Where the heck is Traverse City? Never heard of it. I mean I’m not gonna drop a boatload of dough to go to a place I’ve never even heard of. Then the pandemic happened. And everything changed.
Suddenly the thought of cramming inside a metal capsule with 100+ germy strangers to fly somewhere didn’t sound like the best idea. The thought of going to Atlantis or Disney or Legoland sent me into a full blown panic attack. So we started looking for a house within driving distance where we could have a different kind of vacation. And we discovered a little piece of heaven on earth. Traverse City.
Now if you’re thinking about visiting Traverse City, stop thinking and go. And if you’re not thinking about visiting Traverse City, why not?!!! As Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman, “Big mistake. Big. Huge.” Because this place is like a breath of fresh air. And here are a bunch of reasons why.
It is no secret that my hubby and I LOVE hiking. This is why we decided to move to the Chicago area with zero elevation. WTF? Yes, we picked the wrong place to live, which makes Traverse City an awesome place to vacation. There were three hikes we went on.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
I have two words for this hike. Holy. Crap. I have NEVER been on a hike like this before. When the website said we park at the bottom of the dune and climb up, I kinda thought that was the whole thing. Ennnh, wrong.
This was only the first dune of like 9,000 you have to climb to get to the water. I’m sure it wasn’t really 9,000 but it felt like it. You climb up and down and up and down these amazing sandy dunes and every time you climb up, you think the lake’ll be on the other side. Nope.
And then suddenly after about an hour of hiking, THIS.
Seriously, it was GORGEOUS!!! And we felt so victorious for making it.
Of course, then you have to go back over all the dunes again to get back to your car. My calves!!! But it is worth it. One word of advice, we loved this hike so much, we did it twice. The first time the temperature was in the low 70s and it was gorgeous. The second time was in the 80s and we felt like eggs frying on a hot car. There’s almost no shade. The kids struggled and complained and begged to be carried, and I would NOT recommend this hike in the heat, and if you ignore me, please bring a ton of water and food and take LOTS of breaks and don’t yell at your kids as much as I did.
Sand Lakes Quiet Area
This is pretty much the complete opposite of Sleeping Bear Dunes. Well, except that it’s awesome too. It’s in the middle of nowhere, like literally the google map was blank, but it has these beautiful paths winding through the shady woods and you keep ending up at gorgeous lakes with lots of wildlife. Froggies, and birdies, and snakes, oh my! Seriously, Holden almost shat himself when he saw a real live snake. But he came home with a killer souvenir!
And last but not least, and maybe my favorite…
This is a totally kickass hike. You’ll have two paths to choose from. DO THEM BOTH. First, take the itty-bitty hike to the lookout area which is high up over Lake Michigan. Then do the rest of the 2.7 mile loop which is very worth it. You’re walking through these gorgeous woods when all of the sudden there’s this very steep sand dune.
At the top you get the most amazing views of Lake Michigan.
Then to finish the loop, you walk through the woods and a gorgeous meadow and it is pretty darn amazing.
I kinda think I might even like this hike more than Sleeping Bear Dunes but shhh, don’t tell Sleeping Bear I said that.
Honestly, I don’t know jack about food in Traverse City. Why? Because there’s a pandemic going on, people!!! Yup, we ate at home most of the trip. MOST. We did make it to a few outdoor places where we felt comfortable.
The Little Fleet Food Trucks
This is the first and ONLY dinner we ate out while we were there. It’s basically a parking lot lined with totally awesome food trucks and a bunch of tables. Pizza, BBQ, Vietnamese, etc. FYI, the CB fries are flipping AMAZING and I inhaled them before I had a chance to take a picture of them. Sorry not sorry. This is why I’m not a food blogger.
Grand Traverse Pie Company
It is illegal to come to Michigan and not eat cherry pie. And apple pie. And really it’s not illegal but it should be.
Speaking of laws, it is a law that you have to get ice cream every day on vacation. We had TWO favorite places.
And last but not least, the best dessert ever invented. The kind you can make right in your own backyard.
Entertainment looks a little different during a pandemic. No movie theaters. No mini golf. No ropes courses or shopping or any of that fun stuff. But there’s other fun stuff!
The Cherry Bowl Drive In
Woohoooooo, a drive-in theater. Wait, WHAT? The movie doesn’t start until 10:00?!!!! My kids were like F that and we left (the drive-in was super nice and gave us our money back!!). Bring dinner, games, pillows and blankets and then take a lonnnnnng nap and wake up for the movies.
Collecting (and skipping!!) rocks
The rocks on the beaches in Lake Michigan are AMAZING. We were constantly on the hunt for these really cool ones called Petoskey Stones that are fossilized coral made from glaciers (amazing science stuff I really don’t understand). And we found a bunch!
Along with a bazillion flat rocks that were perfect for skipping.
ME: Zoey, want to go kayaking?
ME: Holden, want to go kayaking?
ME: Oh woe is me, I guess I’ll have to go all by myself. Sorry honey, I might be gone for a while. Hmmmm, I wonder if you can kayak to Europe from Lake Michigan.
This was literally my favorite moment of our entire trip. Since the stars don’t come out until 11:30 at night in Traverse City right now (insane!!!), we decided to put the kids to bed early and wake them up to see the stars. But before we woke them up, we did a little something special to the beach.
Of course the real magic was happening above us.
And as we sat there together gazing up at the constellations and satellites and making wishes on shooting stars, I thought about something. As much as I love going to places like Disney and seeing the spectacular firework finales and incredible light shows, THIS is better. The quiet finale that Mother Nature puts on every single night. Especially in a very special place like Traverse City.
If you liked this, please don’t forget to like and share it. Thank you!!