Tucked behind a bend on busy U.S. 31, Dennos Museum Center (231-995-1055, dennosmuseum.org) is a quiet retreat from the bustle of business-as-usual. Turn at the entrance to Northwestern Michigan College, about 1.5 miles east of downtown Traverse City.
Check out the permanent galleries, rotating exhibitions and outdoor statues, but one must-see exhibition here is the permanent collection of Inuit art. It is one of the largest of its kind in the United States, displaying vibrant paintings, stencils, sculptures and tapestries created by native people indigenous to the Canadian Arctic. The intricacy and originality of these pieces is remarkable, each conveying images of Inuit life and lore - dancing walruses carved of ivory, a painting of whaling boats returning with the day's catch, a stone-cut sea woman with fish for hands, mouth and eyes.
All that art got you feeling inspired? It's time to tap into your own talents with a trip to DeYoung's (234 East Front St., 231-946-8021), where you can pick up art supplies like charcoal, paint and sketchbooks. Set up your workstation in the shade of a big pine in Bryant Park - you'll find it at the base of Old Mission Peninsula where Garfield Road and Front Street intersect. The sunsets here are just waiting to be captured on canvas with the deft stroke of your hand.
But no need to be a starving artist - once you're done doodling, return downtown for dinner al fresco at Amical (231-941-8888, amical.com). This bistro's menu changes monthly, but you can always count on fine cuisine with French flair: lamb Provençal, miso-citrus salmon, fettuccini with pancetta and leeks. Fine food and a great view? Better reach for that sketchbook; your muse is calling.
Emily Bingham is assistant editor at Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine.
Note: This article was first published in April 2007 and was updated for the web February 2008.