traverse City and Suttons Bay.

Pack a lunch, order take-out from one of the area’s many celebrated restaurants, or enjoy the scenery while you eat with outdoor dining.

Photo by Traverse City Tourism.

Fresh air, fresh fun

The Traverse City area is yours to explore. No matter your level of outdoor experience, the beauty and abundance of Michigan wildlife is waiting just minutes from the city. Escape the hustle and bustle to the nearby Grand Traverse Conservation District. Spanning 3,000 acres of woodland, the Grand Traverse Conservation District offers miles of hiking trails, outdoor amenities, and conservation volunteer opportunities. Do your part to protect Michigan’s forests and wetlands at volunteer events — and bring the kids and foster a lifelong love of nature.

It’s no surprise that the Great Lakes State is loaded to the gills with nautical history. Michigan is home to more lighthouses than any other state and more than a few shipwrecks can be found in the waters of Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay.

Are your kids captivated by lighthouses? Stage an impromptu history lesson at the five historic lighthouses and learn how shipping in the Great Lakes turned Michigan into an industrial powerhouse. For the more adventurous types, scuba diving or snorkeling trips can take you to the site of several shipwrecks. If that’s not your cup of tea, the crystal-clear waters of Lake Michigan make some of these wrecks visible from land.

National Parks really are America’s best idea

Designated a National Lakeshore for its unique geography, Sleeping Bear Dunes has a tremendous amount to offer. Over 100 miles of hiking trails, two campgrounds, and sandy beaches on Lake Michigan will bring you all the adventure you’ve been seeking, right here in the Mitten.

Bike or hike on the wheelchair-accessible, multi-use Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, stargaze under marvelous night skies, or experience the views from your car on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.

For a more secluded camping experience, take the ferry to the North and South Manitou Islands. Nestled among the park is the vibrant community of Glen Arbor, filled with restaurants and shopping—including the Cherry Republic headquarters. Rain or shine, a trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes is a delight for the whole family.

If you’re seeking a romantic getaway or a weekend trip with some friends, consider touring one of the over 40 wineries and vineyards in the Traverse City area. With acres of idyllic vineyards and dozens of wineries to choose from, the Traverse Wine Coast is the perfect setting for a well-deserved night away from the kids.

If you’re seeking a carefully curated wine tasting or some time to relax with your significant other, the wineries up and down the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas will meet your every need. Be sure to plan ahead and inquire what outdoor amenities are available at each location.

Photo by Traverse City Tourism.

Take in some golf

If your great getaway includes a round or two of golf, Traverse City has a wide array of courses. Many are designed by some of the greatest names in golf: Palmer, Nicklaus, Weiskopf, Player and more. Find a challenging round while you take in the spectacular greens and panoramic views throughout northern Michigan.

A fun, memorable summer doesn’t have to come at the expense of safety. Seasoned adventurers and outdoor newcomers alike will find plenty of exciting ways to take full advantage of the Traverse City sunshine this spring and summer.

Learn more about Traverse City and plan your own outdoorsy adventure at


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