The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme, Michigan, offers enough amenities for a full week vacation with kids. An onsite day care and spa even give mom and dad a chance to have a date. But be prepared to walk, walk, walk.
When you pull up to the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, just east of Traverse City, it’s likely some word similar to “WHOA” or a phrase like, “Holy cow, I didn’t realize we were staying at a place this big” will fall from your lips.
Owned by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, the resort spans 900 acres. As you can imagine, with that amount of space, there’s a lot to explore—from a private beach club to four pools to a health club, day care, championship golf courses, and probably a partridge in a pear tree somewhere. While it’s not situated as close to downtown Traverse City as we would have liked, families with older kids seemed to be happy to have all the activities onsite. For me, with my hubby and little baby, it was all a bit overwhelming. But don’t worry, if you get stressed out, you can always hit up the spa, the sauna, or one of seven hot tubs. Yeah. It’s like that.
What Works for Families
- Four large pools to accommodate the many children and adult guests, plus a great splash pad for toddlers
- Onsite licensed day care and in-room babysitting
- An enormous list of things to do for older kids
- The option to stay in a privately owned condo on resort property with access to the private beach, promoted as ideal for guests with special needs or families that want to prepare their own meals
What Doesn’t Work for Families
- Not actually in Traverse City—a 15-minute drive or more to most sights
- Has a corporate feel (caters to golfers and onsite convention-goers)
- Pricey rooms with some pricey food and add-ons
- A walk to every amenity
The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa ($$-$$$$) is located in Acme, MI, about a 15-minute drive from downtown Traverse City and a 10-minute drive from Cherry Capital Airport (TVC). There are plenty of things to do in nearby Traverse City if you have a baby (like us), but you could easily spend several days just at the resort.
Seasonality matters for price, due to its championship golf courses. Expect to pay $20-$50 more per night on summer weekends for a room or condo. If you want to stay in the newly renovated tower with views of the resort, you’ll pay about $80 above the baseline summer weekend rate. And if you want to incorporate complimentary meals, spa treatments, or a round of golf, expect to be paying $500 or more per night.
For families with children, the pools are clean and big enough to accommodate a lot of guests. Families with older kids will find there are plenty of activities to keep them happy, from an arcade to watercraft rentals to private golf lessons. For families with babies or younger children, there’s maybe nothing more exciting than the onsite, licensed day care (the Cub House), situated directly across the hall from the Spa Grand Traverse. At $8.50 an hour per child, it’s worth the money to take a couple of hours to yourself or for a date. (If you can afford to splurge for a $210 Just the Two of Us couples massage at the spa, do it. I don’t think I knew what a stressed-out mommy I was until I finally relaxed.)
This is a golf resort, not a small hotel. The place is sprawling, and you really don’t need to go offsite all week if you don’t want to. At one point my husband realized he hadn’t packed a nice shirt for dinner, so we just popped down to one of the shops in the lobby and bought a new shirt. You can’t do that at just any hotel.
On the other hand, all that space can be exhausting. When the gentleman at the front desk handed me my room card and waved a hand toward one of the shops, noting the elevators were “that way,” I felt dizzy. The lobby alone was initially disorienting, plus there was a convention going on and loads of golfers walking in and out. In that moment, I kind of longed for the simplicity of a Hampton Inn. Too bad they don’t offer tours to help orient guests.
When I asked the bellhop what I needed to do to get a cart for my luggage, he couldn’t give me a straight answer because he first wanted to figure out if I should go drive to another part of the resort to park my car. And every time I went to find another amenity, I realized it was twice the hike I thought it was to get from point A to point B. Maybe this isn’t a big deal to the teenagers or golfers or guests staying for a week. But for us, with a fussy baby and a heavy car seat, it felt like a lot.
The recently renovated tower rooms are beautiful. Yelp reviews reveal a history of outdated rooms, but that didn’t seem to be the case anymore. From the glass-door shower to the flat-screen TV to the view, it felt modern and updated. The linens and pillows, while nothing to get excited about, were comfortable. And all of the soaps smelled fantastic—a yummy orange scent.
I couldn’t be more thankful for the wet bar. I was able to wash bottles and store bottles all in one spot. Plus there was enough counter space to dry pump parts and prep baby food.
The Venetian blinds in the room—a renovation addition, in place of curtains—blocked out all possible light. It’s sometimes hard to put baby down when the sun is still shining, so this really helped us to put her to bed and keep her in bed.
If I were to complain about anything in the room, it would be that a few of the outlets were attached to light switches. We didn’t want to wake baby every time we needed to plug something in, so we basically used the same 1-2 outlets for our cell phones, laptops, and baby’s white noise machine (#firstworldproblems).
- Cribs, Pack n Plays, and roll-away beds available upon request
- Four pools and seven hot tubs, plus a splash pad and water slide
- Towels available at all pools (and no one will stop you from taking them back to your room)
- Kids welcome at all restaurants
- Condos available next to a private beach and across the street from a grocery store, ideal for families with special needs
- Onsite shops including Dylan’s Candy Bar and Tumbleweeds toys (beware the shops close at 5 p.m. on weekdays)
- Onsite Cub House licensed day care at $8.50/hour per child or 24-hour in-room babysitting at $15/hour
- An arcade next to the indoor pools
- Spa Grand Traverse offering massage therapies, skin care, and other treatments
- Health club and tennis courts as well as access to a casino and championship golf courses
The resort offers eight onsite restaurants and/or bars with food offerings, in addition to room service.
If you can splurge for a romantic meal, visit Aerie at the top of the tower. Appetizers like the charcuterie feature local nuts, seeds, and farmhouse cheeses, and there’s a to-die-for beef tenderloin that they cut in house. For an entrée, check out the Great Lakes Whitefish with yummy mushroom risotto. We brought baby along and the staff were great at accommodating us.
Sweetwater American Bistro offers a decent breakfast buffet (in addition to a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu). But the can’t-miss spot is Jack’s Sports Bar. Ask for the pulled pork nachos, and feel free to bring the kids along. All restaurants are kid-friendly. And while they aren’t all budget-friendly, McDonald’s is just around the corner for breakfast and there are plenty of delicious dining options in Traverse City.
If you have older kids or family members interested in golfing, plan a week at the resort with an occasional excursion in Traverse City. If you’re a parent with a baby or toddler, you may want to stay in an onsite condo or just stay at a smaller hotel that doesn’t require so much walking.
Do you prefer a large resort with many amenities or a small hotel with access to a downtown?