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7 Reasons To Live in Traverse City, Michigan

Traverse City is blessed with natural beauty, year-round outdoor activities, a thriving economy, vibrant arts and culture and an enviable dining scene.

By Heather Cherry on September 27, 2022

Family at the beach in Traverse City, MI
Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Living in Traverse City, MI, offers residents an experience like no other. Surrounded by thousands of acres of trails and endless miles of shoreline reminiscent of the Caribbean, Traverse City is blessed with natural beauty and year-round outdoor activities. From hiking and biking to fishing, water sports and winter recreation, there are endless opportunities within this neighborly northern Michigan town.

“It’s easy to get up in the morning, knowing you’re going to drive along this gorgeous bay,” says Meg Zammit, Lead Northern Navigator at Michigan’s Creative Coast and Realtor at Century 21 Northland. “It’s so much better than being stuck in a 45-minute commute with traffic.”

If you’re looking for a permanent vacation spot with a high quality of life, this is the place for you. Here are seven reasons to live in Traverse City.

Downtown Traverse City, MI
Courtesy of Traverse City Downtown Development Authority

Downtown is a dream.

Residents say Traverse City is like a scene from their favorite Lifetime movie. This is because folks are neighborly and go out of their way to say hello.

“Traverse City still feels like growing up in the 1980s,” says Zammit. “People don’t lock their doors. Everyone waves to each other. … Even though the city has grown, it doesn’t feel like that element has changed.”

Downtown Traverse City also offers quintessential retail and exemplary dining.

“The energy in the summertime is off the charts in Traverse City,” says Art Bukowski, communications and outreach director at Traverse City Downtown Development Authority. “We intersect with the river, and the backdrop of the city is the bay. There are many great spots to get something to eat or drink and many unique shops. You can go to just about any store and find unique things. You won’t find a lot of places like that.”

Sailboats in Traverse City, MI
Camille Hoisington

Outdoor recreation opportunities are endless.

The Grand Traverse Region offers unparalleled options for outdoor recreation in all four seasons. There’s over 100 miles of trails, 10,418 acres of lakes, 144 downhill ski runs and 234 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline.

More than 28 natural areas and preserves offer hiking, biking, paddling, skiing, snowshoeing and more.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, one of the area’s local gems, offers miles of sand beaches with clear turquoise blue water reminiscent of the Caribbean, bluffs that tower 450 feet above Lake Michigan, lush forests, clear inland lakes, and unique flora and fauna.

Work-life balance is cherished in Traverse City and employers embrace remote work, so residents have plenty of time to get out and enjoy nature.

Because of the diversity and availability of activities, Traverse City is among the nation’s most healthy communities. In fact, U.S. News & World Report, Aetna Foundation, and University of Missouri Extension Center ranks Traverse City as number 116 of the healthiest communities in 2022.

Sarah Hardy Farmers Market in Traverse City, MI
Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Farm-to-fork is a way of life, not a trend.

Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in the United States, behind only California, and is the nation’s top supplier of several crops. For Traverse City residents, that translates not only into great access to fresh, local food but also into an amazing dining scene and vibrant local food culture.

“I think it’s exciting to be able to go downtown and think hard about where you must go to eat, not because there aren’t options, but because there are so many options,” says Bukowski.

Check out trend-setting eateries like Forrest: A Food Studio, Modern Bird or Mama Lu’s — A Modern Day Taco Shop. Or head straight to the source at Jacob’s Farm, Farm Club or Buchan’s Blueberry Hill for farm tours, access to you-pick fruits and veggies, on-site markets, bakeries and restaurants, and activities like corn mazes, cooking classes and workshops.

Navigate the abundance of options by visiting Taste the Local Difference, an online food and farm guide that also offers recipes, a blog and regional newsletters with content about the Michigan food scene.

“There is an incredible restaurant culture here that continues to grow. You can find specific ethnic food that didn’t always exist in Traverse City,” says Christine Guitar, director of development and marketing for City Opera House. “As a vegetarian who previously lived in the city, not having access to international cuisine was hard to deal with, but that’s no longer an issue.”

Traverse Wine Coast
Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Two words: wine country

Traverse City is situated along the 45th parallel, which happens to be perfect for growing grapes.

With more than 180 wineries, the winemaking region along Lake Michigan has been called the “Napa of the Midwest.” The lake creates a microclimate that grapes love, producing exceptionally complex wines.

The Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsula wine trails both provide optimal expressions of winemaking, resulting in wines that are very fruit forward, exciting and beautifully balanced. Many of the wineries are set in a rustic yet elegant atmosphere with breathtaking views.

In addition to Traverse City’s world-renowned vineyards, you’ll also find craft breweries and boutique distilleries with plenty of options for sampling their craft beverages — you can even explore the breweries on a Kayak, Bike and Brew Tour or jump on the TC Cycle Pub for street-side fun (and maybe a few shenanigans).

Courtesy of TCNewTech
TCNewTech pitch competition

If you can dream it, you can achieve it in Traverse City.

Jobs in Traverse City are plentiful in industries like manufacturing, skilled trades and creative sectors.  And growth in the technology sector has exploded in recent years thanks to creative initiatives like 20Fathoms, a tech start-up incubator, and TCNewTech, a pitch competition supported by local tech enthusiasts, businesses and policy makers.

“Entrepreneurship is infectious,” Zammit says. “There is this amazing energy and support from the community to do their own thing and create something.”

And getting plugged into these opportunities is easier than ever with the support of programs like Michigan’s Creative Coast where Zammit’s work as a Lead Northern Navigator helps connect newcomers within the community.

“I enjoy helping people moving to the city because I know firsthand how easy it is to fall in love with the area. Because of my position, it’s not hard for me to find the person or make a connection because it’s likely I know someone who knows them,” says Zammit. “The connection between people is what I find the most exciting.”

Cherry Capital Airport
Courtesy of Cherry Capital Airport

Getting in and out of Traverse City is a cinch.

A city is often defined by its accessibility. Traverse City is 2.25 hours to Grand Rapids, 4 hours to Detroit and 5 hours to Chicago by car.

For travel farther afield, the award-winning Cherry Capital Airport offers a home-like atmosphere that is easy to navigate. The airport offers 17 direct flights from American, Delta, United and Allegiant to destinations including Boston, Chicago, New York, Minneapolis−Saint Paul, Dallas-Fort Worth, Charlotte, Atlanta and Orlando.

“When we look at our services, we still have that small town feel,” says Kevin Klein, CEO at Cherry Capital Airport. “We have all the amenities, from free Wi-Fi, great concessions, plentiful parking, to technology, but we also have a welcoming feel. Our ‘living room’ features a fireplace and gives you that northern Michigan resort feel. That shines a welcome mat for anyone coming in and an easy way to say goodbye.”

City Opera House in Traverse City, MI
Courtesy of City Opera House

The city is home to world-renowned arts and culture.

Traverse City offers a rich arts and culture scene with assets including Interlochen Center for the Arts, one of the country’s top performing arts schools, historic performing arts venue City Opera House and legendary festivals like the National Cherry Festival and the Traverse City Film Festival.

Notably, Traverse City has been named twice in the past three years (2018 and 2020) to the Top 10 Most Arts-Vibrant Medium Communities on the Arts Vibrancy Index report by the National Center for Arts Research.

“Because Traverse City is a well-rounded community, you can feed your mind, body, and soul,” says Guitar.  “Of course, there is plenty of recreation where you can physically be out and build and receive that benefit of nature. There’s also an incredible restaurant culture here that continues to grow. But you can also inspire yourself and feed your soul with the arts. All the ways to live a well-rounded life are here in Traverse City.”

This article was sponsored by Traverse Connect.

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