Traverse City Wineries#2 in Best Things To Do in Traverse City
Wine lovers rejoice because Traverse City sits right next to two American Viticultural Areas: Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula. Together, these areas boast more than 40 wineries where visitors can enjoy a taste of local Michigan vino. Considering Michigan's location, it may surprise some that the state has its own wine country. The reason wine production is successful here has to do with its close proximity to the lake. The climate of Lake Michigan protects the vines from harshly cool temperatures on land (all of Michigan's vineyards are within 25 miles of the lake). That, in combination with the region's glacial soil and extra hours of sun it receives during growing season, results in productive wine growing regions.
Michigan is known for producing a handful of varietals, including pinot blanc, pinot grigio and riesling. While here, make sure to sample something made with Niagara grapes (the state produces the most in the country) as well as ice wine. Michigan is one of the few places in the world where you can enjoy ice wine. The process of making ice wine is incredibly precise: Producers have to pick grapes when temperatures are between 17 and 19 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that production often happens in the middle of the night in the dead of winter. The frozen grapes are then used to create a unique wine that resembles a honey-like nectar.
If you aren't sure where to start your wine journey in Traverse City, start with the Old Mission Peninsula, located about 11 miles northeast of the town. Not only does the Old Mission Peninsula have a short wine trail visitors can follow, it is also home to many of Traverse City's most popular wineries. Highly-rated spots include Bowers Harbor Vineyards, Chateau Chantal, Mari Vineyards, Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery, known for its red varietals, and Chateau Grand Traverse, also known for its reds as well as its rieslings. Chateau Grand Traverse is not only the largest commercial winery in Northern Michigan, but it's also the oldest winery on the Old Mission Peninsula.
The Leelanau Peninsula, situated about 37 miles northwest of Traverse City, has its own wine trail that travelers can follow. Top-rated wineries on this neighboring peninsula include Shady Lane Cellars, which specializes in rieslings, Chateau de Leelanau Vineyard and Winery, where you can find cherry wine, and Black Star Farms, which is also home to a luxury inn and has an equestrian facility and farm-to-table cafe on-site. The wineries on both peninsulas each have their own set hours and prices for tastings. For more information on Traverse City's wine country, visit the city's tourism board website.
More Best Things To Do in Traverse City
#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.
Explore More of Traverse City
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.