Traverse City, Michigan: One of my favorite places and here’s why…

Are you wondering about all those Michigan places I write about in my some of my novels? Yes, it’s as beautiful “up north” as I describe. Even though I write fiction, I am not making that up. So I’ve made you a quick guide to some of my favorite places in Traverse City and its surrounding area, in case you want to go. There are many more things to do than mentioned, but I narrowed it down so you can plan a week’s stay. If you cannot make the journey in person, hopefully you’ll enjoy learning about this fascinating area from afar.

I was born and raised in Michigan, so have been visiting the Traverse City area all my life. I no longer live there but go back most summers to visit friends and family, and to do book signings. I also did a lot of research to make sure the history I wove into my novels was accurate, and doing that research led to fascinating discoveries. I’ve included links here that will take you to some of that history if you’re interested.

Here’s a Michigan map to get us started:

Traverse City, in Town

This city on Grand Traverse Bay began as a lumbering community in the mid to late 1800s. It’s a lovely town with plenty of Victorian-era ambiance. History abounds.

Here’s a map depicting the historic areas –

Street map –

Of course, beaches on the bay and opportunities to enjoy summer water sports and winter sports are plentiful. But here are a few of my favorite places to visit and things to do.

  1. Grand Traverse Commons. This enormous Victorian-era structure, built in the late 1800s, originated as an “asylum.” With much of it now converted into stores, restaurants, and lofts, tours of the unrestored areas demonstrate was life was once like there. The stories of the “residents” ooze out of the walls, which instigated my novel Secrets of the Asylum. If you don’t want to take the tour, the shops and restaurants are worth the visit.
  • Landmark Books in the Grand Traverse Commons. Of course, you knew I’d list my favorite bookstores. Primarily a used and classic book store, owner Paul also offers recent books about the area and especially about the asylum. It’s a great place to pick up good stories about this iconic place.
  • Front Street. Stroll up and down this historic main street to find everything you want. Shops, restaurants, coffee shops, brew pubs, a classic movie theater, the old opera house, ice cream, fudge, and more.
  • The National Cherry Festival, around the Fourth of July. You won’t believe how much fun this can be. It’s like a small-town fair high on cherry wine. There’s even an air show most years. I saw the Navy’s Blue Angels, performing over the bay. I’ll never forget it.

Old Mission Peninsula

Just outside of Traverse City are two peninsulas that stretch north into the bay, one on the east side of town and one on the west side. I’ll start with the east side, Old Mission.

  1. Old Mission General Store. You’ll enjoy spectacular scenery as you drive up the peninsula, where you’ll run into this store. It sits at the center of the Old Mission village. At the store you can get snacks, antiques, vittles, and more.
  • Wineries, ten scattered along your way. Stop on your own or take a wine tour. I enjoy all the wineries, but my favorite is Chateau Grand Traverse. I’m prejudiced because my cousin Michael works there. But it is the oldest winery on the peninsula, and I love their wine. (Michael is not that old!)
  • Old Barn Antiques. I have no idea why I stop at this place, seeing that I live in another state, fly into Michigan, and have no way of dragging anything home. But I adore this barn! If you’re an antique lover like me, you’ll want to stop here. Take a truck or trailer to haul things home. (There are plenty of other antique shops in the Traverse City area, too.)
  • Old Mission Lighthouse. This is the pinnacle of your drive up the peninsula. Climb to the top to take in the view. Amble along the lakeshore. Sit and relax a spell. Ahhh, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Leelanau Peninsula

This peninsula is on the west side of the city and is the larger of the two bayside peninsulas.

  1. Historic M-22. Drive up one side of the peninsula and down the other on this road. The scenery is stunning. There are several villages, most on the water and some that were or are fishing villages. You’ll also see farms, vineyards, forests, and miles of lakeshore.
  • Bay Books, in Suttons Bay. This is one of my favorite stops. In fact, the entire village is fun to stroll through. The owner of the bookstore, Tina, has a keen eye for selecting interesting reading. Her store is cozy, inviting, and relaxing.
  • Winery tours. With 25 wineries on the peninsula, tours are popular. It’s enjoyable to take a leisurely day to do this. Caution, though, it’s more than you can peruse in one day. (Or if you do, you’ll be too tipsy from sampling the goods to remember it.)

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

About thirty miles west of Traverse City you can enjoy soaring sand dunes along the shore of Lake Michigan. I can’t leave Michigan without climbing a dune and sticking my bare toes into the sand. The views are amazing. The lake is calming. The hiking trails offer nature at its best.   

The Journey Ends?

No, it won’t end. You’ll want to come back.

I confess, I have not written about all these places in my novels. I got carried away here. (And there is so much more.) But I did include much of this in my historical romantic suspense novel, Secrets of the Asylum, available right here.Let yourself become immersed in the history and beauty of the place while enjoying a gripping family saga.

Next, I’ll give you a tour of my favorite places on Mackinac Island, which I wrote about in Secrets of the Island. (Yup, you see a trend here.) Until then, happy reading.

The Three Amigos

I have a handful of best friends. How about you? I think most of us feel close to a few people, not hoards.

Today I want to talk about two of my sister-friends, Myra and Marka. We call ourselves the Three Amigos. We’ve known each other for thirty years and joke that we have to stay friends because we know too much. We don’t want anyone telling our deepest, darkest secrets.

When I first met Myra, we went to lunch one day at a Mexican restaurant. A roach crawled up the wall beside us in the middle of her telling a story. Without breaking stride, she took off her shoe, killed the pest, and went on with her story. I knew she was my kind of woman.

Myra introduced me to Marka, who is ten years younger than the other two of us. Beautiful, stylish, Southern as all get-out, and smart as a whip, I fell in love with her, too, as soon as I met her.

We’re all married, so the husband stories have abounded, as you can well imagine. We love our families but treasure our time together. We meet informally for lunch throughout the year, but it’s tradition to meet before Christmas for a long lunch to exchange small gifts, and then wander through an antique store or two. 

It’s this friendship I used as a model for my latest novel, Secrets of the Island. A romantic suspense story, the “Three Musketeers” band together to solve a family mystery. When they solve one, another crops up, so they keep going. It takes place during World War II, so wartime issues intertwine with their lives. 

As I wrote, I would think of Myra’s effervescent take on life and Marka’s way of turning a phrase. My characters took on their personalities, with someone a lot like me in the middle orchestrating the solving of the mystery. 

I think this is what we as writers do. We don’t disclose our friends’ secrets, but we automatically use who and what we know to write. As I wrote about the Three Musketeers, I fell in love with those characters. Do you as a writer fall in love with some of your characters? I hope so. That’s what will make your readers fall in love with them, too.

This writing also made me fall in love with the Three Amigos all over again. Here’s to sister-friends everywhere. May you stay friends forever, holding those secret stories locked away in your heart.