If you’re craving a taste of the Central California Coast in the Midwest, the scenic splendor and cultural refinement of Traverse City, Mich., equates to tier-one attributes in a boutique destination.
“There’s a lot like that particular part of California, the Central Coast, here,” says Michael Norton, a spokesperson at the Traverse City CVB. “It’s usually spring-like and the winters are really mild, and there’s that same kind of hip vibe in Traverse City. It’s a place that’s just starting to take off. There is this sort of ‘Northwoods’ get-away from the big city thing, but here it’s kind of leavened by this artsy, foodie town [atmosphere].”
Some great group dining options include Trattoria Stella, located in the basement of the Grand Traverse Commons—a 19th century asylum undergoing massive redevelopment—and spotlighting the culinary talents of James Beard finalist Myles Anton, and Aerie Restaurant & Lounge, perched 14 stories atop the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, which offers 660 guest rooms and 85,000 square feet of meeting space.
Other options include the Great Wolf Lodge, with 281 rooms and 16,000 square feet of space, and The Hagerty Center, an 8,600-square-foot shore-side conference center that shares a building with the Great Lakes Maritime Academy and the new Great Lakes Culinary Institute.
According to Norton, the city’s location, near the top of the Lower Peninsula and snuggled on a relatively secluded bay of Lake Michigan, gives the area a spectacular “natural” advantage for active attendees, along with an “authentic” quality that is missing in some Midwest areas that have been retooled as tourist attractions.
“We’re largely a small city that is surrounded by beautiful scenery,” Norton says, “with a lot of soft-adventure opportunities like cycling, hiking, sailing, fishing and golf. It’s the kind of place you can come for a meeting and know that your spouse and children won’t be bored, and will be safe.
“We are not a manufactured destination,” he continues. “We pride ourselves on our genuineness. It’s not a one-size-fits-all destination.”