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Sun, sand, and cherries

Traverse City, Michigan

Nestled in the Grand Traverse Bay, a 32-mile inlet in Lake Michigan, Traverse City, Michigan, is known as the “Cherry Capital of the World” and boasts a getaway for beachgoers and skiers alike.

  • Cherry Republic offers more than 200 products made with local cherries. Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism.
  • Cherries are not the only local produce for visitors to indulge in, with a number of wineries in the area. Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism.
  • Overlook Lake Michigan from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism.
  • If hiking sand dunes takes more energy than you want, try the beautiful sandy beaches for a leisure excursion. Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism.
  • Hotter days call for a dip in nearby waterways such as Lake Leelanau. Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism.

The Cherry Capital Airport is centrally located for quick escapes into town, but if you’re hoping to enjoy the area to its fullest potential, reserve a a rental car and book hotel accommodations for your stay. Traverse City is riddled with modern bed-and-breakfasts that line the waterfront or are in the vineyards. Traditional hotels with rooftop bars are located in the heart of the city and provide access to the great cuisine the city offers.

July brings Traverse City’s cherry harvest, featuring the National Cherry Festival the week of July Fourth. Traditionally the festival features an airshow with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels or the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, concerts headlined by big-name country artists, fireworks, carnival rides, and more. Cherries are incorporated into every creative meal. The 2021 festival is set to take place July 3 through 10, but concerts and the airshow have been postponed to encourage social distancing.

Summer months bring out the region's crystal blue waters where the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore creates a picturesque mountain of sand. Athletes and daredevils alike work to climb across the dunes and rest in Lake Michigan’s waters after the grueling hike. Take it from me, it’s a full body workout but worth the view! For those enticed by a more casual stroll, miles of trails and overlook points give visitors unparalleled access to the historic lakeshore.

Travel for the cherries and apple orchards, but stay for the wineries and microbreweries. Listed as one of Travel Channel’s “Top 10 Cities for Wine Snobs,'' the area features more than 40 wineries and vineyards. Traverse City’s location along the forty-fifth parallel north puts its latitude in line with Italy’s Piedmont region and France’s Bordeaux region, enabling extended daylight during the summers and near-perfect weather conditions for the vineyards. Guided tours are available, or you can navigate the sprawling vineyards on your own. Bachelor and bachelorette parties often rent buses to travel from each vineyard throughout the day.

If beer is more your speed, CNN Money listed Traverse City as one of America’s “Best Beer Towns.” Once you’ve made it into town, rent a kayak or bike and cruise to the pub of your choosing, where creative beers are fit to taste. From hints of cherry pie to whiskey and asparagus, each microbrewery works to jazz up the taps and offer unique tastes for those visiting.

Traverse City offers the true definition of farm-to-table dining, as chefs from around the United States utilize the lush ingredients from local farms and orchards for their restaurants in the area. Famed Chef Mario Batali owns a home on the Leelanau Peninsula, and is a frequent visitor to restaurants like Mission Table (currently open for private events) and the Grand Traverse Pie Co. For a quick trip, stop by Moomers Homemade Ice Cream Shop, selected by Good Morning America in 2008 as the best ice cream store in the United States.

Boutiques featuring name brands and local shops line the roads in downtown Traverse City. Cherry Republic's  flagship store serves as a staple for any cherry pickup, including more than 200 products made from cherries such as salsa, wine, and soda pop. Art galleries provide pit stops for any traveler looking to admire the local painters and photographers.

While the city sparkles in the summer, winter months bring snow-covered bliss to the region. Ski resorts dot the community, and snowmobiles blaze the more than 200 miles of trails. Resorts have downhill and cross-country skiing options for Olympic skiers and first timers alike, or snowmobile over Lake Michigan once the area freezes over.

Whether it’s an ice cream pit stop for a quick day trip, or a flight for the weekend, Traverse City provides great opportunities.

Alyssa J. Miller

Zach Huffman

A private pilot and certificated remote pilot, Zach Huffman is an entrepreneur who creates drone flight programs for media companies and universities across the United States.
Topics: Travel, US Travel

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