August 23, 2017

Traveling to Traverse City with Kids

We visited Traverse City last year for the first time and fell in love. During the trip, we were already planning our trip back. That's how you know it was a great trip. Prior to about June, I didn't plan any trips for us this summer because I didn't know how life with a newborn and a toddler would look like. Luckily, we were blessed with the most chill baby on the planet making traveling with him a breeze (well, mostly). When I realized that we may be able to travel with a young baby, I got super excited and planned a trip back to one of our favorite destinations: Traverse City, MI.

Traverse City is a beautiful and busy place to travel to and is the perfect place for families. I wanted to share about our trip to Traverse City and share the family friendly things that we did on our trip in case someone sees this post and is looking for ideas what to do with their children in Traverse City!

We visited Traverse City for 5 nights and 6 days. I wanted plenty of time to fit in everything that we wanted to do and see without feeling too rushed. For the first part of our trip, we stayed at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. We had been there once before when we went do dinner at Aerie last year.

We stayed in the tower and had an awesome stay. The room was very updated and the bathroom was spacious and beautiful- I think that my entire family could fit in that shower if we needed to haha!

We had a room with two double beds and I was a bit nervous about how that would play out with two kids who cannot sleep in the same room as us. Well, Oliver slept perfectly in his rock 'n play in the bathroom and Adalyn slept in her "Princess Camp" that we set up in the spacious closet (no judging, she loved it). 

The beds were super comfortable and the staff in the entire resort were beyond kind, especially to the kids which is always important to us. The resort is huge and we enjoyed walking the grounds.

We are not golfers but if you are, you will love this place. The hotel is located on a giant golf course. The hotel features many pools and hot tubs- both indoor and outdoor. 

They have their own private beach as well which you can take a shuttle to. They also have boat, kayak and other types of rentals available. I liked walking on the grounds each morning or visiting the large health club gym before my family woke up. It always feels good to stay active on vacation. 

One of the best parts of the trip was visiting the restaurants at the hotel. Lunch at The Grille was incredible with some of the best bruschetta that I've eaten. We ate outdoors under an umbrella while looking out at the beautiful golf course.

Adalyn loved the fried pickles, I enjoyed the cobb salad and Troy loved his burger. The chef even came out to see how we liked our food which I thought was a really nice touch. The service was incredible and the staff was honestly so kind to my kids which made Adalyn smile and made each meal so nice for us.

We were able to enjoy a dinner and a breakfast at Sweetwater American Bistro located right in the hotel. We shared fried green tomatoes with peppers and corn and pretzels with cheese and mustard. I almost never order steak but it sounded so good! It came with horseradish mashed potatoes and sauteed asparagus and summer squash. Troy and I ended up ordering the same thing and we really enjoyed it. 

Adalyn is typically not the biggest meat eater and ate at least 5 ounces of cooked steak. It was so crazy! I kept giving her about 4 bites on her plate at a time and she would eat it all up and ask for more. I couldn't believe it. She kept saying "mmmm, steak!". This restaurant was extremely kid friendly and there were many kids there when we visited around 6 PM.

For breakfast, we both enjoyed the breakfast buffet. Troy got a loaded omelette which he shared with me and we both really liked it. There was an awesome made-to-order omelette bar which we loved. The breakfast buffet was high-quality with choices such as oatmeal, biscuits and gravy, fresh fruit, yogurt, sausage, bacon, quiche and more. There were tons of choices for little ones here! Five and under eat free.

Some of the things that we did on our trip included:

-Visiting Gallagher's Farm- We bought some doughnuts and an ice cream for Adalyn and walked around the cute farm with pigs, chickens and other animals. They have beautiful land with crops and a farm market store which we enjoy checking out.

-Greilickville Harbor Park- Our favorite playground in the area with a great playscape, beach and marina.

-Grand Traverse Commons- Shopping and food in an old asylum that is a beautiful building with a lot of character.

-Sleeping Bear Dunes- Definitely our favorite part of visiting the whole Traverse City area. Sleeping Bear Dunes is about 45 minutes from Traverse City and well worth the drive. We love going to Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive which has about 12 stops all through beautiful woods including amazing views of sand dunes, Lake Michigan and Glen Lake. I call it the most beautiful place in America.

We did something new this time that was so much fun: went hiking through the dunes. At Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, around stop 3 or so, there is a 1.5 mile trail that I highly recommend. Troy literally carried both kids the whole way which was just crazy! It is a nice trail that leads you through a bunch of sand dunes but it not too difficult. I would definitely do more hiking when we return.

-Downtown Glen Arbor- Glen Arbor is a really cute town near Sleeping Bear Dunes. We didn't get to spend a ton of time there but we made sure to go to our favorite store: Cherry Republic that has lots of foods made with cherries and a fun wine tasting for parents and a cherry pop tasting for kids.

-Downtown Farmer’s Market- We enjoyed checking out the downtown Farmer’s Market which runs on Wednesday mornings in the summer. Lots of delicious locally grown produce.

-Shopping Downtown Traverse City- We love checking out the shops in downtown DC. They have tons of cute shops and many places to eat. Our favorites are American Spoon for tart cherry jams, Cherry Republic for all things cherry and Momentum for inexpensive touristy clothing.

-Clinch Park splash pad- Adalyn got to play in the Clinch Park splash pad for the first time and loved it. There is also a small playground there and nice small beach. We liked walking around the dock on the marina as well. There is a lot of great sidewalks for walking all around the lake.

-Bryant Park- another great playground near downtown. We took food there and had a nice picnic by the beach. It has a great playground for kids.

-Driving around Old Mission- If you like seeing beautiful land, this is the place to go. We stopped at two wineries for wine tasting (Black Star Farms and Brys Winery) but my favorite part was seeing all of the vineyards and gorgeous land. There are tons of wineries out there. They were very kid-friendly too! They gave Adalyn sparkling white grape juice and crackers so she was happy.

-Secret Gardens- At Brys Winery, we enjoyed checking out their “secret gardens” and looking at the grapes in their vineyards. They serve ice cream there and had blueberry picking as well.

-Grand Traverse Mall- We love this mall in Traverse City! We always find such great deals there and if you know me, you know I love a great deal! They have a nice play area for small kids which Adalyn enjoyed. On a rainy day or a day with not as nice weather, this is perfect!

-Old Mission Lighthouse- Troy loves lighthouses so we drove to Old Mission Lighthouse which was closed for going in but we were able to look at the outside and go to the beach there. The water was so clear and Adalyn loved going in and splashing around right in her clothes.

-Grand Traverse Natural Education Reserve- This may have been the most memorable part of the trip! This was an amazing place with awesome hiking trails that we loved. I can’t wait to check it out more at a further date. I wore Oliver and Troy wore Adalyn. Some of the spots were a little tricky and we totally got lost in the complete POURING RAIN!! It was nuts. We were all soaked but it was so great that we were still smiling by the time we made it back to the car and were soaked. There are beautiful views and awesome trails through the woods including little creeks. If you like hiking, make sure to check this out! I feel like it is a “best kept secret” in TC!

-Cherry Republic- We love the Cherry Republic! My favorite items to sample are cherry salsa and the dried cherries. They are so tasty! We got to eat at the café there and went with completely different items than the first time we went so we could try new things. Adalyn and I split the black bean burger with avocado which we enjoyed and Troy loved the roast beef sandwich with cherry horseradish. He could not stop raving about it!

Last time, we were too full to try any of the treats so this time, I made sure not to eat too much so we could try the ice cream. All of the ice creams are made with cherry which is awesome! I went with a tart cherry sorbet and an ice cream with cherry butter and pecans. Absolutely delicious! The Cherry Republic is a must-try place in Traverse City!

For the second part of our trip, we stayed at the Grand Beach Resort. It was a little closer to town and the best part about it is that we had an amazing porch that was right on the beach. The beach at the Grand Beach Resort was large and beautiful. It was well maintained and clean. Troy and I sat on the porch each evening just looking out on the water and talking- this was so great to not feel like we needed to watch a movie or anything. It is so important to just spend time talking! We talked about how we are grateful for this life we live.

Grand Beach has a nice indoor pool and hot tub and what was special about it is that the pool area is very warm making it much easier to get into the water- I can take a while to get into cold water and this helped so much! They had blowup floats available to use and Adalyn and Oliver floated in one together and I think that I will always remember this amazing sibling memory!

One morning, I took Adalyn on a beautiful beach walk and looked out at gorgeous Grand Traverse Bay. So amazing! The hotel was clean and had a beachy vibe. They had a simple continental breakfast that did the trick each morning. The staff texted us to make sure that our trip was going well which I thought was unexpected and very sweet! Instead of waiting until the end of the trip to see if we had any issues, they would have helped with any issues we had right away (no issues- it was a great stay!).

I liked that the Grand Beach Resort was near other things making it easy to get around. We ate a few meals on our balcony and I was so very thankful to be there. It was very family friendly and I would definitely recommend the Grand Beach!!

We were sad to leave Traverse City as it is always an amazing time! Adalyn looked out at the lake and said “Goodbye Traverse City! Thank you for a great time”. I could not agree more! It is a beautiful place to visit with a family.

Disclosure: We were provided complimentary hotel stays and some of our meals. All opinions are my own.