Grab your family, rent some wheels and cruise through Traverse City this summer on the TART Trail— and don’t forget to stop at this burger joint and these delicious dessert spots!

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You can invent a different family adventure every week on the Traverse Area Recreation Trail (TART) in Traverse City. The TART runs from one side of TC to the other (a total of 10.5 miles) with a multitude of tasty spots for meals or snack breaks along the way.

Proof? On a random Wednesday after school, I convinced my two teenage sons to head out on a 10-mile bike ride with their ol’ Ma. The bribe: burgers and ice cream.

We parked at the parking area at the corner of Parsons and Three Mile roads and headed toward Acme on our mountain bikes. On this stretch, the TART is paved, flat and secluded with few road crossings. There are several sections of fun boardwalks, and the railroad runs next to the trail. Very occasionally, a slow-moving Great Lakes Central Railroad train will happen by and the conductor will wave at the kids.

Stop for Dessert First

We headed out at 3:30 p.m., right after school, so we had only one choice: dessert first. We biked about a mile and soon had several opportunities, all right off the trail:

Don’s Drive-In | This 1950’s diner offers a step back in time. Order one of their large chocolate shakes—it’s served in the mixing cup and can be poured into individual glasses to share. They have carhop service, too, which you can try on bikes.

Doug Murdick’s Fudge | This classic 1964 building has become a landmark along Grand Traverse Bay. Visitors watch as fudge is cooked in copper kettles, then poured out on huge marble tables and cooled. Try the peanut butter, our fave.

Woodland Sweets & Eats | This is where we ended up — an instant “yes” when we saw they serve Moomers Homemade Ice Cream, which was voted best ice cream in America by “Good Morning America.” The boys ordered Oreo malts, and I got cookies-and-cream ice cream. (You can order hand-tossed pizza from East Bay Pizza here, too.) Eat in their woodsy-styled dining area or their huge outdoor covered picnic area. We sat outside with our ice cream and watched the waves move on East Grand Traverse Bay—gorgeous.

Ice cream shop in Northern Michigan

Photo by Kandace Chapple

A Perfect Burger Finish

There are plenty of places to get great food along the TART, but if you’re an evil mother like me, you’ll want to pick a spot several miles away to get the actual bike ride in.

We headed back toward TC, aiming for Oakwood Proper Burgers, 3.5 miles away. It sits a bit off the TART, but can be accessed by cutting down Riggs Alley (behind Huntington Bank) right to Oakwood’s distinct, dark blue building on Eighth Street.

Their signature? Loaded smash burgers with endless toppings on an Old Mission Bakery bun served up with a fat steak knife staked in the middle. Menu items are made with care; co-owner Leslie Bilby uses Michigan Craft Beef and knows her farmer (Tom and family) personally. She proudly uses environmentally friendly and sustainable products in everything they prepare.

We pedaled off toward the car happy, tired and full—a successful bites and bikes adventure under our belts.

Bike wheelie at Oakwood Proper Burgers

Photo by Kandace Chapple

Need Wheels?

Rent bikes at Brick Wheels or Mission Cycles, both on Eighth Street right on the TART in Traverse City. In Acme, rent from Einstein Cycles, also right on the TART.

Kandace Chapple is a freelance writer and founder of the Michigan Girl Bike Club. She can be reached at

Photo(s) by Kandace Chapple