National Geographic has named the Traverse City to its list as one of the top 12 Summer Travel Destinations.
The magazine's other top includes such spots as Bolivia, Barcelona, Spain, St. Petersburg, Russia, and destinations nearer, including Pawleys Island, South Carolina, and Baltimore, Maryland. Pretty impressive company, wouldn't you say?
Nat Geo calls TC the "biggest little beach town on the Third Coast," a term denoting the general Great Lakes area. The article notes that the TC region's 180 miles of shoreline make the region encompassing Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties a freshwater Cape Cod--without things in the water that can eat you (the last comment is my own).
When you visit, make sure to take in a two tours. Both take you to see some of the best agricultural offerings the area—the cherry orchards, and wineries that are gradually replacing many of the acreage of tart cherries that the area is famous for.
There are three great new ways to experience this corner of Michigan: two wine routes, and a tasty dispenser of olive oils that is earning a reputation for both unique offerings and quality.
Traverse City Wine Trails
There are two. On the Old Mission Peninsula, the skinny finger of land jutting into Grand Traverse Bay and dividing it into the East and West arms, and bisected by the 45th parallel, seven wineries have banded to form the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula. The combination of great soil that’s been cultivating fruit, namely cherries, for the last century, plus the seasonal warming and cooling effects of the bay, and a natural east-west orientation makes the Old Mission the perfect spot for wine.
The member wineries have put together a series of wine trail events that are capped off by the Mac & Cheese Bake-off after Thanksgiving, but coming up is the new the June 14 first annual New Release Wine Tasting.
The charity event helps raise money to end polio worldwide, and takes place at the West Bay ballroom at the space named for the TC-based classic car insurer that has made a name for itself world-wide, the Hagerty Center. The wineries of the Old Mission actually comprises seven vintners:
- 2 Lads Winery, specializing in small lots of both red and white and sparkling wines;
- Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery, producing only 5,000 cases a year, including ice wine, and that also featuring a rental guest house;
- Chateau Grand Traverse, one of the area’s original wineries, now 30 years old, with 120 acres under cultivation, and six guest rooms;
- Black Star Farms, which also specializes in fruit brandies besides its wine and a café, and dinners on select Thursdays through Saturdays, plus guest accommodations;
- Chateau Chantal, combining a vineyard and a bed and breakfast on 65 acres;
- Peninsula Cellars, located on a 150-year-old family farm, and
- Bowers Harbor Vineyards, which has produced great whites and sparkling wines for more than a quarter-century.
Combine your trip along Center Road (M-37) off of which all the wineries are located, with stops at local restaurants like the Old Mission Tavern, Peninsula Grill, The Boathouse and the Mission Table & Jolly Pumpkin Brewery, and a wine tour blossoms into a foodie’s delight.
Next, shift a few mles west to the Leelanau Peninsula, which separates Traverse Bay’s West Arm from Lake Michigan, for more pleasurable sipping at 19 wineries (20 if you’re counting the already mentioned Black Star Farms, which also is a member of the Leelanau Wine Trail and has an outlet south of Suttons Bay). This collection doesn’t include several others on the peninsula, like Lake Leelanau’s Boskydel.
Because of the wide selection of wineries in such a small space, and the fact that wineries here are finally getting their due from the wine world, especially the whites produced here.
To make your foodie tour compliete, head to Traverse city proper to two spots: Burritt’s Fresh Market on the near west side, and Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars downtown.
Burritt's and Fustini's
Burritt’s has its own great selection of wines and other foods, from fresh salmon to specialty groceries. Fustini’s, run by Traverse City resident Jim Milligan and wife Lane. They vacationed in Michigan every year from Minneapolis, and decided to leave corporate life to sell their passion, food, and especially, specialty olive oils and balsamic vinegars.
Fustini’s takes its name from the stainless containers used in Italy to store olive oils and vinegars. The shops, now also located in Ann Arbor, Holland and Petoskey, feature scores of oils and vinegars delicately flavored with everything from oregano, cilantro, garlic, lime and others, to single variety oils, and just as many flavored balsamic, from coconut and blueberry to lemongrass mint and ginger/honey.
Combine all that that with stays in the area, and dozens of great restaurants from steak to fish to French to Italian specializing in locally grown produce, and those dazzling beaches and parks, and you’ve got a vacation to remember.
In fact, combine many of the spots I've mentioned at the Traverse City Food and Wine Festival at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, which in 2012 is June 30, and you're sure to whet both your food and travel appetites for more.
Congrats to the Traverse area for being chosen by National Geographic. Now, put it on your map of places to go this Memorial Day holiday, and throughout this summer.