Traverse City in the Fall
Thinking about experiencing a Traverse City fall?
Everyone has heard about Traverse City, Michigan, the cherry capital of the world, in the summer. Think stunning northern Michigan beaches, the National Cherry Festival and scenic winery tours.
And while it’s definitely one of the top summer travel destinations in the summer, here’s a travel tip: Traverse City is absolutely worth checking out in the fall, too.
Surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery in Michigan’s lower peninsula, Traverse City is alive with opportunities for outdoor activities in the fall, and some fun indoor ones, too.
Fall is one of our favorite seasons to visit Traverse City: Traverse City tourism slows a little, the crowds thin out a bit and the cool breezes off of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay are fresh and invigorating.
Read on to discover some our favorite things do in Traverse City in autumn.
Wander and Shop Front Street in Downtown Traverse City
We love to explore Traverse City’s fun downtown shopping area when the weather is a little cooler, with sweater wrapped around our shoulders and a steaming cup of pumpkin-spice latte in hand.
It’s the perfect time for wandering through the cute boutiques, cafes and shops lining Front Street, the main shopping area. The crowds thin out a bit but the streets still bustle with activity, and better yet, you’ll score some great deals on the past summers’ merchandise.
Whether it’s sustainable goodness from Higher Grounds Trading Company, Espresso Bay’s famous golden espresso, or a coffee paired with elevated bakery goods at Good Harbor, a stop at a local Traverse City coffee shop will start your day on the right foot. Don’t miss Moomers Homemade Ice Cream: they have some delicious fall flavors like Carmel Apple.
We also like to stop by Horizon Books, one of the top bookstores in the entire state, and bop in to Toy Harbor just for fun.
Visit a Traverse City Winery
Head up Old Mission Peninsula’s M-37 and once you’re done marveling at the amazing vistas, stop in at one of the 10 wineries dotting the landscape and do a wine tasting.
The Old Mission Peninsula Wine Trail features some of Michigan’s top wineries, most of them offering wine tours – a perfect way to spend an autumn afternoon. Wineries include Mari Vineyards, Chateau Chantal, Tabone Vineyards, Hawthorne Vineyards, Peninsula Cellars, Chateau Grand Traverse Winery, Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery, Black Star Farms, 2 Lads and Bowers Harbor Vineyards. These Old Mission Peninsula wineries also serve as stunning wedding venues.
Drive the Old Mission Peninsula
The 22-mile journey straight up the Old Mission Peninsula ranks as one of the most scenic drives in Michigan, providing unparalleled views of Traverse City’s East Bay and West Bay. It’s especially pretty in the fall, when roadside stands offer fresh produce from the fall harvest. In addition to the wineries,you’ll find the must-visit Harbor View Lavender Farm which has a wide assortment of fresh lavender products.
Explore Traverse City State Park
Located right downtown, Keith J. Charters Traverse City State Park, is a popular post for both camping and day-use. You’ll love the sandy beach with spectacular bay views highlighted by the brilliant fall foliage along the shoreline. It’s a very family-friendly spot, too, with a children’s play structure and leafy trees to sit under for a picnics.
Explore Dennos Museum Center
If’s a little chilly or overcast, there’s no better time to head inside. Culture and arts are big in Traverse City, and you’ll find some very well-curated museums here.
The Dennos Museum Center on the campus of Northwest Michigan College in downtown Traverse City is a best-kept secret. It has an amazing permanent collection of Inuit Art as well as hosting some top-notch collections from modern and contemporary artists.
Hit the Beach at Clinch Park
While we love to stop here in the summer, Traverse City’s popular Clinch Park is even prettier in the fall, as many Traverse City beaches are.
With 1500 feet of beachfront, there’s plenty of room to spread out and take in the stunning bay views. Located right next to the marina, you’ll find picnic tables, clean restroom and access to the Traverse City Area Recreation Trail (TART), perfect for walking or riding.
Visit Two of Michigan’s Most Haunted Places
Traverse City is home to two of Michigan’s most haunted places: the Traverse City State Hospital and Bowers Harbor Inn. Learn more about these…interesting spots and scare yourself silly during a visit. You can read more about Michigan’s most haunted places here.
Take in a Performance at the City Opera House
This historical site also serves as the town playhouse and provides world-class live music, theatre, and dance dance performances throughout the year, including the fall.
Take in a play and then head to a top Traverse City restaurant for nightcap afterwards for a romantic getaway.
Ride the TART Trail
This 10.5 mile rail trail is a paved, non-motorized trail for biking, hiking and crosscountry skiing in the winter. the trail runs along the waterfront and connects with many other recreational trails in the area. You can read about more great Michigan biking trails and Michigan hiking trails here.
Great Lakes Children’s Museum
Another don’t-miss museum is the Great Lakes Children’s Museum: think tons of hands on kids activities guaranteed to keep your small friends interested in occupied.
Let’s face, it, though: don’t we all enjoy visiting these museums?
Take a Lighthouse Tour
With three Lake Michigan lighthouses within easy driving distance of Traverse City, fall is our favorite time to visit these picturesque spots. If you’re staying at one of the Traverse City hotels, plan a day trip to check out these historic spots.
Grand Traverse Lighthouse is at the very tip of the Leelanau Peninsula and has guided shops for more than 150 years. The pretty grounds include the lighthouse, a museum and lighthouse keeper’s quarters.
Mission Point Lighthouse has been an icon of the picturesque Old Mission Peninsula for decades and visitors can take self-guided historical tours to learn about its significance.
Near Sleeping Bear Dunes in Empire, Robert H. Manning Memorial Lighthouse stands as an homage to Lake Michigan fisherman, boasting a story of memorialization, rather than one of naval history
Visit the Light of Day Organic Tea Farm
As Michigan’s only organic tea farm, this must-visit spot is perfectly located between Traverse City and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
This 75-acre organic farm and tea shop offers a Taste and Tour, an opportunity to explore the farm and commune with nature while sampling some delicious organic tea.
Take in Performance at the Interlochen Center for the Arts
Interlochen Center for the Arts is a premier location for the exploration of interdisciplinary arts, and they offer a a variety of fall performances. With programs and classes in everything from writing to dance and plentiful activities to spark creativity, this haven for the arts nestled in the unique natural beauty of northern Michigan is the perfect place to embrace your imagination.
Hike Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Head over about 30 minutes west of Traverse City and you’ll find yourself in the heart of Sleeping Bear Dunes. While hiking opportunities abound in this 35 mile stretch of Lake Michigan coast, head for the Dune Climb in Glen Arbor. In the fall, the crowds thin out and you’ll be able to trek the 3.5 mile round trip over the sand to Lake Michigan with a cool lake breeze surrounding you.
More Things to Do in Traverse City in the Fall
- Visit Grand Traverse Commons (The Village at Grand Traverse Commons) is a sprawling shopping and dining complex on the site of historic 1884 hospital. It’s a unique setting, and accommodations are available here, too.
- Tour A Tall Ship at the Traverse Tall Ship Company and bring a little of the freshwater sea into your life.
- Near Traverse City is the Leelanau Peninsula. home to scenic Suttons Bay and charming Leland’s Fishtown.
- Try a craft beer of other craft beverage at one of the areas bars or restaurants. Use our guide to the best Traverse City breweries here.
- Visit Jacobs Farm and corn maze on the outskirts of Traverse City. As farm markets go, this is one of the best in the state.
A. In October, Traverse City comes alive with brilliant fall colors. This bustling city, a top Michigan travel destination, slows down a little bit and the cooler breezes off of lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay make it a perfect time to explore this northern Michigan spot.
Visit Three Lake Michigan Lighthouse Tour
Take a scenic fall color drive up Old Mission Peninsula
Explore the Traverse City Wineries
Climb the Dunes in Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore
Shop downtown Traverse City’s Front Street
Explore the Dennos Family Museum of the Great Lakes Children’s Museum
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