We Visited My Hometown of Traverse City, Michigan This Summer for the National Cherry Festival and Had a Blast
“My goal is to hit the gym every day I’m on vacation. Usually I just end up sleeping and drinking beer.” -Gary Allan
It’s surprising to me how many people in San Diego actually know of the little tiny resort town called Traverse City, Michigan. Whenever I tell San Diegans that I grew up in Traverse City, more than half of the time, their responses are, “Ahh, I know of that city!!” They either know someone who lives in Michigan and has vacationed “up North” with them, or they visit every summer to fish or go boating on the Great Lakes. This little town where I grew up my entire life is very popular here in sunny California, and for many reasons. But the main reason most people generally visit Traverse City is for the National Cherry Festival. This week long festival is usually during the 4th of July, and it is very entertaining!
It’s a big festival, in a small town. Since moving away from Traverse City almost 3 years ago I haven’t really wanted to go back, mainly for the terrible snow and rain memories that I have. However, this summer I figured it was a great idea to take Patrick to Traverse City so he could see where I grew up. When I was growing up in “TC”, the Cherry Festival used to be two weeks long, instead of only one week long like it is now a days. Also, the Blue Angels used to come every single year and fly during the festival and now they only come every other year. This festival is nationally celebrated, so there are thousands of people in town that wouldn’t normally be, but at the same time, the town is big enough to handle the extra people so you feel comfortable the whole trip!
The hotel choices are all pretty incredible. I booked reservations at a hotel that is very well known to everyone in Traverse City, called the Park Place Hotel. I have never stayed there, so I figured it would be a nice place to stay now that I was visiting. It’s also very close to all of the Cherry Festival action downtown. If you visit though, rest assured, there are really no bad hotels in this city. As long as they are somewhere close to the lake (which most are) you are likely to have a good view, and be able to walk to almost anything you want to do. During our week vacation I also booked hotel rooms at Turtle Creek Casino, and at Treetops Resort and Spa, where Patrick and I spent three days golfing. This resort is in Gaylord, Michigan which is an hour away from Traverse City, but we wanted to golf and relax a little bit away from all of the entertainment. (We also looked at the Fazio putting green as a potential wedding venue, but we decided to plan our ceremony here in California instead.)
The local bars are really fun! The day we arrived in Traverse City, after driving four hours North from the Detroit airport, the town was already pretty packed and filled with excitement. We immediately started checking out all of the best restaurants and bars, and I was able to show Patrick my high school, parent’s house, and all around the places where I had traveled so many times as a child growing up in that small town. All in that first night we visited Kilkenny’s Irish Pub, U & I Lounge, Dillinger’s Pub and Bootleggers. This city makes it incredibly easy to go bar-hopping and see it all within a few hours. Downtown “Traverse” is very safe, even at night, so you don’t have to worry about being out late. And, the walk to your hotel will probably only take a few minutes if you book a room downtown.
The festivities are always a blast! Starting with watching the Blue Angels the few days before 4th of July, there is never a shortage of things to do in Traverse City during the Cherry Festival. We watched the Blue Angels from the top of the Park Place Hotel, at a VIP event that I always heard was the best place in the whole town to watch the air show. As a kid, when the Cherry Festival started, I basically tried to avoid the downtown area, but now that I am more of a tourist, it was fun to go back and be right in the action!
There is a beer tent open every day during the festival, and there are sand castle and pie eating competitions for the whole family! There are several concerts that go on during Cherry Festival, and fun rides at the Midway for the kids.
We watched the 4th of July fireworks at West End Beach, known for being the “cool” beach, and the firework show turned out to be better than I ever remembered them as I was growing up. My eight year old son rode his bike down to the beach with my mom just before the fireworks, just like I had always done as a kid. It brought back many good memories, and truly made the trip one I will never forget.
If you’re looking for a fun vacation in a town that is not too busy, check out Traverse City, Michigan sometime. There is so much to do outside, and especially during the National Cherry Festival in July! Have you visited Traverse City before?! Let me know your experiences!