It’s easy to get overwhelmed on vacation, and even easier to spend more money than you have. Luckily, Traverse City has plenty of options for families on a budget – and we’ve found the most fun, easy, and beautiful ways for you to enjoy one of the best cities America has to offer. 

  1. Go on a bike ride. Whether you’re racing or just enjoying the fresh air, Traverse City offers beautiful views of sparkling lakes, vineyards and orchards. If you didn’t bring your own bike, don’t sweat it – there are plenty of cycling rental shops in the area.
  2. Hiking. Both serious hikers and leisurely strollers will find breathtaking scenery everywhere they look with Traverse City’s countless trails and unparalleled views.
  3. Fishing. A relaxing yet exciting way to get on the water and be one with nature. If you’re new to the sport, you can charter a boat, take lessons, or even skip the process altogether and visit the Boardman River Fish Weir
  4. Geocaching. Join the “world’s largest treasure hunt” and unearth one of Northern Michigan’s hundreds of caches just waiting to be found. A fun, easy way to distract restless kids or cranky family members!
  5. Go to a lighthouse. The Traverse City area is home to several beautiful lighthouses, including the Grand Traverse Lighthouse near Northport, the Mission Point Lighthouse on the Old Mission Peninsula, and the Point Betsie Lighthouse near Frankfort. Most are open for tours, and while we’re pretty sure they’re not haunted, there’s only one way to find out… 

South Manitou Island Lighthouse

  1. Window- shopping Downtown. With independent boutiques, art galleries and tourist shops, it’s easy to spend hours floating in and out of the dozens of local stores downtown Traverse City has to offer. If all that floating makes you hungry, there are also countless cafes, restaurants and breweries that you can’t find anywhere else.
  2. Beach Bums Game. There’s nothing quite like a sunny baseball game, and Traverse City’s Frontier League baseball team, the Beach Bums, has tickets as low as $6 all through the summer. They even have a kid’s club for fans 12 and under, as well as a seasonal farmer’s market for the adults!
  3. Go to the park. Spend the day playing Frisbee and sunbathing at one of Traverse City’s numerous parks. Some have even more than just open fields and pretty views – Clinch Park has over 1500 feet of sandy beaches, a snack bar and trail access, and Medalie Park has beautiful lake overlooks and a boardwalk.  
  4. Birdwatching. Though it may not seem like it, birding is America’s No.1 outdoor activity – and Traverse City is a hotspot for birds! With an incredibly diverse array of species and habitats, you and your family can reconnect with nature and see rare and fascinating birds in their natural environments. 
  5. Go to an art gallery. There’s a reason Traverse City was listed in John Villani’s “100 Best Art Towns in America.” Take a day to feed your sense of culture by visiting some of the multitude of charming galleries, all with their own unique art and talent. 
  6. Go to the museum. While Northern Michigan is home to many fascinating museums, the Dennos Museum is a must-see – it contains one of the world’s most extensive collections of Inuit art from the Canadian arctic and is one of the finest art museums in the Midwest.
  7. Go on a picnic. A great way to reconnect with family and enjoy a nice day outside. Many of Traverse City’s beaches and parks have picnic tables, but a good old-fashioned blanket works just as well!
  8. Sleeping Bear Dunes. Rated the Most Beautiful Place in America by Good Morning America viewers in 2011, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore doesn’t disappoint. Towering sand dunes overlook a breathtaking expanse of water and islands, offering countless opportunities to be awestruck. And, best of all, seeing one of the most beautiful sights our nation has to offer is very affordable! (Some areas are free and others require visitors to purchase a park pass.)  

Empire Bluff Trail

  1. Wine Tasting. One of USA Today’s Top 10 Places to Enjoy Local Wines and Touring & Tasting’s One of Seven Top Wine Regions to Watch, Traverse City is known throughout the nation for its incredible wine and vineyards. And the taste isn’t even the full experience - you can drive through gorgeous scenery as you explore wine trails and experience some of the most exquisite wines in the country. Just make sure you’re not the one driving! 
  2. Fly a Kite. A classic American pastime made even better with the local beaches, parks and dunes! 
  3. Go to a Petting Zoo. Who can resist petting cute, fuzzy animals? In addition to little critters, Gallagher’s Farm Market has a corn maze and a pumpkin patch for the kids, and Black Star Farms has wine for the adults. 
  4. 25-cent kid's movie at the State Theatre. Right on Front Street, the State Theatre has a classic feel and plenty of options for kids. And did we mention it’s only 25 cents?
  5. Go to the beach. No salt, no sharks! Slap on that suntan lotion and enjoy a day at one of Traverse City’s many renowned beaches, including West End Beach, Clinch Park, and Glen Haven Beach. It’s not just a summer activity, either – Northern Michigan’s beaches are picturesque all year long.