They call Traverse City a four-season playground. So no matter when you visit, there are plenty of fun things for your family to do and see! From “Michigan’s largest sandbox” to a 10-acre corn maze, your family won’t forget this Michigan vacation. Read on to learn more about the best things to do in Traverse City!
Quick View: Best Things to do in Traverse City:
Source: via Traversecity.com
Clinch Park Beach is the largest and most popular public beach in the area, so it’s a sure bet, and it’s just a few blocks from downtown Traverse City. If your kids enjoy collecting rocks, tell them to keep their eyes peeled for Petoskey stones. They consist of tightly packed, six-sided corallites, which are the skeletons of the once-living coral polyps, and they look pretty cool.
2. State Theatre Children's Quarter Matinees
Enjoy a beautiful old-style movie palace experience every Saturday at 10 am (and on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the summer). Catch the latest animated and live-action sensations, plus children’s movies from around the world, for only 25 cents a person -- the same price the theatre charged when it first opened back in 1916!
3. Historic Fishtown in Leland
Take a trip back in time when you visit Fishtown, about 25 miles away. A working waterfront, it’s one of the last non-commercialized fishing harbors in all of Michigan. Walk among a collection of fishing shanties dating back 150 years, now housing clothing boutiques, art galleries and gift shops. It’s a great place to get a unique thank you gift for your house or pet sitter.
On a beautiful forested campus 20 minutes southwest of Traverse City, Interlochen fine arts camp and boarding school hosts hundreds of concerts, dramatic performances and dance recitals. Check their event calendar before you visit, or just visit anytime -- a walk on the grounds alone provides sounds and snippets of young artists in action.
Player pianos? Check. Nickelodeons? You betcha. Great for a rainy day, the Music House Museum, (recognized by Forbes.com as one of the ten reasons to visit Michigan’s Lower Peninsula), showcases an assortment of elaborate automated instruments from the 1870s to the 1930s. Ongoing guided tours explain it all -- with Wurlitzer organ accompaniment!
A former mental asylum with a castle-like appearance, the Village at Grand Traverse Commons operates as a residential facility, workplace and commercial center. Spend the day at the Commons and soak up a little bit of Traverse history! The place is lined with restaurants, shops, salons and more. The Grand Traverse Commons also boast a huge lawn and hiking trails to enjoy with the kids!
7. Old Mission Peninsula
The perfect place to escape all that big city energy, Old Mission Peninsula is home to some of Michigan's most scenic spots. Check out the famous Mission Point Lighthouse, enjoy the area's sandy beaches, and kick back at one of the area's many wineries.
Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes were recently honored as the "Most Beautiful Place in America" on ABC's Good Morning America. This 35-mile stretch of coastline with historic farms, a lighthouse, and maritime museum is often called Michigan’s largest sandbox. If your kids can climb to the top of the 110-foot dune, it’s a joyous run down to the bottom! The Sleeping Bear Dunes is also home to tons of hiking trails, swimming areas, museums and more!
A premiere destination for culture and entertainment, the City Opera House is home to an amazing array of live entertainment. We're talking musical events, live talks, film screenings and more! The building is one of just 48 opera houses build in Michigan during the 19th and early 20th centuries. "The Grand Old Lady," as it's affectionately known, is nestled comfortably in downtown Traverse City!
Traveling around with little ones? Need a place where they can run around? Enter the Traverse City State Park, a 47-acre plot of land filled with areas to hike, bike, picnic and lounge around. The park also features .25 miles of beach along the Grand Traverse Bay. Head that way if you want to go fishing or take a boat out!
Source: via dennosmuseum.org
This permanent gallery at The Dennos Museum Center puts a focus on both the arts and sciences. Highlights include a Laser Harp, Anti-Gravity Mirror, and Sound Wall (an interactive sculpture that creates music when you touch it). Also check out the Hubble Space Telescope Theater, which features an ongoing transmission from NAS
Source: via chesapeakefamily.com
If you happen to be in town during fourth of July weekend, then you've got to check out the National Cherry Festival. Considered “pure Michigan," the festival brings together local cherry growers order to celebrate the agricultural community. The celebration features over 150 events and activities for kids, including pit-spitting, pie-eating contests, turtle races and more!
Source: via The Traverse City Film Festival
Speaking of summer activities, we'd be remiss not to mention the Traverse City film festival! From July 28 to August 2, downtown Traverse City presents a series of films, from the classics to new aged flicks designed to intrigue the mind and the lift the spirit. You can also check out free panel discussions with directors, writers, actors and other members of the film industry!
Source: via Jacob’s Corn Maze
Running from early August until late October, this 10-acre corn maze is quite the challenge! Located across from Gallagher’s Farm Market, these maze is broken into three sizes, from a long 2.5-mile option to an easy .3-mile option for younger kids. When you’re done, shop their fresh produce!
Source: Old Town Playhouse
Created back in 1960 to help bring amateur theater into Northern Michigan, the Old Town Playhouse boasts a 277-seat mainstage auditorium and an 80-seat studio theater. It's located just minutes from downtown, which makes this destination a great spot to bring the kids after spending a day exploring the city. The playhouse also offers youth education courses throughout the year!
Source: NMC Great Lakes Campus
Did you know that Traverse City is also a college town? Northwestern Michigan College is located right in the heart of the city, and you don't have to be a student to enjoy all the exciting events taking place across the campus! You and your family can enjoy any number of sporting events, exhibits, live performances, academic talks and more!
Source: via Great Lakes Children’s Museum
A great place to let little ones under 10 get their wiggles out, the museum emphasizes play-based exploration and learning through fun hands-on, interactive activities like a water table, gravity tube construction wall, and a lighthouse to play in.
Source: Slabtown Burgers Official
Time for a snack! Head over to this local favorite for hand-crafted pattied burgers, fresh cut fries and homemade soups. Take a seat at the counter inside or claim a spot at one of the picnic benches outside!
Source: Empire Bluff Trail - Empire
Take a quick trip to the neighboring town of Glen Arbor! The area is nestled between Sleeping Bear Bay on Lake Michigan and the Glen Lakes. It's a quaint little area, which means it lends itself to a lot of family-friendly run. Rent bikes and explore the town, check out more of the Michigan coastline, go out to eat at one of their locally sourced restaurants! There's also Cherry Republic to explore, the world's largest exclusive retailer of cherry products!
Source: Downtown Traverse City
Need to do a little shopping? Look no further than the infamous Front Street, Traverse City's commercial hub. Many of the area's 150 shops, boutiques, galleries, coffee shops and restaurants are housed in beautiful Victorian buildings erected during the 19th century.
Source: King Orchards website
Looking for more things to do in Traverse City? Why not roll up your sleeves and put yourself to work. Head over to one of the most popular cherry orchards in Traverse City. In addition to the cherries, Kings Orchard offers raspberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines and apples. Pick your fruit and go home happy!
Source: via nps.gov
Are you craving some more time by the water? Hop in the car and go cruising along the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. The 7.4-mile loop weaves through the Beech-Maple forest and sand dunes. It also leads to some of the best views of Glen Lakes, the Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan.
Source: Historic Barns Park site
Located just outside of downtown Traverse City, the Historic Barns Park contains 56-acres of hiking trails, botanical gardens and scenic landscapes. Of course, there's also the Cathedral Barn, which once fed the patients and personnel of the former Traverse City State Hospital. The structure has since been renovated and now boasts over 3,500 feet of event space.
Source: Black Star Farms website
Get ready for a parent's night out! Black Star Farms is one of the most popular wineries around Traverse City. Considered both a wine and culinary destination, Black Star Farms contains two wine tasting rooms, both on the Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trails. the 160-acre estate also contains a distiller, cafe, and hiking trails around the property!
Looking for more to do in Traverse City? Check out their tourism site. We hope you have a great family vacation!
There’s a lot to be said for slowing down and simply enjoying each other’s company on vacation, and with everything a family could possibly need under one roof, our very own Great Wolf Lodge is just the place to do so. Pay no mind to finicky weather, their water park is kept warm at 84-degrees year-round, and with so many activities for kids, there’s no need to make big plans!.