Traverse City, Michigan, is a bustling city with small-town charm. This Wolverine State gem is home to miles of sparkling lakes, dense forests, snowy trails, and scenic sand dunes. Annual events like the Cherry Festival draw visitors from all over the country.
But this idyllic town isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. As its popularity grows, so does the list of reasons not to visit.
Join us as we discover why you might want to avoid adding Traverse City to your bucket list of destinations.
Let’s check it out!
Where Is Traverse City, Michigan?
Traverse City sits on the southern tip of the Grand Traverse Bay. Its proximity to Lake Michigan makes it a popular destination for visitors to the Great Lakes region. In addition, the Traverse Bay area boasts more than 220 miles of shoreline.
Founded in 1847, the city takes its name from the Grand Traverse Bay. In its earliest days, the town’s primary industry was timber and logging.
But today, it’s known as the Cherry Capital of the World, thanks to its many cherry orchards. The temperate climate makes Traverse City, or TC as the locals call it, a year-round resort destination.
What Is Traverse City Known For?
Traverse City is best known for its cherries. Although the fruit grows throughout Michigan, this town is responsible for most of the state’s cherry production. Growers harvest and sell their crops in markets and road stands in mid-to-late summer.
And for true lovers of this sweet pitted fruit, the National Cherry Festival takes place every July. The festival began in 1924 and features cherry-themed food, competitions, and family-friendly activities.
But tourists enjoy visiting TC in winter, too. The area receives heavy snowfall, making it a hot destination for winter sports. Skiing and snowboarding are popular pastimes. Visitors can find many options for sledding and tubing in the city. And for cyclists, fat bikes, named for their oversized, snow-friendly tires, are a fun way to get outdoors.
Pro Tip: Practice these 7 Michigan Slang Words You Must Know Before Visiting.
Is Traverse City, Michigan, Safe to Visit?
This northern Michigan metropolis is a beloved vacation spot. But exactly how safe is it?
Traverse City carries a C+ rating from the website Crime Grade. That’s in line with the national average. It’s safer than 53% of American cities and less safe than 43%. Traverse City’s overall crime rate is about 25 per 1,000 residents annually.
According to residents, the west side contains the safest neighborhoods. Your chance of being the victim of a crime – a one in 25 chance, to be exact – is highest on the north end of town. But, like many large cities, TC has its share of lawbreakers.
But that’s not the only reason to avoid the Cherry Capital of the World.
5 Reasons to Avoid Traverse City, Michigan
There’s no denying Traverse City is a fun, scenic destination. But we’re not sure if the positives are worth some of the negatives we’ll discuss. Here are a few reasons to think twice before planning your TC getaway.
#1 It’s Extremely Crowded in the Summer
Summer in the Grand Traverse Bay is beautiful. The mild climate allows for plenty of outdoor activities.
But where there’s nice weather, you’ll also find tourists. Though the city only has about 15,000 permanent residents, thousands of people flock here in the warmer months. This population spike causes lines at restaurants, traffic jams, and among other issues.
If you’re not a fan of long wait times and delays, Traverse City may not be your cup of tea.
#2 It’s Touristy
The crowds aren’t this town’s only issue. Some residents feel the influx of visitors is making Traverse City lose its charm.
Most travel destinations operate during a specific season. But TC is a prime vacation spot year-round. That means permanent residents rarely get relief from the buzz.
In 2014, one 75-year-old local asked City Hall to close a portion of town for the summer just to get a break!
Ultimately, the region relies on tourist revenue and has to cater to visitors. So be prepared for a touristy vibe if you decide to visit.
#3 The Hotels Are Old
Traverse City has experienced the same phenomenon as many other resort destinations: fast growth. While the city’s tourist population grows every year, new construction hasn’t kept up.
Many of the Cherry Capital’s oldest hotels, like the Grand Traverse Motel and Park Place Hotel, are very nice. But they aren’t exactly new, either. You’ll likely notice outdated decor, old-fashioned HVAC units, and other age-related quirks during your stay.
Some folks won’t be bothered by this. But if you prefer upscale, elegant hotels, you may want to vacation elsewhere.
Pro Tip: We ranked the Best To Worst: Traverse City Campgrounds to help you decide where to stay.
#4 There are Better Views on the Leelanau Peninsula
While Traverse City offers numerous fun activities and pleasant scenery, there are many drawbacks such as crowds, annoyed locals, and aging hotels. But there may be an even better option just a few miles away.
The Leelanau Peninsula is ten miles northwest of TC. This area contains just as much greenery and fresh water as its neighboring city, but without the crowds. Leelanau County is sparsely populated but offers miles of pristine beaches, hiking, vineyards, orchards, and restraurants.
Visitors can explore “the County,” as locals call it, by car or boat. It’s a much quieter area for a relaxing getaway. Some would argue it’s even more picturesque than the Cherry Capital.
#5 Expensive for What You Get
Between its summer beaches, winter sports, and fun festivals, TC has a lot to offer. But these offerings do come at a cost.
According to a 2019 survey, Traverse City isn’t just expensive: it’s the most expensive summer destination in the Midwest. Accommodations in the city average $238 per night on the low end. For comparison, a summer trip to Chicago costs about $114 per night.
Is a trip to the Cherry Capital really worth breaking the bank? For half the price, it might be more fun to explore Chicago or another big city instead.
Is Traverse City, Michigan, Worth Visiting?
There’s no doubt about it, Traverse City is a beautiful location. Its vibrant food and retail scene, events, and options for outdoor fun are enticing.
But the year-round crowds, high prices, and touristy vibe can’t be ignored, especially when cheaper options like the Leelanau Peninsula are just a few miles away. Northern Michigan is one of the most gorgeous regions in the U.S. But think twice before landing on TC as your final destination.
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