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Winter isn’t a sleepy season here in Michigan’s northwest corner. The busy pace of summer and fall has subsided, but everything visitors love about Traverse City is still here. And with fewer crowds, and special packages for lodging, winter is a relaxed and economical time to visit.
Get outside or stay warm and cozy inside, either way these top ten activities will fill up your itinerary.
Skiing & Snowboarding
If you’re a downhill skier or a snowboarder, the region’s premiere full-service winter destination is undoubtedly Shanty Creek Resorts, a 4,500-acre recreational complex in the beautiful Chain of Lakes area about 30 miles northeast of Traverse City.
The vast acreage of forest and parkland in the region offers plenty of snowshoeing opportunities. A few of our favorite locations include the Pelizzari Natural Area off Center Road, the Village at Grand Traverse Commons Natural Area and the Empire Bluff Trail (inside the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park).
Cross Country Skiing
The countless miles of groomed trails around Traverse City are a draw for all levels of cross country ski enthusiasts. For advanced athletes who come to compete in the North Amercian Vasa Festival of Races to beginners that just want to get outside, there's no shortage of land to glide across.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park
Just because it's winter it doesn't mean you can't explore the park. Snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, hiking and sledding at the Dune Climb are some of the popular activities. Be sure to plan ahead and check to make sure the section or trails you want to explore are open.
Fat Tire Biking
Fat bikes make cycling a four season sport, especially on the Vasa Pathway at Timber Ridge Resort which offers bike rentals and miles of trails to explore. Other multi-use trails include the well-packed hills at the Grand Traverse Commons and the Leelanau Trail between Traverse City and Suttons Bay.
When you find that perfect vacation treasure, you know the shopping must be good. Suggested retail therapy areas include Downtown Traverse City and The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. If you're up for a little road trip, the surrounding port towns are always quaint and cozy with imaginative shops and art galleries.
Sample Some Spirits
Home to a thriving microdistillery movement Traverse City has just the right amount of craft distilleries to visit during a winter trip. Head to the tasting rooms where you can sample Northern Michigan made vodkas, whiskeys and brandies.
Traverse City Restaurant Week (the last week of February) is one of the best -- and most affordable -- ways to do a foodie tour of the city. $30 gets you three courses and delicious memories you won't forget.
Go See a Movie
Immerse yourself in the old time feeling of watching a movie on the big screen at one of Traverse City's historic theaters. Downtown you will find two options including the State Theater and the Bijou by the Bay. And in Suttons Bay there's the Bay Theatre -- a favorite place for art films.
Take a Wine Tour
One peninsula or two? With two wine trails located to the east and west of the city there are plenty of options for sampling. Be sure to choose a driver or use one of Traverse City's many transportation options.