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: https://www.michigan.org/regions-and-cities
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 – https://www.traversecitymi.gov/downloads/historic_neighborhoods_webmap.pdf
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.
- 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. https://landmark-books.business.site/
- 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.
- Horizon Books, a large bookstore on Front Street. I can browse around inside for hours. https://www.horizonbooks.com/
- Sleder’s Family Tavern. A staple in town since the late 1800s, a stop here is a must. One of my characters in Secrets of the Asylum, in the 1920s, had an interesting encounter here in the back room, which was then the “women’s room.” https://www.traversecity.com/listings/sleders-family-tavern/154
- 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. https://www.cherryfestival.org/
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.
- 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. https://www.michigan.org/article/trip-idea/things-to-do-old-mission-peninsula-ultimate-pure-michigan-guide
- 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!) https://www.ompwinetrail.com/
- 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.) https://www.traversecity.com/listings/old-barn-antiques/413/
- 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. https://www.missionpointlighthouse.com/
This peninsula is on the west side of the city and is the larger of the two bayside peninsulas.
- 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. http://www.m22michigan.com/stories/travel_m22_leelanau_county
- 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. https://baybooksmi.com/
- 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.) https://www.michigan.org/road-trips/leelanau-peninsula-wine-trail
- Grand Traverse Lighthouse, at the tip of the peninsula. Climb up to the top for another fabulous view. Walk the grounds for a leisurely stroll. https://www.grandtraverselighthouse.com/
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. https://www.nps.gov/slbe/index.htm
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.