The ultimate family-friendly travel guide to visiting Traverse City and Northern Michigan with kids.
Last month my husband and I packed up the kiddos and drove two hours north to Traverse City for a little family getaway. While most people think to visit northern Michigan in the summer (especially during Cherry Festival!), we love to head up there in September when the weather is still nice but the crowds have died down a bit.
Our boys are now three and six but we try to travel with them as much as possible. While our last family vacation was a bit more of a journey (we took them with us on an Alaskan cruise!), we also love exploring in our own backyard here in Pure Michigan. In fact, last year we enjoyed a 24-hour staycation right here in Grand Rapids.
Home base for our weekend away was the family-friendly West Bay Beach Resort. While there are many hotel options throughout the area, this is the only full-service resort located directly on the water in downtown Traverse City. Mama was also happy to see Starbucks coffee available in the lobby but that’s a side note.
When it comes to kid-friendly dining in Traverse City, there are no shortage of options. That said, I’m excited to share a few of our top picks for places to eat with your family. First up? Jolly Pumpkin Brewery! As you can see, my oldest gave the food two thumbs up.
Not only do they have classic comfort dishes, burgers and pizza but they offer quite a few healthy dishes like this incredible lentil and kale salad I enjoyed with my hopping IPA. Balance, right?
And the best part, the brewery is right on the Old Mission Peninsula with gorgeous water views in every direction.
If you find yourself near Sutton’s Bay, be sure to check out Hop Lot Brewing Company!
We immediately felt right at home when we saw all off the open air seating and plenty of other families juggling a cold one in their left hand and a kid with their right. It’s an art, really.
Pro Tip: Order a dish from their smoker! Featuring brisket, pulled pork and more – this brewery has it going on when it comes to good eats.
For dinner I have two great options – both of which are located in downtown Traverse City.
The first, Georgina’s, is more on the upscale side and came highly recommended from my sister and brother in law who visit Traverse City once every month or so to visit family.
Since my kids love both Mexican and Asian food, I knew this fusion restaurant would be a hit and it was. Pro Tip: order the taquitos for the table.
If you want to keep dinner on the casual side, head to The Little Fleet, an outdoor food truck lot. Similar to the food truck park I experienced recently in Boulder, this is the spot where you can find something for everyone.
Featuring outdoor fire pits and twinkle lights, there were families everywhere which we always love to see.
Even better? There’s a bar in the middle for the adults. Win win.
Of course, no trip to Traverse City with kids is complete without a stop to Moomers Ice Cream.
Located directly on a dairy farm, you really can’t beat the sunset view from this iconic ice cream shop.
The next morning, head to The Towne Plaza for breakfast. Just a short 5 minute drive from the hotel, all four of us loved this breakfast spot that came highly recommended from my friend Kirsten, a blogging friend based in Traverse City.
Since I tend to go savory at breakfast, I was immediately drawn the the grilled romaine with pancetta and a poached egg. The smoky romaine was the perfect compliment to the creamy yolk and salty pancetta.
My three year old loved the blueberry pancakes but he ate them too fast for me to grab a photo so I took one of his precious face instead. Equally delicious.
Now that I’ve showed you all our favorite family-friendly eats in Traverse City, I’d like to recommend a few fun activities to do during your visit.
One of our favorite pit stops was Mission Point Lighthouse located at the tip of the peninsula. My oldest had so much fun climbing up the tiny staircase to the lookout tower.
The beach at the lighthouse really can’t be beat.
PS: Trying to get great photos of three and six year old boys isn’t for the faint of heart.
Fortunately, you’re never very far away from a family-friendly winery in Northern Michigan!
Brys Estate Vineyard immediately won over my heart when they handed my kids juice boxes.
The frose was refreshing and my kids loved their hummus. If only every winery was this family-friendly!
Our final recommendation for what to do with kids in Traverse City is explore Sleeping Bear Dunes.
With over public 100,000 votes, it’s no surprise why Sleeping Bear Dunes was named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” on ABC’s Good Morning America.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned traveling with small boys, outdoor time is essential for everyones’ sanity.
Can you believe this is Michigan? I can’t either. Shh…it’s our little secret.
Disclosure: Traverse City hosted our hotel accommodations, meals and activities during our stay. I was not compensated to write this post. All thoughts are my own.
Check out more of my travel destinations on my Pinterest board!