During the summer, much of the Midwest flocks to Traverse City, an arts-oriented quaint community in Upper Michigan tucked into an up-and-coming wine region. The city of just 15,000 residents sits on Grand Traverse Bay, which flows into Lake Michigan. Celebrity chef Mario Batali spends summers here, and Madonna’s parents own a winery in nearby Suttons Bay (Ciccone Vineyard & Winery), on the Leelanau Peninsula. Dubbed the Cherry Capital, it’s a foodie paradise with bushels of this locally grown fruit topping many dishes, plus artisan chocolatiers, coffee roasters and restaurants headed up by James Beard Award semifinalist chefs.As one of the Midwest's top-tier wine regions, Traverse City is both a romantic getaway for those in the know and a popular second home community. While Traverse City does have a small Cherry Capital Airport (serviced by select American, United, and Delta flights from Detroit and Chicago), most visitors drive to get to this spot near Michigan's northwestern coast. By car, it's about 2.5 hours from Grand Rapids and 4 hours from Detroit.
And if you're thinking of waiting till the weather warms up to experience this unexpected tourist destination, we suggest you jump on it right now. After all, Traverse City’s chillier side flaunts cross-country ski trails and, more importantly, rock-bottom room rates. Don't worry, many restaurants and tasting rooms remain open, so there will be plenty to do.
For a sense of how much you can save here during the winter: Until May 13, 18 hotels participating in a Traverse City True Escape Package are offering rates as low as $39 a night. The good news is that these deals aren’t far and few between: 10 of these hotels offer rates less than $75 a night. It’s a wide mix of quaint inns and even a log cabin, Ellis Lake Resort, to budget-minded chains like Quality Inn and Comfort Inns. There are some beachside properties, like the beachside Grand Beach Resort Hotel and Bayshore Resort, but the smaller inns are also highly rated and part of Traverse City's small-town charm.
And in the summer? You'd be paying much more -- perhaps $276.67 a night at Bayshore Resort for a weekend in late July (compared to the current promotional rate of $69) and $219 for the same summer dates at Grand Beach Resort Hotel and Sugar Beach Resort Hotel (compared to $65). You can see all of the low-season deals at this dedicated website, and we've also listed some of the best prices here: