While the lights of downtown Traverse City’s Front Street (and bisecting Cass and Union streets) dazzle, don’t stop there. Browsing the city’s outlying blocks yields untold shopping and dining pleasures.

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The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

Traverse City’s version of Central Park is tucked within 480 acres of preserved parkland just west of downtown. The buildings at the heart of this rolling greenery are collectively called The Commons (830 Cottageview Drive). Once home to a 19th-century state psychiatric hospital, the stunning Italianate-style Victorian buildings have been reclaimed and turned into upscale restaurants, boutiques and galleries.

Must-Do: The Mercato in Building 50, where you’ll find an eclectic shopping adventure and not one but two top-flight Italian restaurants, PepeNero and Trattoria Stella. Following your nose to Red Spire Brunch House will never steer you wrong. Elsewhere on The Commons’ grounds, linger over local wine and cider at Left Foot Charley, freshly roasted coffee at Higher Grounds and craft beer at Earthen Ales.

Village at Grand Traverse Commons

Photo by Dave Weidner

A view of the Grand Traverse Commons from above.

West Front Street

The industrially handsome North Peak Brewing Company with its classic pub food, great beer and neighborhood vibe is the flagship of West Front. But don’t stop there.

Must-Do: The Cheese Lady TC (fresh-cut slabs of the world’s best cheeses, oh my!); Mary’s Kitchen Port where locals have been carrying out their signature sammie, The Gobbler, for decades; Modern Bird, an intimate date-night restaurant; hip tacos at Barrio; and TC’s iconic Italian deli, Folgarelli’s; a paper bag filled with fries and a burger at Slabtown Burgers; grab a beer at the brand-new Loco Boys Brewing Company.

Photo by Dave Weidner

Modern Bird restaurant off West Front Street.

East Front Street

When The Little Fleet, a food truck lot/bar, opened on the corner of Wellington some years back, East Front Street found the glue to hold its groove together.

Must-Do: Paesano’s, where they’ve been quelling our pizza craving since 1981; memorable coffee and bite-sized treats at Morsels; Vietnamese-American yum at The Good Bowl; stuff you didn’t know you wanted until you saw it at Cali’s; and fabulous Michigan-made handcrafted goods at Compass Rose Outpost. New this summer: Le Macaron—a bakery devoted to those sweet little French delicacies. And the grand finale, on Wellington in an innocuous old house, find one of the greatest restaurants in the North, The Cook’s House.

Food truck at The Little Fleet in Traverse City

Photo by Dave Weidner

Food trucks at The Little Fleet in Traverse City.

Explore the Warehouse District

Anchored by the edgy Warehouse MRKT and Hotel Indigo, this downtown district sits between West Front Street and Grandview Parkway on Garland Street.

Must-Do: Wander Warehouse MRKT’s stylish shops—Darling Botanical, Relish, Bohmey Beauty and Fresh Water Textiles; catch coffee and a bite at Hexenbelle or Rough Pony, then sign on to paint pottery at Handz on Art. Leave time to explore Antiquities Warehouse, brimming with architectural elements from Europe and the U.S. Your beer is waiting next door at The Workshop Brewing Company.

The inside of Rough Pony

Photo by Dave Weidner

Rough Pony inside Warehouse MKT in the Warehouse District in Traverse City.

Eighth Street

This east-west route that parallels Front Street recently received a fabulous makeover that elevates it from its former back-40 feel. The shops and eateries here are fresh and creative.

Must-Do: Have a retro diner breakfast at Rounds. Continue the theme at EB2 Vintage, home to upcycled furniture and more; find fine wine at Lake District Wine Co.; order up a cold craft brew at Silver Spruce; pick up a to-go dinner (and have lunch) at Raduno. End your Eighth Street odyssey on Lake Street—a kind of back alley to the main route—where neighbors Rare Bird Brewpub and The Parlor serve up vacation-making brew, cocktails and food.

Rounds Restaurant on Eighth Street in Traverse City.

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner