11 Unusual Traverse City Things To Do Today: See a Jaw-Dropping Guiness World Record, Explore Fairy Trails and Talk to Ghosts at an Abandoned Mental Hospital
Traverse City Things To Do | All Guides and Photography by Sherry Trautman | Travel-Mi.com
Traverse City and Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula has so many fun things to do! We had so much fun on our past trips to the Cherry Capital of the World that we outgrew our single itinerary...so we broke it up into 3 much more manageable regions!! We are sooo excited to share them with you!!
Behold... THE JUICY Itinerary below!
We created a total of three Traverse City travel guides, you can grab The Cheers and The Lush Itineraries below.
- The Cheers Itinerary heads up the Leelanau Peninsula with an Emphasis on Wine Tasting, Sightseeing, Eating and Adventures. Lots of photo opportunities and fun!
- The Juicy Itinerary (below) has an Emphasis on Exploring the Heart (and surrounding region) of Traverse City. We’ll see some iconic sites, check out farms, go hiking, enjoy tours and embark on a Tall Ship excursion. Perfect Itinerary if you are arriving in Traverse City from the South. Lots of photo opportunities and fun!
- The Lush Itinerary has an Emphasis on Sightseeing and Wine Tasting Along the Old Mission Peninsula. Lots of photo opportunities and fun!
Feel free to substitute in different stops from other itineraries...we won’t be too offended! ;) *Most wineries open at 11:00 a.m. so we incorporated a few hours of morning activities to kick off the day!
The Juicy Itinerary Map is Interactive! It Includes:
- Overview of all recommended stops, activities and sightseeing
- Link to web pages if applicable
- Link to Google Maps for fast navigation
- Latitude and Longitude Coordinates
- Phone number to venue if applicable
*Be sure to click this link to open The Juicy Itinerary Map in Google Maps so you can see where they are as you drive!
We created this Traverse City Things to Do Interactive Map to help you find your specific stops and aid in planning your trip.
Helpful Map Tips:
- Click on the plus and minus in the left corner to zoom in or out of the map.
- Click on the icons for more info, addresses and photos of the stops.
- Click on the map to drag and move it to view surrounding areas.
- In the Header, click on the rectangle in the upper left of the map to see a menu of all of our stops. Click on anything that looks interesting to see where it is on the map. To hide the menu, click the rectangle in the header.
- In the Header, click on the "square" icon in the upper right side to expand the map for better viewing.
Are you ready? Let's GO! Be sure to use the map above to reference all our stops! So many Traverse City things to do!
Distances Between Stops on This Traverse City Road Trip
- Boardman River Nature Center to The Village at Grand Traverse Commons is 4.4 miles (8 minutes)
- The Village at Grand Traverse Commons to Moomers is 4.7 miles (7 minutes)
- Moomers to Light of Day Organic Teas is 5.4 miles (7 minutes)
- Light of Day Organic Teas to Traverse Tall Ships is 8.4 miles (12 minutes)
Boardman River Nature Center
Address: 1450 Cass Road, Traverse City, Michigan.
Time Allotment: 1 hour
Restrooms: Inside nature center
The Nature Center opens at 10:00 a.m. so we recommend starting early. This beautiful nature center has several great trails and beautiful Boardman River views. Explore inside the building for nature related exhibits. We loved following the trail along the river!
Guinness World Record! Worlds Largest Cherry Pie Pan
Address: 3424 Cass Road, Traverse City, Michigan
Time Allotment: 10 minutes
This HUGE pan won the world record on July 25, 1987. It's net weight was 28,350 pounds. The diameter of this massive cherry pie was 17 feet, 6 inches!!
You know you gotta go check it out, especially since it’s about a mile from the nature center! There isn’t a parking lot, just pull off on the side of the road.
Boardman Lake Trail with Interactive Map
This outstanding 3 mile trail is perfect for hiking, biking and walking! The pretty bridge over the Boardman River and connection to Oryana and the Old Town neighborhood was completed in 2008. The 3rd mile of the trail was completed November 2015 and ends at 14th Street.
Parking: Access and parking at the north end is off Hannah Road at Hull Park just south of the Traverse Area District Library, and at the south end from Medalie Park in the Logan’s Landing area off South Airport Road.
Surface: Boardwalk, Crushed limestone, Flat, Paved
--->See our complete Boardman Lake Trail guide with exciting videos, photos and map!
Downtown Traverse City (Shopping, Lunch, Kayaking, Marina)
Let's start the day by exploring downtown Traverse City!
- Time Allotment: 3-4 hours, depending on your interests!
- Restrooms: In Visitor Center and at the beach food pavilion.
- Food: All along Front Street and the beach pavilion in Clinch Park. (See map below.)
- Park in this lot: 303 E. State Street, Traverse City (see the map below)
The arrows above on the map signify parking, shops and great spots to help get you oriented to the downtown Traverse City area.
Must Sees in Downtown Traverse City:
- Rent kayaks at the beach located on Grandview Parkway. (See Map Above)
- Play in the water park near the beach and marina!
- Wander the marina located next to the beach. (See Map Above)
- Stop into the Visitors Center (See Map Above)
- Sit under a shade tree at the beach
- Grab lunch at the beach pavilion if you prefer lounging under a shade tree while watching bobbing boats.
- Wander around downtown on Front Street (See Map Above)...lots of great shops and restaurants! Don’t miss Cherry Republic, one of our must-see stops for everything cherry!
- Utilize our Traverse City interactive map
To get a taste of Traverse City, check out the marina, beach, kayaking and the downtown area where you can grab some lunch. So many Traverse City things to do!
Parking: We love parking in the garage at 303 E. State Street (circled in red in the photo below) but if there is a special event it will cost $10-$15 regardless of how long you will be there. This spot is very close to shopping and the beach. Otherwise street parking is 3 hour max.
If you brought your bikes, there are plenty of bike parking spots near the beach so now’s the time to unhitch them and go for a ride! There is also a great bike rack near the beach pavilion. We recommend bringing a bike lock.
This is the fun immersive fountain right near the beach and marina! It’s Free! Just bring your swimsuits and towels!
This is a very popular spot in the summer for locals and vacationers alike. Benches around the edge offer a dry(ish) spot for parents to watch their children play.
Rent kayaks at Paddle TC shown on the map above. Kayak down the Boardman river that parallels East Grandview Parkway for great city and water views!
Kayaking is a great family activity to get you moving. Super fun morning, afternoon or evening event! Call to see if you need reservations.
Spend a bit of time at the beach, located on Grandview Parkway. Park in the parking garage located on the map above.
Such great views, shopping, walking and beach-going to be had by all! Plus it’s all free (well, unless you buy some great stuff in the shops!)
Be sure to grab lunch on Front Street (parallels the lake as seen in the map above.)
We recommend The Dish Cafe, 108 S Union St, Traverse City, MI, for healthy food choices including salads, wraps and sandwiches. I love the BUDDHA BOWL with quinoa, almonds, kalamata olive tapenade, hummus, onion, tomato, cucumber, feta, lemon parsley vinaigrette.
Ready to move on?
The Village At Grand Traverse
Address: 830 Cottageview Dr #101, Traverse City, MI 49684
Time Allotment: 2-4 hrs to explore, shop, take a tour, eat lunch, check out the trails
Restrooms: Throughout the Commons (but not during the tours)
Reservations: Call ahead to book a tour of the abandoned state mental hospital and steam tunnels.
This historic 1884 hospital complex has been renovated to house sprawling unique shopping & dining spots with an arboretum & miles and miles of great hiking.
Love the idea of checking out an abandoned state mental hospital? What about touring steam tunnels? They’ve got that!
There is a very cool Historic Tour of The Village campus, formerly the Traverse City State Hospital grounds. It’s a 2 hour guided historic walking tour of The Village campus.
Explore unrenovated buildings and a brick steam tunnel built in 1883, all while learning about their unique history and current happenings.
You can also join a 90 minute Twilight Guided Walking Tour for something a little more spooky!
We have lived in Michigan our whole lives and never knew about this place until four years ago, which is an absolute shame!
So, I immediately signed up for a photo tour and got to visit 3-4 abandoned buildings which was an absolute blast! It was a serious check mark on my bucket list.
The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park
Address: 1500 Red Drive, Traverse City, MI 49684
Time Allotment: 1 hr, more if taking a tour and walking longer trails
Restrooms: In Visitor Center
Fee: Free to wander!!
Reservations: Call ahead if you wish to tour the barns as it is a guided tour at certain times. Otherwise the barns are closed.
This water feature was created from a silo! Be sure to wander fairy garden to see if you can spot the fluttery creatures. The trail directly behind the welcome center offers a great view of Traverse City!
Once the working farm that fed patients and employees of the former Traverse City State Hospital, this 56-acre corner of the Grand Traverse Commons has been redeveloped into walking trails, gardens, community events, agriculture, horticulture, and environmental design.
Oh and don’t miss the giant nest along the 3/4 mile walking trail! There’s also a massive labyrinth to explore!
Reservations: Call ahead if you wish to tour the barns as it is a guided tour at certain times. Otherwise the barns are closed.
Are You Ready For Some Ice Cream? It's Time for Moomers!
Address: 7263 N Long Lake Rd, Traverse City, MI
Time Allotment: 45 minutes to explore, enjoy a treat, take a tour (book ahead of time) and shop
Reservations: Remember to call ahead of time for Reservations for the tours!!
Moomers is more than ice cream, you can see the farm! Check out the cows, book a tour and enjoy some cold treats! Everyone raves about this place!
*Not sure what flavor you want? Go with a Flight like we did above!!
Tours are offered June 15 – August 31 and reservations are required for both. Call 231-941-4122 to reserve your space.
There’s two different tours to choose from:
- The Ice Cream Store Tour: Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Includes: Moomers history, a building tour, making and tasting ice cream, an activity book, and a Moomers pencil.
- Dairy Farm Tour: Wednesdays and Sundays.
Includes: A wagon ride to the farm and back, barn tour, creamery tour, farming and milk education, and milk tasting. Take your group on a tour of our operating dairy farm and creamery! Small fee.
Remember to call ahead of time for Reservations for the tours!!
Light of Day Organic Teas
Address: 3502 E Traverse Hwy, Traverse City, MI 49684
Time Allotment: 30-45 minutes to explore and shop
Reservations: If you wish to take a class, call ahead!
Enjoy a tea tasting, take a class, shop an abundant selection of teas and attend a “Tea 101” class!
Did you know it is Michigan’s only Demeter Certified Biodynamic farm? Cool, huh!
The Iris Farm
Address: 5385 E Traverse Hwy, Traverse City, MI 49684
Time Allotment: 45 minutes to explore, photograph and shop
I was a little early in the season when I arrived at the Iris Farm but you can just imagine how fabulous this view is when these gorgeous flowers are in full bloom!
The Iris Farm, located on M-72 is about five miles west of Traverse City, features six acres with over 1000 varieties of hybrid German iris – mostly large-flowered hybrids. They also grow over 200 varieties of new hybrid daylilies.
Most of the iris’ come into bloom in late May and early June. Fresh bouquets are available for sale, and rhizomes can be ordered for fall planting.
You might want to check with The Iris Farm before you arrive to ensure everything is in bloom!
Wander their gardens and enjoy this nostalgic view! I grew up with lilacs so this tree brought back lots of memories!!
Gallagher's Farm Market and Bakery
Address: 7237 E Traverse Hwy, Traverse City, MI 49684
Time Allotment: 30 minutes to explore and shop
Restrooms: Behind the indoor market
This lovely farm is a delight to visit. There is a farm stand out front and an indoor shop with syrup, local goods and home goods. Take a peek out back as the view is just stunning of the barn, tractor and Americana at its finest!
*See our Harvest Calendar to find out what is currently in season. If you are looking for something specific, it’s best to contact the market to make sure it is available before your visit to avoid disappointment.
You can also check their Facebook page as many farms announce what’s currently in season. Fruit availability is also dependent upon the weather, so the season can be early or later.
Traverse Tall Ship Co.
Address: 13258 S West Bay Shore Dr, Traverse City, MI, 49684
Time Allotment: Tour time varies
Restrooms: On ship
Tall Ship Cruises are exquisite! Afternoon, evening, wine tasting or ice cream themed tours are available. Of course, depending on the cruise you choose and the time, this event can be anytime!
Did you know you can also sleep on the ship - now THAT’S a cool bed and breakfast!
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