They’re all year-round, and all around good. Make a visit well-rounded with a dabble in all five of these top Traverse City activities. And when you make it through every category, go back to the beginning and do ‘em again — there’s a depth of goodness that keeps on giving.
1. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Ever feel like you’ve stood on top of the world? This is the place to get a taste. Hovering over 400 feet above the vibrant Lake Michigan baby blues, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a treasure that never fails to awe its visitors (and locals). But if you don’t believe us, believe Good Morning America, which named the National Lakeshore the Most Beautiful Place in America a few years back. If you’re here for a short summer weekend, head to Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive and hop out at the Lake Michigan Overlook. It’s stunning, it’s shocking and it’s an unmatched iconic view. But if you do have the luxury of time, take a tour, scout out a few trails for a hike, bike ride or snowshoe, or get a killer workout in at the infamous Dune Climb. Whatever you chose, be sure to stop in at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire for park updates and information.
2. Wine Tasting
Thanks to the wonders of the 45th Parallel (the shared latitude for Italy’s Piedmont region and Bourdeaux in France), the Traverse Wine Coast overfloweth at about 40 different wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms. And, thanks to Grand Traverse Bay, the land is insulated from mother nature’s inconsistencies with the added bonus of extended daylight, aka more time for slow, luscious ripening. Ranging in crisp whites to complex reds, our winemakers have put us on a lot of lists, including Travel Channel’s Top 10 Cities for Wine Snobs. But then there’s the aesthetic, too. From traditional European ambience to minimalist modern, the tasting rooms themselves are a sight to behold. But they also happen to have some of the best views of the shore-lined landscapes. Make it a self-guided tour, a snowshoe excursion or a shuttled event, the wineries always pour up hospitality.
Mmm. Liquid bread. Maybe it’s the plaid shirts, the gnarly beards or maybe it’s the killer folky playlist floating over the taps…whatever the je ne sais quoi, breweries somehow all say “you’re welcome here.” Well, you’re about a dozen times welcome in TC. Each brewery and taproom bringing their own quirk to the pub table, yet all sharing a foundation to showcase our land. Whether empire hops, asparagus, whiskey, farm-raised pork, apples or a whole cherry pie—there’s a pint for that, and we’re raising it. But so is CNN Money, listing us among America’s Best Beer Towns.
You know what’s better than liquid bread? Pairing it with solid bread. And house-made butter because you know we’re bringing that farm to your table here on the 45th Parallel. (Churn baby, churn!) But really. Coming in second place to California as the most agriculturally diverse state in the U.S., our northern corner of Michigan is, well, fruitful. Before the locally-sourced movement existed, our restauranteurs were committed to the lifestyle, because the food was available, it supported our neighbors and the most obvious of all, it tasted freaking awesome. And we’re not the only ones who say so. Bon Appetit named Traverse City one of America’s five top foodie towns in 2010. Of course, best of all worlds is to taste the fruit of the great outdoors, in the outdoors. Wander downtown Traverse City and your nose (okay, eyes too) will find the perfect patio for dining alfresco.
5. Outdoor Recreation
Well thanks to that fruit salad, liquid and solid bread, we all need to get a few extra miles in. And there are countless ways to get up and get moving, no gym required. With midsummer days being extraordinarily long on the 45th Parallel, we have extra hours in the day to hike, bike, fish, golf, swim, sail or just wander down the trail. And come winter, the possibilities just increase. Fat bike, cross-country ski, snowshoe, downhill ski or snowboard, snow tube, ice skate, ice fish, it’s the playground without limits. And if you’re needing a little friendly competition to fuel your spirit, there’s a four-season calendar of races and sporting events for that, too. Maybe that’s why Midwest Living named us the Greatest Town in the Midwest.
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