For years this has been considered the hidden gem of the north. Tucked away into a remote part of northwest Michigan is a little know area of Traverse City and the Sleeping Bear dunes with its beautiful silky sands and the ice blue waters of Lake Michigan cascading along miles of shore. It is one place that can easily be considered heaven on earth. It is now making its mark with an extensive wine country, international festivals, four beautiful and distinct seasons, not to mention the amazing Sleeping Bear dunes which stretch on for miles.
The wine country is located on two picturesque peninsulas extending out from the Traverse City area. The Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas are the setting for over 25 unique vineyard. Offering a wide variety of award winning white, red, dessert, sparkling, and fruit wines. The area is most know for it ice wine which is considered to be one of the rarest wines in the world. An ice wine or eis wein is made from grapes left on the vine long after a typical harvest. The grapes are left to freeze on the vine before harvest and then pressed while frozen, producing a wine that has an incredible sweetness and fruitiness, with the delicateness of a fine Riesling. Most vineyard have tasting rooms available year round for savoring the variety of fabulous wines.
This area is also know for its many festivals, such as the international film festival, cherry festival and it many wine festivals. The film festival was founded in 2005 by Academy Award winner Michael Moore and is held each year in late July early August. In the past this festival has shown over a 100 different films from over 25 countries. Also bringing in several leaders of film industry for workshops and panels. In addition to the film festival the area is host to the National Cherry Festival held in early July. The festival brings in over 500,000 visitors over the course of eight days. It is held to celebrate cherries, tourism and community involvement, as Michigan is the largest producer of tart cherries in the U.S. During the festival there are over 150 event including children's activities, an international air show, the cherry parade, and an international wine and beer expo. Besides these two major festival the area also host to several wines festival through out the year due to the influence of wine. Some of the larger events in the area are the Harvest Stompede in September, Toast the Season in November, Taste the Passion in February, and the Spring Sip and Savor in May.
Since each season is very distinct there are a variety of activities to do throughout the year. The winter is host to an array of sports such as skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and ice skating. In the spring and summer the most popular activities are hiking, boating, fishing, swimming, cycling, kayaking and canoeing. In the fall the area is know for it fall color tours as visitors from all over the world come to see the vast and vibrant colors offered by the changing of the leaves. In addition to the many outdoor activities the area has several casinos, stores, museums and restaurants throughout the region to keep ones interest.
Last but not least is the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, which were shaped thousand of years ago by glaciers. It is one of the most peaceful and majestic places in Michigan and is found just 45 minutes from Traverse City, MI. The dunes offer a diverse terrain that can only be seen here in Northern Michigan. The most popular attractions to the area include the Dune Climb, this is a section of the dune where visitors are giving the opportunity to climb up and across the dune to the lake shore. A 7.9 mile scenic drive along the dune and lake shore, canoe trips on the Crystal and Platte Rivers, along with numerous biking and hiking trails that provide many amazing and picturesque views. According to the National Park Service, the dunes received their name from an Ojibway Indian legend. The legend tells of a story about a mother bear and her two cubs who are forced to swim across Lake Michigan from Wisconsin. While crossing the lake the two cubs sank down into the lake, leaving the mother bear to reach shore alone. The Great Spirit took pity on her loss and put her to sleep creating the dunes. He then created Manitou Islands to mark the places where the cubs sank into the lake.
No matter what time of year you plan to visit Traverse City there is always something to do.