Top 5 Things to See in the Traverse City Area
Great Sunset, Great Wine, Great Time Had by All
Great Sunset, Great Wine, Great Time Had by All
We just got back from another fabulous week in Leelanau County, Michigan! We fell in love with this area after our first visit five years ago and have been back many times. We always stay in the town of Glen Arbor which is nestled between the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Glen Lake. Approximately a 45 minute drive from Traverse City, Glen Arbor is a great home base to see the Leelanau Peninsula and everything it has to offer. From white sand beaches, wineries, local art, hiking, water sports and some of the most beautiful sunsets around there something your sure to enjoy. Here are the top 5 things to see and do in our opinion:
Hiking the dunes in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is like being on another planet. I harken it to being in a Star Wars movie or Space Balls. I kept waiting for the giant comb to appear at the top of one of the dunes follow by Stormtroopers and Chewy. Standing at the bottom and looking up it seems like you could never get to the top but once you do the views are incredible. The water in this area of Lake Michigan is caribbean blue no matter the season and is absolutely speculator. Pack a picnic and make a whole afternoon of it. Just make sure to shake out your shoes before getting in back in your car otherwise you may have your own mini dune to clean out later...
Located in the renovated Northern Michigan Asylum "The Commons" is a great place to visit while in Traverse City. With lots of boutique shops, dining options and even a few wineries you can easily spend the whole morning or afternoon here. Jason and I loved the atmosphere of The Mercato which is in the South Wing of Building 50. The historic architecture was fun to look at and the halls featured great local art as well historical photos from when it was a Asylum and State Hospital. We happened to be there on a Saturday morning when the farmers market was happening. Due to the spring temps it was held inside the hallways of The Mercato and featured dozens of vendors selling everything from local bread and cheeses to meats, veggies and even honey. We ended buying kale and local honey to use while cooking our meals the week we were there. If you like poking in boutique shops and grabbing a cup of coffee this is the place to do it in our opnion. And when you visit make sure to venture across the road to Left Foot Charley Urban Winery for a wine tasting or two. P.S. if you have kids Left Foot Charley is the prefect place to enjoy a glass wine on the patio while you kids can play in the sandbox. Entertainment for both parents and kiddos. Yes Please.
From dried, to chocolate covered, to cookies, jams, sodas, salsas, wines and lotion if it's made out of cherries chances are Cherry Republic has it! Although Cherry Republic has a few locations our favorite is the original in Glen Arbor. Lucky for us it's a short walk from where we stay so we normally stop by a few times. Full of eccentric signs the Glen Arbor location features a cafe (the Cherry Pie is not to be missed), a wine and soda tasting area, a shop (which samples most everything they sell), and the only Olympic Size Pit Spitting Arena in the world. Jason is a big fan of their Cherry Ginger Ale and Cherry Almond Butter. If your in downtown Traverse City make sure to stop in that location and check out the Cherry Pit. Its a pit full of Cherry Pits! Ethan and I loved it but of our course we kept finding cherry pits the rest of the day.
Of course being the wine lovers we are wine tasting is a must do on our list. With the area being situated at the 45th parallel it has the prefect cool-climate for growing a varietal of grapes. Our favorite wines from this region are Rieslings and Ice Wines and being thats it also the Cherry Capital of the US they make some darn tooting good Cherry Wines as well. There are two main wine trails in the Traverse City area - Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula which means there a lot of wineries and distilleries to choose from!
Old Mission Peninsula stretches out into Grand Traverse Bay giving away to beautiful views as you sip your way thru the winneries that lie on the peninsula. Our favorites to visit on Old Mission Peninsula are Chateau Grand Traverse (a must try here is the Spiced Cherry Wine, served warm we call it Christmas in a bottle) and Chateau Chantal which is atop a hill in the middle of the peninsula giving a gorgeous 360 degree view of Grand Traverse Bay.
With 25 wineries and counting Leelanau Peninsula is where you will most likely be doing the bulk of your wine tastings. With some wineries being close to the lake and others being more inland there is a wide variety of views to take in along the way. Some our of favorites from this trail are Black Star Farms, be a big spender here and dull out the extra for the Ice Wine tasting. Its completely worth it and resisting spending the bucks for a bottle is hard (we weren't successful in that venture). Chateau de Leelanau is another favorite stop. We like their Solem Farm Red and Reisling Harvest Select. And last but not least Leelanau Wine Cellars, the tasting room here is gorgeous right on the lake. Currently they don't charge a tasting fee and they let you try as many of their wines as you would like. With over 25 from choose from you'll be there a while. Our favorites from here are the Port, the Blueberry Dessert Wine and Renaissance.
There are so many great wineries in this area its hard not to come home with a case or two or ok three. On the trip before this one we had a little red hard top convertible. We bought so much wine we couldn't put the top down on the way home because we had filled the trunk up with wine and couldn't put down the compartment cover that allowed the roof to go down!
I am a big fan of sunsets and If there is only one thing you have time for I won't miss watching a sunset over the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. There's nothing more relaxing that grabbing a chair, a glass of Riesling and listening to the waves of Lake Michigan as the sun sinks below the waves.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was named one of the "Most Beautiful Places in America" by ABC's Good Morning America and I would have to agree that it deserves that title. I'm sure we will continue to visit in the coming years and if you have never been we would highly recommend you add to your list of must visit places.