What to Do In Traverse City… Without Kids
Once in a blue moon we manage to get away without kids.
Just last weekend, we snuck away to Traverse City to celebrate our anniversary and had one of the most stress-free, fun weekends away that I can remember. (Plus, we got to go on the Traverse City Tunnel Tour- something I’ve been wanting to check out for awhile.)
I made our reservations and everything just worked out. I attribute our great weekend partly to luck and partly to general Traverse City awesomeness. Traverse City is a small town with big character… which to me, means easy access to amenities, close proximity to attractions and small-town friendliness.
We cut out of GR on a Friday afternoon – giving us enough time to reach TC by dinnertime – and checked into our hotel. For this weekend, we wanted something nice – a place we could lounge in the hotel room and enjoy ourselves.
I’m happy to say that Sugar Beach Resort Hotel lived up to our expectations. The room was spacious, the bed comfortable and the staff helpful. And, hallelujah, the pool only admits adults during the last hour it’s open, ensuring our kid-free weekend stayed that way. The complimentary breakfast buffet with a bay-view balcony area was icing on the cake. If you’re headed to TC, check this place out. Hint: Fall is color tour season and weekends are still prime time, so be sure to get your reservation in early. The hotel was sold out on the Saturday we were there.
Places to Eat
You could spend your whole time in Traverse City eating and drinking. The town is a foodie’s delight.
The problem with visiting for a weekend is that you don’t have enough time to fit in all of the meals at all of the restaurants you’d like to try. We joked that next time we’re in TC, we’d do a tapas-style weekend and just jump from venue to venue sharing items and appys as we go so we’d be able to sample more. Kind of like a pub crawl, but for food.
No matter where you decide to dine, I suggest making reservations as soon as you book your hotel. Having the food figured out gives great peace of mind and helps your whole weekend run smoothly.
What can I say? I am in love.
Magic happens in the kitchen at Amical. Locally-sourced ingredients (when possible) are transformed into eclectic European fare. The atmosphere in the dining room is cozy and makes you want to linger over your wine and your bread and and your meal and your dessert… the dessert!
Amical is where I want to go when I’m in Traverse City. If you want to go, I highly suggest making reservations.
More Restaurant Recommendations
If it’s sushi you’re after, then Red Ginger is a great choice. This upscale Asian-infused restaurant offers upscale dining with their spin on Asian favorites. Reservations recommended.
Trattoria Stella is another longtime favorite for dining in Traverse City. Located on the Grand Traverse Commons Campus, Trattoria Stella is known for delectable Italian dishes made locally sourced food. Reservations recommended.
If you don’t want to make reservations, are looking for a good lunch spot, or just want a fantastic slice of pie, then Grand Traverse Pie Company is your stop. The pie here is the only pie I will eat. No other pie measures up. Their salads, sandwiches and other offerings are great, too. But if you go, be sure to get the pie warmed up and a la mode. Yum!
Places we still have to try:
- Patisserie Amie – I hear the breakfast at this French breakfast, brunch and lunch place is to die for. Eggs benedict, crepes, omelettes, sweet stuff… this is why I must go next time!
- Cook’s House – One of those places that you MUST make reservations for well in advance, and that I always forget to do in a timely fashion. This small, 26-seat dining establishment is only open evenings Tue-Sat.
Breweries and Wine Tasting
I like wine and my husband loves craft beer, so we mixed and matched tastings in this category. There are plenty of breweries and wineries to choose from in the Traverse City area.
For wine, we tried out Left Foot Charley – an urban winery – and really liked it.
Their concept is unique for a winery. Rather than operating their own vineyard, they have a hand in the production of their grapes on many different soils around the region.
Throughout Northern Michigan, there are numerous small vineyards owned and farmed by individuals who do not have wineries. Before Left Foot Charley came on the scene in 2004, the grapes from these farms were sent off to giant blends. Now, though, 18 of these growers partner with Left Foot Charley to produce their own wines and hard ciders.
For just a few dollars, you can sample 6 of their wines and hard ciders in their indoor tasting room or enjoy a glass and some munchies on their lovely patio.
Left Foot Charley is located on the grounds of the Grand Traverse Commons, just minutes from downtown Traverse City at 806 Red Dr, Traverse City, Michigan 49684. Open Sundays 12-6 and Mon-Sat 11-9.
FYI – I went home with the Antrim County’s Hard Cider and – perfect for this time of year – Cinnamon Girl Cider. Yumm!
For craft beer, we drove out to Suttons Bay to check out Hop Lot, a new brewery with an outdoor “Up North” beer garden replete with on-site hop garden, fire pit, bag toss games, grass, and lots of patio seating.
Hop Lot is great – with or without – kids.
My husband is an IPA guy. He loved the Rocket Power IPA. I loved the pork tacos. Located at 658 S West Bay Shore Dr, Suttons Bay, Michigan 49682.
More breweries, taprooms and wineries on our list:
- The Workshop Brewing Company – On a mission to provide craft beer and craft food within the community of Traverse City. They offer beer/food pairing suggestions.
- Rare Bird BrewPub – They are located at 229 Lake Avenue in downtown Traverse City in a beautifully restored, 1931 red brick building. They brew their our own beers and also offer a wide range of beers & beverages from other great breweries, wineries & distilleries from Michigan and around the world.
- 7 Monks Taproom – With 46 beers on tap, this gastropub serves seasonal craft beers from Michigan and around the world.
- Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery – An old favorite at 3309 Blue Water Road
- Mari Vineyards at 8175 Center Rd. has piqued my curiosity. On my list to investigate with it’s exotic – yet still local – wines.
Of course, if you time your tastings right, you’ll be in position for one of the renowned Old Mission Peninsula sunsets.
Traverse City Tunnel Tour
We found exploring the Grand Traverse Commons to be a nice compliment to all of the eating and drinking we were doing on our adult weekend away.
The GT Commons was formerly the location of the Traverse City State Hospital and is filled with renovated and unrenovated historic buildings from the late 1800’s.
There are a lot of shops and restaurants in the buildings now, and more are planned as they do a decades-long renovation project on these facilities. You are welcome to walk the campus and take pictures while you explore.
I found it fascinating to get some of the back story on the Guided Historic Building & Tunnel Tour, though. That way you get to go inside some of the not-yet-renovated buildings. And you get to walk through the old steam tunnel and learn about how the buildings were built.
Reservations required. Tours are for ages 12 and up.
Hike the GT Commons – and Go Barn Spotting
The Grand Traverse Commons Natural Area is a 140-acre park adjacent to the historical buildings of the commons. Find miles of hiking trails through wooded hillsides and meadows that lead to breathtaking views of both Grand Traverse bays and Old Mission Peninsula. Be prepared to climb, climb, climb to reach the top and you’ll be rewarded with a great vista.
Another fun find – the historic barns at the Grand Traverse Commons.
These old brick barns have been recently renovated from previous use on the grounds of the former State Hospital. Now, Cathedral Barn is used for weddings and other special occasions.
That’s How We Roll
We kept the weekend moving by renting cruiser bikes from Einstein Cycles (just across the street from our hotel) and riding the TART Trail into Traverse City. Those cruiser bikes with the padded seats were a really smooth ride, and we enjoyed breaking up a few of our restaurant stops with the jaunt along the bay.
We also found ourselves at the Downtown Traverse City Farmer’s Market scoring a little fresh produce, too.
The Only Question Left…
After our fantastic weekend up in TC, the only thing we are still wondering is, WHEN can we do this again???
And – when we get back – what else do we need to check out?
If you’ve been to Traverse City lately, let us know where you stayed, ate, sampled, etc. We’d love to hear more winery, brewery and hiking tips for next time. Because there will be a next time sooner than later if I can help it!
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