With its location on Lake Michigan's Grand Traverse Bay and proximity to some of northern Michigan's top attractions, Traverse City is a popular travel destination throughout the year. Rightfully touted as The Cherry Capital of the World—the vast majority of the country's cherries come from the Grand Traverse Bay area—and often referred to locally as T.C., Traverse City offers a lovely blend of small-town charm, big-city living and outdoor fun. Visit to explore sandy coastlines, beautiful vineyards and exciting downhill skiing areas
The 45th Parallel offers the ideal climate for growing grapes, and numerous wineries and vineyards are scattered along the Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula, which are both located north of the city. You can plan your visit in advance, but it's just as fun to hop in the car and head up to one of the peninsulas while popping in at local wineries and tasting rooms along the way.
Located at the northernmost point of the Old Mission Peninsula, the Old Mission Point Lighthouse is well worth the short drive. The quaint structure, which was built in 1870, affords beautiful views of Lake Michigan and is a major draw for travelers.
Traverse City boasts two state-of-the-art casinos. Leelanau Sands Casino and Turtle Creek Casino are both operated by the Grand Traverse Board of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Between them, there are more than 200 slots and virtually every popular table game you can imagine.
The majority of those who come to Traverse City get there by car. US 31, a major north-south freeway, delivers most visitors into the city and pulls double-duty as the town's main business route. A high concentration of Traverse City hotels are located along what is known as “Motel Mile,” which is on U. 31 between 3 Mile and 4 Mile Roads. However, many hotels, motels, resorts, and bed and breakfasts are spread around the city and the two peninsulas to the north.
Air travelers can fly into Cherry Capitol Airport (TVC), which offers year-round flights to and from Chicago, Minneapolis and Detroit. During the summer, flights to and from destinations like New York City, Atlanta, Cincinnati and Denver are sometimes available. More extensive air travel options are available through Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GFIA) in Grand Rapids, which is about three hours south.
Traverse City is located on the 45th Parallel, so temperatures never tend to get excessively high. However, because it's also situated on Lake Michigan's Grand Traverse Bay, the city has very interesting, and sometimes severe, weather patterns. Summers tend to be warm but mild, and there's usually a nice, steady breeze to help mitigate whatever heat there happens to be. Winters, on the other hand, can be extreme. Lake-effect snowfall blankets the city, and can begin in November and continue through April. The average annual snowfall is around 80 inches, which explains why the local ski hills get so much action.
The city is bustling virtually all year long, but things really spring into action around the beginning of July, when the National Cherry Festival begins. This wildly popular event has been an annual tradition since 1926 and includes fun, quirky activities like cherry pit-spitting contests, cherry pie-eating contests, sand-sculpture contests, air shows, fireworks, parades, classic film showings and much more. Traverse City hotels tend to get booked well in advance of the event, so make plans early if you'd like to join the more than 500,000 people who flock here to enjoy it.
The best time to stay in Traverse City depends on where your interests lie. If you're into skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports, the period from November through April should be when you book your trip. The region boasts world-class snow sports facilities, but winter is the quiet season, so local hotels, lodges and resorts don't tend to be as busy. In terms of pleasant, mild weather, however, you can't beat Traverse City in the summer. The city's quaint downtown area is a joy to explore on foot, and there are numerous trails, beaches and other outdoor attractions to enjoy when the sun is shining.