Traverse City, the city cupping the crook of two of the finest freshwater bays on the planet—Lake Michigan's West and East Grand Traverse Bays—is a beacon for those seeking blissful days spent boating, beaching and boutique shopping. Choose a sugar-sand beach where you can swim and snorkel, and when the water rouses your various appetites, stroll into downtown to explore Victorian storefronts that house inventive restaurants and sweet boutiques. Find smart, individual style at What to Wear and Cali’s, captivating vintage fashion at Ella’s, and even a warm winter souvenir in the bin of half-off ski hats and snowcaps at Boyne Country Sports. Discover unexpected cuisine in the classy-cozy Hanna’s Bistro, the casual Dish, the airy Firefly. And book rooms with close-up water views in the hotels along the bays.
Nearby, tour Old Mission Peninsula’s wine country, filled with lush hillsides, bay views and crisp, fruity Rieslings to sip in the tasting rooms (winesofoldmission.com). Find one more tasting room—Left Foot Charley (213-995-0500, leftfootcharley.com)—under the spires of the asylum-turned-hip-community-hangout just west of downtown, The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.
When the big water beckons, take a kiteboard lesson, parasail or board a tall-ship schooner. Great golf on designer courses lies just outside town, as do woodland hikes, fishing on secluded inland lakes and a paddle on the Boardman River, with a just-spunky-enough current that cuts through a forested valley. At Wuerfel Park baseball stadium savor small-town Americana on a warm summer night while rooting for the Traverse City Beach Bums.