Traveler: Traverse City’s Cherry Festival

Celebrating its prime crop—and Michigan’s coolest town.

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Life’s a beach. Or maybe it’s a bowl of cherries. The sentiments are equally appropriate in Traverse City—the nation’s best lakefront beach town, according to AOL Travel News. Studded with charming eateries, roadside farm stands, lovely orchards, and postcard-perfect wineries, this little hangout packs a big foodie punch. (Mario Batali spends his summers here, if that tells you anything.) The National Cherry Festival (July 5–12, cherryfestival.org) is prime time to visit, attracting half a million people to celebrate the region’s signature harvest.

Locals cool off at Clinch Park beach (161 E. Grandview Pkwy., 231-922-4904, traversecitymi.gov), where a pretty shoreline connects to downtown via the Traverse Area Recreation Trails (traversetrails.org). For the best sunset and lake vistas, though, head about 25 miles away to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (sleepingbeardunes.com), voted the most beautiful place in the States by Good Morning America’s audience in 2011.

Keep the good times rolling inland with Grand Traverse Bike Tours (231-421-6815, grandtraversebiketours.com). Excursions hit rural wineries or a batch of microbreweries scattered throughout town and include pick-up service for any purchases you might want to make. A recent makeover turned an old mental asylum into Village at Grand Traverse Commons (830 Cottageview Dr., 231-941-1900, thevillagetc.com), a community of sophisticated condos, bistros, and boutiques. The serene, forested greenspace that surrounds the property is something akin to Traverse City’s very own Central Park. Drop in on the first Friday evening of each month for a festive open house with food, drink, and live music. And cherries.

Drive Time: 7 hours
Stay: A lumber baron built Wellington Inn B&B in 1905 (from $195; 230 Wellington St., 231-922-9900, wellingtoninn.com)
Try: Club-less FootGolf, played on a course with oversized holes, at Shanty Creek Resorts (5780 Shanty Creek Rd., Bellaire, 231-533-8621)
Shop: All things cherries at the original Cherry Republic general store (6026 Lake St., Glen Arbor, 800-206-6949, cherryrepublic.com)
More info: traversecity.com

This article appeared in the July 2014 issue.

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