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The Cost of Living Diaries: Traverse City, MI

We got a local to tell us all the details about what it costs to live, work and play in Traverse City.

By Heather Cherry on September 26, 2022

Courtesy Brittany VanderBeek

A thriving economy, picturesque scenery and a welcoming community make Traverse City, Michigan, a top place to visit and live. Named one of Livability.com’s Top 100 Small Towns in 2014 and 2016, Traverse City has a flourishing wine industry, award-winning restaurants and plenty to see and do.

Tourism is one of the city’s largest industries, but the technology sector is growing quickly. Activities include seasonal recreation and world-renowned festivals, and the famous Sleeping Bear Dunes draw in more than 1 million visitors annually. 

What’s it like to live in Traverse City and how much does it cost? We spoke with Brittany VanderBeek, 31, director of development and community engagement for business incubator 20Fathoms.

How long have you lived there?

2.5 years

What drew you to Traverse City?

The beautiful natural landscape and healthy outdoor lifestyle, which keeps me active all four seasons. I like cross-country skiing in the winter and paddle boarding in the summer, and I run, bike, hike and try new outdoor activities year-round.

Courtesy of Brittany VanderBeek

How did you end up moving to Traverse City?

I’m a Detroit native and grew up vacationing in northern Michigan. When my mom moved to Traverse City, I visited more often. It was my dream to get here, but I wasn’t sure how to do that at first. Then, I found a job that enabled me to move here and connect with the community.

Give us the lowdown on cost of living. What are your housing costs like?

$1,800 for a two-bedroom, one-bath loft in a cozy historic neighborhood only two blocks from the beach.

Are jobs relatively easy to find?

Michigan’s Creative Coast has a job board that shares job opportunities weekly. Also, with the increasing trend in remote work, more people are moving here and working for national and global employers. Entrepreneurship is also prominent and expanding because of the inspiring initiatives led by 20Fathoms, TCNewTech, Venture North and Northern Michigan Angels.

How’s the access to grocery stores and local food?

There are great options ranging from big stores like Meijer, Target, Aldi and Walmart to local stores like Tom’s Food Market and Oryana Community Co-op. I especially enjoy our specialty markets like Burritt’s Fresh Market. I also go to the Sara Hardy Farmers Market weekly to try locally grown foods.

Approximately how much does a nice, fancy cup of coffee cost? A nice cocktail?

Regular coffee costs around $5 from the local shops, and any more sophisticated drinks average around $7. We have so many great coffee shops. I love the coconut cold brew coffee at Good Harbor Coffee & Bakery, the lavender latte at Hexenbelle, and the cold brew with lemonade at Mundos.

A nice cocktail costs between $12 and $15.

The Filling Station in Traverse City, MI
Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism
The Filling Station in Traverse City, MI.

How much does a night out cost?

That’s a loaded question depending on the night for me. If I go to the beach for a sunset, it’s free! Am I visiting a winery or brewery? $25. Going out to dinner? $50. Dinner, drinks and live music? $75+

Some of my favorite places for a night out are North Bar, The Parlor, Little Fleet, Encore, Workshop Brewing, Lake Ann Brewing, Rove Estate, Hop Lot and Suttons Bay Ciders.

What are some of your favorite things about Traverse City?

I love the encouragement to start something new. I developed and facilitated the first local workshops on Design Thinking for Social Impact at 20Fathoms and Northwestern Michigan College, which will be offered again as an extended education class this fall.

I also appreciate the plentiful volunteer opportunities. I’m a board member of the Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Center. I serve as a Northern Navigator with Michigan’s Creative Coast. I participate in Traverse City Young Professionals, which has included (several nonprofit) volunteer opportunities.

For fun, I volunteered to be a lighthouse keeper at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse. How many places can you do that? I lived there for four days, hosted people through the museum and gift shop, and helped with the grounds.

What are some of your favorite things to do in Traverse City?

I love the arts, and I’ve gotten more involved for fun. I’ve gone to concerts and plays at Interlochen Center for the Arts, the Old Town Playhouse and the City Opera House; I also enjoy visiting the Dennos Museum Center. I’ve also been crafty myself, including participating in painting and pottery classes with Laughing Fish Gallery and Clayspace, and making ornaments, frames and kitchen accessories out of wine corks.

I love the cuisine here! I enjoy Little Traverse Inn for the amazing British and Indian food that you can enjoy in shanties. I enjoy the sunset views from Artisan at the Delamar Hotel. I also love Forrest, A Food Studio because it is a local couple that cooks for you, serves and shares the history of the food — it’s so intimate. The Cook’s House offers amazing farm-to-table food.

How would you describe Traverse City?

Traverse City provides food for the soul. Another city may provide a faster pace or things that you can’t find here, but Traverse City is the piece your soul wants.

This article was sponsored by Traverse Connect.

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