Living in the heart of Michigan's "Up North," I've been fortunate to call Grand Traverse County my home for years.
The balance of serene natural beauty, outdoor activities, and vibrant local culture makes this place a hidden gem in the mitten state.
From the breathtaking views of the freshwater coastline to the charming downtown streets, there's always something to explore and enjoy here.
This place is a treasure trove of adventures, be it on the tranquil beaches, in the lush vineyards, or amidst the lively city vibe.
I'm excited to share some of my favorite things to do in this wonderfully diverse and welcoming locale.
So get ready to discover the best things to do in Grand Traverse County, Michigan, through the eyes of someone who knows it inside and out.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the county for yourself.
Snap Mementos at the Mission Point Lighthouse
One of my favorite pastimes is a leisurely drive to the Mission Point Lighthouse.
Nestled on a pristine lake, this restored 19th-century lighthouse offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Each visit, I'm captivated by the picturesque lighthouse with its breathtaking lake views from the tower.
It's a wonderful spot for some solitary contemplation. Also, there's a charming log cabin next door that adds to the rustic allure of the place.
The grounds are laced with trails perfect for a quiet and scenic stroll.
The beach, albeit rocky and shallow, offers a peaceful place to simply sit and soak in the tranquil surroundings.
But if you are on the lookout for swimming, I'd suggest you head closer to downtown Traverse City.
The lighthouse also boasts a good size-free parking lot, and there are ample bathrooms as well, making it a convenient place for a family outing.
One of the highlights of my visits is always the climb to the lighthouse tower.
Yes, you have to pay to go up, and it can get quite cramped and hot, especially if you aren't particularly agile or have a physical restriction.
But once you reach the top, the view is worth every effort.
Visiting the gift shop is an experience in itself. The staff here is incredibly caring and enthusiastic about the lighthouse's history and preservation.
They have a plethora of artifacts and informative displays that offer an insight into the lighthouse's past.
The Mission Point Lighthouse is more than just a place to visit; it's a place to experience, to immerse yourself in its historical charm and tranquil beauty.
Just remember, if you're planning a visit, the journey there is also a beautiful part of the experience.
Enjoy the drive, the views, and the unique charm of this timeless gem.
Hike the Old Mission Peninsula Wine Trail
Just another day on the Old Mission Peninsula Wine Trail, and I'm reminded again of why I love calling this place home.
Gazing out over the crystal-clear waters of the Grand Traverse Bay, the vibrant vineyards offer a contrasting hue.
Here, the Old Mission Peninsula Wine Trail unfurls like a ribbon of pleasure, promising unforgettable tastes and experiences.
There's no denying the best views on the peninsula can indeed be found on this trail.
As I tread the pathway lined with grape vines, the soft rustle of leaves in the breeze is the only sound breaking the peaceful silence.
The trail is just the right kind of challenging - offering good views and an invigorating workout.
With every turn of the trail, the hues of green and blue paint a picturesque landscape that's nothing short of a masterpiece.
The highlight of the trail, however, is the wine tasting.
My personal favorite has to be the winery at the end of the trail.
There's nothing quite like savoring a glass of perfectly aged wine, its earthy notes complementing the scenic vista.
The wineries along Old Mission Peninsula Wine Trail have a reputation for their warm hospitality and excellent vintages, and they never disappoint.
Take a Melodic Trip Down Memory Lane at the Music House Museum
The other day, I decided to spend some time exploring my own community and discovered a hidden gem right in our backyard.
I stumbled upon the Music House Museum.
Nestled in a beautifully restored granary and barn, the museum is a treasure trove of restored musical instruments dating back to the late 18th century.
The tour began with a warm welcome from Valerie, our tour guide and a really knowledgeable woman.
We were a small group, which made the experience feel both personal and intimate.
The shining stars of the show were the self-playing instruments, all in pristine condition as though time had not touched them.
I still remember the magical sound of a player piano, particularly the recording of Gershwin's 4-handed rendition of Rhapsody in Blue.
It was simply enchanting!
The tour was not just about music but also a journey through history.
The guide explained each instrument in detail, making us appreciate the ingenuity involved in their creation and evolution.
The tour lasted about 90 minutes, primarily standing.
However, you can find seating spots conveniently placed along the route.
What surprised me was the interactive element of the tour. Guests not only got to see the instruments but also experienced them hands-on. The museum also sells music boxes, each playing different tunes. I couldn’t resist and brought home a piece of this melodious history.
For those in or around the area, or even visitors looking for enriching activities, the Music House Museum is a must-visit.
Make sure to keep some time aside for this beautiful museum; the experience is worth every penny.
Treasures of Boardman Lake Trail
Every town has its hidden gems; for us, it's the Boardman Lake Trail.
Winding its way along the tranquil waters of Boardman Lake, the trail is nothing short of a dream.
With nature's artistry in every nook and cranny, the lush greenery and shimmering waters make for a picture-perfect backdrop.
My mornings are incomplete without a leisurely stroll along the trail.
The air might carry a slightly unusual scent at times - a mix of lake water and wild flora - but that's just part of the experience.
The freshness of the early morning, coupled with the calming sounds of the lake, provides a sense of peace and tranquility that no meditation app can match.
My favorite part of the trail is where it curves around the lake, offering a panoramic view of the serene waters.
The scene is particularly enchanting during dusk when the setting sun casts a warm, golden hue over the landscape, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.
And then there's the wildlife.
From the occasional deer that cross my path to the geese that waddle around, leaving their droppings here and there.
It's a minor inconvenience but a small price to pay for sharing this lovely space with these charming creatures.
Boardman Lake Trail is also a popular spot for health enthusiasts.
Every evening, the trail buzzes with joggers and cyclists, each one pushing their limits against the picturesque setting.
It's a sight that never fails to inspire me.
If you're ever in the area and fancy a serene escape into nature's arms, I couldn't recommend a better place than Boardman Lake Trail.
Grab a Bite at Jacob's Farm TC
Walking into Jacob's Farm TC, you're immediately greeted with the smell of delicious pizzas, pretzels, and salads.
The food is so good, the atmosphere is vibrant with the hum of live music, and the views are breathtakingly gorgeous.
It's the kind of place that makes you want to linger and soak in the local charm.
I remember one sunny Sunday, just before the 4th of July, my family and I decided to dine there.
We were surprised at the very generous portions.
I had the tacos, and they were so filling that I didn't even have space for dessert. And trust me, skipping dessert is a rarity for me!
While we were enjoying our meal, the kids were off having a blast in the playground.
It's conveniently located within the eyeshot of the eating area, so we could keep an eye on them while enjoying the live music.
After dinner, we even picked some cherries - a fun little activity that capped off our delightful visit.
Jacob's Farm TC is also perfectly accommodating for large groups.
I recall a time when we managed to fit in easily with a group of 20 people, taking up only 3 tables.
The service was excellent, with our food and drinks coming out quickly.
They've even made it super easy to order through their website.
We simply placed our order online, and the drinks appeared at our table a few minutes later.
Go Wine Tasting at Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery
When the hustle and bustle of city life get too much, I retreat to my favorite sanctuary, Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery.
Nestled in a beautifully restored 1890s homestead, it's a place where you can lose yourself completely in the breathtaking views of acres of grapevines and the alluring lakeside horizon.
The first time I visited Brys Estate, I was captivated by the charm of its family-run winery.
The vintage building, the lush green gardens, the lavender fields, and the sight of the sparkling lake in the distance - it all feels like stepping into a piece of heaven right here on earth.
It's not just the beautiful landscape that brings me back time and again; it's the warm, welcoming atmosphere.
Whether I've donned my Sunday best or my cycling shorts, the staff always greets me with a smile.
They know just how to make everyone feel at home.
I've spent many afternoons lounging on their lawn bar, sipping on their delectable frosé, and admiring the view.
Sometimes, I indulge in a wine flight, sampling five of my choosing.
It's a pleasure unlike any other, tasting the fruits of their hard work while gazing out onto the very vines that produced them.
And if you have a penchant for a little adventure, make sure you step into their Secret Garden.
Imagine stumbling upon a 'you pick' lavender garden hidden away like some magical treasure.
It's these little hidden gems that make Brys Estate a place like no other.
Discover the Artistic Landscape at Dennos Museum Center
It's often that I find myself wandering around the Dennos Museum Center, a gem in the heart of our city.
Anytime I have a free afternoon or when the weather isn't playing nice, this museum is my go-to spot.
Walking through the doors of this impressive performing arts center, I am always struck by their diverse and well-curated art collection.
It's a delightful mix of classic and modern art, with captivating paintings and stunning sculptures that inspire me.
One of the highlights for me is their permanent collection of Inuit art and craft.
Every piece tells a story, giving me a fascinating glimpse into a culture far removed from mine.
But Dennos Museum Center isn’t just about viewing art - it’s about experiencing it. The interactive kids’ exhibits are a joy to explore.
And don't be fooled by the name - these are a hit with ‘kids of all ages’. I won't lie, they bring out the kid in me every time!
However, some displays are a bit too high for the youngest ones, but it's no biggie. They still have plenty to keep them engaged.
What's also heartening is how the museum staff members make families with small children feel welcome.
They are engaging and understanding, going out of their way to ensure everyone has a great time.
And before I leave, I always make a point to visit the gift shop. They have a wonderful selection of fair trade items that I absolutely adore.
Sample the Wines of Chateau Grand Traverse
I've been to many wineries over the years, but Chateau Grand Traverse is one that always stands out in my mind.
There's just something about the atmosphere that brings out the full experience of wine tasting.
It's hard to beat the stunning view of the vineyard from the patio, especially while savoring one of their charcuterie plates.
One of the things that keeps me returning to Chateau Grand Traverse is the unparalleled value of their wines.
I've picked up a case of varied varietals on more than one occasion, and I've never been disappointed. The quality of each bottle is just impeccable.
It's worth mentioning their wine tastings too.
For just 10 bucks, you get five tastings, and you get to keep the glasses.
I can still remember the taste of the Cherry Festival, Port, and Merlot Reserve that I brought home last time.
Try the Ciders of Left Foot Charley
It's a modern gem complete with a barrel room and a garden terrace perfect for tastings.
This place is heaven for wine and cider lovers; I am no exception. They have a diverse selection, and each one is as good as the other.
What I love about Left Foot Charley is their staff - always welcoming and incredibly knowledgeable.
They have a knack for suggesting the perfect pour.
But it's not just about the drink here.
The atmosphere adds to the charm as well.
On bustling days when the interiors are filled with visitors, I prefer their outdoor seating.
It's spacious, with lots of tables, and the twinkly lights add a magical touch to the ambiance.
Just imagine sipping on your favorite cider under the starry night, surrounded by the soft glow of fairy lights. It's simply enchanting.
Have a Me-Time at Bonobo Winery
Stepping into the Bonobo Winery is always a treat for the senses. Perched amid a picturesque landscape, this gem never fails to offer a refreshing and light-tasting experience.
The menu here is mostly dominated by whites, with a hint of red showing up at the end of the tasting list.
But what truly sets Bonobo Winery apart is not just the fine wines they serve but the atmosphere they serve them in.
Every visit to the Bonobo Winery fills me with good vibes.
A charming swing outside and a captivating mural of a bonobo monkey further add to the visual delight of the place.
And it's not just about the wines and the views.
They also serve spirits here, and I must say, the Frozen Lavender Vodka Lemonade is absolutely divine.
However, it's not all about alcohol.
I've been with friends who've preferred non-alcoholic beverages, and they were served with the most delicious tea and slushies.
And an interesting twist to the visit - you get to take home your water glass from the tasting.
What a lovely keepsake, right?
Go Camping at Interlochen State Park
Interlochen State Park has always been my go-to spot for a quick weekend getaway.
It's an absolute gem tucked away in the heart of Michigan, offering a perfect blend of serenity, adventure, and leisure.
Nestled between two popular fishing lakes, this state park doesn't just offer an idyllic escape but also a fantastic fishing experience.
The park is encompassed by miles of sandy beach, perfect for soaking up the sun, building sandcastles, or simply enjoying a peaceful picnic.
What I particularly love about the place are the sprawling campsites.
They're spacious and come equipped with a picnic table, fire pit, and an electrical pole, making camping both fun and comfortable.
Whether you prefer a rustic-style camping experience or a modern one, the park caters to all tastes.
But it's not just about relaxing and leisure at Interlochen State Park.
There's a well-equipped playground for the young ones to run wild and a boat launch if you fancy a bit of adventure out on the water.
The park also boasts beautiful walkways that wind through lush greenery, leading you to the lake and offering stunning views.
Being a stone's throw away from the town, you're never too far from great breakfast spots or local attractions.
One of my favorites is Buds Down the Road, always ready to serve a hearty meal after a day of exploring.
Go Ziplining at Mt. Holiday
Ever had that urge for an adrenaline rush while hanging freely in the air?
For thrill-seekers like me, the zip-lining experience at Mt. Holiday is an absolute must.
Here's my first-hand account!
I remember the day as if it were yesterday.
The sun was shining bright, not a cloud in the sky.
On this beautiful day, my family and I decided to test our nerves with zip-lining. We had heard a lot of good things about the place and decided to give it a shot, despite some of the zip lines being closed.
Our tour guides were the highlight of the day - their humor and energy were infectious!
They made the whole experience so much fun and exciting.
They were truly dedicated to making sure that everyone had a great time.
What made Mt. Holiday even more special was their inclusivity.
They were exceptionally accommodating, ensuring that everyone could experience the thrill, regardless of physical limitations.
But Mt. Holiday isn't just about zip-lining. We also had an opportunity to visit during the winter season.
We were a group of seven, and the skiing experience was nothing short of amazing.
The slopes were high enough to keep the most adventurous among us entertained.
The staff was friendly and accommodating, and the food at the ski scene was a delightful surprise.
It was not only made on-site, but it was also way better than other ski resorts in the area.
Sip and Explore Local History at Peninsula Cellars
Talk about getting schooled! Or should I say, wine schooled?
At the charming Peninsula Cellars, you don't just sip on fantastic drinks, you get a taste of history as well.
There's something so heartwarming and nostalgic about this place.
It used to be the Maple Grove Schoolhouse from 1896 until 1956, and many of the original elements, like the blackboards, are still intact.
It's like stepping back in time and being in a classroom again, but this time, there's wine!
The atmosphere is so cozy you would just want to curl up with a good book and a glass of their exquisite wines.
On my recent visit, I decided to try their cider flights.
And let me tell you, the Cinnamon Swirl cider was nothing short of a taste sensation!
It was like a warm slice of apple pie in a glass, so scrumptious and satisfying.
Their wines are also of top-notch quality.
What I truly appreciate is how dog-friendly Peninsula Cellars is.
As a pet parent myself, it's such a relief to find a place where my furry friend is not only allowed but also welcomed.
They even let me order first before stepping outside to the lovely seating area.
Talk about fantastic service.
But remember, just like back in school; it's important to stay responsible.
The ciders and wines here do pack quite a punch, so make sure to bring along a designated driver.
Join a Wine Club at the 2 Lads Winery
Whenever I have free time, I find myself drawn to the 2 Lads Winery.
There's something about the thrill of a behind-the-scenes tour that never fails to excite me.
The winery, with its contemporary style, is a refreshing change from the usual rustic vibe most wineries exude.
Sure, they encourage social interactions a bit more than usual, but it's all in good spirits.
Besides, the wine is so good that you end up appreciating the company as you learn more about their wine-making process.
I've tasted quite a few of their offerings, but each time it feels like the best wine I've ever had.
Naturally, I end up buying a few bottles to relish at home.
What makes the experience at 2 Lads Winery even more special is the wine club membership.
The complimentary tour and tasting sessions are something I look forward to.
The first time I attended one, I was so impressed that I convinced a family member to join the club too.
Soak Up the Sun at Clinch Park
Just the other day, I found myself winding down after a hectic week by heading over to the park and digging my toes into the sandy beach on West Grand Traverse Bay.
It's the simplicity of the park that draws me, but it's also packed with amenities like picnic tables, restrooms, and seasonal lifeguards.
Even though I practically grew up here, I never tire of biking along the trails.
From the exhilarating swoosh of the wind, as I speed downhill to the gentle hum of my bike over the smooth paths, it's my favorite way to take in the park's beauty.
The children's spray park is another highlight, and it’s hard not to feel a childlike delight watching the little ones squeal with glee as they dash through the spray.
One thing you might not expect about being a long-time Traverse City resident is how much pride we take in our historic sites.
Clinch Park isn't just another pretty spot to spend a day out under the sun; it's a significant part of our town's history.
And with the historic signs scattered throughout the park, you'll never miss a chance to learn something new.
Then there's the busy but exciting time of the Cherry Festival when the park plays host to a carnival atmosphere, complete with rides, games, and of course, the cherry-themed booths our town is famous for.
It’s fun to join in the festivities, but it’s equally rewarding to explore the park when it’s quieter and soak in tranquillity.
Oh, and I mustn't forget about the underground passages!
They might not sound like much, but trust me, they are a lifesaver when you want to reach the beach without crossing the bustling street traffic.
Ski through Hickory Hills Ski Area
It's the place where winter truly comes alive for me.
Nestled within the vibrant city of Traverse City, it's my go-to place for some thrilling winter sports action.
Boasting 125 acres of snowy wonderland, it's like stepping into a pristine winter postcard.
From its impressive 8 runs to the 4 km of cross-country trails, there's something to challenge even the most seasoned winter sports enthusiast.
The vintage lodge that sits at the heart of it all serves up an atmosphere that's equal parts cozy and exhilarating.
But let's not forget about summers at Hickory Hills Ski Area.
The disc golf course is an absolute gem.
Nestled amidst the lush woods, it's a paradise for both seasoned players and novices.
And with over 20 holes to challenge your skills, there's never a dull moment.
I've spent countless summer afternoons there, perfecting my throws, enjoying the camaraderie of fellow disc golfers, and simply soaking in the beauty of it all.
Pamper Yourself at Chateau Chantal Winery and Inn
Living near the Chateau Chantal Winery and Inn, I've had the pleasure of many visits, and I must say, it's a place like no other.
The moment you drive down the secluded path to the winery, you're greeted with the most breathtaking panoramic views of the coast that'll make you forget all your worries.
Now, let me tell you about the tastings.
They are unlike anything you've experienced before.
Here, I've learned to savor the wine: tasting each one in sets of three, carefully selected from their menu.
It's the only place where I've had the chance to taste ice wines - they're incredibly sweet and have become a personal favorite.
Keep in mind that certain reserves might cost a bit more, but they're absolutely worth it.
Spending an afternoon at the Chateau isn't complete without heading to the front side of the property.
It's a hidden gem - quieter, more secluded, and with even more incredible views, if that's possible.
Just grab a bottle of your favorite Chateau Chantal wine (mine's a sweet red), find a comfortable spot, and let time stand still.
The main building itself is everything you'd imagine a charming rural B&B to be - some rooms even come with balconies and whirlpool tubs! But it's the outside that truly takes the cake. The spacious decks overlook the picturesque vineyard and the bay beyond, offering a view that's straight out of a postcard.
One thing, though - don't expect the Chateau to be a small family vineyard.
It may have that homey feel, but it's much more commercial, and that in no way diminishes its charm.
Trust me, once you've spent a day here, you'll want to come back for more.
Experience a Tuscan Haven at Mari Vineyards
Oh, what an enchanting place we have here on the Old Mission Peninsula!
A local secret that I'm now sharing with you, Mari Vineyards is more than just a winery - it's a slice of Tuscany in our own backyard.
Nestled amid the stunning landscape, the views it offers are unrivaled - a wide-open vista of the shimmering lake that will take your breath away every single time.
Once you step foot on the property, you'll notice the classic architecture, reminiscent of old-world charm, blending seamlessly with the natural beauty surrounding it.
Inside, the winery is pristine, well maintained, and beautifully decorated.
The selection of wines is commendable, and the food is simply delectable. This isn't the typical serve-your-own style winery.
Here, the customer service is top-notch, though it comes with a slightly higher price tag.
What sets Mari Vineyards apart from all the other wineries in the area, in my eyes, is their heartfelt hospitality towards our four-legged friends.
I've never seen a place so welcoming to dogs - a rarity in the Traverse City area.
On a sunny day, they will even offer you a spot on their patio, away from the harsh sun, so your canine companion can relax too.
Rain or shine, Mari Vineyards provides a tranquil escape where you can sit back, relax, and savor the moments - be it on a tour of their unique winemaking facilities and underground aging caves or just unwinding on their porch with a glass of exquisite wine in hand.
Have a Romantic Date at Bowers Harbor Vineyards
I've always believed that the best way to truly appreciate a place is to immerse myself in it, and that's exactly what I do at Bowers Harbor Vineyards.
Not many places can offer the relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere that Bowers does.
With its stunning views and spectacular wines, it's hard not to fall in love with this place.
I often find myself spending weekend afternoons at Bowers Harbor Vineyards, sipping on my favorites - the Pinot Blanc, Brut Rose, and the Cab Franc.
Each bottle is a testament to the attention to detail and the focus on quality that the vineyard is known for.
My friends, both locals and visitors, seem to agree.
They are all part of the wine club at Bowers, and we always look forward to the diverse community gatherings held here. They are, without a doubt, some of the most fun events in town!
While the wines are undoubtedly the star of Bowers Harbor Vineyards, the staff and the vineyard itself deserve their fair share of praise.
The staff is always warm and welcoming, making every visit a delight. And then there's the Wagoneer flight - a non-alcoholic tasting experience that I've found to be a fantastic option for those who are driving or prefer not to drink.
And let's not forget the vineyard's location: right next to the lake.
The opportunity to enjoy their delightful wines while seated amidst the vineyard, with the shimmering water in the background, is an experience that never gets old.
Spend an Afternoon at Hawthorne Vineyards
There's nothing like a lazy afternoon spent at Hawthorne Vineyards, a local gem tucked away in our corner of the world.
Nestled between the east and west arms of the Grand Traverse Bay, the vineyard offers a vista that's truly unparalleled.
A visit to the vineyard is incomplete without a leisurely stroll around their outdoor wine sensory garden.
This unique garden is a delightful fusion of sight, smell, and taste - a sensory adventure that enhances the wine-tasting experience.
The staff at Hawthorne Vineyards are some of the friendliest folks you'll ever meet.
Nothing's too much trouble for them, and their passion for wine is infectious.
Even if you're not an avid wine-lover, the knowledgeable staff will guide you in exploring a variety of wines, helping you discover your preferences.
For a sweet wine enthusiast like myself, the options at Hawthorne Vineyards might seem limited.
However, every now and then, I am pleasantly surprised by some of their selections.
Their Pinot Grigio, for instance, always hits the right notes, making it a personal favorite.
One clever feature that Hawthorne Vineyards have introduced are flight drink holders. These allow you to carry your wine around as you amble through the property, making the exploration truly immersive.
To top it all off, the patio provides an awe-inspiring view, making every visit to Hawthorne Vineyards an unforgettable experience.
There's never a dull moment in Grand Traverse County.
From leisurely strolls along Boardman Lake Trail to thrilling ski adventures at Hickory Hills Ski Area, the vast outdoors here never disappoint.
The Dennos Museum Center and City Opera House provide a cultural fix that's hard to beat, and the serene Interlochen State Park is my favorite spot to unwind.
Each visit to these places reaffirms my love for Grand Traverse County, a place that is not only my home but a vibrant, welcoming destination brimming with unforgettable experiences.