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20 Things To Do in Traverse City With Kids – Best Midwest Secrets

traverse city river

Our latest adventure as an official family of five brought us to the stunning area of Traverse City, Michigan! Just a few hours from our home, Traverse City was the perfect locale for our very first vacation with 3 little ones in tow. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, shopping sprees, or a delicious food options, this guide unveils the top 20 things to do in Traverse City with kids, ensuring every moment is filled with laughter, relaxation, and lasting memories! From sandy shores along Lake Michigan to cherry orchards, water parks, and captivating museums, Traverse City offers a wide range of activities that cater perfectly to children and parents alike!

Things To Do in Traverse City With Kids

1. Visit Clinch Park Beach

When travelling with kids, burning energy is the name of the game! Take a minute to relax and let the kids play by enjoying a day of sun and sand at Clinch Park Beach! Kids can splash in the waves of Lake Michigan or build sandcastles on the shore while you relax! Located just north of downtown, Clinch Park Beach is an easy stop before or after exploring downtown.

Traverse City” by Roller Coaster Philosophy is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

2. Explore the Great Lakes Children’s Museum

Take some time to engage your children’s mind at the Great Lakes Children’s Museum! Interactive exhibits at this museum are fun for the whole family with themes like water exploration and maritime history. Purchase tickets here for the museum here!

3. Cherry Republic

Experience all things cherry at Cherry Republic, where you can sample cherry products, enjoy cherry-themed treats, and even pick your own cherries in season. They also feature several cherry flavored pops for kids right in their tasting room in Traverse City.

Cherry Republic Tasting Room I” by lpwines is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

4. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Take a short drive to this iconic park where hiking trails, sandy dunes, and stunning vistas await adventurous families. But beware! The dunes are extremely high, so take caution and be sure you’re up to the task of trekking back up the dune if you dare to venture down. Keep your little ones close once you get to the top of the dunes. This park is HUGE, and hard to see it all if you don’t know where you’re going. We did the linked guided tour of the dunes and were really happy with the guide and didn’t feel like we missed anything! Bonus: Snacks and lunch are included!

Sleeping Bear Dunes” by I am Fry is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

5. Traverse City State Park

Ideal for camping and picnicking, Traverse City State Park also offers a beautiful beach for swimming and sunbathing. Typically less busy than Clinch Park Beach, the state park is a great option for families looking for things to do in Traverse City with kids that may be a bit less crowded.

6. The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

Explore the historic grounds and shops of The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, perfect for a leisurely afternoon stroll or browsing. Previously a hospital from the 1800’s, The Village offers an extremely unique shopping mall experience. “The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, where one of the largest historic preservation and adaptive reuse redevelopments in the country is underway. A beautiful solution to urban sprawl, The Village is the unique renovation of dozens of historic buildings formerly known as the Traverse City State Hospital.” – Be sure to explore their website for different events occurring at the commons as well as to book a stay at their onsite rentals!

7. Music House Museum

Discover a fascinating collection of antique musical instruments and enjoy live performances at the Music House Museum. Restored from the late 18th century, the Music House is an enchanting historical experience!

8. Traverse Area District Library

Attend story time sessions or participate in family-friendly events hosted by the Traverse Area District Library! A perfect stop to wind down from a busy day or seek refuge if you find yourself stuck indoors during your trip.

9. Old Mission Lighthouse

The Old Mission peninsula is just a short drive north from Traverse City, with an abundance of things to do! Visit this picturesque lighthouse at the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula for stunning views and a glimpse into maritime history.

Mission Point Lighthouse (Traverse City, Michigan) – October 7, 2015” by cseeman is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

10. Explore Local Eats!

Traverse City is packed with delicious eateries and dessert options! Stop into any of the local haunts and taste test the local fare. We stopped into North Peak for their fresh white fish and were NOT disappointed! We were also pleasantly surprised at how family friend each restaurant was!

11. Boardman River Nature Center

Learn about local flora and fauna through interactive exhibits and guided nature walks at the Boardman River Nature Center. Check out their site for their featured exhibit which changes regularly!

Boardman River – Traverse City, Michigan” by gabepopa is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

12. Pirate’s Cove Adventure Park

Embark on a mini-golf adventure at Pirate’s Cove Adventure Park, featuring pirate-themed courses and family-friendly challenges. Mini golf? How can you go wrong with little ones!

13. Traverse City Commons Farmers Market

Looking for something fun to do in the morning with kids in Traverse City? Get up early and hit the local farmers market! Sample fresh local produce, artisanal goods, and tasty treats at the Traverse City Commons Farmers Market.

14. Grand Traverse Bay

The bay is one of the most picturesque parts of Traverse City. Don’t miss out on its beauty and take a scenic boat tour or simply enjoy the views of Grand Traverse Bay, perfect for a relaxing day on the water.

Traverse City, the Rocks” by David Cornwell is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

15. Historic Barns Park

Stroll through Historic Barns Park and visit attractions like The Botanic Garden, offering beautiful gardens and educational exhibits.

16. Great Wolf Lodge

Known for its expansive indoor water park featuring slides, pools, and water attractions, it offers year-round fun for kids and adults alike. The lodge also boasts themed accommodations, dining options, and a variety of activities such as MagiQuest and mini golf, ensuring a memorable stay packed with adventure and relaxation for families seeking things to do in Traverse City with kids.

17. Kayak, Paddleboard, and Canoe Rentals in Traverse City

Depending on the age of your kids, renting a watercraft and exploring the crystal-clear waters of Traverse Cities lakes and rivers may be a perfect outdoor adventure! Traverse City has a river running along its downtown area with many places to tie off for a quick bite to eat, whether by kayak, canoe, or paddleboard! We rented with River Outfitters, but there are many options!

18. Mt. Holiday

In winter, hit the slopes at Mt. Holiday for skiing and snowboarding fun, or visit in summer for hiking and scenic chairlift rides! Explore their website for details on weekly events and ticket purchases.

19. Learn to Sail

Learn to sail on the beautiful bay! “This Grand Traverse Bay All-Inclusive Daytime Sailing Experience lets you set sail in a schooner, while you relax with awesome bay views. If you’d like you can help with the sailing process and learn about the area, too. Sail on a 60-foot (18-meter) schooner in Grand Traverse Bay No need to pack a cooler—lunch, snacks, and beverages are provided Perfect for families—you can even help raise the sail” Book here for a great rate!

20. Traverse City Wine and Beer Tours

For parents seeking a break, explore local wineries and breweries on guided tours that often include family-friendly options as well! Book a tour to the top wineries nearby through our link for a great rate here!

We found Traverse City to be a perfect destination for families (even with two toddlers and a baby)! If you’re seeking an outdoor adventure, a historical excursion, or just relaxation, Traverse City has it all. Whether you’re exploring the dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, sampling cherry treats at Cherry Republic, or enjoying the interactive exhibits at the Great Lakes Children’s Museum, there’s plenty to do with kids! Plan your next family getaway to this vibrant city and discover why it’s a favorite among visitors of all ages. Be sure to check out our latest post, “Midwestern Road Trips” to explore more top Midwest destinations like Traverse City!

Traverse City FAQ’s

  • Is Traverse City family-friendly? Absolutely! We have never found such polite, friendly, and accommodating people or staff ANYWHERE like we did in Traverse City. Midwest hospitality is abundant here!
  • How expensive is it? We were pleasantly surprised that even the guided tours were reasonably priced. To save more on accommodations, try visiting in the off-season!
  • How crowded is the city? We visited Memorial Day Weekend, so obviously prime tourist season. While there were many people and parking was a tad difficult to find, it wasn’t impossible to navigate. For ease of movement around the city, be sure to utilize the public bus system which runs all over and makes frequent stops at the local hotels.

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