What to do in Traverse City, MI

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Traverse City showing a sunset, a city and landscape views

Traverse City Attractions

One of the most beautiful corners of the Great Lakes is yours to enjoy on a visit to this little community at the edge of Grand Traverse Bay. Along with sandy beaches by the calm waters of Lake Michigan, the home of the National Cherry Festival offers a great selection of wines and craft beers, along with orchards that produce more tart cherries than the rest of the country combined. From biking, birding, and ATV rides through the woodland to boating and parasailing on the water, there are plenty of adventures to find and things to do in Traverse City, along with your choice of laid-back retreats that offer the charm and hospitality of the Upper Midwest.

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What to do in Traverse City

Free Things to Do in Traverse City

Some say the best things in life are free. Be sure to explore the following around Traverse City:

City Opera House - If you're planning to explore the area's history through its landmarks, put this one on your travel schedule.

Traverse Area District Library - Stop here and learn about the importance of this place to the local community.

Clinch Park Beach - Keep your eyes peeled for pretty shells and other seaside gems dotted along the foreshore here.

Traverse City State Park - Contemplate the contrast between busy city life and nature's wild beauty at this stunning location.

Traverse City State Park - No matter if you can tell your lilies from lilacs, you're certain to find beauty in this attractive display.

Areas & Neighborhoods in Traverse City


The center of Traverse City rests between the shores of the bay and Boardman Lake, with rows of storefronts that date back to the 19th century divided by a small river from the lakefront marina. Inland from the boardwalk and the walking trail that runs through Clinch Park, the area’s hotels and restaurants offer prime locations right beside the water.


Named in the early days of the city before its borders expanded, the district now stands in the southwest end of town and has some of Traverse City’s oldest buildings. Rows of historic homes are framed by little stores and diners, with the woodlands of Kids Creek and the shops of Grand Traverse Commons waiting on the other side of Division Street.


Stretching from Grand Traverse Bay into the Hickory Hills Ski Area, Slabtown has a few taverns and B&Bs in the city’s original downtown area. The Traverse Area Recreation Trail runs along West End Beach, while a disc golf course waits on the hillside.

Traverse Heights

The long, tree-filled blocks in between Boardman Lake and Cherry Capital Airport are home to the local library and upscale housing on the lakefront along with plenty of restaurants and coffee houses along the main roads, and the Cherryland Center mall stands just down the street from the runways.

What to See in Traverse City

Surrounded by the bright colors, beaches, and natural beauty of the Great Lakes, Traverse City is a paradise of natural scenery. Both the West and East arms of Grand Traverse Bay reach the edge of the city, with miles of sandy beaches lined by walkways and shrubbery. Not far away, you can see the thick orchards that made the city known as the Cherry Capital of the World. Traverse City also happens to rest at the same latitude as Bordeaux and forms the heart of Michigan’s wine region, where you can find rows of vineyards laid out along the hillsides.

Sightseeing in Traverse City

The lakefront naturally soaks up a lot of attention from visitors to Traverse City, and for good reason. You can board a boat to cruise on open waters that stretch all the way to the national forests of the Upper Peninsula, cast a line out to snare some of the smallmouth bass, or go scuba diving to explore the sunken wrecks hidden beneath the lake.

If you’re looking for things to do while staying dry, there’s plenty of countryside to explore. Take a bicycle out to visit the vineyards and tasting rooms on the Old Mission Peninsula, climb into a hot-air balloon for a terrific look over the sights from the air, or just relax in the campgrounds at Traverse City State Park. The galleries of the Dennos Museum Center feature a rich collection of Inuit sculpture, and a string of museums along the shores highlight the region’s first inhabitants, European colonists, and American pioneers.

Things to Do in Traverse City with Kids

Traverse City has plenty of nearby fun activities for you and the kids. Our family friendly experiences will keep the gang entertained for days.


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Frequently asked questions

Are there cheap things to do in Traverse City?
If you’re hoping to make your vacation savings last a while, book a Weird 101 Walking Tour (Public).
What can you do in Traverse City for free?
Your trip to Traverse City needn’t send you broke with free things like these on offer:

  • Grand Traverse Bay
  • Front Street
  • Clinch Park Beach
  • Traverse City Visitor Center

Popular places to visit

Areas of Traverse City

Day trip destinations from Traverse City