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Fall in love with Northern Michigan: A local's guide to the perfect getaway

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This article is sponsored by Grand Traverse Resort & Spa.


There’s no better time to visit Traverse City than the fall. Restaurants are featuring the latest harvests, wineries are bringing in the season’s grapes and the trees are showing off their autumn splendor.

Here’s everything you need to plan the perfect three-day getaway, from leaf peeping to spa treatments and everything in between.

Day 1

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Start your trip by checking in to comfort and style. With Grand Traverse Resort and Spa as your home base, you can explore all Northern Michigan has to offer.

The golf courses are in beautiful condition and an array of shopping, dining and entertainment options are at your fingertips. You’ll never have to leave the property, but, of course, we think you should!

Once you’ve unpacked, point your compass toward downtown Traverse City for dinner and a stroll through the Front Street boutiques. There are too many amazing spots to pick just one, so do a progressive for happy hour, appetizers, dinner and dessert to sample your way through downtown. You’ll still have time to catch a late movie at the State Theatre and get back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

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Day 2

Day No. 2 begins with a beautiful drive out Leelanau Peninsula.

At the top of the list for a fall vacation is a visit to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, where you’ll get up close with fall color by cruising the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive or hiking the multiuse Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. From there, you’re only a hop, skip and a jump from Glen Arbor, home to the beloved Cherry Republic emporium of cherry inspired food, sweets and beverages.

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While you’re on Leelanau Peninsula, check out the Hunt for the Reds of October, a weekday event running through the month of October. For just $20, you’ll get a complimentary red wine pour at 25 participating wineries. If you’re traveling on the weekend, look for wineries offering fun events, such as the wine and cheese tastings at Shady Lane Cellars or brunch at Black Star Farms. Cheers! 🍷

On your way back to town, be sure to visit Jacob’s Corn Maze with the kids. This year’s maze celebrates the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with a Space Exploration theme. Best of all, kids under 4 can go maze crazy for free!

By now, you’re hungry, so head up to Aerie Restaurant & Lounge for dinner, located on the 16th floor of Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. There, you’ll find 360-degree views of Grand Traverse Bay and the surrounding forests. There’s no better place to catch a fall sunset!

Enjoy a harvest-themed menu alongside an award-winning wine list and a dessert program that donates to local charities each time you order a sweet treat.

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Looking for a little night life to round out the evening? Turtle Creek Casino is a free shuttle ride away and offers a Vegas-style casino floor complete with table games, the latest slots and an array of food and beverage outlets, including the all-new Onyx Sports Bar and the renowned Bourbons 72 steakhouse and bourbon bar.

Day 3

You’ve had a busy trip so far, and it’s time to treat yourself. Schedule a morning spa treatment at Spa Grand Traverse, where total relaxation awaits. Choose from a stress relief wrap, deep tissue massage, facial or dozens of other services, including couples treatments.

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Pro tip: If you’re seeking a spa-cation, the VIP Wine and Spa Weekends are not to be missed. Spa Grand Traverse partners with local wineries for the perfect getaway, complete with spa time, wine tasting and more.

Once you’re relaxed and ready to face the day, head out on Old Mission Peninsula for a second dose of the great outdoors. Mission Point Lighthouse, located at the very end of the peninsula, invites you to go back in time with a self-guided historical tour. You can also hike the beautiful trails around the lighthouse or take in the azure views from the beach.

Fuel up at Bad Dog Deli or Jolly Pumpkin, both local favorites, before a stop at Bowers Harbor Vineyards. Bowers Harbor appeals to white, red and cider lovers alike. It’s also a pet friendly establishment, so you’ll find the cutest pups out for a stroll among the vines.

Last but not least, stop by the Village at Grand Traverse Commons to complete your Traverse City experience. The former state asylum is one of the largest historical renovations in the country, and now houses exceptional restaurants and shops, as well as guided tours through the beautifully restored buildings.

With only a four-hour drive back home, you’ll have time to divvy up the souvenirs and start planning your next getaway. (Another pro tip: Come back for Traverse City Beer Week!)

Jillian Manning is the public relations manager at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. She loves exploring Northern Michigan, getting lost in a good book and catching a Traverse City sunset.