Livability.com ranked Traverse City, MI as it’s #1 Foodie City in the U.S. and it’s not hard to see why. While the farmland around my home state of Illinois only seems to have vast “Big Ag” corporate farms churning out tons of government-subsidized corn and soy, the farmland in the rolling hills of northwest Michigan contains a delightful mix of small family farms, fruit orchards, and vineyards—all producing a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and wines.
When I last visited in 2010, my brother took us to meet a ski buddy friend who happened to run his family’s cherry orchard on the Leelanau peninsula during the non-winter months. Cherries are the region’s biggest crop and Traverse City hosts a great Cherry Festival each June.
But on this visit, as a recently-converted vegan, I was most looking forward to the Saturday morning farmers’ market. The markets in suburban Chicago had been a huge disappointment for me this summer—more vendors selling candles, flowers, and dog treats, than actual farmers selling heirloom and organic fruits and vegetables!
The farmers market in Traverse City was overflowing with fresh and beautiful produce. Not quite as big as the massive Madison, WI market, but excellent quality offerings and lots of variety.
Traverse City has some wonderful “farm-to-table” restaurants and wineries, but I decided on this trip to eat my fresh produce and spend more time out and about.
The great summer music camp, Interlochen, was less than 10 miles from my campground, so I decided to attend a free faculty chamber music concert. The campus is located in a pine forest and they’ve tried to maintain as many trees as possible
Wish I could have recorded the concert, as each of the pieces were wonderful, but pretty rare 20th century chamber works. A delightful evening.
The next afternoon, Millie and I took a drive around the Leelanau peninsula exploring the small farms:
We ended up at one of Millie’s favorite dog swimming beaches at Glen Haven in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. She managed to pace herself and swim for a full hour, and was one very happy (and tired) dog!
In 2010, we stayed at the state park right in town. Convenient, but ridiculously tiny sites, overly-crowded, noisy, and smoky from all the campfires in such close proximity to each other. It was also rather expensive by the time we paid for daily vehicle entrance passes for both cars (on top of the nightly camp fee). So this time around, arriving for a warm summer weekend with no advance reservations, I now knew of a better place to go—the Northwestern Michigan Fairgrounds!
Only $20/night and just 5 other campers in the whole place! Fairground RV parks are a great alternative to kid-packed, overpriced commercial campgrounds (and state parks too!) during busy “high-season” weekends. Nice monthly rates (and 4G cell service) here too, so I may very well spend a month here in a summer to come—Traverse City has got everything a vegan tech worker and her dog could ever want!