Traverse City Attractions: 15 Best Things to Do on Vacation

Check out these top Traverse City attractions on your next vacation (or staycation!). From incredible restaurants and award-winning wineries to beautiful trails and sandy beaches, this Northern Michigan town on Grand Traverse Bay has it all.

Downtown Traverse City

Downtown Traverse City is a mecca for inventive restaurants, distinctive shops and cozy cafes. Spend a day shopping on Front Street, walk down to the bay and order a flight at a local brewery.

Located off of West Front Street, the Warehouse District has seen a huge revival in the past couple of years. The area is now home to Workshop Brewing Company (Garland Street), Warehouse MRKT (Hall Street) and Hotel Indigo (access off Garland Street). The hotel’s rooftop bar has spectacular West Bay views (pictured above).

Old Town, at 8th and Union streets, is home to Traverse City favorites like Maxbauer Meat Market and Brady’s Bar. This district is also home to Blue Tractor Barbeque and Old Town Playhouse. Walk along 6th Street to see the impeccably kept Victorian homes once owned by the town’s founding families.

Get Outside Downtown: The Best Traverse City Weekend Vacation. Ever.

Old Mission Peninsula

This slender, 22-mile peninsula stretches along the shoreline with views of Grand Traverse Bay, acres of cherry orchards, 11 wineries and fresh farm-to-table fare from restaurants such as Mission Table and Boathouse. Spend a day on a Traverse City wine tour or take a drive and watch the sunset over glittering water and rows of grape vines. At the end of the peninsula don’t miss Mission Point Lighthouse. The light guided mariners to safety from 1870 to 1933, and now it’s a popular spot for beachgoers and hikers.

5 Must-Do Stops on Old Mission Peninsula

Traverse City Restaurants

Bon Appetit named Traverse City one of “America’s Five Top Foodie Towns,” The Daily Meal says it’s one of “America’s 11 Best Small Towns for Food” and Midwest Living gave Traverse City first place in its list of the “Midwest’s Five Top Food Towns.”

Traverse City offers everything from Vietnamese to Italian, French to Asian fusion and, of course, American classics like delicious hamburgers, wood-fired pizza and Great Lakes fish.

If you need further convincing:

Traverse City Beaches

The best part of living (or visiting) in Northern Michigan is the time spent outdoors at the beach. Though you can’t go wrong, our handy guide to the coves and bays around Traverse City helps you find the perfect spot for your family.

Bryant Park, pictured above, has a fat strip of sand, playground equipment, plenty of picnic tables, grills and a nice bathroom. It ranks high for family favorites! Find it at the southeast corner of West Grand Traverse Bay, where Garfield Avenue meets Peninsula Drive.

Traverse City Outdoor Activities

The great thing about Traverse City is there’s something to do outside year-round. Are you a hiker? Biker? Runner? Skier? Boater? We’ve got you covered. Traverse City is also home to athletic events like the Iceman Cometh in the fall, Bayshore Marathon in the spring and many more.

Here are a few outdoor activities to get you started:

  1. 5 Traverse City Trails to Explore
  2. 5 Outdoor Winter Adventures to Try in Traverse City
  3. Cruise Lake Michigan with Traverse Tall Ship Company
  4. 7 Ways to Get On the Water in Traverse City This Summer
  5. Standup Paddle Boarding in Northern Michigan: Best Spots, Rentals and Beginner Tips

The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

An old state hospital might seem like an unusual Traverse City attraction, but the renovation of this 63-acre estate in the last decade is astonishing. It’s gone from a group of abandoned and decaying buildings to a thriving community with a bakery, restaurants, coffee shops, a winery and local boutiques. Take a hike on one of the many trails located behind The Village, go on a historical tour of the hospital’s old underground tunnels or spend an afternoon wine tasting and shopping.

Discover The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

State Theatre

Named No. 1 on the list of “10 Best Movie Theaters in the World” by TheCredits.org, the renovated State Theatre is located in the heart of downtown Traverse City. Built in 1916, The State is owned and operated by the Traverse City Film Festival. It’s known for its friendly volunteers, comfy seats, starry ceiling and affordable ticket prices. Enjoy 25-cent matinees, Friday Night Flicks, live events via satellite, premieres, community events and much more.

Timeline: The Iconic Traverse City State Theatre is More Than 100 Years Old

Traverse City Wineries

You can’t leave town without visiting at least one winery. (Many also serve cider!) Downtown, find Left Foot Charley at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. On Old Mission Peninsula, choose from 11 more local wineries. (Here’s your guide.) Each season brings a new reason to go on a wine tasting tour: spring’s cherry blossoms, summer’s warm days and outdoor patios with bay views, fall’s vibrant foliage and winter’s intimate, cozy experiences. 

Among many accolades, TripAdvisor.com listed Traverse City as “One of America’s Top 10 Wine Destinations” and USA Today named Traverse City as one of the “Top 10 Places to Enjoy Local Wines.”

9 Winery Patios in Northern Michigan with Gorgeous Views

Draft Magazine named Traverse City one of three emerging beer towns, and we wholeheartedly agree. The bayside town, also popular for its local wines and ciders, boasts 12 breweries serving a range of suds from seasonal sours to traditional ales. Check out the full list of local breweries here.
 
 

Traverse City Distilleries

We’ve got great spirits here in Traverse City—in more ways than one! There are two distilleries located in Traverse City—Grand Traverse Distillery and Traverse City Whiskey Co. Grand Traverse Distillery has two locations, a tasting room on Front Street and a distillery and tasting room a little way out of town (off of North Three Mile Road). TC Whiskey Co.’s tasting room is located downtown on 14th Street.

Mammoth Distilling, based in Central Lake, has a downtown tasting room in the Warehouse District. 

City Opera House

The City Opera House has been putting on shows since 1891 in downtown Traverse City. It’s one of six historically intact Victorian Opera Houses in Michigan, and during its heyday, hosted plays, concerts and operettas, gala balls, social functions, community festivals and more. In 1972, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places and shortly thereafter it was restored to its former grandeur. Today, the City Opera House is a thriving (and beautiful!) venue that has partnered with Michigan State University’s Wharton Center for Performing Arts to bring even more exciting shows to the stage. It also hosts the National Writers Series, forums and films for the Traverse City Film Festival, weddings, private functions and much more.

Dennos Museum Center

Next to Northwestern Michigan College, you’ll discover a premier cultural facility. The polished aluminum sculpture out front is called Equilibrium and was created by Hanna Stiebel in 1991. Since its opening more than 20 years ago, the Dennos has had mummies, Andy Warhol prints, human bodies, paper art and more on display. Every year, several collaborations are established both locally and globally. Not only are the rotating exhibits always surprising and innovative, but the permanent collection, Inuit Art of the Canadian Arctic, is also one of the largest and historically complete collections in the United States. The Dennos also houses Milliken Auditorium, which hosts local forums, national stage productions, concerts and more.

Clinch Park + The Open Space

Traverse-citians and visitors alike are drawn to Clinch Park and the Open Space for its remarkable views of West Grand Traverse Bay. In the winter, build a snowman or be wowed by the icy waves crashing against the shore. In the summer, people flock to play Frisbee, fly kites, ride bikes, play volleyball, picnic and more. 

The Open Space is home to the National Cherry Festival and is a place to watch free outdoor movies during the Traverse City Film Festival. East of the Marina is Clinch Park, which has been transformed from an old zoo to a summertime dream, with water activities like a splash pad for kids and a concession bar. Rent kayaks or paddleboards, or play on the beach. Then catch a movie at The Bijou by the Bay.

Boardman River

Fish, kayak, paddleboard or canoe this beautiful river, which flows through the heart of downtown Traverse City emptying into Grand Traverse Bay.

These Traverse City Beer Tours Let You Sip, Paddle and Roll