Architectural Digest recently named Traverse City one of America’s most beautiful main streets. From stunning scenery to a charming downtown, here’s why TC made the list, plus 10 more of our favorite downtowns to explore in Northern Michigan.

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traverse city winter, aerial shot, downtown, cropped

Photo by Dave Weidner

Architectural Digest recognized Traverse City in its article “The 39 Most Beautiful Main Streets Across America.” Taking the 23rd spot on the list, TC beat out other gorgeous towns like Bar Harbor, Maine; Breckenridge, Colorado; Charleston, South Carolina and Southampton, New York. From our stunning wine region to locally owned and operated stores lining Front Street, it’s no wonder this Northern Michigan town made the list.

Here’s what AD had to say about Traverse City:

“This Northern Michigan town along Grand Traverse Bay, which flows into Lake Michigan, is Michigan’s cherry belt and the state’s most vibrant wine region (Madonna’s family has a winery in nearby Suttons Bay). On the main drag (Front Street), tucked under awnings, you’ll find two indie bookstores and culinary shops filled to the brim with cherry-fused eats, plus the Friday Night Live street party every Friday during summer. The crown jewel: the Victorian-era City Opera House, the oldest of three still standing in Michigan.”

old mission fall color, fall, traverse city, grand traverse bay

What Do You Think is Northern Michigan’s Most Gorgeous Town?

Our Red Hot Best 2023 competition is heating up, and this year we’ve added a new Best of the Best section spanning across Northern Michigan. New categories in this section include downhill ski resort, concert venue, golf course, specialty meat market and, as this article might hint, best downtown. We what to know what you think is Northern Michigan’s most gorgeous downtown! Nominate your favorite.

10 of Our Favorite Downtowns to Explore in Northern Michigan

Don’t forget to vote for your favorite downtown in this year’s Red Hot Best awards in the new Best of the Best section. Nominate or vote for your favorite here.

1) Mackinac Island | Brimming with historical scenery and Victorian cottages, the smell of fudge, no cars and lots of horses, Mackinac Island will transport you back in time. Head to Arch Rock or Grand Hotel’s Tea Garden for the perfect photo op. Don’t leave without grabbing a drink at Pink Pony. 

mackinac island, straits, church

Photo by David Weidner

2) Charlevoix | From the Earl Young Mushroom Houses to tons of boutique shops and delicious restaurants in town, there’s always something to explore in Charlevoix. Or simply spend a day on a boat in Lake Charlevoix, Michigan’s third-largest inland lake.

Overlooking Charlevoix in the winter

Photo by Dave Weidner

3) Petoskey | Browse downtown shops, soak up bay front views and stop for a snack at Petoskey Pretzel Co. Then head to The Back Lot, where you’ll find multiple food trucks, a beer garden and bonfire pits.

A couple getting a drink at a bar

Photo by The Back Lot

4) Fishtown | The small town of Leland is intersected by a river that boaters can pull up to, dock and spend the day at Fishtown’s historic shanties. A must-stop for lunch during the spring and summer seasons is Village Cheese Shanty. Pro tip: order ahead and always get the pretzel bread. 

A couple getting a drink at a bar

Photo by Anjanette Merriweather

5) Frankfort | With Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore starting just after Point Betsie Lighthouse, famed sunsets over Lake Michigan and a renovated movie theatre, Frankfort is a fab place to spend a day. Grab lunch at Stormcloud Brewing or Bella Vita Italian Kitchen and stop by local shops after.

best michigan lighthouses to visit

6) Suttons Bay | Head to Suttons Bay Beach and take a stroll down to the marina. Next, explore the many colorful shops and restaurants that make up downtown and enjoy a delicious dinner at Wren, but don’t forget to make a reservation ahead of time!

suttons bay beach, beaches, leelanau county

7) Ludington | Take a stroll downtown and visit local art galleries, specialty shops and the Ludington Area Center for the Arts. End the day with a sweet treat at the famed House of Flavors.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse

Photo by Taylor Brown

House of Flavors in Ludington

Photo by Dave Weidner

8) Harbor Springs | From art galleries to eclectic shops and restaurants, Harbor Springs is a dazzling spot to spend a day.  End the day by grabbing a waterside bite at Stafford’s Pier Restaurant with family and friends.

House of Flavors in Ludington

9) Marquette | Head across the bridge to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for this next stop! Visit the downtown shops or have a bite at Delft Bistro, a previous movie theater now turned into a restaurant.

House of Flavors in Ludington

Photo by Gail Snable

10) Sault Ste. Marie | From visiting the Soo Locks to exploring downtown, Sault Ste. Marie is a great Upper Peninsula destination. Looking to extend your adventure? Head to the Canadian side of Sault Ste. Marie for even more fun!

Adventures in Sault Ste. Marie

Photo by Sault Ste. Marie Tourism

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner