This trip was taken in 2018.
TC Tourism helped with trip planning and passes for some of the activities mentioned below. All opinions are my own.
Grab Your Bestie for a Fall Fun Getaway in Traverse City
There’s nothing like a weekend away with another adult to help you recharge for whatever comes next.
Yes, it takes planning – the “who’s going to take the kids – what will we do while we’re there” kind of planning. But as a way-too-busy mom of three, let me tell you, it’s worth it.
And if you’re like me and want to unwind in a beautiful place that is full of natural beauty and amazing food, you have to hit up Traverse City. Fall is the perfect time to go.
Since you’re a parent, you’re already a pro decision-maker. I’m confident you’ll do great at picking things from my list to build your own amazing Traverse City itinerary. (Don’t worry, I only included fantastic options that I’ve tried myself, so you can’t go wrong.)
Get Active and Do All of the Up North Things in Traverse City
Fall in Traverse City is gorgeous. The air is crisp, the trees are beautiful, and the lake views are stunning.
We filled our TC visit with lots of adventure and food for a relaxing, fun, weekend.
HIKE SLEEPING BEAR DUNES
It’s hard to beat Sleeping Bear Dunes when it comes to hiking. Head west from Traverse City to find these Lake Michigan sand dunes that will take your breath away.
Empire Bluff Trail is our favorite hike here. It’s not too long (about 1.5 miles) and leads to the most rewarding view – with a boardwalk.
Pyramid Point Trail is another hike, about the same length, with exceptional views of the Manitou Islands. (You do need a National Parks Pass to park in the trailhead parking lots).
BIKE TOURS INCLUDE A WINERY ROUTE
We found the most magical way to visit wineries and breweries – with Grand Traverse Bike Tours. Basically, you show up, they give you a bike, helmet, map, and walk you through the self-guided tour.
The best part? They have a wine van that comes behind you to transport any wine you buy, plus they will pick you up if you get tired, lost, or have a little too much fun wine sampling.
They also deliver lunch to one of your winery stops so you can have a vineyard-side picnic.
Most of the bike ride is on a paved rails-to-trails bike path through scenic countryside.
We enjoyed the nice balance of getting to see several wineries while getting a break in between to stretch our legs and get ready for the next stop. (Bonus: They offer a similar trip for breweries, too.)
MORE SUTTONS BAY FUN
After turning in our bikes and picking up our wine haul from the wine van, we explored the area a bit more by car. We motored over to Hop Lot Brewing -just south of Suttons Bay.
This place has a fun, laid-back atmosphere with outdoor fire pits perfect for fall afternoons. Plus, their beer and snacks are delicious.
Pro-tip: Order your food before your beer. There are two separate lines, one for food, and one for beer. The beer line is a lot faster than the food line.
DON’T MISS SUTTONS BAY CIDERS
Suttons Bay Ciders wins the award for best bay view on our trip.
By this time in the day, we’d sampled quite a bit and needed to slow down and share our cider flight – which gave us the perfect opportunity to enjoy their deck seating with amazing views of Grand Traverse Bay.
RECHARGE AND RELAX AT SUGAR BEACH RESORT
After our busy day, we were ready for a little downtime. Our bayside room at Sugar Beach Resort was just what we needed.
WALK THE CITY AND NEIGHBORHOODS OF TRAVERSE CITY
The weather during our visit was perfect for strolling down the quaint, tree-lined streets, just outside of downtown TC.
Neighborhoods in downtown TC echo a time when front porches were the norm. I loved the cobbles of 6th street and could just imagine all of the front porch lemonade conversations that must have taken place here.
GET CENTERED AT YEN YOGA & FITNESS
Our Sunday morning was made better by getting our zen on at Yen Yoga and Fitness in downtown. We loved the vibe and the fact that you can take drop-in classes (the drop-in rate is $20).
There are many types of yoga classes available, plus a free meditation class on Sunday mornings. If yoga is your thing, bring your own mat (or rent one of theirs, if available).
MORE ACTIVE IDEAS FOR TRAVERSE CITY IN THE FALL
Swap out biking and wine tasting for some of these seasonal treats.
Ghost Walk Tour through TC – through early October.
Try mountain biking. (Arcadia Dunes, the Vasa Trail, and Glacial Hills are some of our favorites.)
Get lost in one of three separate corn mazes at Jacob’s Corn Maze, through October.
Kayak, Bike + Brewery Tour – $69 per person, operates through Mid-October.
Walking tours of the old Traverse City State Hospital (now The Village at Grand Traverse Commons). This place also has a great selection of restaurants and shops, or venture out in the 480 acres of hiking and biking trails behind the campus.
Golf at one of the world-class courses in the area.
Eat Your Way Through Traverse City
Traverse City’s food scene has exploded. Fabulous choices are around every corner; be sure to make reservations when you can! Here’s a look at where (and what) we ate on our trip.
ALLIANCE HAS THE ULTIMATE FOOD EXPERIENCE
With so many great restaurants in Traverse City, it can feel overwhelming to pick one. I reached out on Instgram and you all came through for us, recommending the newer restaurant, Alliance. I’m here to tell you that it did not disappoint!
Table seating is very limited and by reservation only, so plan ahead or take your chances with service at the bar (first come, first serve – we managed to sneak in for a late meal around 8:30).
I would describe Alliance as more of an experience than just a place to eat. From our attentive waiter (hey Jordan!) to the food itself, we were in heaven.
Really, it felt more like a meal at a friend’s house who just happens to be a fantastic chef. I can see why the place is always packed and has a huge crew of regulars that are known by name.
WATCH YOUR DINNER BE PREPARED WITH FUSTINI’S COOKING CLASS
By now you’ve probably learned that we love experiences. It’s one thing to go out to a restaurant and eat amazing food. It’s another thing to learn something about that food, to watch it be prepared, to know its story.
It really didn’t take us long to decide that the taste-as-you-go cooking classes at Fustini’s in downtown TC needed to be part of our weekend. The farm-to-table menu caught our eye, so we decided to give it a try.
Because of the small kitchen size in the Traverse City location, their classes are “observing” classes where you interact with the chef as she prepares the food – and then you get to taste the results.
Chef Laura, engaging and knowledgeable, fed, taught, and entertained us for two hours. We left with full bellies and great ideas to try at home.
HEAD TO THE LOW BAR FOR A SPEAKEASY VIBE
Sure, Traverse City has wineries and breweries, but sometimes you need a good cocktail. If you’re in the mood for people watching and a classy vibe, climb down the stairs to Low Bar on Union.
Set up like a speakeasy from the 1920’s, the Low Bar has a cool atmosphere and a long menu to choose from. Just know that the drinks, while tasty, can be strong.
Choose-Your-Own Adventure on a Downtown Walking Brunch
We thought it would be great fun to walk downtown TC and get little bits of brunch goodness as we went. It turned into a neat way to try tasty food and see new parts of downtown at the same time.
STOP AT MORSELS FOR A LITTLE SOMETHING SWEET
Morsels is a cute little coffee shop right on the river on the east end of downtown. Their specialty is small little cake bites (aka morsels) that come in a variety of flavors. We tried 5 or 6 types and all were delicious.
PEACE, LOVE AND LITTLE DONUTS — WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED?
The concept at Peace, Love, and Little Donuts is solid. They start with fresh, bite-sized donuts and create your chosen recipe on the spot. The result: small, tasty, flavor explosions in your mouth.
KEEP YOUR OPTIONS OPEN AT STATE STREET MARKETPLACE
We stumbled upon the new State Street Marketplace and liked what we saw. The building used to be the old Traverse City Police horse stables.
Today, its primary tenant is Monkey Fist Brewing Company, but there’s also a coffee shop, clothing pop-up shop, burger joint, and a crepe stand – with room for more vendors.
We stopped at Crepes & Co. to cap off our brunch and enjoyed the fresh flavors in our order.
Other Fun Food Options for Your Traverse City Visit
Little Fleet Food Trucks – wide selection of choices. Open until October 15.
Brew – Coffee and breakfast sandwiches.
Great Lakes Fish Boil experience at Black Star Farms available through October.
Trattoria Stella – located in the old state hospital, this place serves up Italian farm-to-table fare that has made me happy every time I’ve visited. Make a reservation.
Ready to Visit?
If you want to leave the trip planning to someone else, or love a really good deal, check out the Fab Fall Packages on offer right now. There’s a wine country getaway at Black Star Farms or great rates at Sugar Beach (where we stayed) through the middle of December.