We had two days to explore Traverse City, Mich., this summer. The itinerary included dune climbing, drinking craft beer, and gazing dreamily at lakes (that last two things were just on my schedule – the kids had other plans). Given what we wanted to do, we wanted to find a hotel in Traverse City that got us close to the water but still had a convenient location.
Since we loved the idea of a place with a view, we ended up at at Cherry Tree Inn & Suites in Traverse City. What a view!
Disclosure: Our stay was hosted by Visit Traverse City. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.
About Cherry Tree Inn & Suites
Cherry Tree Inn & Suites has a lot going for it: Private beach, themed play set, and an outdoor pool. Plus, their complimentary shuttle takes you all over the city (though, really, it’s pretty easy to navigate on your own).
The hotel has several different room options. Whatever you pick, request water view. I spent more mornings on the balcony writing and watching the sunrise.
And the sunset view was lovely too, though, it’s better to be down on the beach for them, in my opinion.
Cherry Tree is located in a touristy strip of hotels on one side of the street, while on the other side, you’ve got chain restaurants, putt putt, and gas stations. We did find a bike rental shop within walking distance of our hotel, making for an easy bike ride excursion with the kids.
The hotel has a complimentary hot breakfast, as well as a little sweet shop where you can buy candy and pints of Moomers. Moomers, if you haven’t read about it, is a very well-known ice cream shop in Traverse City. I recommend going there since it is on a picturesque dairy farm, but if you can’t, might as well buy the ice cream at your hotel, right?
What the kids love at Cherry Tree Inn & Suites
They rope kids in with cookies on the counter and then from that point on, they have made fans of your kids.
The biggest hits for my kids were obviously the pools – one indoors and one outdoors. The outdoor hot tub is nice, too, especially at sunset.
The the second popular spot to find kids is on the pirate ship swing set.
The kids attempted to play in the lake, but it was not the best experience. The water was cold and full of weeds that creeped the kids out.
If we had more time, we would’ve considered renting some watercraft, which is available on the property (for a bit of a hefty price, though).
If you have older kids, try staying up late for the bonfire each night.
What’s near Cherry Tree Inn & Suites
Read up on our two days in Traverse City for a list of things my family did while visiting Traverse City. The closest thing on that list (besides the private hotel beach), was ride bikes on the nearby trail.
From the hotel, you’re also within walking distance of Pirate Cove Adventure Park, which has putt putt, bumper boats and that sort of thing.
For food, I’d recommend heading downtown for great dining and breweries. I talk about restaurants, breweries and the best place to get ice cream this post.
Traverse City, Michigan, is the kind of lakeside town that will have you planning your return visit before you even leave. My family visited for two days during our epic Michigan road trip. We were reluctant to move on when it was time. Blame the lakefront view from our balcony. Blame the proximity to gorgeous parks. Blame MOOmers.
Disclosure: My visit was hosted by Traverse City Tourism. All thoughts, opinions, and typos are my own.
What to do in Traverse City with kids
Traverse City isn’t a very large city, but it packs in quite a few city offerings. It blends familiar convenience:
– Costco and Walgreens near our hotel
– Local specialties, like microbreweries, charming locally-owned stores, and the famous MOOmers Homemade Ice Cream
– And natural beauty. Not only is it near Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, the city itself is on the West Traverse Bay, with a river passing through it.
So, what’s a family to do? Our kids are 6 and 8 so we were beyond playing in the sand at the hotel. Though between you and me, they sure did enjoy the playground at our hotel, Cherry Tree Inn & Suites.
Anyway. Away from the playground, the most memorable outing was about a 30-minute drive from Traverse City, actually – Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.
It’s a picturesque area run by the National Park Service. Be prepared to climb some sand dunes. Also, do take the time to do the scenic drive, and do not skip the scenic drive and stops No. 9 and No. 10. The views are stunning.
Be warned: There are people who run down the 450-foot sand dune at the Lake Michigan overlook and spend hours crawling their way back up. Your kids will want to do this, too. Don’t let them.
Also, note that while it is a lakeshore, there isn’t much swimming going on at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. My kids were disappointed. Luckily, there are a few beach options nearby.
We tried swimming nearby at Glen Haven Lake. The water was frigid for June. And check out the waves in the picture. For a lake, it had quite the possible rip tide.
Back in Traverse City, there were better lake swimming opportunities. Clinch Park seemed to be the most popular. We checked out the private beach of our hotel, Cherry Tree Inn & Suites, but decided the outdoor pool and hot tub were more of our liking. The lake had a bit of a seaweed thing going on that my kids didn’t deal with well.
There is quite a trail system in Traverse City, so we decided to rent some bikes from Einstein Cycles, which was within walking distance of our hotel. We took the T.A.R.T. toward downtown Traverse City, stopping for lunch at The Filling Station Microbrewery before turning back around. The trails do cross some streets, and if you’re kids aren’t confident with stopping and starting, it may be nerve-wracking.
Our hotel had some watercraft rentals available, but were a bit out of our price range. Just know that people could boat, jet ski, kayak and SUP out on the water.
Where to stay in Traverse City with kids
Hotels line the bay of Traverse City, and the lucky ones who have the water-facing rooms are in for a treat. We stayed at Cherry Tree Inn & Suites, and the view at sunrise was worth waking early for, and sunset drew every guest out on to the beach each night.
While you’d think having a lake at your back door was enough, the kids were excited that the hotel had both an indoor and outdoor pool/hot tub area.
There are different room options at the hotel (I think they said 25 types), and we were in a room with two queen beds, water-facing balcony, and a mini kitchenette. It was just the right size.
It’s conveniently near a pharmacy and within walking distance to putt putt golf and bike rentals. The hotel will also offer free shuttle service, which is helpful if you feel like trying one of the many microbreweries.
Where to eat in Traverse City with kids
Near the strip of hotels, you’ll mostly find chain restaurants with a local restaurant or two hidden among them. Our happiest dining experiences were far from that. Try heading into the downtown area around Front Street for food. Our first dinner in town was at 7 Monks Taproom, which has a kids menu and what my husband swears is one of the top 5 hamburgers he has ever tried. The Bacon Jam Burger may be $16 but he wanted to return the next night to have it again.
Lunch at The Filling Station Microbrewery was also wonderful, and right on the T.A.R.T. Trail, so a lot of biking families were there. Small kids can play in sandboxes while you wait. They mostly serve flatbread pizza and salads, and the beer is excellent.
I heard a lot of talk about Moomers, whose ice cream was ranked as some of the best in the nation in recent years. So, we had to go, right? It’s a working dairy farm outside of the city, and apparently, everyone makes the drive. We went on a Monday night and there was a line for scoops. This place is efficient, though, and we had our ice cream in no time. The view is worth the drive, too.
We had a miss or two on meals, and our breakfast was complimentary at the hotel, so I have no recommendations for that.
This summer, my family is visiting Michigan for the first time for an amazing road trip. I’ve already started my epic Michigan bucket list. We’ll stay a few nights in the beautiful coastal community, Traverse City, exploring the area, and of course, getting some beach time in. I’m starting to dream up all the things to do in Traverse City with my kids!
Some people know Traverse City for its proximity to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Shore, but it turns out, this little city is a cultural destination. USA Today named Traverse City one of the top 10 great places to combine “big-city art and small town feel,” and it was the only Michigan city to rank in a study by the National Center for Arts Research about the U.S.’s “most art-loving cities.”
I’ve started dreaming up what all we could do in Traverse City (and nearby) if time and money were unlimited. So, here’s my Traverse City Bucket List:
Cruise on two wheels
I’m working getting the kids steadier on their bikes, so we could rent some bikes in Traverse City. There are several trails to check out, especially some easy, paved trails for families.
The Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) Trail is in-town, while the Little Traverse Wheelway links Charlevoix, Petoskey and Harbor Springs, with pretty views of the gorgeous Lake Michigan.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is technically not in Traverse City, but it’s close enough you’d better visit while you’re in the area. These incredible dunes and gorgeous blue water defy the visions of what others must think the Midwest looks like.
If we ever return to the area in the winter, there’s the option of snowshoeing the park’s trails.
Try something with cherries in it
If there’s one fruit I’ve come to associate with Michigan, it’s the cherry. Traverse City seems to their cherries. Most likely, I’ll just have a cherry pie or some sort of dessert.
If I feel crazy, there’s the TC Cherry Burger at Slabtown Burgers, some sort of magical burger with cherries and blue cheese on top. Traverse City is also home to the National Cherry Festival, held each year in at the end of June and early July.
Eat all the foods
Beyond cherries, though, there’s a ton of food to try there. Traverse City is one of those places that I sorta, kinda, really wish I was visiting without the kids. There are so many wonderful farm-to-table, European-inspired eateries in Traverse City and nearby. And I know my kids will not enjoy them.
I’ve heard there are good kids menus at Sleder’s Family Tavern, one of Michigan’s oldest, continuously-operated taverns since 1882, and Jolly Pumpkin, a restaurant and brewery. There’s even a burger stand that has carhops: Don’s Drive-In, which dates back to 1938.
Have a maritime adventure
My son has a vast knowledge of ships. Like startlingly vast. No doubt a sailing experience would be epic for him.
We could try sailing (and even hoisting the sails) on the 114-foot replica double-masted schooner, Manitou. The cruise is offered by Traverse Tall Ship Co., who has a float bed and breakfast as well that sounds perfect for a couple’s getaway.
Try the Riesling
There are more than 50 wineries in the area, and is considered by many to be the “signature grape” of the Traverse Wine Coast. The winery that’s been around for decades, Chateau Grand Traverse, sells a lot of it. Side note for future trips sans kids: Chateau Grand Traverse was named one of the best coastal wine vacations!
See the Traverse City Film Festival
If it were just Mr. Wonderful and I, and we were in Traverse City at the end of the summer, we’d definitely attend a screening during the Traverse City Film Festival.
The State Theatre, connected to the festival, has been named one of the top 10 movie theaters in the world by Motion Picture Association of America. The restored 1918 building looks beautiful inside. And, bonus, it has 25-cent weekly kids and classic matinee shows.
Skiing in the moonlight has a charming ring to it, doesn’t it? Of course, first, I need to learn to cross-country ski, but then, once I do that, I can try it out at one of the ski resorts near Traverse City.
Try one of the world’s best vodkas
How could you resist a vodka that’s ranked among the Top 6 in the world. True North Vodka can be found at Grand Traverse Distillery. My husband’s partial to whiskey, he can try one of the whiskey varieties.