best small town

Basking in Sunshine and Wine, A Traverse City Guide

We traveled the entire sunset coast of Michigan this summer and while it seemed each tiny beach town was more adorable than the last, Traverse City took us completely by surprise.

best small town

You see, I’ve never thought much about the state of Michigan, I don’t know why I just never have.  It wasn’t on my must see list and I didn’t know anything about it other than it’s the home of Detroit and the unofficial state bird is the mosquito.

So, you can imagine my surprise when we landed in Traverse City, the realm of beautiful beaches, cherries, wine, micro brews and endless small town charm.

Traverse City has a population just over 14,600, is the largest producer of tart cherries in the United States and is near the 45th parallel (halfway point between the equator and the North Pole).  At this latitude the sun is visible for 15 hours and 37 minutes during the summer solstice.  This means lots of sweet sun ripened fruit and extended beach time!

We just so happened to visit the week of the Cherry festival (first full week of July) and it attracts a half a million people.  Even with the influx of visitors and cheesy carnival rides the town didn’t seem overrun.  We choose not to participate in the festival as we only had a couple of days and we were bound and determined to explore as much of the area as possible.  This, in hindsight, was definitely the right call!

We created a mixed itinerary of outdoor exploration, food, wine, beer & cider tastings.  Here are our favorites…or maybe we should call it our Incomplete Guide to Traverse City Michigan.


outdoor travel guide

Haserot Beach

This is the locals beach (so don’t tell em’ we sent you or we might not be invited back!). It’s a great little spot to sit, enjoy a slice of pie and just relax (or sleep off a serious case of food coma).

traverse city beach beach traverse city

Old Mission Lighthouse

We love this quaint historical spot (especially because it’s free).  Stroll along the trails, enjoy the beaches and take the self guided tour to learn what life was like for the lighthouse keepers.

old mission peninsula old mission peninsula traverse city


Peninsula Cellars

While these were not our favorite wines, we did love the quaint old school house setting and think it’s worth the stop.  If it’s nice outside, grab your tasting and head out to the patio.

traverse city wine

Bowers Harbor Winery

Something about this place had a real family feel and the wines were fairly solid and not as overly sweet as some of the others we tasted. Our wine guide was super friendly and gave us the lowdown on some other must-see spots.

best of michigan bowers harbor winery

2 Lads

Tasty red wines, lovely bubbly, grand views and good sustainable farming practices…its high scores on all levels. And the uber cool contemporary look and feel provided a very different wine sipping experience. Splurge for the chocolate, cheese and nut plate, it’s divine with wine 🙂

Mawby Sparkling Wine

Bubbles, bubbles and more bubbles, I love bubbles!  This all sparkling wine stop was definitely one of our favorites and it’s where we inevitably spent most of our wine shopping budget! Ooops.

best sparkling wine michigan best bubbly traverse city


Mission Table / Jolly Pumpkin

This stop is a two-fer. The Bowers Harbor Inn Estate houses two distinctly different experiences.  Mission Table is an upscale, locally sourced, culinary experience that boasts a wide variety of their crafted wine, beer and spirits.  Housed on the other end is The Jolly Pumpkin Restaurant, Brewery, and Distillery with its low key rustic atmosphere.  If you’re a craft beer fan like we are, then you’ll dig their oak aged and bottle conditioned brews.

Bowers Harbor Inn EstateBowers Harbor Inn Estatebest food traverse city area

The Workshop Brewing

This is the perfect hang out bar.  Anytime you provide a space with good beer, food, lots of room and games; it’s a clear sign they want you to stick around for a while.  Plus, you have to love their commitment to using as many Michigan grown ingredients as possible.

traverse city best beer traverse city

Tandem Cider

There isn’t anything better on warm sunny day than a crisp, dry, not too sweet cider.  Obviously, we are not the only ones who feel this way.  When we were greeted with a long line and full patio, we knew we were in for a treat!  These guys feature a wide variety of flavors all expressive of the locally grown apples.  I suggest you sample them all and then take your favorites to the beach!

traverse city michiganbest cider michigan


The Little Fleet

One open air central bar with a garden full of food trucks, what’s not to love?  It’s kid friendly, casual and the perfect atmosphere for rubbing shoulders with the locals. And Yes, there are a ton of local brews on tap!

the little fleet  food truckstraverse city michigan


We love a good hole in the wall and this tiny 18 seat Asian and Latin Taquería hit the spot.  They have a unique two sided menu, one Asian and one Latin.  You can indulge in pad thai and seared tuna tacos all in one place!  Oh, and make a reservation, otherwise you could be waiting a long while or might not get in at all.

best food traverse city georginas

Coffee Shop / Bakeries

A good local coffee roaster is something we seek out in every great city we visit.  We have a deep (obsessive) love for coffee, and nothing pairs better than a gourmet pastry.  With that mad love comes a fair amount of snobiness and high expectations, so trust us on these.


Brew doesn’t disappoint! Located in the historic opera house building downtown, Brew is loaded with character and offers a variety of delicious beverages beyond just coffee.  They are big on sourcing local so you’ll find several microbrews and wines along with pastries, grilled sandwiches, soups, salads and so on.

traverse city michigan

Higher Grounds / Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery

This cozy coffee shop is on the historic grounds of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons.  It’s a funky/cute little area that was the former state mental hospital and is now home to one of the nation’s largest historic adaptive reuse projects.  The whole village is filled with boutiques, artisan shops and restaurants.  Talk about character!

best shopping and dining

Higher Grounds gave us our first aero-press coffee experience while we chatted up the baristas about their fair trade standards and environmental commitment to no plastic, paper or Styrofoam cups (hence the Christmas cup in the middle of summer).

best coffee traverse city

With our cup of joe in hand, we walked across the lawn to the Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery and scooped up one of their organic cinnamon rolls.  Fair warning, everything about this bakery is intoxicating…you will want to walk out with everything they make.

best of traverse city

Grand Traverse Pie Company

So many of you suggested this little pie company and to be honest, we were skeptical.  We have visited so many disappointing and kitschy pie shops claiming to have the best pie that we weren’t very optimistic.  We should have known you wouldn’t steer us wrong!  It was a truly sinful experience!  However, I have to say I was disappointed in some of their ingredient choices (partially hydrogenated oils, fake coloring’s and flavors).

best bakery michigan


Have you been to the Traverse City area?  Did we miss something we should add to the list for our next visit? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (27)

  • Rita

    My husband and I have done some scuba diving off Haserot Beach. A few interesting items to check out, but amazing, Caribbean-colored water was such a treat. More broadly, scuba diving around MI is a unique experience with lots of fresh water shipwreck diving… If you can handle the cold 🙂 Definitely recommend if you’re ever in the area again.

  • Richard Zielinski

    Did you make it to torch lake its about 25 miles north of traverse city, its the 3rd most beautyfull lake in the world

      • baron day

        HELLO nice write up you did for our state your right it is a hidden gem , but lot’s know it also , we are going to the Cherry festival this weekend, hope you are enjoying your sailboat ( i don’t know the right way to call it but that ) t.c. be safe , have fun bcoz life is short

  • Mark M

    just saw this. Brought back memories. We lived in TC for many years. Our boys were born there. We used to take my oldest to day care at the lighthouse. We lived a couple miles away on a cherry farm.

    Thanks. Mark

  • I hope that you don’t mind me sharing your wonderful write up of the Traverse City area with my readers. 🙂

  • Thought I wrote awhile ago, so please ignore me if you got it twice.

    We went to the Cherry Festival last year and you really didn’t miss all that much. There weren’t as many cherry items as I would expect. We still went to the Grand Traverse Pie Company to grab a slice. Although I think the Cherry Hut in Beulah still beat it!

  • Stephanie

    You could get really fat in MI off all the pies & pastries, yum! We did our very first long trip towing a large trailer in October. Started in Colorado, drove to Wisconsin to pickup our camper, drove north along Lake Michigan, up into Door County WI (fantastic…put that on your to-do list),up to Marquette in the U.P., to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, over the Mackinac bridge. Checked out Boyne Mountain ski area, then Traverse City and Sleeping Bears Dunes. Continued south, we enjoyed Holland, MI. Had wanted to do this for years & it was WORTH IT. Loved your post !!!!!

  • Diane McWethy

    When you visit again, don’t miss Little Bo’s, a TC original on the west side right on Front Street in a neighborhood known as “Slab Town.”. While Sleder’s gets the press for historical eats, the food is so much better at Bo’s. Atmsophere, friendly staff and heavenly eats.

  • Wolfgang & Janet

    We have been following your website and videos for a while and just seen your visit to Traverse City, MI

    If you ever visit Michigan again you need to stop at Mackinaw Island including the UP.

    There is a nice private campground 505 Second Street in Copper Harbor.

    It’s so God’s Country,

    Best regards,


  • Thanks for sharing your Traverse City discoveries, Jason & Nikki! Looks as though you had an amazing time during your visit. I would have loved the chance to meet you. (Especially since you were basking on the sand in what’s practically my front yard at Haserot Beach. Stop by again, and let me take you out for dinner!
    Mike Norton, media relations manager
    Traverse City Tourism

  • Thanks for the “Traverse Tour” guys! Love your posts…great writing and pics……you’d be cool neighbors! But then….there would be no virtual traveling with you! ; )

  • Melanie

    I am totally in love with MI . Did you find free camping aka boondocking? if not, where did you park the RV?

  • Wendy and Mike

    Love your post on Michigan. Was not on out to go to list but after reading all the great things to do there, I think we will add it for next spring or fall.
    What park did you guys stay at?

    • We camped at Sleeping Bear Dunes, which we’ll have a post on in the near future. We also stayed one night at Sam’s Club right near the city.

  • We live just North of Traverse City, in Charlevoix, and having grown up in Northern Michigan I can say that the charm of TC is not so much the city itself (although it has a lot to offer) but all the smaller towns and villages around it. Leland’s “Fish town”, Northport, Suttons Bay, Charlevoix, Glen Arbor… The list goes on and one. Glad you two enjoyed our little slice of The Mitten. Come back soon!

    • We very much enjoyed MI and will be sharing our take on many of the towns in the near future. We felt Fish Town was a little too touristy though.

  • Don

    Hi guys,

    I have been following your website and videos for about a year now and cant wait for your next blog/videos each work. This is the first time I have posted a comment.
    I have been to Traverse City and there is a great French Bistro there called. Patissiere Amie and Chez Peres. They have fantastic food, pastries and it is off the beaten path in downtown Traverse City. FANTASTIC PASTRIES in authentic French fashion. Keep up the good work.


    • Glad you decided to say hi, and thanks for the french bakery recommendation is sounds lovely.

  • Robin & Don

    Please tell us you made it out to Leelanau county…love love Traverse City…it was our home for 23 years….but Leelanau county is a northern gem! Explore beautiful Suttons Bay….drive out to Omena ….Northport….Leland…Maple City…Cedar….Glen Arbor…Glen Haven….Empire…amazing beaches….restaurants….hikes….wineries …amazing local owned stores….great farmers Market in Glen Arbor….visit the Sand Dunes National Lakeshore….and if you timed it during the fall…the fall color tour along M22 is outstanding. Love Michigan. <3

    • We made it up both peninsulas during our stay and we very much enjoyed our time in the area.


Post a Comment