One of the nation’s most progressive — and scenic — destinations, Traverse City celebrates Up North Pride each year in mid- to late-June. Hotel Indigo Traverse City, which hosted Northern Michigan’s first queer prom in 2017, makes the perfect HQ for a visit during pride or any time of the year.
Out one door on the hotel is a wide expanse of Lake Michigan bay cradled between peninsulas of rolling hills, orchards and vineyards, and through the other is a riverfront downtown with buzz-worthy restaurants bars, music venues and galleries.
Food and Drink
The Little Fleet, a collection of food trucks combined with a permanent craft cocktail bar was the brainchild of a couple from Brooklyn who turned an empty parking lot into a lively gathering place that hosts (among many other things) pride events like the drag night.
The Cook’s House is so popular that Chef Eric Patterson suggests you make reservations at this intimate and LGBT-friendly dining spot as soon as you start thinking about your trip. The restaurant’s intense focus on local flavors carries through to a popular on-site farmers market and cooking classes.
A short walk from the hotel is the gay-owned BLK MRKT Coffee and Bakery, which also is the site of many Up North Pride events. The cafe features views of the bay and sources its coffee and many of its other products and ingredients from Michigan purveyors.
Rare Bird Brewpub was started by business partners who bonded over a shared love of beer and birding and now serve offerings like “Hipster on a bike” with equally fun nibbles like banh mi sandwiches and Pecorino-dusted frites.
Side Traxx, a neighborhood-y bar and dance club, boasts the inclusive motto, “Not Just a Gay Bar! Gay, Straight or Bi, Everyone’s Welcome!”
At The Workshop Brewing Company in Hotel Indigo’s Warehouse District neighborhood, regular free performances are offered along with the craft brews. North Peak Brewing Company shares space with Kilkenny’s Irish Pub to offer music on an outdoor patio or inside the cozy pub.
The State Theater is best known for its art house and first-run flicks and annual Traverse City Film Festival, but each film also starts with a musical performance. In addition, the theater often serves as a venue for musicians and community events.
Higher Art Gallery hosts a number of LGBT artists in its carefully curated space, as well as creative shows like a recent opening of multiple artist renditions of the Edward Hicks painting “Peaceable Kingdom.”
At Parallel 45 Theatre, you can take in “familiar stories for the adventurous mind,” special pride performances and offerings like R v. J, an all-male version of Romeo and Juliet.
The Old Town Playhouse features a central location and regular offerings with the LGBT audience in mind. Fun Home, opening in January, is just one and portrays the coming of age story of a lesbian cartoonist.
At the City Opera House, attention is regularly divided between what’s on stage — and on the ceiling. The cherub frescoes have been fully restored and complement national acts and the National Writers Series, which brings award-winning authors to town and partners with Up North Pride.
The Village at Grand Traverse Commons features architecture with a story hard to top: This one-time “asylum for the insane” resembling a sprawling castle was built according to the “beauty is therapy” philosophy of 19th century psychiatrist Thomas Kirkbride.
The complex is now an ambitious urban redevelopment project featuring a winery, a brewery, multiple restaurants and a bakery.