Weatherproof Weekend: Fun Things To Do In Traverse City During Any Season

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Weatherproof Weekend: Fun Things To Do In Traverse City During Any Season | via Wading in Big Shoes
One of the things I love most about living in Michigan is how close I am to so many great vacation spots. From thriving cities to natural wonders, this state’s got a vast array of destinations that attract tons of locals—and people from all over the country, as well!

Located along the lower peninsula’s northern shore, Traverse City is a scenic wonderland that melds midwestern culture with an artistic, beach town feel. This vibrant community is home to the annual National Cherry Festival, neighbor to the breathtaking Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and a favorite warm-weather setting for boat-loving travelers. While visitors flock north in the heat of summer for memory-making experiences, however, many don’t know that Traverse City offers a magical escape even before the air has lost its winter chill (and let’s face it—in Michigan, you can’t always predict when a cold day will strike regardless of the season).

To discover what a weekend in Traverse City would look like without water activities or "sandal weather," Brad and I decided to head up for a weekend in late spring and see for ourselves. Spoiler alert: If you're worried about rain and clouds ruining your vacation, I'm about to show you that neither of those things will dampen your day.

[Special thanks to the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa for inviting us to stay for the weekend! Room, spa services, and resort meals were provided for this trip. All opinions are 100% honest and my own.]


A WEEKEND IN TRAVERSE CITY: FRIDAY

Check-in at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

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Taking a half day from work on Friday, Brad and I hopped in the car and made the slightly-less than four-hour drive to Traverse City. In early April, we were still wearing our coats in metro Detroit, so it was no surprise that we'd need them for our weekend up north, as well. What did surprise us, however, was nearing our destination and finding that there was still some snow on the ground (not enough for skiing or other winter activities, but keep in mind that if you're traveling to northern Michigan in late spring, it may be a while before the seasons catch up to what you're used to this time of year).

Checking in to the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa around 5:00 p.m., we were offered a $10 gift card in lieu of housekeeping services to spend on food and beverages (anyone else love this increasingly popular option?), then headed up to our sixth-floor tower room (suites, condos, and rooms near the spa are also available) to unpack.

Weatherproof Weekend: Fun Things To Do In Traverse City During Any Season | via Wading in Big Shoes
What greeted us was a spacious, contemporary space, lined with panoramic windows and a view of the Grand Traverse Bay. Mesmerized by the room’s style, secret trundle bed, and huge bathroom, I did a brief inspection of the amenities (check out my “Traverse City” IG story highlight for more), then switched from travel clothes to a twirly dress for dinner at the Aerie Restaurant & Lounge.

Weatherproof Weekend: Fun Things To Do In Traverse City During Any Season | via Wading in Big Shoes

Dinner at Aerie

Weatherproof Weekend: Fun Things To Do In Traverse City During Any Season | via Wading in Big Shoes
If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a real grown-up, my dears, then dinner at Aerie will fast-forward you there in the best possible way. Located on the 16th floor of the Grand Traverse Resort tower, this beautiful space delivers exactly what its name implies: An airy environment that makes you feel as though you’re dining among the clouds. The service is top-notch (it’s easily in my top three dining experiences in recent memory), and the food makes you sigh with every new bite because it’s just. that. good. While the setup leans toward what you’d expect for an upscale date night, Aerie also accommodates large groups (there was a wedding reception upstairs when we visited), friend dates (both in the main restaurant and the more casual next-door lounge), and families (the little girl seated across from us with her parents looked delighted with the special bowl of mac & cheese the chef had whipped up for her).

Weatherproof Weekend: Fun Things To Do In Traverse City During Any Season | via Wading in Big Shoes
Now, this place is a splurge, but in my opinion, not overrated and totally worth budgeting for if you’re celebrating a special occasion or craving a well-rounded foodie experience. Plus, with multiple course options, perfect ambiance, and stunning views, dinner here is an experience all its own and can easily suffice as your sole source of entertainment for the evening.

A WEEKEND IN TRAVERSE CITY: SATURDAY

Breakfast at Sweetwater American Bistro

On Saturday morning, we woke up early to catch breakfast at Sweetwater American Bistro (located near the Grand Traverse Resort lobby) before embarking on our adventures for the day. With a full dine-in menu and popular buffet option, Sweetwater gave us the chance to sample a little bit of everything—French toast, Mexican scrambles, meats, eggs, fruits, and other traditional breakfast options—without having to step foot off property. Brad and I both liked the variety here and the convenience of being able to visit in our “comfy clothes,” which eliminated the need to get dolled up first thing in the morning (adding flexibility for the next item on my agenda).

Mani/Pedi at Spa Grand Traverse

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After breakfast, I said bye to Brad for a bit and headed to the spa for a much-needed mani-pedi. This marked two firsts for me: Not only had I never been to a spa, but I’d never gotten a professional manicure, either! Upon arriving for my appointment, I was shown to an ambient waiting room with magazines and fruit water, but was only there a minute or two before my manicurist showed up and whisked me away for an hour of cherry-scented scrubs that transformed my winter-worn hands into vessels worthy of pretty, pink nail polish. Next up, I shuffled over to the pedicure room where I socialized with the ladies sitting around me and enjoyed a complimentary cup of coffee that was brought to me while I sat in my massage chair and propped my feet up. Yes, Alex, I think I’ll take “Feeling Like a Queen” for $100, please.

Exploring The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

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My fingers and toes were perfected around noon, so I met up with Brad and we drove out to the Village at Grand Traverse Commons for a look at the weekly indoor farmer’s market. The weather was chilly and rainy, so a walk inside was just what the weatherman ordered! Inside the former asylum, we browsed gift stores while listening to live music, grabbed lunch at Red Spire Brunch House, and absorbed artwork and historical info (there’s tons to look at all over the building) before heading back outside to see the rest of the campus. Across the parking lot, we passed a couple of tour groups on our way over to Higher Grounds Trading Company, a fair trade coffee roastery that came highly recommended from Traverse City locals. Ordering up two delicious lattes to go, we were given recycled coffee mugs instead of throwaway cups (with the option to keep them or bring them back on our next visit). I loved this idea—what a fun way to promote responsible consumption! If you’re ever in the area, give this place a try (and feel free to bring along some mugs to donate because they’re always looking for more).

Shopping in Downtown Traverse City

Weatherproof Weekend: Fun Things To Do In Traverse City During Any Season | Wading in Big Shoes
I’m a firm believer that a downtown reveals a lot about a city’s personality, and thankfully, you don’t need an abundance of sunshine to s-h-o-p! Grabbing our umbrellas, Brad and I found street parking in downtown TC and took a stroll to browse the boutiques. We’d been here a few times before and knew that stopping by Cherry Republic’s retail shop was a must, but we also had fun discovering some new-to-us shops (Sincerely Betty wowed me with its retro-inspired goodies, while Brad found an awesome tee at Livnfresh).

When you're downtown, be sure to also stop by the State Theatre. There are often indie flicks and special events going on here, and even if you're just passing through, you'll be able to catch a glimpse of the handprints out front (Kristen Bell and Susan Sarandon are among the celebs featured). Plus, the marquee looks awesome no matter what time of day you're here, so you'll want to snag a photo or two!

Dinner at Bourbons 72

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Above: Mouthwatering crab cakes at Bourbons 72

Ready to relieve our feet after a day on the move, we drove back to the Grand Traverse Resort for a quick rest and to change for dinner. Our reservation was set for Bourbons 72, a fine dining restaurant located inside the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel (a sister property to the Grand Traverse Resort). While we chose to make the short drive, there were also shuttles available between properties (a convenient option if you don't want to take your own car).

Our dinner was exquisite: Classy appetizers and entrees, a friendly and accommodating waitstaff, and a lowlight atmosphere with cozy, round booths that made us feel like we’d stepped into a scene from Ocean’s 11. Filled to capacity after a deliciously heavy dinner, we took our desserts to go and made our way back to the resort for some pool time.


Evening Unwind + Pool Time

When I was little, I remember thinking that the pool was THE most important part of any vacation. If there was no time for swimming, what were we even doing with our lives, ya know?

As I’ve gotten older, I don’t spend nearly as much time in the water, but finding a nice pool and hot tub area is always a great way to relax after a busy day of exploring. The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa actually has two pools, one of which features an impressive water slide for young (and young at heart) visitors. We hit the pool area right at 10:00 p.m. (which, on Saturday night, was an “adults-only” time slot), so it was fairly quiet and we even had one of the pools to ourselves for a bit. And if you’re not a fan of being splashed by unexpected cannonball jumps, you’ll know what a joy that can be. ;-)


A WEEKEND IN TRAVERSE CITY: SUNDAY

Brunch in Downtown Traverse City

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Above: Chorizo hash at Harvest in downtown Traverse City

We requested a late checkout on Sunday so we could head downtown for brunch at Harvest (and put off our packing a little bit longer). A trendy eatery specializing in local, sustainable comfort food, Harvest uses fresh ingredients (many are vegan and vegetarian) to create a menu that’s intriguing, yet familiar. On the menu for us: Biscuits and gravy, chorizo hash with root vegetables, and lots of (really good) coffee. As we munched and sipped and watched the world from the front window, we planned how we’d spend the next few hours before heading home.

Relaxing at the Resort

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Above: A little R&R at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

Partings are bittersweet, so when we returned to the resort and packed up the car, we decided to hang out for a little bit and explore some of the things we’d missed over the weekend. Leaving Brad to enjoy a Sunday paper at the resort cafe, I decided to browse the hotel shops (lots of cool apparel, gift options, and even a Dylan’s Candy Bar!) and ventured back over to the spa area to get a better look at the tennis courts. With all that was available at our fingertips, it’s no wonder why I wasn’t ready to leave.

Cherries, Lakeshores, & Goodbyes from Glen Arbor

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Above: Cherry Republic's Flagship Glen Arbor Campus

I finally agreed to go when Brad bribed me with a side trip to nearby Glen Arbor and the original Cherry Republic location. How could I say no to one more adventure? The flagship campus was quiet that afternoon, so we took our time posing for photos, reading clever signage (there’s a lot of it!), and picking out various flavors of cherry ice cream. We chatted about jam and bread and Detroit with the ladies who ran the retail shop, then drove up the road for a brief glimpse of the hazy, Sleeping Bear Dunes lakeshore before calling it a day.

Weatherproof Weekend: Fun Things To Do In Traverse City During Any Season | via Wading in Big Shoes
Above: Can you spot the birds? Late spring views near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

So much magic, so little time. I can’t wait to go back and experience it all again in every different season, but Traverse City and its surrounding areas definitely offer a great escape no matter what time of year it happens to be.

Have you visited this popular Michigan vacation spot, or are you planning an upcoming trip? Let me know in the comments and be sure to tell me what you're looking forward to most in Traverse City!

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