22+ Best Things to Do in Traverse City MI in the Summer, Plus Where to Stay & Where to Eat

Traverse City summer beach sun VanderW

So Many Things to Do in Traverse City MI in the Summer

Summer is the time when Traverse City is ripe with things to do with kids.

Beaches, fruit, festivals, you name it, it’s probably happening in Traverse City in the summer.

And, if you manage to book a stay at the secret loft downtown you won’t even need a car to get to lots of the fun!

With endless options on where to go and what to do with kids in TC during the summer, I thought it would be helpful to have a list of the best things to do in Traverse City.

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Things to Do in Traverse City MI with Kids

1 – Find the Best Beaches

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
Traverse City is nothing if not a beach town.

With East and West Grand Traverse Bay, you are blessed with miles and miles of sheltered Lake Michigan shoreline that provides a superior swimming experience.

Clinch Park + Splash Pad!
111 E Grandview Pkwy, Traverse City, MI, 49684
If you want to enjoy concessions, modern restrooms and a splash pad along with your beach, visit Clinch Park downtown.

You can ride a bike to Clinch Park via the TART Trail system. Lifeguards are on duty at the 1500 foot long sand beach during the high summer months.

Clinch Park, including the beach and the splash pad, is free to visit but you will probably need to pay for parking.

downtown traverse city beach clinch park
The sugar sand beach at Clinch Park in Traverse City has lifeguards on duty in the summertime.
downtown traverse city michigan splash pad clinch park
The Splash Pad at Clinch Park in Traverse City has a section for little kids.
downtown traverse city michigan splash pad clinch park 1
Seating, grass, and shady areas are also located near the splash pad.

Traverse City State Park
1132 US-31, Traverse City, MI 49686

Traverse City State Park is located on East Bay and offers restrooms, a lengthy sandy swimming beach with a nautical-themed playground. You will need a state park pass to access the beach by car, or you can bike to the park using the TART trail system.

If you do bike, access to the beach requires using a highway pedestrian stairway overpass. You will need to lock your bikes on the far side of the overpass and carry your beach items over with you.

Playground at Traverse City State Park
Playground at Traverse City State Park
 Traverse City State Park
Trees and Grass flank the beach at Traverse City State Park

If you want a beach with fewer people, drive a bit and find one of the many public access points that dot the lakeshore.

There are so many to choose from that you could spend a month just visiting the different free beaches in the area.

Here are a few to get you started: Bayside Park in Acme has a nice grassy section and shallow beach area.

Haserot Beach Park near Old Mission has a sandy beach, playground, and boat launch.

2 – Bike the Trails

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
Over the past two decades, the Traverse City TART (Traverse Area Recreation Trail) group has been working hard to build a network of trails and bikeways across the region, making hitting the trail one of the best things to do in Traverse City.

Right now there are over 60 miles of trails just waiting for bikers, walkers, and in-line skaters.

Most visible is the TART trail, but there are plenty of other trail options to keep you busy. Here’s a PDF map of the trail system.

Brick Wheels
736 E Eighth Street, Traverse City, MI 49684
If you need to rent bikes, stop at Brick Wheels, conveniently located on the TART trail. They carry kids bikes, bike trailers, trail-a-bikes, and more and will be able to give you more info on the trail system – or just point you to the nearest beach and ice cream shop!

VASA Single Track
5450 Supply Road, Traverse City

If mountain biking is more your thing, head to the VASA single track.

The trailhead will connect you with 13 miles of well-marked, well-maintained singletrack.

Or, if you’re looking for an entry-level mountain biking experience, go to the VASA Skillz Building Loop (TRAILHEAD: 4450 Bartlett Rd, Williamsburg, MI 49690). You’ll find 2 one-mile loops with jumps, tabletops, berms, and rock gardens to give kids (this area is geared toward kids ages 6+) and adults a place to work on their technical skills.

downtown traverse city beach clinch park bike trail
The TART Trail runs along the water’s edge for several miles
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The paved bicycle TART trail runs from Acme through Traverse City and out to Leelanau Peninsula

3 – Rent a Kayak or SUP

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
Bring your own or rent water toys to play on.

Stand Up Paddle Boards are a great option for the oft-calm Grand Traverse Bays.

Or choose to kayak in the Boardman River or in the lake – either option will cool you off. If you need to rent equipment, check out The River Outfitters. They’re located in the heart of downtown Traverse City and offer all sorts of rentals.

The River South
Medalie Park @ Boardman River & Lake
1910 W. South Airport Rd, Traverse City, MI
49686

The River East
TC State Park Beach @ East Bay
1132 US31, Traverse City, MI 49686

IMG 3211
Stand Up Paddle Boards on the Boardman River in Downtown Traverse City

4 – Go Fishing

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
My brother runs a charter fishing boat in Traverse City, Michigan.

I’m proud of my little brother for his top-notch ratings on Trip Advisor for Daydreamer Fishing Charters.

He’s a dad and knows how to get kids involved in the catch and set them up for big wins. My kids can attest to how awesome it is to catch big fish with Captain Ben!

Hint – book a trip for August. That’s when many of the out-of-state visitors have gone home (their schools typically start before many in Michigan) and the salmon have started biting in the bays. It’s an experience you will never forget!

Daydreamer Fishing Charters
231-218-5176 (text or call Captain Ben)

traverse city fishing charters daydreamer fishing
traverse city fishing charters daydreamer fishing 1

5 – Go Flower & Fruit Picking

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
When you’re in the Traverse City area you are not far from an amazing agricultural area that produces some of the best fruit around.

Experiencing the local produce fresh from the farm is one of the best things to do in Traverse City MI in the summer!

Depending on the time of your visit, you can look for different flower and fruit picking experiences – including the unusual saskatoon berry.

Here’s a list of when different fruits are in season and where you can go fruit picking in the area:

Strawberries:
June
Guntzviller’s Berry and Vegetable Farm: 11122 US 31 South, Elk Rapids, MI 49629
Bulldog Berries: 7187 East Harrys Rd Traverse City, MI 49684
Secret Garden at Brys Estate: 3309 Blue Water Road, Traverse City, MI 49686
Cherries:
July
Rennie Orchards: 11221 Munro Rd Williamsburg, MI 49690
Saskatoon Berries:
early July
Saskatoon Michigan: 7924 Sayler Rd Williamsburg, MI 49690
Raspberries:
mid-July to early August
Guntzviller’s Berry and Vegetable Farm: 11122 US 31 South, Elk Rapids, MI 49629
Blueberries:
mid-July to mid-August
Bulldog Berries: 7187 East Harrys Rd Traverse City, MI 49684
Buchan’s Blueberry Farm: 1472 Nelson Rd, Traverse City Michigan49686
Apples:
September & October
Rennie Orchards: 11221 Munro Rd Williamsburg, MI 49690
U-Pick Flowers:
Spring through Fall
Secret Garden at Brys Estate: 3309 Blue Water Road, Traverse City, MI 49686
Omena Cut Flowers: 12401 E Freeland Road, Suttons Bay, MI 49682
Old Mission Flowers: 16550 Center Rd., Traverse City, MI 49686
picking saskatoon berries traverse city
Saskatoon berries look like blueberries but have a distinct sweet, nutty flavor
cherry picking traverse city
Cherry picking in Traverse City happens in July

6 – Hit 18 Holes at Elmbrook Golf Course

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
The beautiful views, mature trees and challenging layout make Elmbrook a favorite among Traverse City visitors and locals alike.

Elmbrook Golf Course
1750 Townline Rd. Traverse City, MI 49696

7 – Watch a Matinee a the State Theatre

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
Watching a film on the big screen in the renovated, historic State Theatre is a treat. Bonus: candy and kiddie combos are well priced, too!

Hint: Buy your tickets online to ensure you get seats. It’s easy and that way you won’t arrive at 9:46 AM to find the show sold out.

It’s no secret that the historic State Theatre has $0.25 kids matinees every Saturday at 10 AM (and on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the summer.) Currently on hiatus

State Theatre
233 E Front St Traverse City, MI 49684

The State Theatre currently requires proof of vaccination plus booster, mask and picture ID. No unvaccinated children allowed regardless of age. See their website for the most up-to-date protocols.

State Theatre Kids Matinee Traverse City
The State Theatre in downtown Traverse City shows family-friendly matinees every Saturday morning for just $0.25

8 – Zip Line at Mt. Holiday

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
Are you looking for adventurous things to do in Traverse City?

Mt. Holiday is the local ski hill in the winter. In the summer months it transforms into zipping adventure.

Plan on 90 minutes to do the 8 zip lines.

(Riders must be between 60 – 260 pounds, hair tied back, and wear closed-toe shoes.)

Mt. Holiday
3100 Holiday Road, Traverse City, MI 49686

9 – Head to the Ballpark for a Pit Spitter’s Game

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
Traverse City has it’s own baseball team: the Pit Spitters. Elite college baseball players call Traverse City home for the summertime, playing games for the Northwoods League.

Baseball is played, yes, but the game is punctuated with fun between innings entertainment, too.

There’s a playground with a sandy bottom and lots of lawn for the kids to run around on, too.

Traverse City Pit Spitters @ Turtle Creek Stadium
333 Stadium Dr., Traverse City, MI 49685

Traverse City Pit Spitters
Traverse City Pit Spitters lawn seats
Kids love to play on the lawn at a Pit Spitters Game. The Playground is nearby.

10 – Play Around at Pirate’s Cove

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
From the road, Pirate’s Cove appears to be a fun place to play putt putt. What you don’t see is that beyond the giant mini-golf mountain, there are lots of other amusements to play on.

Specifically, Pirates Cove is home to: Ropes Challenge Course, Adventure Golf, Go-Carts & Kiddie Go-Carts, Bumper Boats

Pirate’s Cove
1710 U.S. 31 North, Traverse City MI 49686

Pirates Cove Traverse City Michigan
Pirate’s Cove is an Outdoor Amusement Center in Traverse City, MI

11 – Try Bowling, Axe Throwing & Play the Arcade

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
If you need indoor things to do in Traverse City, you’ll find bowling at Lucky Jack’s as well as Incredible Mo’s.

The Den at the Grand Traverse Resort has an arcade as well as axe throwing.

Lucky Jack’s
1705 S. Garfield Ave, Traverse City, MI 49686

Incredible Mo’s & Sauce Restaurant
1355 Silver Lake Crossings Blvd, Grawn, MI 49637

The Den at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa
100 Grand Traverse Village Blvd, Acme, MI 49610

12 – Children’s Museums

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
Take your pick between these two hands-on destinations just for kids.

The Great Lakes Children’s Museum is located just outside of downtown Traverse City.

Great Lakes Children’s Museum
13240 S West Bay Shore Dr, Traverse City, MI 49684

COGNiTiON Science & Discovery Center
 
232 N Michigan Ave, Beulah, MI 49617

Call ahead for reservations and to learn about current open hours/precautions being taken due to COVID-19.

COGnition-boys-making-a-campfire
COGNiTiON Science & Discovery Center in Beulah, MI

13 – Tall Ship Sails on the Bay

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
These tall ships played a big part in the history of the Great Lakes and are one of the favorite things to do in Traverse City MI.

Now, families can jump aboard what looks like a pirate ship and sail the big waters out of TC. The summer sailing season begins Memorial Day Weekend.

The Tall Ship Manitou is a replica of an 1800s coasting cargo schooner. Book your spots on a Moomers Sail and get some of the country’s best ice cream while you cruise the open waters.

Or, get an education out on the water when you learn by doing with the Inland Seas Education Association. While they offer school field trips during the school year, you can sign up for public programs, specialty sails, and overnight accommodations throughout the summer.

Programs like Great Lakes Discovery let you act as a scientist on board, or Steady the Ship gets your family playing the part of schooner sailor.

Traverse Tall Ship Co
13258 S W Bay Shore Dr, Traverse City, MI 49684

Inland Seas Education Association
100 Dame Street Suttons Bay, MI 49682

Tall ship manitou Traverse City Michigan 1
Tall Ship Manitou

14 – Visit the Nature Center & Go Hiking

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
When it comes to hiking and nature in the area, the Grand Traverse Conservation District is all over it. Not only do they manage the Boardman River Nature Center on Cass Road, but they also are keepers of nine different nearby natural recreation areas.

An interpretive center (Boardman River Nature Center) with 7 miles of improved trails along the Boardman River that includes 1200 feet of boardwalks and bridges. The nature center has exhibits, a nature theater, and an activity area for kids.

Get outside of town a bit further, and the conservation effort belongs to the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. They watch over a huge number of amazing properties – so many that they’ve built a directory so that users can search by desired activity and location.

Some are close to downtown Traverse City like Refitt Nature Preserve.

Just outside of town, in Long Lake, the South & Fox Island Nature Preserves are accessible by boat or kayak and make fun summer day excursions.

Most of the destinations, like the Arcadia Marsh Preserve or the Antrim Creek Natural Area, are a considerable drive from Traverse City and would make good day trips.

Grand Traverse Natural Education Reserve
1450 Cass Road, Traverse City, MI 49686

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Arcadia Michigan Marsh Nature Preserve boardwalk

15 – Find the Best Playgrounds

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
Playgrounds in Traverse City are a little harder to find than you might imagine. They are always at the top of our list of things to do in Traverse City MI, though, so we thought we’d share.

Here are a few of our favorites – please note that some are located on school grounds and are not available during school hours.

Grand Traverse County Civic Center
1213 W. Civic Center Dr, Traverse City, MI 49686
Playground, skate park, one mile outdoor paved walking/biking track.
Bryant Park
1101 Peninsula Dr, Traverse City, MI, 49686
This lakeside park with sandy beach also has a nice shaded playground.
Greilickville Harbor Playground
13133 S W Bay Shore Dr, Traverse City, MI 49684
This park has a sandy beach, BBQ, picnic, playground areas, bathrooms and a swing set. It’s located near the Children’s Museum.
Immaculate Conception Elementary School
314 Vine St, Traverse City, MI 49684
This private school often allows the public to play on their amazing playground after hours. Artificial turn and lots of unique play structures are a huge draw.
Central Grade School
301 Seventh St, Traverse City, MI 49684
Large Public School playground with lots of different play structures, located in a neighborhood.
Woodland Sweets & Eats
4386 N US Highway 31 N Traverse City, MI 49686
Swings and climbing structures located at this ice cream and pizza shop along East Bay.
traverse city playground immaculate conception elementary school
Playground at Immaculate Conception Elementary School in Traverse City, MI

16 – Farmer’s Markets

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
Farm-fresh produce is always a winner and a great way to spend some time.

Indoor and Outdoor Markets at the Village Commons
During the warmer months (May-October), the Outdoor Farmers Market is held on Monday afternoons, from 2pm-6pm on The Piazza (between Cottageview and Red Drive).
In the colder months (November-April), you can stay toasty while you shop at the Indoor Farmers Market in The Mercato corridor on Saturday mornings, from 10am-2pm. 
Sara Hardy Downtown Farmers’ Market
Wednesdays and Saturdays, lot B across from Clinch Park.
traverse city farmers market
Farmer’s Market in Downtown Traverse City

17 – Visit the GT Commons & Play Bocce Ball on the Lawn at Left Foot Charley

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
The Village at Grand Traverse Commons are a destination in themselves.

The historic buildings once served as a psychiatric hospital. Years of restoration and preservation efforts have turned this place into a destination. (Adult Date Night Idea: Take the Tunnel Tour!)

Shop the Mercato, dine at one of the unique restaurants, hike the trails behind the buildings to the Hippie Tree and Historic Barns & Botanic Garden, or lounge on the expansive front lawn.

Specifically, take time to lounge on the outdoor patio at Left Foot Charley, a Traverse City urban winery tucked away here.

Sit under the tall shade tree while the kids play in the sandbox. Check inside for bocce balls to play on the nearby courts on the Village Piazza.

Left Foot Charley
806 Red Dr, Suite #100, Traverse City, MI 49684

Grand Traverse Commons
Historic Buildings at Grand Traverse Commons
Grand Traverse Commons Historic Barns
Historic Barns Park, Traverse City MI
LeftFootCharley
Left Foot Charley

18 – Get Painting at Handz On Art

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
Stop in for a few hours at this paint your own pottery studio in the Warehouse District in Traverse City, MI.

The owner is really helpful, kind, and inspiring. Choose from the many different options for kids and adults. Be sure to inquire about shipping your art home if you will not be in town for very long.

Handz On Art
144 Hall St Suite 110, Traverse City, MI 49684

traverse city handz on art
Things to do in Traverse City MI: Paint Your Own Pottery at Handz On Art

19 – Conquer MagiQuest at Great Wolf Lodge

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
You don’t have to be a house guest at Great Wolf Lodge to play their addicting MagiQuest game. (GWL is a great place to stay if you have kids – here’s more on that.)

To play the game, you need a wand that has been activated in their MagiQuest store (fee). After that, players spend time trying to beat dragons, complete quests, and do other tasks to win the game. Kids should be able to read for the best experience.

Most players will spend hours on the game, making this a great rainy day activity and one of our top things to do in Traverse City.

Great Wolf Lodge
3575 N U.S. 31 S, Traverse City, MI 49684

great wolf lodge traverse city magiquest
Playing the MagiQuest Game at Great Wolf Lodge

20 – Hunt for Petoskey Stones

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
The beaches in Traverse City are sugar sand and not great for rock hunting. To find the prized Petoskey stone, you’re going to need to head out of town and get ready for a hunt.

Thankfully, you don’t need to drive all of the way to Petoskey to uncover some of these gems. (If you’re really into rock and fossil hunting be sure to put Rockport State Park on your bucket list – they have an old quarry where you can mine for fossils and Petoskey stones!)

Rockport State Park
c/o P.H. Hoeft State Park, 5001 US-23 North, Rogers City MI, 49779

Barnes Park: 12298 Barnes Park Road, Eastport, MI 49627
A picturesque park on the north end of East Grand Traverse Bay.
Elk Rapids Day Park: 920 S Bay Shore Dr, Elk Rapids, MI 49629
Antrim Creek Natural Area: 9890 Old Dixie Hwy, Ellsworth, MI 49729
Search along the creek.
Fisherman’s Island State Park: 16480 Bells Bay Rd S, Charlevoix, MI 49720
Point Betsie Lighthouse Beach: 3701 Point Betsie Rd, Frankfort, MI 49635
Christmas Cove Beach: E Christmas Cove Rd, Northport, MI 49670
Peterson Park: 10001 E Peterson Park Rd, Northport, MI 49670
Lots of different fossilized coral as well as a lot of other rocks to pick from.
Sayler Park: 5923 Yuba Park Rd, Williamsburg, MI 49690
antrim creek natural area find petoskey stones lake michigan
Petoskey Stones Found at Antrim Creek Natural Area

21 – Crystal Mountain’s Outdoor Waterpark & Alpine Coaster

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
Visiting Crystal Mountain for the day (or staying here!) is an excellent choice.

There is so much to do here during the summer for families:
Alpine Coaster: You ride a chairlift to the top of the mountain and then you ride down a curved track on a specially designed sled. 

Michigan Legacy Art Park: A thirty-acre preserve located on the Crystal property with over 1.5 miles of hiking trails. Along the trails, you will find over 50 sculptures.

Outdoor Adventure Pool: Zero Entry pool with slides, water guns and lily pads. There’s a sandbox and playset, too.

Edge Adventure Course & Zipline, Vertical Edge Climbing Wall, Mountain Biking Trails & Bike Rentals, Laser Tag, Paintball & Archery, Chairlift Rides

Crystal Mountain
12500 Crystal Mountain Drive, Thompsonville, MI 49683

Crystal-Mountain-Outdoor-Pool-and-Playground
Outdoor Water Park at Crystal Mountain
Crystal Mountain Alpine Coaster view Scripps
Alpine Coaster Track at Crystal Mountain
Crystal Mountain climbing wall Scripps
Vertical Edge Climbing Wall at Crystal Mountain

22 – Shop Downtown

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
Popping our heads into a few Downtown Traverse City shops is another one of our favorite things to do in Traverse City MI.

Some of the shops we frequent:

Sweet Pea
205 E. Front Street, Traverse City, MI 49684
Cute selection of baby and young children’s clothing, toys, shoes, and more. I always find something new or interesting in here.
Toy Harbor
221 E Front St Traverse City, MI 49684
Downtown is also home to Toy Harbor, a uniquely-filled toy shop that kept my kids’ attention for some time. I was impressed with the wide variety of unique items not found in big-box stores. They really took to this Thinking Putty!
Cherry Republic
154 E. Front St, Traverse City, MI 49684
This store is so fitting, as Traverse City is the Cherry Capital of the world. Stop in for cherry everything – be sure to try the bottled soda – my kids’ favorite!
Horizon Books
243 E. Front Street, Traverse City, MI 49684
The local bookseller that the town wouldn’t let go! They have a wonderful children’s section, cafe, and three floors of amazing books. Stop in and buy something – you’ll be glad you did.
IMG 3210

23 – Find a Festival or Fair

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
Most people have heard of the National Cherry Festival, held in downtown Traverse City the first full of week of July.

But that’s not the only festival around. Chances are if you’re visiting Northern Michigan in the summer, there’s a festival nearby.

Cedar Polka Fest: August 25 – 28, 2022. Food, drink, and continuous polka music and dancing.
National Cherry Festival – July 2 – 9, 2022 (Traverse City)
Great Lakes Equestrian Festival – July 6 – August 14, 2022 (Williamsburg)
Venetian Festival – July 16-23, 2022 (Charlevoix)
Elk Rapids Harbor Days: August 2-6, 2022 (Elk Rapids)
Northwest Michigan Fair: August 7-13, 2022.
Cherry Festival Traverse City Parade

Food & Drink

24 – Dining, Drinking & Snacking in Traverse City

Whether you’re looking for a meal or a snack, there are a lot of great places to eat in Traverse City with kids!

red mesa grill

1544 U.S. 31 North, Traverse City, Michigan 49686

A kid-friendly restaurant with Mexican food. Details.

red mesa grill traverse city

spanglish

1333 Yellow Dr, Traverse City, MI 49684

at The Commons also has great Mexican fare. Details.

Spanglish Traverse City Commons

chef’s in

519 W. Front St., Traverse City, MI 49684

Perfect place to grab that sandwich before you hit the beach. Details.

Chefs In traverse city sandwich

Little fleet

448 E Front St., Traverse City, MI 49686

Downtown Food truck mecca with lots of foodie options. Yummo! Details.

Traverse City Anchor Station Little Fleet Food Truck

hop lot brewing company

658 S W Bay Shore Drive, Suttons Bay, MI 49682

Not a lot of food options here, but their outdoor space is kid-friendly. Details.

Hop Lot Suttons Bay Michigan

jolly pumpkin brewery

13512 Peninsula Dr, Traverse City, MI 49686

Great pizza! Details.

Jolly Pumpkin traverse city pizza

moomer’s ice cream

7263 N. Long Lake Rd, Traverse City, MI 49685

Drive out to see the cows that give the milk to make your Ice Cream. The wait is worth it. Details.

moomers ice cream

grand traverse pie company

525 West Front Street , Traverse City, MI 49684

The hardest part is picking a flavor! Details.

Grand Traverse Pie Company original traverse city

Oryana

519 W. Front St., Traverse City, MI 49684

The local food co-op has a wonderful cafe and takeout area. Details.

Organic food Traverse City Oryana

Day Trips from Traverse City

25 – Take a Day Trip to a Nearby Northern Michigan Town

Why it’s one of the best things to do in Traverse City:
Traverse City is surrounded by charming neighboring towns. They are all unique and fun to discover.

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Climb the dunes, visit Lake Michigan, ride your bikes, gaze at the night stars – there is so much to do here. Put it into a day or make it a longer trip! Details.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Family Guide

Tube the Platte River

Rent tubes and float with your gang down this relaxing, beautiful river in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Details.

platte river sleeping bear dunes national lakeshore kayak river tubing

Torch Lake

Rent a boat and cruise out to the sand bar for the day for a memory-making day. Details.

torch lake michigan

petoskey 

Petoskey delivers big on fresh air and family-friendly fun. Details.

Little Traverse Bay Ferry Company Things to Do in Petoskey MI

charlevoix

3575 U.S. 31 North S, Traverse City, MI 49684

Mushrooms houses, a quant village, and beautiful lakes. Details.

michigan summer vacation - charlevoix mushroom houses

Mackinac Island

The island is almost 3 hours away from Traverse City, so it would make for a really long day trip, but you could do it if you were pressed for time. Details.

mackinac island ferry docks 1

crystal Mountain 

Go for the day or just stop by for a ride down the Alpine Coaster. Details.

Crystal Mountain Alpine Coaster Scripps

Best Places to Stay in Traverse City for Families

There are a multitude of places to stay in Traverse City with kids.

Lodging options vary greatly, from downtown hotel rooms, neighborhood vacation rentals, or accommodations outside of the city limits.

Downtown Traverse City

Staying in downtown Traverse City is perfect for people that want restaurants, beaches, shops and festival access right at their fingertips.

If you have bicycles, there’s a good chance you won’t even need a car to get to most places on your list.

Luxury Loft Hideaway

127 S Union Street, Traverse City MI 49684

The chef’s kitchen is to die for and the décor play to the strengths of the historic building. Definitely recommend if you have the chance. Details.

Secret Downtown TC Loft 1

delmar traverse city

615 E Front St, Traverse City, MI 49686

Bayside hotel is a 3-block walk from downtown. They have a great patio with indoor and outdoor pools. Details.

Park Place Hotel

300 E State St, Traverse City, MI 49684

This historic hotel is one of the tallest buildings in downtown, giving it fantastic views of Grand Traverse Bay as well as the city. Details.

Sugar Beach Resort Hotel

1773 North US Highway 31, Traverse City, MI 49686

Sugar Beach Resort Hotel features a private beach, heated indoor pool and a continental breakfast – and it’s a half mile from Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf. Details.

If you want more space than a hotel offers, look into vacation rentals in the neighborhoods of Traverse City. The tree-lined streets are filled with charming houses from the 1800s and 1900s. You will be able to ride bikes to most everything while enjoying the laid back vibe of the old streets. Here are some of our top picks:

Unique Loft in Historical State Hospital

Traverse City, MI 49684

This suite offers the ultimate in loft-living! Three levels, with 18 ft. ceilings. 790 sq.ft. VRBO condo – 1 bedroom + loft, 1.5 baths, sleeps 2 – 4. Details.

Downtown Riverfront Condo

Traverse City, MI 49684

3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, Sleeps 8

Great decor, bunk beds Details.

vacation rental traverse city boardman river

Leelanau Peninsula

The Leelanau Peninsula is a favorite place for many people to stay because of it’s proximity to Traverse City, the Sleeping Bear Dunes, and its natural beauty.

Orchards and wineries take advantage of sweeping hilltop views. Beaches are everywhere. Leelanau is an amazing place to base your Northern Michigan vacation around.

Leland Lodge

565 Pearl St., Leland, MI 49654

Leland Lodge is also a good central destination for your “Up North” travels. Details.

Leland Lodge Fishtown Feature Image Compston

East Bay & Acme

The East Bay and Acme areas are where you will find many lodging options and restaurants geared toward tourists.

cherry tree inn

2345 N US Highway 31 N, Traverse City, MI 49686

This family-friendly hotel is close to the beach with great amenities. Details.

Cherry Tree Inn Traverse City Pool

Grand Beach Resort Hotel

1683 N US Highway 31 N, Traverse City, MI 49686

Families love the nice sandy beach at this hotel. Details.

Grand Beach Hotel Traverse City

grand traverse resort

100 Grand Traverse Village Blvd, Acme, MI 49610

In addition to hotel rooms, they offer condos to accommodate all family sizes. Amenities here include pools, beach, shops and activities (golf, tennis, etc.) Details.

Grand-Traverse-Resort-Pool-1

Old Mission Peninsula

Old Mission Peninsula doesn’t have many lodging options.

The largely rural peninsula is home to several wineries and many million dollar homes. That said, if you can find a place for your family on Old Mission, take it. You’re in for a treat.

lake cottage

Old Mission Peninsula, MI 49673

2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, sleeps 4

This cottage was updated in 2021 and features a rare location directly on the lake with 80 feet of East Bay Frontage. Details.

Old Mission Bay VRBO

tranquil cottage

Old Mission Peninsula, MI 49673

With 150 feet of sandy, private beach on West Bay and surrounded by woods, you’ll feel like the only ones around in this 1,500 sq foot cottage. 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, sleeps 8. Details.

Tranquil cottage vrbo mission peninsula

quad level with private beach

Old Mission Peninsula, MI 49673

Private frontage and beautiful views on the East Grand Traverse Bay in this newly renovated 4 bedroom, 3 bath fully furnished quad level home. Details.

Quad level vrbo old mission

South

great wolf lodge

3575 U.S. 31 North S, Traverse City, MI 49684

They offer big suites for families plus the perk of an indoor water park. Details.

great wolf lodge traverse city

You’ll also find chain hotels mixed with shopping centers as you get farther away from the lake and the peninsulas or choose a vacation rental from the map.

What does your family love most about Traverse City in the summer? Did we miss anything? Leave a comment and let us know!

More MI Travel

Traverse City with Kids in Summer

12 thoughts on “22+ Best Things to Do in Traverse City MI in the Summer, Plus Where to Stay & Where to Eat”

  1. Thank you so much. Visiting from Southeast Louisiana this spring and loving your ideas for our itinerary! Excellent ideas.

  2. Pingback: Secrets to Visiting Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island With Kids - Michigan Family Fun

  3. Bright Blooms is a great place to play for all ages! There’s even a massage therapist there a few days a week during open play!

  4. Somehow Bright Blooms KinderPlay was left off the list!! It’s a wonderful indoor themed play space with rooms such as a Pirates themed room, a train table, a kitchen and a farm, a dress up and puppet theater room, a veterinarian room and more!! Children’s music classes and drop off parties are held weekly!

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