Traverse City Travel Guide
Check out my Traverse City Travel Guide in Michigan in our short 36-hour visit. Traverse City is on the shores of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, and just 3 hours drive from our home in Kalamazoo. I'll share where we stayed, what we ate and fun foodie events we did with the kids to keep them entertained.
- Author: Yumna Jawad
Traverse City Travel Guide
This post has been sponsored by Traverse City Tourism. As always, all opinions are my own 🙂
Calling all Michiganders who are looking for a fun getaway before the summer months hit!
Take a trip to Traverse City!
I first visited when I was a teenager and went to the National Cherry Festival, which is the region’s affinity! Michigan actually produces about 75% of the cherries in the U.S. And what’s cool about that is that all year long restaurants, ice cream shops, dessert spots, cafes and condiment stores use fresh, dried and frozen cherries in their recipes and products. So even if you visit outside the cherry festival, you’ll still get a glimpse of the “blessing of the blossoms” as they call it! But the town is truly a land of bounty – beyond the cherries. And, my Traverse City travel guide will hopefully show you that!
Where to Stay
The main strip in downtown Traverse City is on Front Street, and the few miles stretch before leading to Front Street is full of all kinds of hotels, inns and resorts, most of which have beach property. Since it’s early spring, we stayed at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, which is just 15 minutes from downtown. They have such a variety of rooms: standard hotel rooms, renovated tower hotel rooms, condos and suites. When we stayed here last summer with my whole extended family, we got a couple condos that were like little summer homes complete with a well-equipped kitchen and a living room area. This time we stayed in the tower and were welcomed by an aerial view of the surrounding area covered in the leftover snow from last weekend. The best part for my kids – chocolate mints at turn-down service!
Another perk of staying here in the colder months is the resort accommodates for winter fun – for my kids it was all about the indoor pools and playground.
The kids went down the slide about 87 times.
But somehow they still had energy for interactive water play…
For 3 more hours!
What to Eat
Breakfast on the strip has endless opportunities: Common Good Bakery, Green House Cafe, Brew, Patisserie Amie, The Towne Plaza, and my favorite: Morsels Espresso + Edibles. We love their coffee, avocado toast with cream cheese (trust me on this one) and poached eggs. And my kids were delighted by their steamers – frothy warm milk!
Well, Adam wasn’t a fan of the milk mustache though hahaha!
My Traverse City travel guide is even more exciting at lunch time…so many farm to table restaurants, so many locally sourced ingredients and so many interesting cooking techniques used in a lot of the lunch spots here: Some of my favorites are The Franklin, The Dish Cafe, Harvest, Green House Cafe, Mama Lou’s and I’ve also heard great things about the Old Mission Peninsula General Store – not fancy or charming or modern, but supposedly the best homemade-type food by the cutest ma and pa! We still need to make it out there next time!
For a quick bite and locally made pie – yes, with lots of cherries, check out Grand Traverse Pie Company:
This is the original location on Front Street, which is so charming and cute.
And all their pies are handmade from scratch, every single day with a fabulous flaky crust that’s so inviting!
Wrapping up my where to eat segment with an honorable mention to Black Market. It’s located in the cool Warehouse District. They have pour over coffee and their matcha latte with oat milk hit the spot. It’s matcha better than downing a second cup of coffee in the middle of the day when you need a pick me-up
Dinner time this time of year wearing a cozy sweater on some restaurant patio is absolutely delightful! I love The Boathouse for amazing waterfront views and brilliant sunsets on their wide, floral and scenic summer deck. It’s also the best place to get seafood in town, in my opinion!
But, if it’s a bit too nippy like it was during our visit this past weekend, try Red Ginger for Asian fusion, Alliance (which we heard a ton of great things about bust saving it for our next trip!!), Mission Table, Stella, Papa Nero or our newly discovered Aerie restaurant/lounge right in the Grand Traverse Resort. They use locally grown produce with products from all over Michigan and an internationally flavor.
And so fancy…
Sorry to the three couples sitting next to us for any inappropriate water bubble blowing noises that came from our 4-seater table. My daughter is getting better at dining at restaurants, but Adam decided to make a water show with his cup of water – probably not the dinner theater show the couples around us signed up for…yikes!
We started with a cheese board with goat cheese from Detroit and Manchester from Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor. Idk where that honey was from, but it started spreading all over the cheese board and that was just magical!
These were the rock shrimp spring rolls with a dusting of toasted nori – I’m telling ya…fancy!
And more appetizers – salmon gravlax – because we embraced fancy on Saturday night!
I ordered the Mediterranean Bronzino and my husband got a pasta dish, followed by a tasting of some desserts from their pastry team.
So delicious and we loved the experience of dining on the 16th floor of the hotel, and being able to get in our jammies 3 minutes later haha!
What to Do:
There are a ton of outdoor activities. When there’s snow on the ground, there is 1) affordable picturesque downhill skiing and snow tubing at Mt. Holiday, 2) horse drawn sleigh rides at Antler Ridge Farms, 3) cross country skiing at VASA trail, and best of all 4) snow shoeing at the Sleeping Bear Dunes.
In the summer, it’s all about the beach, water and sand, so any and all outdoor and water activities are hugely popular here in this area, and it’s a big time for tourists to visit.
During the spring, the city is slowly blossoming but it’s still quiet and quaint, which makes it a wonderful time to visit if you live nearby and want to avoid crowds. To continue my Traverse City travel guide, we explored the fascinating Grand Traverse Commons in Traverse City’s former mental asylum. It’s eerie and beautiful at the same time, and definitely worth checking out. The building is surrounded by parks and trails for biking, walking or just exploring.
Inside, there are one-of a kind merchants, local artists, cute restaurants and cafes, and a large winter farmer’s market on Saturday mornings to buy fresh local produce.
One of my other favorite in-between food activities is finding cute kitchen and dining props for my photography or just for personal use. There are lots of modern new shops like Wood + Cloth and extensive (like never ending awesome) antique shops like Wilson Antiques. I snatched a few items from both places which will be making the rounds in my new food photos!
My favorite foodie experience from the weekend was taste testing olive oils and vinegars at the Fustini’s tasting room, located right on the downtown strip. It’s just one of those culinary experiences you have to do in Traverse City, and they are celebrating 10 years so there’s a whole lotta love for them in the city!
I think the kids enjoyed this experience even more than us. And they especially enjoyed the balsamic vinegar selection, which had flavors like cherry (duh), vanilla, chocolate (whoa!!), espresso bean (I’m for real!), lavender (hello bliss!) and countless other flavors like fig, mango, honey and apple.
The owner, Jim Mulligan, sent us home with his personal favorite pairings that he loves to cook with. We got a lime infused extra virgin olive oil with coconut balsamic vinegar – can we just envision that coconut shrimp dish I’m seriously going to make this summer?
They also have Fustini’s Fresh Take in the back of the store where they create locally sourced takeout lunch recipes using Fustini’s oils and vinegars. And that same space is used for a Cooking School that takes places in the evening. It’s currently being renovated, but Jim invited us to his home for a personal cooking demonstration with Chef Sam Brickman. The kids interacted so well with him and I learned some amazing cooking tips from him. For example: how to perfectly cut an asparagus. Spoiler alert: it’s different for every asparagus bunch, and you snap one from the bunch with your two hands to find the point of weakness for trimming!
The kids helped him make the sauce for the roasted asparagus and sous vide poached eggs dish he was creating. He taught us that to properly emulsify a dressing you need two parts vinegar to 1 part oil and some type of thickener like a mustard or mayo or egg whites.
How beautiful is the final dish?!
Chef Sam from Fustini’s also made a berries and yogurt parfait. He used white balsamic vinegar to macerate the berries instead of sugar and he used a honey vinegar to make the Greek yogurt light, fluffy and sweet. Two great tricks that reduced the overall sugar in the dessert! I loved learning these tips. And the kids loved being his little helpers!
This was the final parfait…with the surprising balsamic vinegar ingredients to reduce carbs and calories…so yum!
And so, my Traverse City Travel Guide for how to spend 36 hours comes to a wrap. We’re so excited about going back this summer for some more sight-seeing, adventure-seeking, and food-tasting, of course!
Thank you Traverse City Tourism for sponsoring this Traverse City Travel Guide!