Fun in Traverse City, Michigan in September?
August 31, 2009 3:46 PM   Subscribe

What should I not miss in Traverse City, Michigan, over a Labor Day weekend vacation--without becoming a dreaded "fudgie?"

I am a 38yo single male heading north with my mid-50's mother and step-father for our first visit to Traverse City, Michigan to visit a friend of the family who's lived there for the last 5 or 6 years.

I'm especially interested in food and cooking, and wine (though I hear the local wines may not taste that great). Also enjoy nature and outdoorsy things. Sea kayaking sounds nice.

The opportunity to experience the workings of local agriculture or some kind of production/manufacturing sounds cool (is something noteworthy being harvested or produced in early September? Can we watch--or participate?)

I'm not necessarily interested in constant shopping (just a little will be fine), fudge, or things constructed solely for the amusement of tourists.

And if it matters, I'm gay and single--just in case anything amazing is waiting for single gay men in Traverse City.

I don't have to be constantly entertained. Sitting around with my family in beautiful settings conducive to talking, eating, drinking, and general bonding would be great. Thanks!
posted by ViolaGrinder to Travel & Transportation around Michigan (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The local wines have improved greatly over the years (though to be honest I still joke that they cost twice as much for half the taste). Here are the wineries my family seems to be down with: Left Foot Charley, Two Lads, Brys and Mawby (sparkling wines).

Food: Cook's House (and their newish take out place: Wellington St Market) have nomzorz slow food type stuff. Trattoria Stella has a great wine list (including some local wines) and is also the sort of place that lists the origins of their food. 310/Firefly (whatever the hell it goes by now) has meh food, but a decent wine list and and lovely outdoor seating area along the Boardman River. Red Ginger is good for a fruity cocktail, but I hear mixed things about the food. Cuppa Joes is good for morning coffee, though I'm partial to the scones at Good Harbor Coffee.

There is a farmer's market downtown Saturday mornings.

Nature: I wouldn't know where to rent kayaks, but taking a sea kayak along the shore of Lake Michigan in Leelanau County is quite lovely. You could also canoe one of the local rivers--that would be a great way to look at fall colors, if they're happening. A hike around Pyramid Point (also in Leelanau Co.) is pretty much my favorite thing to do when I'm home. Closer to TC, there are hiking trails around the old state hospital grounds (near where Left Food Charley and Stella are both located). There are also trails around the Hickory Hills ski area.

As far as I know, the local gay bar is still Side Traxx. There was also a cruising area in a nature preserve by Boardman Lake. Growing up, my gay friends would basically gossip about all of the closeted married dudes they encountered at Side Traxx.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:06 PM on August 31, 2009

I would take a drive out to Leland and the sleeping bear dunes. It's quiet and green (well, not the dunes) and rather lovely. Good for sitting and staring out at the water.
posted by that girl at 6:30 PM on August 31, 2009

If I remember correctly, driving out toward the local state park will take you past some kayak rental places. I think there was one really close to the state park campground, but I don't remember exactly where.

Northwestern Michigan College may have some events while you're there, and the Dennos Museum on campus may be worth a look, depending on your taste in art. The volunteers at that museum were one of my best sources of local information during my last visit

I ate at Amical and had some good food and attentive service there. I think they had a decent wine list, too. For something less formal, Pearl's up in Elk Rapids had an interesting Cajun wannabe vibe, and there were some nice views of the water on the way there.

If you'd like to do a bit of more a drive from TC, the Cherry Hut may be interesting. Sleeping Bear Dunes are nice, but if you don't want to drive much, there are plenty of places closer to/in TC to sit and watch the water.
posted by BlooPen at 6:48 PM on August 31, 2009

Yes, the dunes. It looks like it's going to be a very nice, rain-free weekend in the area, so you should get some awesome sunsets. Go to the Empire area and check out a sunset from high atop one of the dunes. I grew up in the TC area, so it's not a fudgie thing to do. Well, unless you have a sweater draped over your shoulders and you have fudge in one hand and have an ice cream cone in the other. Don't do that.
posted by NoMich at 6:51 PM on August 31, 2009

If you decide to head across the bridge to St. Ignace, be sure to visit my Aunt and Uncle's fudge shop.

Embrace your inner fudgie.
posted by Wild_Eep at 9:17 PM on August 31, 2009

Black Star Farms is a good stop. There is a winery and a creamery on site, and a fair amount of locally made food.

Beaver Island is another nice trip. You take the ferry over from Charlevoix. It's usually an overnighter, but I think they have a special late return on Saturday the 5th so you could make it a day trip.
posted by dzot at 6:43 AM on September 1, 2009

I asked a gay friend of mine who is in Traverse City and awful lot and he sent these suggestions:

Great responses so far!

A couple of folks chose all the dining places I would suggest.

I would add:

Kayak or tube the Platte River:

Do not miss Left Foot Charlie at the historic TC asylum grounds:

Stroll front street after dinner and stop in at Amical for one of their incredible desserts.

The gay scene is varied and wide because SideTraxx is the only gay bar for miles and miles Saturday night during Labor Day will be jam packed.
posted by jessamyn at 2:20 PM on September 1, 2009

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