we’ve officially been in michigan for about 5 months now for my fiances job. and we are supposed to head back to texas at the end of april, so about two more months left. the key words are supposed to! michigan has actually been growing on us a little bit and we keep hearing how the spring and summer months are absolutely gorgeous. and in texas, those months are THE WORST! especially for someone like me who loves the winter, i dont do well in 100 degree temps. so we actually have been tossing around the idea of buying a house here, staying longer through the summer, then renting it out for the school year since were so close to michigan state, and heading back to michigan every year for the spring/summer. were set up with the a realtor to look at houses this weekend!! crazy! who knows what will happen…
but while we’ve been here, we have tried to make the most out of it and explore the state of michigan. so far we’ve visited frankenmuth, detroit, and now traverse city and the sleeping bear dunes. the past weekend the weather was high 50’s.. in february! we definitely wanted to take advantage of the weather and do some outdoor activities which is why we chose to visit the upper, lower peninsula. if youre not from michigan that can be confusing. michigan is split into two peninsulas, the lower and upper peninsula. traverse city is a small, quaint, picturesque town that sits on lake michigan in the northern part of the lower peninsula.
traverse city reminded me of a small, fishing town you only see in the movies. its a small, quaint, picturesque town that sits on lake michigan and is filled with happy, carefree people
and thats true for almost all of michigan northern towns. there really isnt a large city in northern michigan. its small town after small town and they are all unique from one another. it truly reminded me of tim allens pure michigan commercials. although traverse city is one of the more popular towns in michigan, you dont get touristy vibe, and you certainly werent treated like one. everyone was super friendly and welcoming and treated you like one of the locals. the streets werent buzzing with a million people and you didnt need to wait at any restaurant, but there was still a lively, free spirited energy. and its truly a place for everyone; singles, couples, families, and even furbaby families. and there isnt a best time of the year to visit. there are so many activities for every season! from swimming and kayaking to hiking and climbing to skiing and snow shoeing to every kind of drinking… there so dozens of wineries, breweries, and distilleries.
Here is a run down of our 3 day, 2 night stay in traverse city and an itinerary for anyone who wants to do a quick, weekend getaway to this part of the state:
Friday night we got to our airbnb around 6:00 pm. We made dinner reservations at Trattoria Stellas, a farm to table Italian restaurant. It was just recently voted the most romantic restaurant in Michigan by USA Today, right before valentines day. They butcher their own meat and their menu changes twice a day. but, the coolest part of this restaurant is its locations. its a few miles outside of downtown in the bottom floor of an old insane asylum. it had a spooky vibe, with long, dark, narrow hallways filled with booths. the ambience and food was amazing… and definitely romantic. they had interesting menu items, like veel brain. we stayed away from that but my fiance did make me try octupus again. still not a fan.
after two cocktails and a bottle of wine we were ready to call it a night…
We woke up Saturday morning, had some coffee from a local popular company that was provided by our host at our airbnb from Higher Grounds and then started exploring.
We got in our car and headed up Old Mission Peninsula. The main road that runs straight up the peninsula you can get to from downtown traverse city and to make your way to the very tip where the Old Mission Lighthouse is was 25 minutes. Along the road youll pass multiple wineries and beaches. We headed straight the the lighthouse and played fetch with our pup for about a half hour and walked along the beach by the lighthouse.
On our way back we stopped at two wineries. They had an event going on called WOMP (wineries of old mission peninsula ) Romance so the wineries were packed. The first stop was at 2 Lads. The winery sat on a hill, so you had a nice view of the lake and their vineyards once inside. Staff was overly friendly and helpful when it came to recommendations of other wineries and things to do on our mini trip. We ended up buying two bottles of wine to bring home.
The second winery was Bowers and were surprise to find out once we got there that it was dog friendly. The winery was in a cabin looking building and outside they had tents and fire pits with lots of outdoor seating. We grabbed a glass of wine and sat outside with our pup.
Next we stopped at a random beach where we pulled over and let the dog run around a bit more.
Last stop on Old Mission Peninsula was where we ate lunch at a brewery called Jolly Pumpkin. This is a family friendly restaurant/brewery and it was also packed with people. We waited 30 minutes so we grabbed a beer and went outside and again… played fetch! The food was amazing! We split a pizza and a burger and it was soooo good! My favorite meal of the trip! Yessss.. pizza and burgers was my favorite meal! shocker, i know!
Before heading back to our airbnb, we grabbed some tea downtown at Aroma’s Coffee and Tea and walked along the water.
Saturday night we headed out downtown Traverse City. Our first stop was at a speakeasy called Low Bar. You had to take an elevator downstairs from an indoor alley way. It was what you expect a speakeasy would be. Dim lighting, old time ambience with signature cocktails, huge selection of bourbons, whiskeys, and scotch. Not a place to drink all night because of the prices, but worth stopping for a drink or two.
After Low Bar, we went right next door to 7 Monks Taproom. Cool, hip place that reminded you of being at a small ski town bar. Cabin like, cozy atmosphere. Had a couple beers and headed to dinner.
Dinner was at the Red Ginger, an asian restaurant serving small plates and sushi. We started off with their fish taco appetizer, ahi tuna with a ginger citrus slaw. It was so good that after we finished our very large meal, when the waiter brought a dessert menu, we ordered another round of fish tacos. Best fish tacos Ive ever had! Sushi was also amazing! Id definitely go back when we visit traverse again.
Another restaurant that was highly recommended by people who have visited and the locals was Apache Trout Grill, where they have a huge king crab special every weekend. Thats also a must do on our next visit.
We wanted to stop at the distillery downtown, Grand Traverse Distillery, before heading back but they were closed by time dinner was done.
Sadly this was our last day. We got up and headed west about 30 minutes to Sleeping Bear Dunes before heading back to Lansing. This stop was an absolute must. The 35 mile dunes on the coast of lake michigan was voted the most beautiful place in america by good morning america in 2011. There are multiple places that you can see the dunes from and lots and lots of hiking trails ranging in all levels.
Our first stop was at The Dune Climb. 150ft steep climb up the sanding dunes to a beautiful view at the top of Glen Lake and lots and lots of sand! The climb isnt easy since youre walking up soft sand, but its not so hard that only the fittest can do it. We saw people of all ages and walking up and down.
Next we picked a trail that was probably average skill level depending on the time of year and it was also dog friendly. We did the Empire Bluffs Trail, a self-guided 1.5 round trip trail that takes you to a spectacular view of the Lake Michigan Cost Line. The trailhead starts in a town called Empire, only a couple of miles from the dune climb. Its a light hike with no major hill climbs or steep parts, but it was very very slippery from the ice when we went.
Sadly, from here we headed back to our temporary home in Lansing… time to plan our next michigan adventure!
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