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Reasons to Visit Traverse City in the Fall

Traverse City Fall 26

Crisp fresh fall air, trees filled with vibrant warm colored leaves, days that aren’t too hot and aren’t too cold, and an awareness that these days are precious make fall a season to be enjoyed outdoors.

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It is hard to embrace fall’s beauty when you live in a city. You won’t find forests of colorful trees, and you can’t go for relaxing walks where the only sounds you hear are the songs of nature – water against the shore, the ruffling of leaves in the wind, and birds calling out to each other. This is one of the times when I want to get out of the city and explore the country.

Traverse City in Fall

This year I discovered that I don’t need to travel all the way to Maine to enjoy fall foliage. I spent last weekend in Traverse City, Michigan, a small city on Lake Michigan where the trees erupt into a symphony of yellows, reds, and oranges. It’s an ideal weekend escape and place to take part in fall activities.

How to Get to Traverse City

How to get to Traverse City

The ease of traveling to Traverse City increases the appeal of this vacation destination. Getting there doesn’t wear you out. There are many direct flights from Chicago, and the flight time is just 35 minutes. The Grand Traverse Resort is only a 15 minute drive from the airport. It’s so easy!

Traverse City Fall 25

The Grand Traverse Resort makes things extra easy by providing shuttles to downtown Traverse City in addition to the airport. That coupled with the availability of Uber means that you don’t need to rent a car.

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When to Visit Traverse City

Traverse City is a year-round destination. The peak of the season is the annual National Cherry Festival which draws in 500,000 visitors each summer. The summer is also the time to enjoy the crystal clear Lake Michigan waters and to participate in water sports. The winter draws skiers, the spring is the time to see the cherry blossoms, and fall is when the trees change colors.

What to Do in Traverse City

Traverse City is home to 44 wineries, 19 breweries, and 6 distilleries. There are 20 golf courses, plenty of lakefront coastline, and the 18,000+ acres of cherry orchards make Traverse City the cherry capital of the world. It is a destination that equally caters to adult travelers and families, and there is enough to discover that people return year after year. Here are a few things that I recommend doing when you visit Traverse City:

What to do in Traverse City - Downtown

Shop and Eat in Downtown Traverse City

Front Street, Traverse City’s downtown, is home to 150 shops, galleries, and restaurants. Here are my top picks:

What to do in Traverse City - Downtown

Eat Tacos at Mama Lu’s Taco Shop

This taqueria is a local favorite. My friend Jenny and I feasted on queso and tacos, and agree that this is the place to get lunch in Traverse City.

Buy Fudge

Michigan is known for its fudge, and there are two sweetshops that specialize in making fudge.

What to do in Traverse City - Downtown

Shop at M22

This shop is named for the scenic highway along the Michigan coastline, and is the place to buy activewear.

Browse home goods at Nest

You can find beautiful home goods and furniture at this shop.

Shop for gifts at Nifty Things

You can find unique gifts at Nifty Things.

What to do in Traverse City - Downtown

Take your photo at the Traverse City Mural

You can find the mural on Front Street beside Kilwin’s.

Pick up tees at Unparalleled Apparel

I bought a bunch of tees at this shop that sells Michigan themed shirts.

Taste cherry goods at Cherry Republic

This large shop sells everything you can image made with cherries. They have everything from mustard and salsa to wine and gummies. They even have a small wine tasting bar in the back.

What to do in Traverse City - Downtown

See a movie at the State Theater

The restored historic theater shows indie and classic films.

Stock up on cooking spices and tea Spice & Tea Merchants

This small shop is filled with a wide variety of unique teas and spice blends.

Drive out to Sleeping Bear Dunes

One of Michigan five National Parks, Sleeping Bear Dunes is made up of miles of sand beach and dunes that tower 450 feet above Lake Michigan. It has been named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America. I didn’t make it there last weekend, but it is highly recommended and on the top of my list for my next visit!

Traverse City - The Commons

Explore The Commons

The Commons is a former mental hospital that was renovated and transformed into a community with apartments, shops, and restaurants. It’s architecturally beautiful, and the shops and restaurants are worth checking out!

Traverse City - Left Foot Charley

Left Foot Charley

This winery is located in what was the hospital’s laundry room. They work with a collection of grape and apple growers to produce wine and cider. You can go for a tasting, a tour, or both!

What to do in Traverse City - The Commons

Grab Coffee at Higher Grounds Trading Company

I love this coffee shop because they serve all of their coffee in mugs that are donated by locals. When you order coffee you have the option to take the mug with you and keeping it – or return it later. I love this friendly take on being eco-friendly!

Check out the Shops inside Building 50

Building 50 is the main building in The Commons complex. The downstairs of Building 50 is filled with shops and restaurants, and it is a great place to explore on a cold or rainy day.

Taste Wine

There are 44 wineries in Traverse City. You and pick and choose which ones you want to visit, or you can sign up for a tour of several wineries.

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Chateau Chantal

This winery situated on a hilltop has amazing views all the way to the water.

Wine Tours

There are plenty of wine tours to choose from in Traverse City. You can opt for a bike tour, bus tour, or private tour.

Mission Point Lighthouse

Mission Point Lighthouse is one of the five lighthouses in the Traverse City area. Located 17 miles of Traverse City at the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula, this lighthouse was built in 1870 and is a popular spot for photos.

Check out the Warehouse Market

You can find a mix of restaurants, shops, coffee houses, and fitness studios in this building on Hall Street.

Throwing Leaves 3

Drive Around and Explore the Fall Foliage

Amanda from The World Incorporated and I drove around exploring off the beaten path dirt roads admiring the fall colors. We had so much fun! Traverse City is such a beautiful part of the country and it is fun just to aimlessly drive around!

Where to Stay in Traverse City

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I stayed at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, a sprawling resort with three golf courses, biking trails, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, multiple restaurants, and a full spa.

Traverse City Fall 10

The grounds of the resort are so beautiful, and the 17 floor tower had excellent views of the colorful trees below.

Aerie The Grand Traverse 2

I loved dinner at Aerie, the restaurants on the 16th floor of the tower, and the massage that I had at the spa! The Grand Traverse is the place to rest, relax, and be pampered! When you dine at Aerie, don’t miss the mushroom risotto or the steaks! And keep in mind that Aerie has an award-winning wine list!

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The rooms are large and modern, and the rooms in the tower have wonderful views. I liked that the rooms had a desk plus a couch area where I could lounge and catch up on emails.

Traverse City Side Trips

Suttons Bay

This town northwest of Traverse City is situated on a small bay. The town is known for its wineries and cider breweries, and Shady Line Cellars was highly recommended by a friend.

Elk Rapids

Elk Rapids is north of Traverse City on the Old Mission Peninsula, and a great spot to grab lunch on your way to the Old Mission Lighthouse.

Traverse City Fall 27

This trip was sponsored by the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa and Traverse City Tourism. The opinions expressed are my own.

Carol Kovach Bray

Thursday 8th of November 2018

I'm back to let you know I chose this posting as one of my features this evening at Share Your Style!


Thursday 8th of November 2018

Oh thanks so much Carol!!

Sherry Thecharmofhome

Wednesday 7th of November 2018

Love that Instagram wall! Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home!

Curious as a Cathy

Monday 29th of October 2018

I've been to Michigan just once many years ago but it wasn't for pleasure and it was a very short stay. DH had a job interview. It was in the winter and it was terribly blustery and cold. I would like to visit the state when the weather isn't so bitter. Fall time surely does look pretty there! Thanks for sharing your most excellent adventure!


Thursday 8th of November 2018

Yes! You need to visit when the weather is better! It's so beautiful!

Carol Kovach Bray

Monday 29th of October 2018

So happy to hear you love Michigan in the fall. I live in the Grand Rapids area and I've stayed at the Grand Traverse Resort. If you ever get back there again, check out Leland, Charlevoix and Petoskey. They're all great small towns right on Lake Michigan and the Bay.


Monday 29th of October 2018

Thanks so much for the tips - I am definitely hoping to return to Traverse City and to spent some time exploring nearby towns. It's so beautiful up there!