“Must-do” bucket list ideas when visiting Traverse City/Lake Leelanau, MI

May 18th, 2017 by Amanda with 1 comment

Let’s begin with a short list of “must-do” things that everybody who visits the area should try to see or do. Since we stayed in Lake Leelanau, Michigan, I’ll start with the ones closest to that location:

1.    Leelanau Peninsula

The scenic Leelanau Peninsula has long been a major fruit producer, and today it’s also the region’s most active wine-producing area, with 26 wineries. It’s also home to several charming villages – like Leland, with its evocative Fishtown district, where century-old fishing shanties have been converted into unique shops and restaurants – and the lonely Grand Traverse Lighthouse near Northport. Also check out Suttons Bay,  Glen Arbor and the headquarters of The Cherry Republic – a sort of theme park devoted to all things cherry. (Kids love the enormous amount of free samples, as well as the official cherry pit-spitting arena.)

2.    Sleeping Bear Dunes

One of America’s most beautiful places: 64 miles of beaches, coves, islands and hills on the west coast of the Leelanau Peninsula. Hike, swim, explore, and enjoy the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. 

3.    Old Mission Peninsula

This narrow ridge of land separating the two arms of Grand Traverse Bay features splendid lake views, farms and vineyards. Near its tip is charming Old Mission village, founded in 1839, and the cozy Mission Point Lighthouse. Because of its compact size, the Peninsula is ideally suited for wine touring. Its eight wineries are surrounded by some of the region’s most beautiful scenery and are open for tours.

4.    Downtown Traverse City

Traverse City’s tree-shaded, pedestrian-friendly downtown is designed on an intimate scale, with 150 fascinating boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops and galleries, and lots of places to sit and relax.

5.    Village at Grand Traverse Commons

The castle-like buildings of a 19th-century mental asylum are preserved in a wooded park popular with hikers and cyclists. It’s being redeveloped into a popular “village” complete with restaurants, shops and apartments, and is home to Traverse City’s first ‘urban winery.” Great shopping and dining.

6.    Traverse City Ale Trail

Traverse City is known as a major center of craft brewing, with more than a dozen microbreweries, brewpubs and craft brew taprooms.  One good introduction to them is the Traverse City Ale Trail.

7.    Dennos Museum Center

The Dennos has one of the world’s largest collections of work by Inuit artists of the Canadian Arctic and traveling exhibits from around the world. Younger visitors love the hands-on Discovery Center.

8.    Lunching and Dining Out

Traverse City is now recognized as one of America’s most unique culinary destinations, with a cuisine based on fresh local ingredients. With over 150 restaurants, there’s something for every taste!


9.    Grand Traverse Bay

With its deep waters, sandy beaches and wide views, the Bay is Traverse City’s front yard and its playground – perfect for swimming, sailing, kayaking, kiteboarding and stand-up paddleboarding. Clinch Park, near downtown, has beaches, a marina, a playground and walking paths, and is the prettiest of the city’s many lovely parks and public spaces.

10. Hiking/Cycling Trails

Traverse City has hundreds of square miles of public forests, nature preserves and wildlife areas for hikers.  Just outside the city: the Boardman River Nature Center, with a network of forest trails. Cyclists love the Traverse Area Recreational Trail, a 10-mile paved that crosses the city from east to west, and the Leelanau Trail, which leads north to the coastal village of Suttons Bay.  And the new Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is fun, too!

11. Interlochen Center for the Arts

Best known as the site of the National Music Camp, Interlochen trains some of the world’s most talented young performers.  Its summer Arts Festival is a top draw, but there are fine concerts all year.

12. Victorian Neighborhoods

Traverse City’s Central and Boardman neighborhoods are filled with historic buildings, including the 32-room home of city father Perry Hannah on Sixth Street.


These are all kid-friendly spots (even the taverns are family friendly on this list). There are lots of other good places, but these are ones that where recommended to us. 


Redheads Café

202 W. Main St

Lake Leelanau, MI 49653

(231) 256-7720

Open Wednesday – Sunday 8am to 3pm!

45th Parallel Café

102 W Broadway

Suttons Bay, MI 49682

(231) 271-2233

E-Mail  |  Website

Artsy café with creative breakfast and lunch. Try the Morel Omelettes with homemade sour dough toast, Asian Chicken Breast Salad or the divine scones and fudge. Outdoor patio. Hours: summer 7am-4pm, all other 7am-3pm.

Art’s Tavern

6487 Western Avenue

Glen Arbor, MI 49636

(231) 334-3754

E-Mail  |  Website

Located on the corner of M 22 and Lake Street for 80 years.  Homemade breakfast, lunch & dinner, 7am until late 360 days a year, 7 a.m. until late.  Cash & personal checks only.

Cherry Republic-Glen Arbor

6026 South Lake St

Glen Arbor, MI 49636

(231) 226-3010

(800) 206-6949

E-Mail  |  Website

Experience the best of Northern Michigan in a small-town setting at our Glen Arbor headquarters. Sample our nearly 200 cherry products, including cherry salsa, chocolate-covered dried cherries, and cherry nut mix in the Great Hall. Try our cherry wine and soda pop in the Tasting Room. Our café features a complete menu with sandwiches, ice cream, baked goods and beverages. Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week, till 10 June 15-Aug. 16. Winery open 10-5, till 9 for summer; café opens at 8 for summer.

9 Bean Rows Restaurant

The Old Red Firehouse

303 Saint Joseph St

Suttons Bay, MI 49682

(231) 271-1175

Our kitchen offers a full, made-from-scratch menu created by co-owner and chef, Paul Carlson, and his talented cooks, that promotes locally grown, seasonal ingredients (the menu changes frequently), and we have a full bar featuring some of our favorite local breweries, cideries, and wineries. We also offer craft cocktails and a hand-selected collection of whiskey, rum, bourbon, tequila, vodka, and more

Martha’s Leelanau Table

413 N St. Joseph St.

Suttons Bay, MI 49682

(231) 271-2344

Martha’s can be best described as a European-style cafe where every entree is made from scratch, including the exquisite pastries. Regional cuisine is the theme and every entree is also made from the very finest ingredients available in Leelanau County and the surrounding region.

Traverse City

Bay Bread Company

601 Randolph St

Traverse City, MI 49684

(231) 922-8022

Just a block from the beach, Bay Bread occupies a handsome two-story building of pale brick.  Inside, Stacy Wilcox and her crew create an astounding variety of breads – from crusty boules and sweet baguettes to great crusty ciabattas and dense multi-grain loaves – as well as scones, cookies and other treats.  There’s a small café serving sandwiches featuring those awesome Bay Breads and espresso drinks with a great view of West Bay.  7am – 6pm Monday – Friday, 7am – 5pm Saturday.


428 East Front St.

Traverse City, MI 49686

(231) 955-0570

E-Mail  |  Website

Best bar food in TC! Voted best burger in northern Michigan. Extensive craft beer selection and nightly specials. Incredible sandwiches, Tex-Mex, salads, soups and appetizers. Kids eat for half off on Mondays. Serving breakfast Tuesday – Sunday.

Grand Traverse Pie Company

525 W. Front St.

Traverse City, MI 49684

(231) 922-7437

E-Mail  |  Website

Come for our award winning pies, stay for our amazing food. We are famous for our cherry crumb pie, the signature pie for the National Cherry Festival. You’ll also love our pot pies, quiches, gourmet sandwiches, fresh salads and soups. We serve Higher Grounds Fair Trade coffee and we have free Wi-Fi! Come join us in our two locations; 525 W. Front St. (231) 922-7437 or 101 N. Park St. downtown near the State Theater (231) 933-3972.

Sleder’s Tavern

717 Randolph St.

Traverse City, MI 49684

(231) 947-9213

E-Mail  |  Website

Located in the heart of Traverse City’s historic Slabtown, this 131 year old family tavern serves lunch and dinner 7 days a week.  Burgers, steaks, fish and Mexican.  Come smooch the moose!  Monday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. – 12 a.m.; Sunday Noon – 9 p.m.


113 E State St.

Traverse City, MI 49684

(231) 486-6037

Harvest serves locally focused american comfort food and fusion tacos.

Old Mission

Jolly Pumpkin Restaurant, Brewery & Distillery

13512 Peninsula Dr.

Traverse City, MI 49686

(231) 223-4333

E-Mail  |  Website

Serves artisan pizzas, unique sandwiches, house smoked ribs and local fish. Small batch distillery & brewery produces all of the spirits and most of beers served on premise. Award-winning Bonafide wines also available. Located on historic Old Mission Peninsula’s West Bay in a 19th century mansion. Family priced. (231) 223-4333. Menu/hours:www.jollypumpkin.com

A Little Dessert Treat for the kiddos:

Moomers Homemade Ice Cream

7263 N. Long Lake Rd

Traverse City, MI 49684

(231) 941-4122

Enjoy a unique ice cream experience in a friendly atmosphere overlooking the picturesque countryside of our family dairy farm.  We make over 100 flavors, with 20 available daily, in our kitchen at Moomers.  Cones, cups, homemade waffle cones, specialty sundaes, shakes, malts, floats, yogurt, sorbet, birthday cakes, wedding cakes.  ABC Good Morning America Weekend Edition BEST SCOOP Challenge WINNER!!