The Perfect Fall Colors Weekend Getaway: Traverse City

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Sep 03, 2014 / 0 comments

Even though I am a lifelong resident of the Midwest, I’m still stunned by the gorgeous fall color extravaganza that nature puts on. Each year, we plan several getaways to fully explore the fall colors in Michigan.  The reflections of the oranges and reds on the calm, still lakes in Michigan are unsurpassed for the essence of fall beauty.


Fall highway in the Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City

Fall highway in the Old Mission Peninsula


One of my very favorite places to view fall colors is in Traverse City, which is located in the northwest corner of the lower peninsula of mitten-shaped Michigan.


Fall colors in Traverse City


We love Traverse City for a variety of reasons, and head there in all seasons. There’s excellent food (Blue Tractor, House of Doggs, Red Ginger, Trattoria Stella, and more), plenty of cultural activities, friendly people, and stunning scenery – Sleeping Bear Dunes was named the most beautiful place in America, and rightly so. But the area is more than Sleeping Bear Dunes – there is beauty everywhere.

I asked Mike Norton, of Traverse City Tourism, to chime in:

Why is Traverse City one of the best places in Michigan to see fall colors?

Most people think of Traverse City primarily as a summer "beach town," but the best season here is fall.  Autumn only sharpens the beauty of this area, adding color to the forests and spice to the air -- perfect weather for a stroll on the beach, a shopping adventure, a round of championship golf, or a tour of the beautiful wine country on the nearby Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas.  The region’s landscape of rolling ridges, lush forests and wide expanses of open blue water is the perfect canvas for fall color tours, too.


Fall colors in Traverse City


Mike also directs visitors to several Fall Color Tours that people can drive themselves. These encompass the entire Traverse City area – from touring the Leelanau Peninsula to the Old Mission Peninsula; and visiting many different local lakes, where you can see and experience the incredible colors, often reflected in the very lakes you’ll be visiting.


Fall colors in Traverse City


I’d also add a drive a bit further south to your weekend itinerary. Visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes (which you should experience, anyway, since you’re here. Climbing the dunes in the fall is wonderful – not so many people, and the sand is stiffer in the cold and easier to navigate), and grab a sub at the Empire Village Inn. Or, drive down to Frankfort. Once there, purchase some smoked fish and crackers from Port City Smokehouse, and sit at the public park on Betsy Lake, enjoying the colors across the lake whilst eating yummy local goodness.

There are many fall events in the Traverse City region, if you want to do more than view the fall colors. Take your family to one of the many corn mazes in the area, and pick pumpkins or apples while you’re there. The second weekend of September, participating in the Downtown Art Walk will allow you to enjoy local wine, art, food, and of course, music. Don’t miss the Downtown Annual Fall Festival, where you can munch on local apples (West Michigan is a fruit belt) and explore downtown, participate in children’s activities, listen to local storytellers, and find live entertainment. Not bringing the kids? Take a fall color tour with additional benefits by heading to the Old Mission Peninsula, and visit 7 award-winning wineries.

Love to tour wineries? Check out our article: Traverse City Wine Country: Fall Colors and the Perfect Grapes


Learn more at

See you there?



Photos courtesy and copyright Traverse City Tourism