Traverse City is an incredible year-round destination, offering numerous lakes and beaches in the spring and summertime and unbeatable fall colors in autumn. However, winter in this northern Michigan town is an underrated magical experience for all ages and interests. From snowshoeing through outdoor art and vineyards to incredible ski offerings for all ages, this snowy destination is a must-visit in the wintertime.
Winter Winery Adventures
Traverse City’s wine business doesn’t stop when the cold season hits! Known for its fruit-forward wines, Traverse City is an under the radar wine region that packs a punch, located on the 45th parallel, lining up with the most prestigious wine regions across the globe such as Piedmont, Italy and the Willamette Valley in Oregon. During the winter time, Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery goes beyond the traditional wine tasting to offer fire pits and a snowshoeing wine tasting experience beginning in December, where guests can snowshoe across the snowy vineyards while enjoying a tasting. Book an Old Mission Snowshoe Wine & Brew outing with the TC Brew Bus, which transports guests from the Jolly Pumpkin, a local restaurant and brewery, to Brys Estate to enjoy a spiked hot cider and a snowshoe trail across Old Mission Peninsula. Then, guests can enjoy wine at Bowers Harbor Vineyards before heading back to the Jolly Pumpkin.
Grand Traverse Commons
The Village at Grand Traverse Commons is one of the largest historic renovation projects in the country, having converted a local state hospital into a unique collection of shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants. The 300-acre Grand Traverse Commons features superb snowshoeing and cross-country skiing during the winter among century-old, castle-style buildings and stands of old-growth pines. The Grand Traverse Commons Natural Area includes 140-acres of unpaved trails wandering through the hills. For those looking to stay warm inside, take an underground tour of the famous tunnels that run beneath the Commons.
One of the best ski resorts in the Midwest, Crystal Mountain, offers downhill and Nordic skiing for all ages and abilities in a relaxing resort setting. Ski season is expected to begin Nov. 25 offering both skiers and snowboarders 59 runs (including 27 lit for night skiing), three terrain parks, seven glade areas, two magic carpet tows and 167 snow guns. For those new to the sport, Crystal Mountain offers several lesson programs designed for all ages, skill levels and group sizes. For ages 55+, Crystal Mountain even offers a specialty "Retired Not Tired" program, which is aimed at getting retirees back on their skis. Unwind after a day of hitting the slopes at the award-winning 18,500 sqft. LEED-certified, Crystal Spa.
For a less conventional winter experience, pay a visit to the Michigan Legacy Art Park on the grounds of Crystal Mountain Resort, which is spread across a densely wooded 30-acre preserve with two miles of hiking trails. The Art Park features over 50 sculptures, poetry stones, and an outdoor amphitheater. During the winter, guests can snowshoe through the outdoor art, taking in the beautiful sculptures surrounded by a blanket of white snow.
Sleeping Bear Dunes
The ultra-popular summer destination Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore also serves as an incredible experience during the winter months. During warmer months, visitors make the popular Dune Climb by foot, but in the winter, visitors looking to spark their inner child can enjoy sledding down the Dune Climb. For a more exhilarating experience, opt for cross-country skiing on the groomed sections of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail or snowshoe across snow-covered dunes, fields and forests in the Lakeshore.
Traverse City Comedy Fest
Get winter spirits up with the annual Traverse City Comedy Fest happening Feb. 2-4, which features an impressive lineup of national performers including Maria Bamford, Tom Papa, ISMO, Dean Edwards, and Jackie Kashian. Events take place at the Traverse City Comedy Club and the City Opera House. Headliner, Maria Bamford, was the first female comic to have two half-hour Comedy Central Presents specials. Bamford is also known for her prolific voiceover work on shows including Big Mouth, BoJack Horseman, Bob’s Burgers, Adventure Time, and more, as well as acting roles in comedy shows such as Arrested Development and Fresh Off the Boat.
Winter Golf & Family Activities at Grand Traverse Resort
At the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, golf is a four season sport, despite winter weather. The property is home to a Winter Golf Academy that offers clinics and lessons in heated hitting bays all winter long. For families visiting the resort, the property offers two indoor pools, as well as a full indoor water playground with a water slide. For those looking to get some ski time in without leaving the resort, the property also has cross country skiing located on the grounds of the resort during the winter months.