Traverse City

Explore Traverse City Like a Local

By February 5, 2018 No Comments

Explore all Traverse City like a local with this guide to the neighborhood. Image courtesy of: Xsandra /iStock/Getty Images Plus Collection/Getty Images.

Set against the backdrop of the sparkling Grand Traverse Bay and surrounded by peninsulas dotted with vineyards, Traverse City, Mich., offers an ideal blend of urban and country living. The picture-perfect setting and natural abundance from local farms have inspired chefs, brewers and artists to form a thriving creative community. Hotel Indigo Traverse City, located in the former warehouse district, is an easy stroll to some of the city’s most innovative spots:

Food & Drink

The industrial-chic dining room of Alliance at Warehouse MRKT, just steps from the hotel, would be just at home in Brooklyn as in Traverse City. The same could be said for the seasonally-focused food and creative cocktails. The menu of small plates reads like an exotic shopping list, but the well-considered ingredients come together harmoniously with every bite.

Chefs Eric Patterson and Jennifer Blakeslee worked their way up through Michelin-starred kitchens in Las Vegas before returning to Traverse City to open their intimate 26-seat Cooks’ House, beloved by locals (and well-known summer residents: celebrity chef Mario Batali is a fan). The pair focused on locally-sourced ingredients for their seasonal menus before it was a trend, and share their secrets by hosting monthly cooking classes.

The exposed brick and rounded archways inside Trattoria Stella make it seem like you’re dining in a re-purposed wine cellar, rather than a renovated former hospital. Choose a bottle from the impressive wine list and pair it with antipasti, fresh pasta — like the tagliolini with slow-cooked duck leg — and hearty main dishes.

Craft brewing has really taken off in Michigan, and Rare Bird Brewpub is a lively place to sample a flight of house-brewed ales or a pint from local brewers. Slide into a booth or make new friends at the communal tables in this contemporary German-style beer hall. The creative gastro-pub menu is another draw, offering dishes like fried cheese curds made with Michigan cheddar, a lamb burger and pork belly tacos.

Chris Fredrickson dusted off his great-grandfather’s distilling patent and set up shop with two Michigan-native friends as Traverse City Whiskey Co. You can tour the facility and sample its bourbon, whiskey and rye at its speakeasy-inspired Stillhouse Cocktail Bar. True to its home in the Cherry Capital, the distillery does make a cherry-infused whiskey.


The Victorian-era City Opera House is as relevant to the performing arts scene today as when it opened in 1892. Beautifully restored, the opera house hosts world-class artists, a national writers series, Broadway musicals and live music from jazz to pop—you might catch Michigan native and Emmy-award winning actor Jeff Daniels and his band on stage.

Little Fleet is the neighborhood hangout every local bar aspires to be. The open-air bar, championing local brewers and wineries, is a perfect mix of laid-back energy and clean, modern design. In summer months, select food trucks roll up in the adjacent lot, and live musicians regularly play intimate shows outdoors or in the heated tent.


Shop smart furnishings, pottery and specialty goods for the home at the well-curated Wood and Cloth in the Warehouse MRKT. The mid-century and modern furniture and home goods are sourced from makers and designers across the country.

Billed as a modern general store, Millie and Pepper is a worthwhile stop for design-minded gifts and souvenirs. Check out stylish travel bags, vintage glassware and a selection of specialty coffee, teas and beautifully designed serving items.


Located on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College, the Dennos Museum Centershowcases Michigan artists in its three changing gallery spaces and diverse live performances in the Milliken Auditorium. However, it’s best known for its signature collection of sculpture and prints of Inuit Art of the Canadian Arctic — one of the largest collections in the U.S.

The State and Bijou theaters are not your average movie theaters, they are an institution in Traverse City. The State Theater is owned and operated by the Traverse City Film Festival, an event held each July that was founded by Academy Award-winning filmmaker and Michigan native son Michael Moore. You can catch special showings of classic films and panel discussions at these impressively restored movie houses.