From the Chair: Featuring Heather Reznik

Heather Reznik

Tell us a little about what a Corporate Account Executive does at Traverse City Tourism.
A Corporate Account Executive brings Corporate Meetings & Events to Traverse City. I focus on corporations in the Southeast Michigan area.

What did you do before Traverse City Tourism?
Before joining the Traverse City Tourism team, I was lucky enough to be able to stay at home with my son for 3 years.  Previous to that, I was a Hotel Sales Manager and worked at the Sheraton Ann Arbor Hotel, the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester, and the McCamly Plaza Hotel in Battle Creek.

What do you love the most about working for Traverse City Tourism?
I love the fact that I get to promote, arguably, the most beloved and beautiful city in Michigan! Who wouldn’t want to have a meeting or event in Traverse City?!

What attractions, destinations, restaurants, etc. do you favor in Traverse City?
I love going to Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay. The farm is such a beautiful and peaceful atmosphere!

What’s your favorite downtown lunch spot and why?
For a quick grab and go lunch, I love the Gobbler Sandwich at Mary’s Kitchen Port. For a sit down lunch, I love good BBQ from the Blue Tractor.

How you would you describe Traverse City to a first time visitor?
Traverse City is a combination of a sleepy New England fishing town; cool Pacific Northwest city with great food and microbrews; and a less pretentious Napa Valley.

What is your perfect day in Traverse City?  
It would be a beautiful, cool, fall day with my sisters! Start the morning out with some quiche at the Omelette Shoppe then head out for a little shopping downtown while savoring a latte from BREW. After a few hours of shopping, we would grab a quick lunch to go at Mary’s Kitchen Port (most likely the Gobbler Sandwich!) and head over toward the Open Space to enjoy it at a picnic table overlooking the bay. After lunch we would jump in our car and start heading out for both a Fall Color and Wine Tour. Then we would head back to town to end our day devouring something delicious at Amical for dinner. If we have the energy after all of that, we would catch a show at the State Theatre.

If you could wish for a celebrity sighting on the streets of downtown Traverse City who would you want to see?
Kate Winslet

What is your favorite season in Northern Michigan?
Fall. Nothing beats the cool weather and beautiful scenery!

Describe a memorable Traverse City moment or experience…
My first time climbing Sleeping Bear Dunes. I can’t remember exactly how old I was, maybe between the ages of 7 and 10. As a child, the sheer size of the dune is overwhelming, but I was determined! I’m pretty sure I ran the whole way up! When you’re an adult, you want to sit at the top (catch your breath!) and enjoy the view; as a kid, you just want to turn and run as fast as you can back down!

A Week of Beer…. Wow!


Pub Crawl Night at 7 Monks

Pub Crawl Night at 7 Monks


TRAVERSE CITY, MI –  I can still remember the life-changing moment when I took my first sip of a craft beer. I was having lunch at a local restaurant and ordered a Huma Lupa Licious from Short’s Brewing. That first India Pale Ale — intensely fruity and flavorful, with bursts of citrus and pine — changed my entire view of beer.

Tasting at the IPA Challenge

Tasting at the IPA Challenge

But by the end of the Traverse City IPA Challenge last Thursday night, I was beginning to realize that one can have too much of a good thing, even beer. Trying 11 different IPAs in a row is like eating all your Halloween candy in one sitting; it starts out great, but by the time you’re finished you have begun to realize the wisdom of moderation.

Actually, the timing couldn’t have been better, since this is Traverse City Beer Week (TCBW), an event whose astonishing plenitude of craft beer tastings, dinners, workshops and contests (over 60 of them, last time I counted) is a seven-day challenge to all my reserves of self-control.

TCBW started last year as a way to showcase Michigan’s vibrant craft brewing movement, particularly the 15 microbreweries, brewpubs and taprooms in the Traverse City Area. The inaugural week was such a success that it was brought back this year with an even larger schedule of events at restaurants, bars, microbreweries and retail locations throughout Traverse City. 

Traverse City is best known as a four-season outdoor adventure destination with a lively culinary and wine scene, but in the last couple of years it has also emerged as a major center of craft brewing. (Draft magazine named it one of Americas’ three “emerging beer towns” along with St. Louis and Oklahoma City, The Travel Channel listed it among the Top Seven Beer Destinations in North America, and calls it one of America’s Five Beeriest Beach Towns.)

Each TCBW event is developed jointly between brewers, restaurants and retailers, and is intended to educate or offer insight into some aspect of the craft beer movement — a special product or style of beer, a food-beer pairing experience or some other topic of interest. On Saturday, for instance, I stopped in at Brewery Ferment — a cozy neighborhood brewpub on Union Street — which was holding a “beer/cheese pairing” featuring some of their brews paired with cheeses from Boss Cheese and The Cheese Lady here in town.

Dustin Jones (r)  leads a customer through a beer/cheese pairing at Brewery Ferment

Dustin Jones (r) leads a customer through a beer/cheese pairing at Brewery Ferment”

We though it would be fun to pick out several cheeses that would go well with our beers and show our customers how well beer and cheese go together,” said brewer Dustin Jones. “Without a kitchen of our own we can’t really do our own cooking, but the Beer Week people let us decide what we want to do and when we want to do it. It’s a great opportunity for us.”

But that “educational” component shouldn’t obscure the fact that this is intended to be a fun experience. For example, Friday night’s opening festivities featured two late afternoon “pre-parties” at downtown restaurants, a beer-tasting/miniature-golf tournament at Right Brain Brewery, and a “pub crawl” of six downtown pubs sponsored by Short’s Brewing. Participants carried beer passports from bar to bar that could be traded in (when completed) for an official Beer Week t-shirt.

It certainly brought people out to downtown Traverse City — in droves. Many were cyclists who’d come to town for the Saturday’s Iceman Cometh Challenge race (coincidentally, sponsored by Bell’s Brewing of Kalamazoo) but others were here specifically to participate in some of the Beer Week events, and still more were simply swept up in the excitement. At the U&I Lounge, for instance, I ran into a group of young women visiting from Fenton who’d been out wine-tasting on the Old Mission peninsula all afternoon and were now enthusiastically embarking on their first Beer Week pub crawl.

Friday night Beer Week drinkers at The Franklin

Friday night Beer Week drinkers at The Franklin

And it’s only beginning. Ahead of us are five whole days of beer-themed events – beer dinners, first-time keg tappings, retail tastings, trivia contests, food pairings, panel discussions, and even an after-dark scavenger-style “keg hunt” — leading up to the final TCBW event: a 5K “Great Beerd Run” at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, complete with on-course beer tastings from three northern Michigan craft brewers and a post-race Best Beard Contest.

I’m learning to pace myself.

For updates on the schedule of Traverse City Beer Week events, go to  or visit the TCBW page on Facebook.

Beer Week pub crawlers at The Yard.

Beer Week pub crawlers at The Yard.

The Iceman Cometh: An Epic Challenge

Iceman Starting Line

Traverse City is home to the largest one-day mountain bike race in America, and this Saturday, Nov. 8, marks this year’s Iceman Cometh Challenge.

For those with a mountain bike and a network of CamelBak-ed friends, the Iceman is bandied about from the moment snow melts off the trails in the spring. Threats and bets are made amongst friends who will once again battle out the season’s last, most epic bike race, of the season. It takes place in early November, come sun, rain, sleet… or, with any luck, snow.

Iceman on the Trail

Each year the event tallies some 4,000 riders with registration selling out in under 15 hours every February. The course stretches 30 miles point-to-point from downtown Kalkaska, through the Pere Marquette forest, to the backwoods of Traverse City.

This year marks the 25th year of the Iceman and it all started with 35 guys and a case of beer. Now it’s a race with enough prestige to draw the country’s top riders… and tough enough to keep the local rec riders in locked in fear and anticipation.

But forget the cowbells and trophies for the big dogs. This race is all about the local dudes (and chicks) in the back of the pack who battle it out with nary a chance at a medal. They are the guts of the race, their glory lost and gained on a single hill, elation as close as devastation at any moment, going up against their friends in an openly fierce fashion.

It’s a fantastic race to watch with the finish line threading through a few last-minute obstacles in the wooded mecca of Timber Ridge Resort. Kandace Chapple

I’ve ridden the Iceman three years and thoroughly encourage finding a nemesis to battle against in the pack of thousands. It makes the race, with its endless hills and rutted descents all the more fun. And if you love to ride, no matter the weather, you might be tempted to hoof it to Michigan to see what all the (snowy, icy, muddy) buzz is about.

Kandace Chapple is the publisher and editor of Grand Traverse Woman Magazine, a Michigan women’s magazine. Visit Kandace is also a freelance writer and blogs about biking and motherhood at

From the Chair: Featuring Coryn Briggs


Tell us about what a “Digital Marketing & Design Specialist” does at Traverse City Tourism?
In a marketing job every day is a little different, and that is what makes it exciting! My job responsibilities include social media and web content management, graphic design, evaluating digital media analytics, as well as e-newsletter and video development.

What did you do before Traverse City Tourism?
I was the Marketing Director at Black Star Farms.

What do you love the most about working for Traverse City Tourism?
I love being a part of the creative, professional, and fun destination marketing organization that is Traverse City Tourism, and working with a diverse group of people that all share a common interest to promote this incredible place where we live.

What attractions, destinations, restaurants, etc. do you favor in Traverse City?
Beaches, The TART trail, the State Theater, Pyramid Point, Amical, The Summer Microbrew and Music Festival, and Trattoria Stella are a few of my favorites. Really, it’s hard to choose when there’s such a wealth of great places to eat, play, and discover!

What’s your favorite downtown lunch spot and why?
The Green House Café is perfect for lunch. The food is fresh, the service is quick and friendly, and the price is right. Plus, they have amazing and HUGE muffins!

How would you describe Traverse City to a first time visitor?
It is a city with small town charm, a European downtown flair, and awe-inspiring views on every corner. It is a place where the natural beauty will inspire you and the foodie scene will nourish you.  Lastly it is a place with a spirit that will fill your soul and tug at you until your return.

What is your perfect day in Traverse City?
The day would begin with a five mile run along one of my favorite routes that includes Wayne Hill, where there’s an overlook that astonishes me every time! After a quick soak in West Bay I would go home to grab a post-run snack (and shower!) and head out with my family to enjoy time at a playground or park. Lunch at The Workshop, complete with a few board games, rounds out the afternoon but leaves time to recharge at home. I’ll pack a picnic dinner, a bottle of local wine, a blanket and a few cozy layers for the evening and we take a scenic drive to watch the sunset at Good Harbor beach. The icing on the cake is the trip home when I am fully charged from the memories and moments captured during the day as well as the blissful silence of two sleeping children.

If you could wish for a celebrity sighting on the streets of downtown Traverse City who would you want to see?
Ewan McGregor

What is your favorite season in Northern Michigan?
Definitely fall and everything that goes along with it, including the rain.

Describe a memorable Traverse City moment/experience…
Running my first half marathon in Glen Arbor! Read more about it here in this blog story.

Find Your Best Holiday Presents at Local Arts & Craft Fairs

Traverse City has become a popular holiday shopping destination, thanks to a growing number of winter visitors who’ve gotten tired of trudging through the Big Box stores back home, and have headed north for some retail adventuring in the many boutiques, galleries and shops of the Grand Traverse area.

Christmas preparations here start as early as October, when local churches, clubs and artist’s cooperatives begin staging the holiday arts and crafts fairs for which the region is justly famous. And by November a whole series of community celebrations and sales swing into action. Here are some of them:St.FrancisHolidayArtShow

Oct. 25:  23rd Annual East Extravaganza Craft Show 9 am – 3 pm
Traverse City East Middle School hosts this event, which includes food, arts and crafts, a silent action and a book sale. Proceeds will benefit the middle school library. 1776 Three Mile Rd.

Oct. 23-26 Dennos Museum Annual Holiday Art Fair (Th 5– 8 pm, Fri & Sat 10 am – 5 pm, Sun 1– 5 pm)
Fabulous invitational annual three-and-a-half day holiday art fair, featuring fine arts and crafts from 50 Michigan artists.  No admission charge.  1410 College Dr, Traverse City (231) 995-1586

Nov. 1: 32nd Annual Bellaire Holiday Gift Fair 10 am – 3 pm
A great little small-town fair held at Bellaire’s high school — just down the hill if you happen to be staying at Shanty Creek resorts! Over 40 vendors, amazing assortment of items to do some early Christmas shopping!

Nov 1:  Dickens Christmas Arts & Crafts Bazaar   9 am-3 pm
This popular holiday craft fair at First Congregational Church features handicrafts from 60 area artists as well as baked goods, preserves, gourmet delicacies, confections, handcrafted gifts and seasonal decorations created by church members. 6105 Center Rd, Traverse City. (231) 947-6698

Nov 1:  27th Annual Immaculate Conception Craft Show  8:30 am-3:30 pm
More than 70 exhibitors will participate in this show at the parish Centennial Hall and the nearby middle school of Immaculate Conception. There also will be a bake sale, luncheon, and raffle. 720 2ndSt., Traverse City.  (231) 946-4211

Nov 8:  7th Annual Fall Blessings Craft & Crafts Show  9 am-3 pm
Over 100 exhibitors will be on hand for this juried show at Traverse City Christian Middle/High School at 753 Emerson Rd. Crafts, silent auction, lunch, bake sale & door prizes.(231) 929-1747

Nov 20-22:  Festival of Trees Th 4-8 pm, Fri 9 am-6 pm, Sat 9 am-12 pm, Sun 11 am-4 pm.
This annual three-day festival at the Hagerty Center by Zonta of Traverse City features a charming display of professionally decorated trees and wreaths. All trees are available for purchase, as well as wreaths and other holiday accessories. New this year: 3-foot tabletop trees. Admission $7:50, students $4, preschool age free.

Nov 22:  Christmas Craft Show-Alden  9 am– 3 pm
The Torch Area Artisans Guild holds its annual craft show in the Helena Township Community Center at 4732 Helena Rd. in Alden.  A wide variety of local crafters offer their wares for sale to the public, and refreshments are also available. 231-331-6583

Nov. 29: 6th Annual Winter Fantasy Art Show 11 am-5 pm
A mixed-media art and fine craft show featuring the work of local artists & artisans, held inside the heated greenhouse at Pine Hill Nursery.  Over two dozen booths offer a wide range of unique gifts, stocking stuffers and holiday décor, all handcrafted in Northern Michigan. Complimentary hot apple cider and a holiday train display add to the day’s festivities.  Admission is free. 886 US-31 N, Kewadin.Greenhouse Art Fest

Nov 23:  Suttons Bay Holiday Open House 12-4 pm
A fun and festive way to start your holiday shopping in the cute-as-a-bug village of Suttons Bay. Enjoy the special offerings from area merchants and eateries. Stores will be serving refreshments for you to enjoy while getting a jump start on your holiday shopping, and vote for your favorite store window display with a canned good or toiletry donation to the local food pantry.

Nov 28:  Leland PJ Party Sale  8 am-5 pm
A fun event in the Leelanau Peninsula port of Leland, where shoppers get the best deals if they come in their pajamas! Special early bird discounts in effect from 8-10 am.

Nov 28: Glen Arbor PJ Party Sale   5-7 am
I don’t know which of these two towns stole the idea from the other (actually, I DO know, but I’m not telling) but Glen Arbor has a PJ Party, too – and this one is in the wee hours of the morning. Honestly, if you get up this early, you deserve a discount! In the evening there’s a 6:30 pm tree-lighting and carols at the township hall, and a preview of the next day’s Holiday Marketplace, which is held Saturday from 10 am-4 pm. 231-334-3238

Dec. 5: Santa’s Arrival & Holiday Open House 5-9 pm
This little throwback to the good old days starts with music and caroling at the corner of Cass & Front, followed by the arrival of Santa Claus and the lighting of the downtown Christmas tree. From then on, there’s shopping, with sales, specials and prizes at participating stores, plus antique fire engine rides, caroling and live entertainment at the corner of Cass and Front throughout the evening.TCCVB-Dec-3

Dec. 5-7: Suttons Bay Holiday Festival
A three-day weekend of holiday events in Suttons Bay, starting Friday evening with a Holiday Stroll down luminaria-lined streets. Refreshments, hors d’oeuvres, local wines, restaurant specials and over 50 decorated trees. Saturday starts with family activities followed by Santa’s arrival by fire truck for a 6 pm tree-lighting and caroling with the high school band and youth ensemble. Sunday winds up with a Cookie Extravaganza 12-3 pm and a Community Choral Concert at the Congregational Church.

Dec. 6:  Merry Marketplace-Leland  10 am-4 pm
Christmas arts and crafts show featuring local artisans with holiday gifts, fresh greens, ceramics, jewelry, ornaments, candles, soaps, gourmet chocolates, clothing, knits, and other handmade items at the Old Art Building in the Village of Leland. 231-256-2131.

Dec. 11: Ladies’ Night in Downtown Traverse City 5-9 pm
Extended store hours for the ladies to shop in downtown Traverse City. Participating stores offer food and refreshments from 5 to 9 pm. And hey, you can enter a drawing to win prizes!

Dec. 13: St. Lucy’s Day in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons
A picturesque celebration of “Santa Lucia” where holiday shoppers are regaled by wandering flute players and a young girl dressed in white who offers them fresh-baked warm pastries.  Other refreshments, shopping special and free horse-drawn carriage rides provide a unique experience of Christmas past. st_lucia1

Dec. 13: Leland’s Holiday Wonderland 10 am – 5 pm
A shopping celebration throughout the village of Leland, complete with refreshments, caroling by the Leladn Comet Chorale, a Holiday Story Hour, gfts and sales at local merchants, and a food drive for the village food pantry.

Dec. 18: Men’s Night in Downtown Traverse City 5-9 pm
No need to panic! An evening of shopping has been designated just for the men in Downtown Traverse City. This night is a salute to the men. Enjoy food, refreshments and specials while you shop the night away finishing up those last minute holiday gifts!

Four Fabulous Fall Hiking Trails

Looking east over the Brown Bridge Quiet Area

Looking east over the Brown Bridge Quiet Area


Peak color season has arrived in the Traverse City area, and so have leaf-peepers from all around the Midwest – maybe even a little farther, if the license plates I’ve seen lately are any indication. Folks are heading out on some of the region’s most beloved color-touring roads and highways, stopping along the way to snap photos, shop at farm markets and explore the beauty of a Traverse City fall.

There are advantages to touring by car. You can cover a lot of ground – and you don’t have to worry that windy, cold or rainy weather will ruin your experience. (Although sometimes I think a little rain can actually make the colors look brighter.) But the best way to experience the full sensory overload of autumn – the sound and smell of those new-fallen leaves, the feel of the breeze — is to get out and spend some time hiking or cycling one of our many trails.

Of course, you have to pick the right kind of trail! Some provide cozy tunnels through deep woods, where the colors surround you on every side and there’s plenty of protection from autumn winds. Others are high on open hillsides, where you can get sweeping views of sky, water and autumn foliage and that dramatic interplay of sunlight and shadow.

Here are four of my favorites:

A lake view at The Timbers Recreation Area

  • The Timbers Recreation Area on North Long Lake Road, just 10 minutes west of town is a 250 acre preserve, complete with trails, historic buildings and 9,000 feet of waterfront on three lakes, and it’s open to the public. Once the backwoods retreat of meat magnate J. Ogden Armour and his family, then a Girl Scout camp, it’s now being administered by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.

The really impressive thing about The Timbers is how much land is just there. Almost 2,000 feet of frontage on Long Lake, an entire 20-acre lake (Fern Lake) inside its boundaries with 4,500 feet of shoreline, and 2,400 feet of shore on yet another, Page Lake. There are two-tracks and trails winding their way through woods, meadows and fields.

Hiking on the Old Mission Point Park Trails

Hiking on the Old Mission Point Park Trails

  • Most people know Old Mission Point Park, near the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula, for its handsome little 1870 lighthouse, but it’s also home to more than 500 acres of trails that wander through a fascinating variety of terrain. There are shady coastal forests of hemlocks, steep bluffs covered with ferns, bright upland woods of beech and maple, broad meadows where old cherry orchards are being reclaimed by aspen, elm and chokeberry, and high ridges where you can glimpse the dark blue of Grand Traverse Bay, and the smoky purple hills of the Leelanau Peninsula. The high country here is rich in wildlife: deer, coyote, fox and rabbits, and birds too numerous to mention.
On the Old Orchard Trail at the Grand Traverse Commons

On the Old Orchard Trail at the Grand Traverse Commons

  • Want to stay close to town? No problem – some of the loveliest fall trails in the area are on the grounds of the Grand Traverse Commons. Surrounding the beautiful old buildings of Traverse City’s former mental asylum is an extensive network of hiking trails that weave through the surrounding forests, fields and hills. With hundreds of acres of forested hills, spring-fed streams, flowery meadows and winding trails – not to mention the imposing, if slightly spooky walls and towers of the old asylum itself – the Commons has long been a favorite with hikers, joggers, cyclists and birdwatchers.

The best fall color is west of the buildings, in the Grand Traverse Commons Natural Area, where you can choose from an impressive variety of landscapes – from the fragrant shadows of the Cedar Cathedral Trail and the storybook beauty of the Streamside Loop to the steep climbs and panoramic views of the Old Orchard Trail, where you can look down over most of Traverse City, and the Copper Ridge Trail, which runs just behind it. There are secret springs bubbling out of the hillsides, deer and fox peering out from the trees, and a multitude of birds – and the best time to be here is definitely autumn, when the meadows are full of asters and goldenrod, the old orchards still smell of windfall apples, and the leaves rain down on you like a technicolor  shower every time the wind runs through the treetops.

A view of the Boardman River from an Overlook at Brown Bridge

A view of the Boardman River from an Overlook at Brown Bridge

  • But sometimes you need to get away from it all. And that’s when you should check out the 1,320-acre Brown Bridge Quiet Area. Located on the Boardman River, it’s actually owned by the City of Traverse City even though it’s about 11 miles upstream from the city limits. Until a few years ago, this was the site of a beautiful forest lake, Brown Bridge Pond, created by a hydroelectric dam that has since been removed. Now the river runs through a narrow valley when tall 300-foot bluffs on the north side where you can stop at scattered viewing platforms to enjoy the fall scenery.

There are more than six miles of trails on this side of the river (and some less visited ones on the south bank) with many different habitat types, timber bridges, boardwalks and gorgeous views of the river below. What’s even cooler is that the Brown Bridge trail system has just been connected to the new Boardman River Trail, which leads south and west to the village of Mayfield and its lovely millpond – gorgeous on a fall afternoon!


Hunting Down the Reds in Traverse City Wine Country

Tasting an Award-Winning Cabernet Franc at 45 North Winery

The Reds are coming! And wine lovers in this northern Michigan resort area couldn’t be happier.

Over the past 20 years, the vineyards of Traverse City’s Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas have gradually established an international reputation for the quality of their white wines, especially their Rieslings. Almost lost amid all that attention, however, has been the transformation of the region’s red wines into a force to be reckoned with.

But the winemakers of the scenic Leelanau Peninsula, just northwest of the city, have been quietly celebrating the growing excellence of their red wines each autumn with a whimsical tasting event called “The Hunt for the Reds of October.” This year’s Hunt will be held on the weekend of Oct. 24-26, when each of the peninsula’s 23 participating wineries will offer free tastings of selected red wines.

“We’re growing great reds on the peninsula, and we look forward to sharing them,” says Alan Eaker, owner of Longview Winery in Cedar. “Our Pinot Noirs are light and aromatic, showing more of the true characteristics of the grape varietal than many other regions. Our Cabernet Francs and Merlots are bigger and more complex with a memory of the Leelanau Peninsula in every glass.”

Pinot Noir at Black Star Farms

Among red-wine grapes, the most widely-planted in Traverse City is Pinot Noir, a variety that makes light, complex wines, often with a peppery taste. Almost as popular in the area is Cabernet Franc, a more full-bodied red with ripe plum and blackberry flavors.

Merlot is grown in selected areas here, too, and a few wineries make it into a stand-alone wine — but most use it as part of a blend, sometimes called a meritage. Another Traverse City variety used mainly in blending is the rich, fruity dark Syrah, or Shiraz.And an increasingly popular cold-climate red is Blaufränkisch, a dark-skinned (almost blue) grape that makes rich red wines with a full spicy character.

A mark of the local wine industry’s growing confidence in the quality of its reds is a new event in this year’s Hunt for the Reds of October: a Peoples’ Choice ballot in which guests at each tasting will vote for their favorites in several categories.

There’s reason for their confidence, too. Leelanau reds and their counterparts on the nearby Old Mission Peninsula are increasingly sweeping up top awards in national and international wine competitions. Just this year, Boathouse Vineyards’ Pinot Noir and the Baco Noir from Leelanau Wine Cellars won Best of Class at the 2014 Pacific Rim International Wine Competition, while the Blue Franc and Franc N Franc from Shady Lane Cellars each took a special Chairman’s Award at the 2014 Riverside International. The Merlot from French Valley Vineyards and Verterra Winery’s Lemberger each took a gold medal in the 2014 Tasters Guild International.

Old Mission Peninsula reds have also been making a strong showing for several years. The Cabernet Francs at Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery brought home a Best of Class/Gold from the 2014 Pacific Rim Competition and a 2014 Best of Class from the Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition, while their Pinot Noir and Cab Franc each took gold medals in the 2014 Tasters Guild competition. WineTastingat BrysEstate

“It was not inappropriate to compare these wines to a classic French Chinon,” said Master Sommelier Claudia Tyagi, one of six judges who awarded all the medals in the 2014 Harding Cup Michigan Cabernet Franc competition to two Old Mission Peninsula wineries, 2 Lads and Brys Estates. “Our best wines demonstrate the class, structure, and nuance of the finest old world, terroir-driven wines.”

One Old Mission vintner is taking extraordinary steps to create an entirely new family of red wines. Marty Lagina of Villa Mari Vineyard & Winery, has almost 60 acres of Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Syrah grown under shelters that allow him to extend the growing season by as much as six weeks. And his tasting room, slated for a 2015 opening, will feature a 3,000 square-foot wine cave where his Italian-style reds can be properly aged.

It hasn’t always been easy to persuade wine consumers whose idea of a full-bodied red is a thick California Cabernet or a “fruit bomb” Syrah that the qualities of Traverse City reds – light, fruity, and rich with subtleties that are usually missed in “meaty” hot-climate wines – are something worth pursuing. What usually clinches the argument, say local vintners, is pairing the wines with food; once people experience how those northern reds complement a meal, they’re usually won over. Mac&Cheese08 015 - Copy

Speaking of food pairings, wine lovers who fail to make The Hunt for the Reds of October, can participate in one of Traverse City’s most popular wine/food pairing events on Nov. 29. It’s the Great Macaroni & Cheese Bake-Off, a “comfort food extravaganza” where the eight wineries of the Old Mission Peninsula partner with chefs from local restaurants to create the perfect pairing between mac & cheese and wine.

My Favorite Fall Color Drives

M-37 near Mission Point on the Old Mission Peninsula

M-37 on the Old Mission Peninsula (All these photos are from last year — we’re not quite this far along yet!)


Fall is my favorite season, and the Traverse City area abounds in places where you can almost always find great color.

Our characteristic landscape of rolling glacial ridges, lush forests and wide expanses of open water creates broad panoramas where autumn color is simply the finishing touch to an already dramatic vista of water, sand and sky. And because color seems to come soonest to the high forests to the east and south of us, gradually spreading to the low-lying areas along the water, color season tends to last quite a long time here.

Fall color at Sleeping Bear

Fall color at Sleeping Bear

For many folks, the best place for fall color around here is the magnificent Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, whose steep hillsides and lush hardwood forests burst into sheets of flaming scarlet, orange and gold each fall. Set against the deep indigo of Lake Michigan, the towering bluffs and islands of Sleeping Bear are particularly dramatic when clothed in their autumn finery.

Somehow, though, I never seen to get to the Dunes at precisely the right time. Either I come too early or I end up visiting after a big windstorm has knocked all the leaves off the trees. It’s still gorgeous, but I’ve never seen the big show everybody talks about.

In fact, one of my favorite drives in the fall is the one I take twice every day – my commute between work and my home on the Old Mission Peninsula in the middle of Grand Traverse Bay. Nearly 20 miles long and in some places as little as a mile wide, it’s a beautiful patchwork of orchards, vineyards, forests and villages. Perfect for a morning or afternoon drive that combines fall color with beautiful views of the bay, visits to wineries and roadside fruit stands, and unforgettable meals at several charming restaurants.

DSC_0162 - Copy (2)

I think the most spectacular views along the peninsula are generally to be had along M-37 (Center Road), which runs along the steep ridge at its center, through the village of Mapleton (is it even big enough to be a village?) to the cute little lighthouse at Mission Point. But it’s just as much fun to amble along the roads that follow the shoreline on either side, stopping to visit the historic village of Old Mission and the quiet settlement of Bowers Harbor.Looking west from Cedar.

Of course, just northwest of Traverse City is the much larger Leelanau Peninsula — the “little finger” of the Michigan mitten – a place of beautiful scenery, quaint lakeshore villages and fascinating history, and home to those beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes. Most leaf-peepers stick to the peninsula’s coastal area, which means following M-22 along the Bay through Suttons Bay, Omena and Northport, then turning abruptly southwest to skirt the Lake Michigan shore through Leland, Glen Arbor and Empire.

Personally, though, I think there’s usually better fall color in Leelanau’s hilly interior. On the slopes above Lake Leelanau and the two Glen lakes you’ll find farmlands, woods, vineyards and small towns like Maple City and Cedar that still retain traces of their Polish and Bohemian founders. County Road 633 and 641 are a couple of my favorites.

A hillside along Lake Leelanau on County Road 641

A hillside along Lake Leelanau on County Road 641

Some of the same feeling can be had just northeast of town, in Antrim County’s glacier-scoured Chain of Lakes region. This is a dramatic landscape of rolling drumlins and long, deep blue glacial lakes. Two of the largest, Elk Lake and Torch Lake, are particularly beautiful when the hills in which they nestle are aflame with fall colors. Nearby you’ll find the steep valley of the little Rapid River, whose forested slopes look as though they could have been transported from the Appalachians.

A good introduction to this region can be had by following U.S. 31 north from Traverse City, past orchards and farms along the shore of East Bay to Elk Rapids. From here, it’s possible to drive east between the lakes and into the hills above them, where the autumn views of distant blue hills evoke fall in the lochs of Scotland. The tiny village of Alden, on Torch Lake, makes a great stop for lunch and some shopping, while the summit of Shanty Creek near Bellaire provides awe-inspiring views of the surrounding countryside.

The view from Schuss Mountain at Shanty Creek Resorts.

The view from Schuss Mountain at Shanty Creek Resorts.

A more woodsy landscape can be found in the highlands just south of Traverse City, dotted with dozens of small lakes and dense forests of evergreens and hardwoods – as well as the majestic Boardman Valley. Much of this intensely varied landscape is contained in the Pere Marquette State Forest, and it is best explored by heading out into the maze of twisting roads that wind through the forests, around lakes and along the tops of high wooded bluffs. (But beware of the roads around Arbutus and Spider Lakes – they’re beautiful, but so confusing to the newcomer that this area is known by locals as the “Arbutus Triangle!”

Entering the Arbutus Triangle

Entering the Arbutus Triangle

From the Chair: Featuring Sharon Pierce


Sharon Pierce



















In this new blog series a Traverse City Tourism employee will be featured once a month. Each story provides an “inside” look at the people behind the scenes who promote the region and help make it an incredible destination. Read on and learn more about Traverse City from the people who live, work, and play here—all day every day!

Tell us a little about what you do at Traverse City Tourism? 

I’m the new Traverse City Visitor Center Manager.  I supervise over 100 dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers. My job is to stay current on events in the area, keep track of restaurant and store changes and be knowledgeable about other attractions that would interest visitors. The volunteers and I are here to give advice on activities, driving directions, suggestions for dinner or hotel reservations. I manage the scheduling of the volunteers, arrange educational outings and oversee the maintenance of our building.  I also oversee placement and procurement of over 400 brochure slots for local businesses. I am all about education and the power, self-confidence and self-esteem it can give you, especially when you share it with others.

What did you do before Traverse City Tourism? 

I’ve had many jobs, and all have given me experience for what I do now.  I learned customer service skills as a “Ball Boy,” waitress, and bartender at Wildwood Lanes.  I was an airline service agent and travel agent.  I was an office temp and even got to dress up as several costumed characters.  I worked 24 years as a cashier at Meijer and was “loaned” out to every department. In 2009, I went back to school with my wonderful family’s support and earned my Associates degree. This led to a two-year stint as a Volunteer Management intern at the National Cherry Festival and four years (and counting) as an Event Director for them.  All of this—combined with the fact I’ve lived in Traverse City practically my whole life—gives me special insight about everything the area has to offer.  I know where everything used to be and what’s there now! Traverse City has been wonderful to me and I hope in my present job I can return the favor.

What do you love the most about working for Traverse City Tourism? 

Every day I look forward to telling people about my home town.  The entire Traverse area has something to offer everyone.  I find out what each person is interested in doing and match it with things we have to offer.  I want people who visit to fully experience the town and love it as much as I do!

What attractions, destinations, restaurants, etc. do you favor in Traverse City? 

My husband Mike and I prefer local restaurants as opposed to the chains.  We go out for breakfast more than dinner. He used to work at Round’s Circle Inn so we eat there a lot, but we also like Randy’s Diner, Sparky’s Diner, Willie’s Rear, and the Happy Hogg Café. For special dinners we go to Sorellina, Copper Falls, or Boone’s Long Lake Inn.  For takeout we do The Kitchen, Taco House, That’s a Pizza, and Peegeo’s.  We love the Grand Traverse Mall’s Teriyaki Express bourbon and sesame chicken, too!

Our favorite attraction is, of course, the water and all of the beautiful views and recreation it offers. I don’t really have a favorite destination (well, maybe Lola’s!).  When you have a Harley it’s not about the destination; it’s all about the ride.

What’s your favorite downtown lunch spot and why? 

I enjoy meeting up with friends at The Green House Café, The Dish, Little Fleet, and J&S Hamburg. All of these places have a great lunch menu and are easy to dine at in an hour or less. 

How you would you describe Traverse City to a first time visitor? 

I tell them it’s a beautiful, small town with all of the activities, restaurants, culture and events usually only found in big cities.  You can do everything or nothing at all! It’s like Heaven, only without the Pearly Gates!

What is your perfect day in Traverse City? 

The perfect day starts out with jumping on the motorcycle. We ride towards East Bay and head to Old Mission Lighthouse to watch the sun come up.  Then we’d go down Peninsula Drive, follow M-37 to West Bay and jump on M-22.  We’d have lunch at Boone’s Prime Time Inn in Suttons Bay, catch M-204 to Lake Leelanau and do taste samples at Northern Latitudes Distillery.  Get back on the bike and head to M-22, then M-109 for the Pierce Stocking Drive.  After taking in all 12 breathtaking vistas we’d head back to M-22 to watch the sun set on Empire Beach, then it’s homeward bound to park the bike.  We’d call for a pick up order of pizza at Peegeo’s then walk back home, pull out lawn chairs and listen to the (NASCAR) Night Race at Bristol (with our favorite driver winning, of course!) chewing on a slice of Mike’s Sicilian. Yup, that’s the perfect day!!

If you could wish for a celebrity sighting on the streets of downtown Traverse City who would you want to see? 

The band Journey would be really cool to run into down at the Open Space!  After spending time in our beautiful and unique “City By the Bay” they’d forget all about theirs!  Then I’d have them listen to the Traverse City song Take Me There from The Hackey Turtles. That would be awesome!!

What is your favorite season in Northern Michigan? 

Can anything beat summertime!?!  Having the warm sun on my face makes me happy.  I love going to all of the festivals, fairs and events that weren’t around when I was a kid growing up in the “boonies” of West Silver Lake Road.

Describe a memorable Traverse City moment or experience…

Some of my most memorable times in Traverse City have to do with music or the Cherry Festival and include:

-I’ve been lucky to get backstage passes for both Interlochen and the National Cherry Festival concerts for several acts including Faith Hill, Montgomery Gentry, Joe Diffie, and Uncle Kracker.

-At their concert in Interlochen, Randy Owen from Alabama came down and talked to our daughter because she kept waving at him and blowing him kisses. She made him sing “Angels Among Us” just for her. She was only 5!

-I was in a downtown club when Kid Rock came in and started a jam session.

5 1/2 Reasons it’s Great to Live in a Foodie Town

We’ve landed on countless lists citing Traverse City, Michigan as a mecca for the gastronomically enthusiastic traveler. But what makes our little lakeside town such a delight for the culinary tourist? I’ve narrowed it down to 5 1/2 reasons why I love our foodie town. Restaurants

1. Unique Restaurants 

From upscale dining like The Towne Plaza to the food truck lot at The Little Fleet —and everything in between— there are chef-owned restaurants across our city with creative menus to please any palette. The hardest part is making dining decisions when delicious options lie in every direction.

2.  Farm Market Fresh 

Fall is by far my favorite season to visit the farmers market. Apples and pumpkins and flowers, oh my! The Sara Hardy Market in Downtown Traverse City runs through October. But the farm-fresh season doesn’t end there. The indoor farm market at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons means you can buy honey, vegetables, and handmade goodies all year round.Benjamin Twigs Cherry Basket

3.  Locally-made Specialty Products 

Yes we are the Cherry Capital of the World. And purveyors like Benjamin Twiggs have opened our eyes to the bounty of our region. Foodies can share a taste of Traverse City anytime thanks to our growing specialty foods industry. It’s pretty amazing when you realize even a PB&J can be locally made. (I recommend the Naturally Nutty cinnamon vanilla sunflower butter, American Spoon fruit preserves on Old Mission Multigrain, with a side of Great Lakes Potato Chips).

4 Beer, Wine & Spirits 

Who likes to eat without something to drink? Access to local fruit, hops and grains means even our alcohol is locally made. The pastoral landscapes along Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsula with neatly trained rows of vineyards are a vital component in Traverse City’s tourism draw. But it’s not just wine tasting that has travelers keen for a visit. The opportunity to take a tour at the Grand Traverse Distillery, or buy craft beer by the growler means visitors are taking home more than a buzz.

5.  Fabulous Food Events 15250877511_330a9b4700_z

We aren’t just a one-festival town these days. And a growing number of events have culinary at their core. Festivals offer entertainment and an opportunity to explore many tastes in one place, which is great for foodies. Whether it’s summertime Paella in the Park, Restaurant Week mid-winter or a celebration of spring at Green Cuisine, there’s a party on a paper plate nearly every weekend if you know where to look.

So that’s five reasons I think it’s great we live in a Foodie town. But I did say 5 1/2. There’s a reason they call the streaming content on social media a feed. My Twitter & Instagram accounts are very hungry. So I give partial credit to our lovely town for providing such a delicious feast for my iphoneography.

What else can I say? We are living in a foodie town, and I am a foodie girl.

About the Author Author Photo

Brandy Wheeler is the creator of the Traverse Traveler app, a free smartphone app designed to promote northern Michigan restaurants and attractions to area visitors. She lives in Traverse City with her husband and two sons. Look for more of Brandy’s adventures online at or say hi on Twitter @TraverseTravelr.