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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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:
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:
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.
Michigan is known for its fudge, and there are two sweetshops that specialize in making fudge.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
This winery situated on a hilltop has amazing views all the way to the water.
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.
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
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.
The grounds of the resort are so beautiful, and the 17 floor tower had excellent views of the colorful trees below.
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!
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
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 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.