Top 10 Things to Do with Kids in Traverse City

The largest and most popular of Traverse City’s picturesque public beaches, Clinch Park is just a few blocks from downtown shops and restaurants

By Amy Lynch, Midwest Living

Traverse City’s stunning beaches, arts, culture, parks and kid-friendly restaurants make this northern Michigan town a destination the whole family can enjoy.

1) Clinch Park Beach 

Clinch Park Beach. Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism.
The largest and most popular of Traverse City’s picturesque public beaches, Clinch Park is just a few blocks from downtown shops and restaurants. A beautification project added a splash pad, changing rooms and a cafe. While walking the shore, keep your eyes peeled for Petoskey stones—gray-brown fossilized coral with a sunburst pattern. (231) 922-4903;

2) Interlochen Center for the Arts 

Interlochen Center for the Arts. Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism.
Interlochen Center for the Arts. Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism.

On a forested campus 20 minutes southwest of Traverse City, this fine-arts camp and boarding school attracts visitors with an array of concerts, dramatic performances and dance recitals. The annual Interlochen summer arts festival attracts big-name musicians, but you can hear snippets of students during guided tours of the grounds any time of the year. (231) 276-7472;

3) Gallagher’s Farm Market and Bakery

Farm stands and markets dot the roads rolling around Traverse City, but Gallagher’s holds special appeal. You can sample baked goods in a wide-open farm setting anchored by a big red barn; tour a corn maze, pumpkin patch and a petting zoo; and  cherry products are particularly yummy. (231) 947-1689;

4) Traverse Tall Ship Company  

A tall ship. Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism.
A tall ship. Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism.
See Grand Traverse Bay from the deck of the Manitou, a gorgeous 114-foot-tall replica of a 19th-century schooner. The friendly crew lets passengers help raise and lower the sails during two-hour leisure cruises. Of course, you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. In-season excursions run several times a day; the afternoon outing includes two scoops of Moomers Ice Cream. (231) 941-2000;

5) Opa! Coney and Grill  

The dining room of this strip mall spot is a little on the bland side, but the melting pot of Greek, Polish and American food has tons of flavor. And it’s reasonably priced, so load up on gyros, falafel, pierogies, burgers and Coney dogs. Some of the ethnic dishes can be heavy on the garlic, so bring breath mints. (231) 947-6721;

6) The Music House Museum 

The Music House Museum. Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism.
The Music House Museum. Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism.
Visiting this museum in a renovated dairy farmstead is like stepping into a bygone era. You’ll see instruments, recording machinery and rare gadgets from the 1870s to the 1930s. Hour-long guided tours cover player pianos, phonographs, music boxes and silent movies with Wurlitzer organ accompaniment. Open May through December. (231) 938-9300;

7) Cherry Bowl Drive-In Theatre  

Honor’s classic 1950s drive-in not only shows movies but also has a playground, miniature golf, a gift shop and an on-site diner. There’s a no-alcohol policy, lewd behavior isn’t tolerated, and none of the movies are rated stronger than PG-13. (231) 325-3413;

8) Old Mission Peninsula  

Wineries, cherry orchards, farm markets and B&Bs invite stops along this narrow strip of land dividing Grand Traverse Bay into east and west. The 1870 lighthouse at the northern tip marks the halfway point between the North Pole and the equator. Load up on ice cream cones and penny candy at the Old Mission Village’s general store.

9) Grand Traverse Pie Company  

For an afternoon treat (or even breakfast—we won’t tell anyone), stop at the original location of this nationally recognized bakery. In addition to slices of cherry, apple, lemon meringue or coconut cream pie, they serve breakfast, lunch and treats like cookies and cakes. (231) 922-7437;

10) Great Wolf Lodge  

Both thrilling and tame rides and slides pack this 39,000-square-foot indoor water park. The massive resort also has an ice cream-themed spa for divas in training, a MagiQuest enchanted kingdom play adventure, miniature golf, an arcade and a bowling alley. (231) 941-3600;

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Travel Magazine: Top 10 Things to Do with Kids in Traverse City
Top 10 Things to Do with Kids in Traverse City
The largest and most popular of Traverse City’s picturesque public beaches, Clinch Park is just a few blocks from downtown shops and restaurants
Travel Magazine
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