Traverse City, Michigan for a Family Vacation
Traverse City beach in the spring season.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore; photo courtesy Grand Traverse Resort & Spa

Situated at the foot of Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City offers visitors access to some of Michigan’s most beautiful peninsulas, golf resorts and waterfront hiking areas. Parasailing, skiing, ballooning and more family activities join watersports and fishing at this long-established resort area along Michigan’s western shore. The nearby Great Lakes temper the climate, allowing area orchards to yield plump and beautiful fruits celebrated at the famous and very crowded Traverse City Cherry Festival each July. For more information contact the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800/872-8377 or 231/947-3134 .

Here are a few of our attractions that your family shouldn’t miss:

Great Fun for the Kids

(Toddlers to Age 8)

Old Mission Point and Peninsula Township Park
Old Mission Peninsula
13235 Center Road
Traverse City, MI 49686
231/922-5270
Michigan’s numerous peninsulas are certainly some of its most breathtaking natural attractions. Active young children who love to run outdoors will enjoy the miles of developed trails and about 400 acres of forest and deserted orchards to be explored at the tip of Old Mission Peninsula. The Old Mission Lighthouse overlooks the area, but is not open to the public. However, nearby there is the 1858 Hessler Log Home which depicts the living conditions of the region’s first white settlers. The reputedly warm waters off the end of the peninsula offer some of the best swimming in the area.

East Bay Park
The foot of Front Street and East Grand Traverse Bay
A popular beach with families that have young children, this park provides shaded picnic areas, a playground, shallow swimming area and lifeguards.

The Schooner Madeline and The Sloop Welcome
232 East Front Street
231/946-2647
The Madeline is a modern replica of a 19th century wooden schooner created at the Clinch Park Marina in downtown Traverse City. The Welcome is a reconstructed fur trading ship built originally in 1774, and later converted by the British in 1779 into an armed sloop. Both ships offer guided tours, and have proven to be exciting exhibits for young children. Both usually sail in this city’s annual Schooner Festival.

Alden Depot Park & Museum
10670 Coy
Alden, MI 49612
231/331-4643
Located in nearby Alden, this authentic old-fashioned train depot dates back to 1908 and has been fully restored for the pleasure of train enthusiasts. Visitors are presented with photographs and exhibits that commemorate the history of the Alden community as well as model and miniature train sets. Museum hours are limited, so call ahead.

Fun for Older Children

(Up to Age 18)

Interlochen Center for the Arts
PO Box 199
9900 Diamond Park Rd.
Interlochen, MI 49643
800/681-5912; 231/276-7472
Families can take in one of the low-cost performances by students at the world-famous Interlochen School.  Aspiring performing artists who study at the academy treat the local public to professional quality performances — dramas, musicals, concents, dance – weekly most of the year. 

Power Boat Rental
There are few ways to better enjoy a day on the beautiful Bay than with your family’s own chartered boat. Try Sail and Powerboat Rental (231/929-1717 ) or Bay Breeze Yacht Charters (231/941-0535) for powerboats and sailboats, or Break ‘N Waves (231/929-3303) for wave runners, pontoon boats or personal watercraft.

Pirate’s Cove Adventure Park
1710 U.S. 31 North
Traverse City, MI 49684
231/938-9599
The perfect afternoon adventure for older children who want to get out and have some fun, this water park features the Pirate’s Plunge water coaster and two 18-hole adventure mini-golf courses. Go-carts, bumper boats, kiddy carts, and much more are also available.

Parasailing and Ballooning
The Grand Traverse Bay area offers some of the most spectacular elevated views around with its craggy peninsulas and uneven coastlines. Parasailing and hot air ballooning are exciting ways to take to the air for an instant change of perspective over this beautiful waterfront area. At Traverse Bay Parasail (231/929-7272), any child weighing less than 90 pounds must ride strapped with an adult. For a more relaxed approach, try Grand Traverse Balloons (231/947-RIDE) for a one-hour sunrise or sunset ride. No children under 48″ are allowed because they cannot see over the edge of the basket.

Scuba & Organized Dives
The Grand Traverse Bay area provides some excellent sites for scuba diving and the occasional underwater shipwreck lends a sense of adventure. Great Lakes Scuba (231/943-DIVE) rents scuba diving equipment and Scuba North (231/947-2520) rents gear and organizes guided diving expeditions.

Fun for the Family

Traverse City State Park
Off of US-31
231/922-5270
Directly across the street from the park campgrounds, is this popular 700-foot-long sandy beach along the East Bay that includes a picnic area, bathhouse and a spacious parking lot.

Bay View: 1800s Cottage Colony
Petoskey, Michigan
800/845-2828
To the north of Traverse City, along Little Traverse Bay, a group of Methodists founded Bay View in 1875 as a summer retreat. The National Register of Historic Places now lists the entire Victorian community which lovers of architecture will adore. The 19th-century cottage colony has winding streets that connect more than 400 houses with ornate pillared porches and gingerbread-trimmed turrets. Tourists can also visit the Bay View Historical Museum, which is located in two of the oldest buildings in the area.

Grass River Natural Area
Off of CR 618, four miles north of Alden, Michigan
800/872-8377
There is an abundance of wildlife to observe and natural beauty to absorb in this 1,100-acre preserve of forests, bogs, swamps and shoreline along the Grass River. More than three miles of winding boardwalks and hiking trails will make for a fun and interesting hike for the whole family.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
9922 Front Street
Empire, Michigan 49630
231/326-5134
About 25 miles northwest of Traverse City, this famous 70,000-acre park offers some of the best climbing and scenery, including enormous sand dunes shaped by the movement of ancient glaciers. Visitors will be surprised by the breathtaking expanses of coastal sand dunes and beautiful views of miles of beaches. There is excellent hiking past lakes and streams, through hardwood forests, and up craggy bluffs that reach the imposing height of 450 feet out over the waters of Lake Michigan. This park also offers access to the added attractions of the Manitou Islands, the Sleeping Bear Point Coast Guard Station Maritime Museum, and a scenic drive which are all well suited for younger children, too.

Skiing Traverse City
In wintertime, of course, Traverse City’s predominant attractions are its small but panoramic ski resorts. Close by downtown, try Mount Holiday or Hickory Hills. For cross-country skiing, sledding and ice-skating try the Grand Traverse Resort.

Golfing Traverse City
The Traverse City area boasts many scenic public golf courses. Try The Grand Traverse Resort which offers two golf courses, one of which was designed by the Golden Bear himself, Jack Nicklaus. Nearby in Bellaire at the Shanty Creek Resort, golfers will enjoy The Legend, an 18-hole course designed by none other than Arnold Palmer.

Leelanau Peninsula and State Park
Northport, Michigan 49670
231/386-5422
About 30 miles north of Traverse City along M 22 is another of the area’s beautiful peninsulas. Along with hiking trails and a beach off of the tip, the park also contains the historic Grand Traverse Lighthouse, which remains open to the public.

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This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.