The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

#10 in Best Things To Do in Traverse City
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ehrlif/Getty Images

Key Info

830 Cottageview Drive, Suite 101

Price & Hours

Hours vary by business

Details

Cafes, Parks and Gardens, Neighborhood/Area, Shopping Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend

scorecard

  • 4.0Value
  • 3.0Food Scene
  • 4.0Atmosphere

Traverse City knows how to repurpose history. The Village at Grand Traverse Commons – originally built in the late 1800s to serve as an asylum – is now a complex that houses local boutiques, restaurants, exercise studios, beauty salons and offices for local businesses. What's more, the Grand Traverse Commons Natural Area is easily accessible from The Village and offers visitors 140 acres of trails to traverse.

What visitors will notice pretty quickly about The Village is its striking architecture. The Victorian-Italianate complex served as a resource for healing for its patients. The founding medical superintendent strongly believed that a beautiful environment would help his patients mentally and physically. In addition to beautiful interiors, patients were served meals on china, fresh flowers were placed in common areas and artwork, some featuring inspirational quotes, were hung throughout the former asylum. Plus, each patient's room had a window that allowed plenty of natural light as well as views of the lush grounds. 

That uplifting spirit still remains, as many travelers come through The Village and leave happy. So much so that the attraction is often ranked as a must-do when visiting Traverse City.  Many decide to take in the grounds via a walking tour, which past visitors said was full of fascinating history, complimenting the tour guides for their abundance of knowledge. Those who also shopped and dined enjoyed their experience. However, some reviewers who didn't opt for a tour said aside from The Village's amenities, there isn't much to do here. 

The Village at Grand Traverse Commons can be found a little more than 2 1/2 miles southwest of the center of town. Hours vary by business. There is no fee to enter the complex, however, tours require tickets (cost depends on the desired tour).

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#1 Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the few places in the world that visitors can see perched dunes. The lakeshore's towering dunes, which stretch 35 miles long Michigan's eastern coast, were formed by glaciers. The slopes left behind by the glaciers turned into dunes as a result of Lake Michigan's tide pushing sand up onto the shore overtime. It's this unique phenomenon that garnered the park National Lakeshore status in 1970. 

Today, Sleeping Bear Dunes is enjoyed by more than a million visitors per year, who flock to the park to experience the dunes and enjoy an eyeful of the lakeshore's vibrantly colored waters, forested hiking trails, beaches and bevy of outdoors activities. First-time visitors won't go wrong starting their journey with the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, a 7 1/2-mile drive that takes travelers through forested landscapes and along sand dunes to various overlook points. For hiking, you're spoiled with more than 100 miles of trails. For an easy trek, check out the Empire Bluff trail, a 1 1/2-mile round-trip hike that takes visitors directly to the edge of the dunes. The Pyramid Point trail is a more moderate, hilly option, while the 9-mile Alligator Hill trail takes hikers away from the dunes and higher up to provide sweeping views of the lake and the forests that flank it. If you're looking to do more than just hike, know that you can also bike, kayak, canoe and even scuba dive here. During the winter, the park is open to visitors for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding and more. 

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