Traverse City... Something For Everyone!

Traverse City… a town well-known for its beauty, great restaurants, shopping, cherries, galleries, and all seasons fun.  The north western part of Michigan below the upper peninsula including Suttons Bay, Leland, and Sleeping Bear Dunes, is often referred to as the Traverse City area.  Todd and I had been to the Traverse City area several years ago and were excited to return.  The Traverse City area is great for both couples and families of all ages… there really is something for everyone… it’s the type of place we visit and know we’ll return!

From Silver Lake we headed north east about 2 hours to Timber Ridge RV and Recreation Resort in Traverse City, which is about 15 minutes out of downtown Traverse City.  Timber Ridge RV and Recreation Resort is a very large campground with some great plusses and some things that didn’t work for us.  On the plus side… the location is awesome for camping by Traverse City, there are some really fun activities for kids, the staff and camp store are great, and there are lots of fantastic trails that hook into the VASA trail and offer lots of options for running, hiking, and biking. 

Before booking Timber Ridge RV Recreation Resort, there are a few things to keep in mind… the resort is huge and bubbling with activity… if you want to hear the sounds of nature, the crackle of campfires, people talking or singing softly, and an occasional guitar at 9pm, this is not your place.  There are dodgeball games every night until at least 10pm and as the night goes on they play really loud music that blares throughout the campground… imagine hearing nothing but “My Baby Does The Hanky Panky” at 10pm. The campground is also not very clean… the washrooms are not well maintained and we noted trash on the ground throughout the campground. 

We needed supplies when we arrived, so I headed out while Todd handled some trailer maintenance.  Groleau Farm Market is about 5 minutes from Timber Ridge on E Hammond Road and has a great selection of fresh fruit and vegetables.  They also have some baked goods and cheese.  For everything else I drove down the street another 5 minutes to Oleson’s Food Store, which is a full grocery store and pharmacy. 

After shopping and settling in to the campground we headed to downtown Traverse City for dinner.  We picked 7 Monks which is known for its beer selection but also has great food and is really kid friendly.  Daniel had chicken fingers, Todd had an awesome burger, I had the Farmhouse salad, Todd’s mom had French onion soup, and Todd’s dad had some super deluxe Mac ‘n cheese.  Everything was great – really fresh ingredients, unique preparations, and great taste!

We browsed around town after dinner and visited Art & Soul Gallery, which has great pieces in all price ranges.  Whether you’re looking for jewelry, a small inspirational gift, or a beautiful painting, Art & Soul Gallery has it!  We also visited Cherry Republic, which has all kinds of Michigan cherry products to sample and buy.  It’s a fun store with great products.  I bought some dried cherries that are awesome!

We spent our first full day in the Traverse City area exploring the area north west of Traverse City.  It’s a big area, so there is some drive time involved, but the road along the lake is beautiful.  Our first stop was North Port, which is a cute little town with a marina, playground, and small beach.  We got to North Port just as the Saturday farmer’s market was closing up.  Though I bought vegetables the day before, I couldn’t resist a basket of assorted tomatoes… they were awesome!

From North Port we drove north west to Leelanau State Park and Grand Traverse Lighthouse.  Grand Traverse Lighthouse is really beautiful and worth the visit.  It was super-hot the day we were there so we didn’t explore the rest of the park.

Our last stop was Leland ... a small town on the shore of Lake Michigan with a funky vibe.  There’s a street of little shops in buildings that look like little fishing shanties that's referred to as Fish Town.  The shops vary significantly… a little gallery, a cheese shop, a couple souvenir shops, etc… there’s something for everyone! 

We picked The Cove for lunch which has a great deck on the river that runs through town.  The Cove’s menu isn’t big… Caesar salads a couple ways, a number of fried fish options, a burger, and a few sandwich options.  The food was good, but not up to par with the other food we’ve had in the Traverse City Area. 

On our final day in the Traverse City area we drove up the Old Mission Peninsula that juts out 19 miles into Grand Traverse Bay just north of downtown Traverse City.  Todd and I had been there before and knew that it would be a beautiful drive.  The Old Mission Peninsula is dotted with wineries and vineyards, cherry trees, farms, and big beautiful houses.  At many points you can see Lake Michigan looking both east and west.  This is an especially great area for couples... a number of the wineries have bed and breakfasts and there are lots of companies that do tours so you don’t have to drive. 

We stopped at the Jolly Pumpkin for lunch.  The Jolly Pumpkin is located on the west side of the Old Mission Peninsula.  The Jolly Pumpkin is known for its beer, but the food is great and it’s a casual and kid friendly option in an area that’s a bit more adult focused.  Todd had an awesome Cuban sandwich, Daniel had pizza, and I had the rocket arugula salad. 

After lunch we stopped at one of the wineries… partially because we’d been there before and knew the view offers some great photo ops.  While Todd and Daniel took pictures outside I stopped in to pick up a bottle of wine.  It was Saturday and the winery was very crowded (too much to be enjoyable for me)… we noted that if we return and plan to visit wineries we’ll try to go during the week. 

One area that we didn’t visit on this trip is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  Todd and I had been there before and didn’t feel we needed to visit again.  Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is definitely worth a visit at least once.  An item to note… in some areas the dunes go on for a very long way before reaching the Lake Michigan shore… just make sure you know what you’re getting into before starting to walk!

Interested in visiting the Traverse City area?  There are tons of lodging options… hotels, motels, campground, bed and breakfasts, and cabin rentals.  Some of the areas book up really fast and can be very pricey, so it’s important to plan ahead.  Also, we found the Traverse City area more enjoyable during the week… it’s a popular place and the weekend gets very crowded!!