If you read my last blog post, you’ll know I have been itching to get away from the city and immerse myself in the sanctuary of nature. Read on to see how I spent the first weekend of March exploring Traverse City, Michigan in the cold.
If you live in Michigan, you know that Traverse City is one of our not-so-hidden gems. Only a four-hour drive from the Metro, and situated right on gorgeous Lake Michigan, it’s a fantastic place to get away for a weekend Up North.
Luckily for my husband and I, our friends just bought a home in Prudenville, which is located at just about the halfway point to Traverse City (TC). We planned to spend one night with them, and another on our own in a hotel in downtown TC.
So, on Friday afternoon, my husband and I leisurely ventured north and spent the night at our friend’s place. They were wonderful hosts and made us homemade vegan falafel , coconut yogurt tzatziki sauce, and naan bread for dinner. We enjoyed Chocolate Covered Katie’s chickpea ‘cookie dough’ dip for dessert,which tastes exactly like cookie dough, just without all the nasties. I was thoroughly impressed. (It’s so nice to have plant based foodie friends!)
After enjoying an evening together, we awoke Saturday morning to venture to TC for a day of exploration.
Serendipitously, our group of five ended up in Downtown Traverse City at the tail end of Restaurant Week, which I was naturally delighted by. Traverse City is definitely known for its culinary scene, which brings people from all over the world to this little city on the bay each year. Everything from wine to cherries to vegetables is grown locally, fueling the farm-to-table lifestyle. From wine tours to cherry picking to climbing the great Sleeping Bear Dunes, there is truly something for everybody. And if you’re me, you’ll want to do everything humanly possible.
Where to Stay
Sugar Beach Resort is a place I have passed many times on my way into TC over the years, but had never considered staying at, because it isn’t right downtown. In the past, whenever I have come to Traverse City, I’ve always wanted to book a hotel within walking distance because it is *such* a walkable city. However, this time I decided to take a chance — because of an unbeatable Hotels.com deal — and was very pleasantly surprised. With a fresh Carribean-inspired update, super attentive service, and gorgeous lakefront views, staying a 10-minute drive outside the city was totally worth it. And, with it still being winter, we weren’t about to gallivant outdoors for too long anyway.
We only stayed here for one night, but I would definitely recommend Sugar Beach Resort to anybody looking for an equally affordable and luxurious place to stay in the area.
Where to Explore
The infamously beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes are located in Empire, MI — just a 35-minute drive outside the city. Go for a hike, the great dune climb, or a atmospheric picnic — this astonishing geological formation is a must-see when in TC, any time of year. Plus, during the wintertime, staring out onto frozen Lake Michigan whilst the wind bites at your face is a really grounding experience.
If you’re looking for a pretty-little-something, Cali’s is my favorite boutique in downtown Traverse City. They sell gorgeous, timeless clothing and unique home furnishings. This time around, I purchased a gorgeous simple ‘wash and wear’ linen shirt by Cut Loose to take to Scotland with me.
A staple visit in any city I travel to is always the local bookshop. And Horizon Books has been in downtown TC since before I was born. With three floors of books — and a cafe, it’s a great spot to visit whilst perusing the downtown area.
Where to Eat
How I could gush about Oryana… from its incredible assortment of raw, gluten-free, and organic vegan options, to their delicious prepared food, their cafe, their co-op, and support of local businesses — I feel like half of my trips to Traverse City revolve around visiting Oryana. Every city should have an Oryana! It is basically a way better, people-owned version of Whole Foods without the corporate greed.
Oryana is *the* place in Traverse City for plant based food. As long as they stay open, I’ll keep coming back.
Where to Drink
We did a mini-bar crawl tour of Traverse City with the following three restaurants.
Poppycock’s is a quirky restaurant that seems to be quite popular. Though we ordered drinks only, I noticed there were several menu options for vegans and vegetarians alike.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the drinks my husband and I ordered (a pear puree ‘Bosc a Nova’ and the house ‘Basil Bloody Mary’ – which, essentially tasted like a big cup of tomato sauce) and probably would not come back.
Gaijin is super cool. I know that’s a lame opening, but it really was. As my friend Ron put it, the restaurant gave “smug, but earthy” vibes (whatever that means).
Here, we ordered drinks and a few appetizers during their Happy Hour. I ordered a drink called a ‘Wasabi Mami’ – which is basically a margarita with a wasabi twist. It was surprising and flavorful in all the right ways.
My husband ordered a ‘Whiskey & Tea’ cocktail, which was Japanese whiskey with chaga tea. He really enjoyed it.
For appetizers, we ordered the shittake and butternut squash skewers. I liked how they were actually served as appetizers on wooden skewers (not enormous portion sizes) for nibbling and sharing.
I would definitely come back to Gaijin the next time I’m in Traverse City as they had a fair amount of vegan options, the food tasted incredibly fresh, and the service was impeccable.
There is no better place to end the night during a winter trip in Traverse City than the rooftop Beacon Lounge. Even if you don’t drink, the views are usually breathtaking.
We arrived at the Beacon Lounge, which is located at the top of the Park Place Hotel, just as the sun was setting. We were able to enjoy a gorgeous fading pastel winter sky as the sun set over the horizon, leaving the city to darkness, save for the twinkling lights. It was a wonderful place to say our farewells to our friends at the end of a weekend well spent.
Have you ever been to Traverse City? Where are your favorite places to visit in Michigan during the winter? Let me know in a comment below!