20 Best Things to Do in Traverse City, MI

Traverse City, MI
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Home to the Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City brims with beautiful spots that you can check out on your next vacation.

Stunning beaches, vast state parks, and a vibrant downtown area are just the tip of the iceberg.

Consistently bringing in a lot of crowds, the annual National Cherry Festival is one of many exciting festivities held in Traverse City.

Fall is one of the best times to visit the city, as it gets decorated in many colors.

This particular season is also the ideal time to pick fresh cherries, which the city is known for.

Interested in learning more about this bucket list-worthy destination?

These are the best things to do in Traverse City, Michigan:

Take a Stroll around the Downtown Area

Riverwalk at Downtown Traverse cIty
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If you look at Front Street, it is decorated to its fullest, portraying a vibrant look.

If you want to see more of the downtown area, roam around the Leelanau Peninsula, so you see a more colorful face of Traverse City.

Street view of Downtown Traverse
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Visit the lake shores to see the blue waters blending with the red leaves.

Explore the Village at Grand Traverse Commons

The Village At Grand Traverse Commons during snow
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The Village at Grand Traverse Commons is one of the most popular spots in Traverse City.

This historic complex used to be the Traverse City State Hospital and is now a hub for dining and shopping.

These preserved Victorian buildings were redeveloped and turned into shops, restaurants, wineries, and more.

Rainbow stretching over The Village at Grand Traverse Commons
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There's also an arboretum, along with several biking and hiking trails.

People usually pack their picnic baskets and come here for a quick trip.

You can also join several tours of the area, including a guided historic walking tour.

Interior of the abandoned room at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons
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Pick Your Own Cherries During Harvest Season

Cherry Trees with ripe Cherries in Traverse City
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Traverse City is known to produce some of the best quality cherries, among many other fruits.

There are several orchards where you will find colorful trees filled with a variety of fruits.

If you are in Traverse City during the fall, the best way to enjoy yourself is by enjoying the harvest time.

Close up of Cherries hanging on a tree in Traverse City
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Autumn is when the fruits and vegetables are ripened to the perfect level and are just waiting to be picked.

There are cherry, apple, and even pumpkin picking events organized in Traverse City.

Treat Yourself to Wine with a View at a Local Winery

People enjoying wine in Chateau Chantal in Old Mission Peninsula
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The Mission Peninsula is one of the best places if you want to look at the best wineries in Michigan.

Chateau Chantal is quite a pretty winery offering panoramic scenes apart from the excellent wine.

Tourists and locals enjoying their wine tasting experience at Chateau Chantal
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As for distilleries, there are a lot if you walk around downtown.

Keep your eyes open if you want to taste some good vodka.

Mari Vineyards in Traverse City
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Go Camping in Traverse City State Park

Signboard of Traverse City State Park
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Traverse City State Park is beautifully decorated with panoramic views of  Grand Traverse Bay and several white beaches.

There are a lot of activities in which you can participate.

For the best experience, you should try camping here.

Beach in Traverse City State Park
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Traverse City State Park is a known across the United States as an excellent camping destination.

You can also go fishing or hiking here.

Visit the Enchanting City Opera House

Exterior view of City Opera House
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City Opera House is located downtown.

Constructed in 1892, the structure had to undergo several renovations—today, it is prettier than ever.

The ambiance is quite splendid.

Ancient expensive paintings on the wall, Victorian designs, old furniture— City Opera House abounds with everything that screams "old-world charm."

Do you love the opera?

This is the perfect place to enjoy a show.

The venue also hosts Broadway musicals now and then.

Participate in Front Street's Vibrant Festivals

Front Street in Traverse
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Diverse festivals are celebrated downtown all year round, and a lot of them take place on Front Street.

Front Street is a hub for everything: shopping centers, live music festivals, or any other city festivities.

Most tourists enjoy roaming around Front Street because of its lively atmosphere.

Some of the fascinating events that take place here include the National Cheery Festival and the Winter Comedy Festival.

Spend a Relaxing Day at Clinch Park

Kayaks at Clinch Park
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Did you know there is a comparatively empty beach where you can sit facing the calm waters?

The best part is that you can walk to Clinch Park from Front Street in just a few minutes.

Laen chair on the shores of Clinch Park
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The water looks blue, and it is a refreshing location to enjoy a leisurely walk and take in the views.

If you want to go kayaking, there are many options for renting the equipment here.

A kind running through the splash pad at Clinch Park
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Check Out the Iconic Mission Point Lighthouse

Beautiful view of Mission Point Lighthouse with autumn leaves on the trees in the background
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To see the iconic Mission Point Lighthouse, you need to drive to the beautiful Old Mission Peninsula.

The lighthouse was built almost 200 years ago and has not been used in a very long period.

Today, Mission Point Lighthouse still stands strong, overlooking the sea.

Front view of the Mission Point Lighthouse
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It was used in the old days to check out the storms and to warn the ships.

If you are exploring around the lighthouse, do check out the iconic Hessler Log Cabin.

There is also a gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs.

Admire Canadian Art at the Dennos Museum Center

Display at Dennos Museum Center
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The Dennos Museum Center is located on the Northwestern Michigan College campus.

The museum's main attraction happens to be its collection of Canadian art.

It is home to some of the best Inuit art flown in from Nunavut.

Entryway of Dennos Museum Center
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You'll spot a lot of Canadian Woodland Indian art here.

Additionally, the museum houses a lot of international art, including pieces from Hungary and old Europe.

Art display at Dennos Museum Center
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Go on a Hot Air Balloon Ride and Enjoy the Views

Colorful Hot Air Balloon in Traverse City
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While in Traverse City, the one thing you absolutely cannot miss is a hot air balloon ride.

There are several companies you can book for this adventure.

Hot Air Balloon flying high on the blue sky at Traverse City
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A hot air balloon ride will take you up several thousand meters—but don't worry, as you'll be accompanied by a licensed pilot.

When you get down, you will be offered a glass of champagne.

You will also get a certificate stating that you went on this adventure.

Hot air balloon flying over Traverse city
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Shop for Goodies at Gallagher's Farm Market and Bakery

Since opening its gates in 1971, Gallagher's Farm Market and Bakery continues to efficiently serve the people of Traverse City.

Though the farm harvests some of the best fruits, one of their best-loved products happens to be their pies.

It's said that the pies are award-winning.

Apart from that, their jams and cakes are also known to be delicious.

You can purchase local wines here, which you can pair with their unique homemade cheese.

To top it all off, the farm also organizes pumpkin picking events during the fall.

Spark Your Kids' Curiosity at Great Lakes Children's Museum

The Great Lakes Children's Museum is an interactive museum for children aged 1-10.

The museum was established in 1988.

It features interactive displays that teach youngsters about the water cycle, gravity, the Great Lakes watershed, and the ability to play aboard a Great Lakes freighter.

It features a puppet theater that encourages children to utilize their imaginations and an area meant to assist children in developing fine and gross motor abilities.

The museum contains a gift store with well-chosen items, is open for school field excursions and birthday celebrations, and offers scientific and wildlife programming and storytelling and craft courses.

Traverse the TART Trails

Trails for recreation and transportation are provided by the TART Trails.

The non-profit group promotes healthy recreational pursuits and seeks to conserve and maintain bike routes and open space.

Over 60 miles of multi-use trails may be found throughout the park.

Among the paths, the 27-mile Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail connects important parks with local villages.

There are various point-to-point routes in Traverse City's downtown area.

The Vasa Pathway offers rugged terrain for joggers, mountain bikers, snowshoers, runners, hikers, and easy access to the village of Sutton Bay for Traverse City residents.

The Boardman Lake Walk is a beautiful, meandering, thickly forested trail that includes a bridge over the Boardman River.

Enjoy Various Activities at Suttons Bay

Calm waters in Suttons Bay
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Sutton Bay is a small coastal town located on the banks of Sutton Bay, an entrance to Lake Michigan.

Located just north of Traverse City on the M-22, Sutton Bay is a great place to spend a day with your loved ones.

It features a beautiful beach on the blue waters of the harbor.

Many art galleries, a history museum, a casino with gaming and entertainment, and a wide variety of restaurants can be found in the town.

Many dining options include patios for diners who like to enjoy their meals outside.

You'll find an ice cream parlor and an award-winning fudge business that's a hit with the kids at this location.

Sip Exquisite Tea at Light of Day Organics

Michigan's only biodynamic tea grower is Light of Day Organic Farm.

In the 1920s, Dr. Rudolf Steiner came up with the notion of biodynamics, which involves planting and harvesting according to the lunar cycle, cultivating crops with good thoughts and prayers, and expressing appreciation for the natural world.

Traverse City is home to a 25-acre tea farm that grows organic and Fair Trade teas collected by hand and prepared in small quantities before being bottled.

The teas are said to positively affect both mental and physical health.

Light of Day Organic Farm offers tea health seminars and tastings, whose teas have received accolades both locally and nationally.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Go on a Day Trip to Suttons Bay

Tranquil blue water at the Sutton Bay
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There are a lot of day trips you can take from Traverse City.

If you have some time on your hands after exploring Traverse City's attractions, you can go on a short 20-minute drive outside the city.

The charming village of Suttons Bay is located on the coast of the gorgeous Suttons Bay, which is part of the great Michigan Lake.

Colorful local shops at Suttons Bay
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The coastal village is quaint and picturesque.

The waters here are of a different shade of blue—a more turquoise color.

Sunflower field at Suttons Bay
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If you want to enjoy yourself for a bit, you might want to visit the casinos here.

Are you an art lover?

There are a lot of lovely galleries located on the shores of Suttons Bay.

Have a Tranquil Afternoon at Long Lake

Scenic view of the Long Lake
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Located just 15 minutes west of Traverse City, Long Lake is one of the prettiest lakes in Michigan.

People mainly enjoy visiting Long Lake for swimming purposes, as the water is extremely beautiful.

There are even kayaking and boating options here.

Did you know that Long Lake has sandy beaches?

The shoreline is vast, too.

Because of its breathtaking scenes, people tend to fall in love with the lake.

The lake is an excellent place to hang out for an afternoon.

Climb the Sand Dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore
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The famous Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is just a 45-minute drive away from Traverse City.

Upon arriving here, you'll be awed by the scenes of sand dunes and the great Lake Michigan.

Golden brown colorded Sand dunes at Benjamin Simeneta
Craig Sterken / Shutterstock.com

Enjoy miles of sandy beach, amazing sand dunes, clear waters, and scenic hiking trails.

You can join a tour, spot wildlife, and even set up camp and spend the night here.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was actually voted the most gorgeous place in the United States a few years back.

People trying to climb the sand dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
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Final Thoughts

Traverse City is a worthwhile destination in and of itself.

This small, vibrant city has superb farm-to-table restaurants, shops, a lively nightlife (particularly in the previously industrial Warehouse District), and friendly, well-stocked bookshops.

No matter your interests, there's something for you to enjoy here.