Best VIP Local’s Guide to Summer in Northern Michigan


As someone who has had the privilege of growing up in northern Michigan, I can assure you that it really is as good as they say it is. If you’re wondering what makes it so incredible, let me give you a sneak peek. First off, we have some amazing scenery. From cherry orchards, crystal clear water, white sand beaches, miles upon miles of hiking trails, and breathtaking sunsets over Lake Michigan, we truly have it all. However, Traverse City is more than just a pretty face. There is a vibrant energy and unique charm that is hard to beat. Are you ready for some mind-blowing food experiences? Prepare to loosen that belt, my friend. And if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you’ve just stumbled upon the perfect place for you. We have more outdoor adventures than you can shake a beach towel at. But enough of the generalities! It’s time to share my well-guarded secrets – the hidden spots that the locals swear by.

Let’s start the day off with some incredible coffee. You’ll find me at Mundos Roasting & Co., Espresso Bay, Brew, Morsels, or MadCap. Make sure you snag a homemade waffle at Mundos. They can’t be beat. Espresso Bay, Brew, and Morsels are all downtown and just a short walk from the bay. So if you want coffee and a view, that’s the way to go. If you didn’t fill up there, it’s time for breakfast. Bluebird, Peace, Love, & Little Donuts, The Omelette Shop, Potter’s Bakery, or The Towne Plaza has my vote. I can attest to Bluebird’s brunch, especially their cinnamon rolls since I used to make them when I worked there in high school. I know, I know. That was so many years ago, but I’ve been back since. The Towne Plaza has some delicious savory options, and Potter’s offers an extensive list of sweet treats that will start your day off on the right foot.

By now, you might be wanting to work off some of these decadent treats so you have more room for later. I have found that hiking or exploring a new town is just the trick. It’s time to head over to Fishtown, the Brown Bridge Quiet Area, Kayak, Bike, and Brew, the Empire Bluffs, or Pyramid Point. The view from the top of Pyramid Point, especially, is one that will take your breath away. If you want to stay closer to TC, Brown Bridge is the best option for a hike. Want a view of the water up close? Kayak, Bike, and Brew won’t steer you wrong.

But, what if it’s raining, you ask? Have no fear. I’ve got you covered. The State Theatre, The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, The Great Lakes Children’s Museum, the Dennos Museum, and the Traverse City Opera House will definitely keep you entertained and dry. If you want to test your bravery, get a tour of the underground tunnels at the Commons. The history is fascinating and peppered with tidbits that might give you a goosebump or two. If you have some kiddos tagging along, the State Theatre does $1 kid’s movies on Saturday mornings, and the Children’s Museum will keep them entertained for hours.

If you decided on Fishtown, we can start more food recommendations there. The Cheese Shanty has homemade pretzel bread that they pile high with some of the best sandwich fixin’s. If that doesn’t suit your fancy, Oakwood Proper will set you up with a top-notch burger, or Red Ginger will serve up the freshest sushi. If you sit at the sushi bar, you can watch the skilled chefs make your dinner. (Don’t forget to start with the edamame. So simple and delish.) Pangeas takes the seat for some of the best pizzas in town. Stella’s is a whole dining experience. I would recommend going there when you have some extra time to truly savor each dish.

Now it’s time for dessert. If you are sitting in Red Ginger, just look across the street to Milk and Honey. Their German chocolate ice cream mix is the most perfect blend of salty and sweet. But I would be amiss if I didn’t also point you towards Moomers. It was voted the best ice cream in America by USA Today. This family-owned and operated farm never disappoints. Grand Traverse Pie Company will provide delicious homemade pies filled with Michigan ingredients. Another option is to walk a little further down the street to Kilwins. They’ve got the same fudge that is made on Mackinac Island. Last but, definitely not least, Buchan’s Blueberry Hill has the best lemon blueberry ice cream.

So now that the kiddos (and you) have had your fill of sweet treats, we can move on to the adult beveraginos. Hop Lot, Jacob’s Farm, Chateau Chantal, Rove Estate, and TC Whiskey Co. are all on the top of my list. Hop Lot has clear igloos with fire pits that you can snuggle up in during the winter, and live music and lawn games during the summer. Jacob’s Farm has something for everyone. The kids can play on the playground while you enjoy the wide variety of beer, wine, cocktail, and cider options. If you are looking for the full wine experience, head over to Chateau or Rove. They both will provide the best list of local wines that we are so well known for.

As for events to travel up for, we’re most known for the Cherry Festival, but the Northwestern Michigan Fair and Harbor Days in Elk Rapids are equally as charming. If you go to Harbor Day’s, make sure to find out the date of the fireworks. It’s quite the display over the sailboats in the harbor. If carnival rides give you motion sickness, check out the concert list at Interlochen Center for the Art’s Academy or head on over to the Sutton’s Bay Art Festival. Both are great options for entertainment that don’t include quite as much spinning.

Well, that’s all for now. I think it’s definitely enough to get you started on your own unique adventure in our neck of the woods. Along the way, I’m sure you’ll find your own favorites to tuck away for later. And, who knows? There’s a good chance we’ll bump into each other. Make sure to come over and say hi, even if my fingers are covered in frosting from the cinnamon roll I’m inhaling at Bluebird.