Winter Days don’t need to get you down! In fact, they can be some of the best days of the year in Michigan. Latina Traveling Mom, Tania, traveled to the Traverse City area in Northern Michigan to get an idea of what a “Pure Michigan Snow Day” feels like. Let’s just say it’s packed full of family fun and adventure. Skiing, fat tire biking, tubing, snowshoeing, and spa treatments are just the tip of the cross-country ski.
Family Winter Fun in Traverse City, Michigan
Spoiler Alert: I fell in love with Traverse City the moment I landed at the quaint Cherry Capital Airport. I didn’t have to walk far; I passed by an inviting fireplace, the security line looked rather short, and parking is right across the street. Traverse City, Michigan is located in Northern Michigan. I immediately took note of how charming everything is – from the airport, to the streets, to the restaurants. There are many cities within driving distance, such as Chicago, Toledo, Milwaukee, and some parts of Canada.
Lodging in the Traverse City Area
Where should you stay? I was able to experience two different resorts in the Traverse City area – Crystal Mountain and Shanty Creek Resort. Both offer different lodging packages for various budgets and family sizes. I recommend calling each resort to build a custom package with the activities that interest you.
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Crystal Mountain (about 45 minutes from Cherry Capital Airport) was named a Top 12 Best Family Ski Resort in U.S. and Canada by Condé Nast Traveler in 2017 and with good reason. The moment I stepped foot on property, it felt like home. With accommodations of every size (yes, even ones to fit my familia of 7!), Crystal Mountain offers comfy beds for everyone. From hotel rooms to condos to 3-4 bedroom villas, Crystal Mountain is the perfect place for a couples retreat or a family reunion.
Everything you need is all together in one area. Restaurants, Crystal Spa, a little store in case you forget something from home, and most important, the slopes! I had not been skiing in about 15 years, so I was very rusty. There are lessons available for ages 3 and up. I’m telling you, those 5-year-olds were passing me down the mountain. Safety is always a top priority and my instructors were great.
If you are more of a ‘lodge girl’ as my amiga describes herself, don’t worry. Go to Crystal Spa! My massage was fabulous. You can even book the whole place for a night if you want!
Aside from downhill skiing, Crystal Mountain also offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, fat tire biking, and more! We were able to snowshoe through Michigan Legacy Art Park, an art park that features over 40 sculptures, poetry stones, and an outdoor amphitheatre. Each of the sculptures interprets or represents a piece of Michigan history. It was quite stunning.
While I would love for my family to stay in one of those amazing cottages, they are pricey, so start saving up!
Shanty Creek Resort
Located in Bellaire, Michigan, Shanty Creek Resort is like your Disney World of ski resorts. It’s big..really big. But to me, big means more options. The more economical of the two resorts, Shanty Creek also has lodging (420 options, in fact) to fit every family size. Shanty Creek is comprised of 3 Villages – Summit Village, Schuss Village, and Cedar River Village. You can catch a shuttle to transport you to each village as each village offers something different. However if you don’t want to wait, call the Shanty Creek taxi that will take you around for $2 a ride.
Shanty Creek Activities
With 2 ski mountains and 53 ski slope runs, Shanty Creek does not disappoint for you skiing enthusiasts. I waved to my friends who went down the more advanced runs, while I lived it up on my green hills, thank you very much.
We stayed at Summit Village and right outside my window was the view to the very awesome 6 lane tubing park. Tubing was one of my favorite activities. I’m a kid at heart, so I was laughing up a storm sliding down those hills!
Shanty Creek also offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat tire bike rentals, and wait for it..dogsled rides. Pets That Pull operate the dogsleds, and your children will squee when they are pulled by those gorgeous Siberian Huskies. You must make reservations and rides are available on Saturdays and holidays. Only children under 100 lbs. can ride. I was pleasantly surprised (note: ecstatic!) when Mike said I could ride, but I was the shortest in my group, so it’s possible I was mistaken for a child 😉 Bucket. List. Worthy.
If you have children of different ages, such as toddlers and teens, Shanty Creek may be a little more difficult to maneuver since everything is spread out. You also have to factor in shuttle time.
For more pictures of accommodations and winter activities at these resorts and in the Traverse City area, check out this video!
Dining in the Traverse City Area
Walking downtown in Traverse City, I spotted plenty of ridiculously delicious restaurants. I recommend amical, where the Olive Twists and Peanut Butter Mousse Tart left a permanent impression on my belly. That dessert was the best peanut butter anything I’ve ever had.
You also have to try Patisserie Amie. Apparently French was the name of the game and not something I would normally choose on my own. Luckily I had great recommendations from the locals, because I would have missed out. Sunday through Thursday, they are open from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m., so grab yourself some brunch! I consider myself a hot chocolate connoisseur, and this cup of hot chocolate was in the top 2 I’ve tasted. I also grabbed a dessert to go, because when your chocolate is good, you know the rest of the desserts are worth the calories. ¿Qué? You’re right; calories don’t count on vacation.
Don’t forget about the restaurants on property at the resorts. The standouts in my mind are breakfast buffets, an omelette made before your very eyes, Thistle fries, and a seared chicken sandwich on a pretzel bun. You’re welcome.
Breweries and Wineries in Traverse City
What does a girl who doesn’t drink alcohol know about breweries and wineries? Not much. However, I will tell you I visited three and was fascinated by the stories and people behind the businesses. Each one cares about their people and Michigan. It’s about family, dreams, and helping out the community. I may not be able to tell you about the taste (though my colleagues and friends were raving about them), but I can tell you I was touched by the sincerity, creativity, and integrity. I met the nicest people, the kind that give you hope about the human race.
So check them out! Short’s Brewing Company (a short shuttle ride from Shanty Creek), Iron Fish Distillery (a short shuttle ride from Crystal Mountain), and Left Foot Charley (located in Traverse City). I have to give a special shout out to Iron Fish for adding a sand pit and games for children to come play.
I had a smile on my face during the entire trip. The “Cherry Capital of the World” definitely has a lot to offer. As soon as I saw the State Theatre in Traverse City with the old marquee, I knew I was going to like it here.
I’ve heard Northern Michigan residents described as having a “We have a go outside and play” mentality. I love this mentality! In a world full of iPhones and electronics, I need a place for my family to go outside and play together. Traverse City fits that bill and then some.
TravelingMom Tip: Visit Traverse City in March. Not only will you get blue skies and skiing, but prices and crowds are lower!
To start planning your Michigan vacation, visit www.michigan.org. I’ll see you in the snow!