Traverse City is a charming city located in Northern Michigan, situated on the shores of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay. The city has become a popular tourist destination due to its beautiful beaches, picturesque vineyards, and numerous outdoor recreational activities. Traverse City is known for its friendly locals, laid-back vibe, and stunning scenery that attracts visitors from all over the world.
One of the things that sets Traverse City apart from other destinations is the sheer variety of unique activities and experiences that it offers. Whether you’re looking to explore the great outdoors, taste the local cuisine, or immerse yourself in the local art scene, Traverse City has something for everyone.
In this blog post, we will be showcasing ten of the most unforgettable and unique things to do in Traverse City. These activities will take you off the beaten path and provide you with memories that will last a lifetime. So, whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a longer vacation, be sure to add some of these unique experiences to your Traverse City itinerary!
Top 10 Unique Things to Do in Traverse City
1. Go on a wine tour
Traverse City is home to some of the best wineries and vineyards in the Midwest, making it the perfect destination for wine lovers. The region’s unique climate, which features warm summers and cool lake breezes, provides an ideal environment for growing a variety of grapes. The result is a diverse range of wines that have won numerous awards and accolades.
Going on a wine tour in Traverse City is a unique experience that allows visitors to explore the beautiful countryside and taste some of the best wines the region has to offer. Visitors can take a guided tour and learn about the history and production of winemaking in the area, from the grape to the bottle. It’s a great way to appreciate the hard work and dedication that goes into making each bottle of wine.
Some of the most popular wineries to visit in Traverse City include Chateau Chantal, Black Star Farms, and Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery. Chateau Chantal, located on a hill overlooking the Grand Traverse Bay, offers stunning views and a wide selection of wines, including their famous ice wine. Black Star Farms is a beautiful estate that produces a range of wines, ciders, and spirits, all made from locally sourced ingredients. Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery offers a unique wine-tasting experience in their beautiful tasting room, where visitors can try their signature Riesling and Cabernet Franc wines.
Going on a wine tour in Traverse City is not only a fun and unique experience, but it also allows visitors to support the local economy and learn more about the region’s history and culture.
2. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the most beautiful natural attractions in Michigan. The park features towering sand dunes, crystal-clear lakes, and lush forests, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
Visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a unique experience because it offers visitors the opportunity to explore one of the most stunning and untouched natural environments in the country. The park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, and visitors can witness the beautiful ecosystem up close.
There are plenty of activities to enjoy at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, including hiking, swimming, and even sandboarding. The park offers over 100 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy to challenging, allowing visitors to explore the natural beauty of the area. Swimming is also a popular activity, with several beaches located along the shoreline of Lake Michigan.
To make the most of your visit, it’s recommended that you wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and bug spray. It’s also important to stay on designated trails and obey any posted signs or warnings. For those interested in camping, the park offers several campgrounds that are open from May to October.
Overall, visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a must-do activity for anyone traveling to Traverse City. It’s a unique and unforgettable experience that showcases the beauty of Michigan’s natural landscape.
3. Take a Scenic Drive
Traverse City is surrounded by picturesque countryside that’s perfect for a scenic drive. The region’s rolling hills, sparkling lakes, and lush forests make for a stunning backdrop that’s sure to take your breath away. Driving through the countryside is a great way to relax and enjoy the beauty of the area at your own pace.
Taking a scenic drive in Traverse City is a unique experience because it allows visitors to explore the natural beauty of the area in a way that’s both relaxing and immersive. You can take your time and soak in the scenery, stopping along the way to take photos or explore points of interest. Whether you’re a nature lover or just looking for a relaxing way to spend the day, a scenic drive in Traverse City is a perfect choice.
One of the most scenic routes to take is M-22, which runs along the shoreline of Lake Michigan and offers breathtaking views of the water and the surrounding landscape. This route takes you through quaint towns and charming villages, with plenty of opportunities to stop and explore along the way.
When taking a scenic drive in Traverse City, it’s important to plan your route and take into account any potential weather or road conditions. You’ll want to make sure your vehicle is in good condition and that you have plenty of gas, water, and snacks. It’s also a good idea to bring a map or GPS device in case you get lost.
In addition, it’s important to be respectful of the local environment and other drivers on the road. Always follow posted speed limits and be aware of wildlife that may cross the road. Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the journey and take in the breathtaking beauty of Traverse City’s countryside.
4. Explore the Great Lakes Children’s Museum
The Great Lakes Children’s Museum is a must-visit attraction for families with children. The museum offers interactive exhibits and activities that allow children to learn and explore through play. The exhibits cover a wide range of topics related to the Great Lakes region, including water conservation, marine life, and boating safety.
Exploring the Great Lakes Children’s Museum is a unique experience for children and families because it provides a hands-on learning environment that’s both fun and educational. Children can use their imaginations and creativity to engage with the exhibits and learn about the world around them in a way that’s both memorable and enjoyable.
Some of the most popular exhibits to see at the Great Lakes Children’s Museum include the “Water Table,” which allows children to experiment with water and learn about its properties, and the “Pirate Ship,” which lets children role-play and learn about life on the high seas. Other exhibits include the “Marine Life Touch Tank,” where children can touch and learn about different sea creatures, and the “Great Lakes Map,” which teaches children about the geography and history of the region.
When visiting the Great Lakes Children’s Museum, it’s important to plan ahead and allow plenty of time for exploration and play. The museum is geared towards children ages 1-10, and all exhibits are interactive and hands-on. Parents and caregivers should be prepared to supervise their children and encourage them to engage with the exhibits.
In addition, the Great Lakes Children’s Museum is located in the heart of downtown Traverse City, so it’s easy to combine a visit to the museum with other activities and attractions in the area. Parking is available nearby, and the museum is wheelchair accessible. Visitors should also check the museum’s website for information about special events and programming, as the museum regularly hosts activities and workshops for children and families.
5. Go kayaking
One of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of Traverse City is by kayaking on its crystal-clear waters. Kayaking is a unique experience that allows you to get up close and personal with the scenic surroundings, whether you’re paddling along the shoreline or exploring the coves and bays.
Traverse City is home to several outfitters that offer kayak rentals and guided tours. Some of the most popular places to rent kayaks include Paddle TC, The River Outfitters, and Krazy Kayak. These outfitters can provide you with all the necessary equipment, including kayaks, paddles, life jackets, and safety gear, and offer a range of guided tours for all skill levels.
Kayaking in Traverse City is a unique experience because of the area’s stunning natural beauty. From the turquoise waters of Lake Michigan to the calm bays and inlets of the nearby rivers and lakes, there are plenty of scenic spots to explore. You might see wildlife such as bald eagles, otters, and deer, or enjoy the peacefulness of the water as you paddle.
When planning your kayaking adventure in Traverse City, it’s important to dress appropriately for the weather and conditions. Wear comfortable, moisture-wicking clothing and bring along a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses. It’s also a good idea to bring a waterproof bag or container to store your phone and other valuables.
Finally, be sure to check the weather and water conditions before you head out. Windy or stormy conditions can make kayaking dangerous, so it’s important to be prepared and know your limits. Always follow safety guidelines and listen to your guide or rental outfitter’s instructions to ensure a safe and enjoyable kayaking experience.
6. Visit the Traverse City State Park
The Traverse City State Park is a 48-acre park located on the beautiful Grand Traverse Bay. The park features stunning views of the bay and offers a range of amenities for visitors to enjoy. These include a beach for swimming and sunbathing, picnic areas with grills, and a playground for children.
One of the unique experiences that the Traverse City State Park offers is the chance to explore the natural beauty of the area. The park features several hiking trails that wind through the wooded hillsides and offer breathtaking views of the bay. Visitors can also rent bikes or kayaks from nearby outfitters to explore the area in a different way.
In addition to outdoor activities, the Traverse City State Park is a popular spot for family-friendly events and activities. During the summer months, the park hosts weekly concerts and movie nights, as well as a Fourth of July fireworks display. There are also several playgrounds and open spaces for children to play in.
Some of the most popular activities at the Traverse City State Park include swimming, hiking, picnicking, and playing on the beach. The park’s beach is a great spot to cool off on a hot day and offers plenty of space for sunbathing and relaxing. The hiking trails provide a chance to explore the natural beauty of the area and take in the stunning views of the bay.
When planning your visit to the Traverse City State Park, be sure to pack appropriate clothing and gear for the activities you plan to do. If you plan to swim, bring a bathing suit and towels. If you plan to hike, wear comfortable shoes and bring water and snacks. It’s also important to follow park rules and guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.
7. Take a hot air balloon ride
Traverse City is a beautiful city with breathtaking views from the ground, but imagine seeing it from a different perspective – the sky! Taking a hot air balloon ride is an experience of a lifetime that allows you to see Traverse City in a completely new way.
As you soar high above the city, you’ll be able to take in the beautiful panoramic views of the lush greenery, sparkling waters, and rolling hills of the countryside. You’ll also get to see the city’s charming buildings and landmarks from a unique perspective that you won’t get from the ground.
There are several companies in Traverse City that offer hot air balloon rides for tourists. One of the most popular companies is Traverse Bay Tours, which provides a variety of packages to fit different preferences and budgets. They offer a sunrise flight that allows you to see the sunrise over the Bay, a sunset flight that takes you over the Sleeping Bear Dunes, and a private flight for a more intimate experience.
Before you book a hot air balloon ride, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, dress appropriately for the weather as it can get chilly at higher altitudes. Secondly, be prepared for an early morning as most flights depart at sunrise. Finally, be aware that hot air balloon rides are weather-dependent, so it’s important to book your ride for a day with clear skies and calm winds.
If you’re looking for a unique and unforgettable experience in Traverse City, taking a hot air balloon ride is definitely worth considering. The breathtaking views and the feeling of floating effortlessly above the city make it an experience you’ll never forget.
8. Visit the Cherry Republic
Traverse City is famous for its cherry orchards and products, and a visit to the Cherry Republic is a must for any visitor to the area. The Cherry Republic is a retail store and café that specializes in cherry products made from locally sourced cherries.
Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by a friendly staff and a charming store filled with cherry products such as cherry preserves, cherry wine, cherry salsa, and cherry-based sauces. In addition to the retail store, there is a café where visitors can sample some of the cherry products while enjoying a meal or snack.
One of the unique experiences that the Cherry Republic offers is the opportunity to taste a wide range of cherry products. Visitors can sample different types of cherry wines and sodas, as well as cherry-based sauces and salsas. The tasting experience allows visitors to explore the different flavors and textures of cherries, and to learn more about the history and production of cherry products in the area.
Some of the most popular cherry products to try at the Cherry Republic include cherry wine, cherry salsa, and cherry preserves. The cherry wine is made from locally sourced cherries and is available in both red and white varieties. The cherry salsa is a spicy and sweet combination of cherries, peppers, and spices, and is perfect for dipping with tortilla chips or adding to tacos. The cherry preserves are made from sweet cherries and can be enjoyed on toast, crackers, or paired with cheese.
When visiting the Cherry Republic, it’s important to arrive early as it can get quite busy during peak season. Additionally, visitors should be prepared to spend some time exploring the retail store and trying the different cherry products. The café can also get busy during peak times, so it’s best to arrive early or make a reservation.
Overall, a visit to the Cherry Republic is a unique experience that allows visitors to taste and explore the rich history and culture of Traverse City’s cherry industry. Whether you’re a cherry lover or just looking for a fun and delicious activity, the Cherry Republic is not to be missed.
9. Go on a brewery tour
Traverse City is a great destination for beer lovers, with its thriving craft beer scene and abundance of local breweries. Going on a brewery tour is a unique experience that allows visitors to sample some of the best beers the city has to offer while learning about the brewing process and the history of beer in the area.
Traverse City has a vibrant craft beer scene that has been steadily growing in popularity over the years. The city is home to several microbreweries and craft beer bars that serve a wide variety of beers, from classic styles to unique and experimental brews. Many of these breweries use locally sourced ingredients, including hops and grains, to create their beers, giving them a distinct taste that is unique to the region.
Going on a brewery tour is a unique experience because it allows visitors to go behind the scenes and see how beer is made. Visitors can learn about the brewing process, from the selection of ingredients to the fermentation and aging of the beer. They can also sample different beers and discover new and interesting flavors that they may not have tried otherwise. Brewery tours are also a great way to meet the brewers and learn about their craft, as well as to socialize with other beer enthusiasts.
Some of the most popular breweries to visit in Traverse City include The Workshop Brewing Company, Right Brain Brewery, and North Peak Brewing Company. Each of these breweries has its own unique style and offers a range of different beers to try. The Workshop Brewing Company, for example, is known for its Belgian-style ales and seasonal brews, while Right Brain Brewery is known for its creative and experimental beers, such as its Cherry Pie Whole ale. North Peak Brewing Company, on the other hand, offers a range of classic and contemporary beers, including IPAs, stouts, and lagers.
When going on a brewery tour in Traverse City, it’s important to plan ahead and make reservations in advance, especially during peak tourist season. Visitors should also be prepared to sample a variety of different beers, so it’s a good idea to pace oneself and drink plenty of water throughout the tour. Additionally, visitors should be respectful of the brewery’s rules and regulations, and should not bring outside food or drinks onto the premises. Most importantly, visitors should have fun and enjoy the unique experience of sampling some of the best beers that Traverse City has to offer.
10. Visit the Dennos Museum Center
If you are an art and culture enthusiast, then the Dennos Museum Center is a must-visit destination in Traverse City. Located on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College, the museum houses a collection of over 2,500 works of art from around the world.
The museum’s permanent collection includes exhibits of contemporary art, Native American art, and Inuit art. One of the highlights of the museum is the Inuit Art Collection, which features over 1,000 works from the Canadian Arctic. The collection includes sculptures, prints, drawings, and textiles that showcase the culture and traditions of the Inuit people.
Aside from its permanent collections, the Dennos Museum Center also hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year. These exhibits feature works from both emerging and established artists from around the world.
Visitors can also enjoy a variety of educational programs and events at the museum, such as lectures, workshops, and concerts. The museum also has a gift shop where visitors can purchase unique gifts and souvenirs.
Overall, the Dennos Museum Center is a unique experience that offers a glimpse into different cultures and artistic perspectives. Whether you’re an art lover or simply looking for an interesting and educational experience, a visit to this museum is highly recommended.
Tips for Visiting the Dennos Museum Center:
- Check the museum’s website for current exhibitions and events before your visit.
- The museum is closed on Mondays, so plan accordingly.
- The admission fee is reasonable, and there are discounts available for seniors, students, and children.
- Guided tours are available upon request, and they are a great way to learn more about the museum’s collections.
- Photography is allowed in some areas of the museum, but not all. Be sure to check the signs and ask the staff before taking any pictures.
Traverse City offers a wealth of unique activities that will leave visitors with unforgettable memories. From wine tours and scenic drives to kayaking and hot air balloon rides, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The natural beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes and the crystal-clear waters of Traverse City are sure to captivate any outdoor enthusiast, while the Cherry Republic and brewery tours provide delicious culinary experiences. Families with children will enjoy the Great Lakes Children’s Museum, while art and culture enthusiasts will appreciate the exhibits at the Dennos Museum Center.
We highly recommend a visit to Traverse City to experience these activities firsthand. Whether you’re planning a solo trip, a romantic getaway, or a family vacation, Traverse City has something to offer. So pack your bags and head to this beautiful destination to create unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.