There are certain cities that immediately exude a cool or hip vibe the very moment you arrive. I call this the “it factor,” as in you just know it and feel it as soon as you get there. It may be the street vitality, the arts, the culture, the architecture, the topography, the diverse population, the eclectic mix of land uses, or a number of other factors or several of them in combination. These same cities routinely show up in lists of best places to live, coolest cities, hippest cities, etc.
Here in Michigan, Ann Arbor (locally nicknamed A2) has been long regarded as the preeminent “it factor” city within the state – the place every other city is striving to emulate in some manner. Others vying for this title include Royal Oak, Ferndale, Midtown Detroit, Birmingham, East Lansing, and more lately Grand Rapids or Marquette. However, to this planner, traveler, and hipster wannabe, the city that has leapt ahead of all other contenders to challenge A2, while acquiring its own very perceptible “it factor” is Traverse City or TC as many Michiganders refer to it.
Situated in arguably one of the most beautiful topographic settings in the entire United States, Traverse City is no longer just a summertime destination for playful weekenders heading Up North, but has become the epicenter for arts, culture, entertainment, dining, recreation, business, sports, health, transportation, and just plain fun for the northern half of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. One just need walk along Front Street in downtown or drive along Grandview Drive (aptly named) to know you are in an “it factor” city.
Coolness and hip vibe abound in the Traverse City region. So much so, that one can honestly pose whether A2 is now the TC of Southern Michigan? Some quick examples, include (not a comprehensive list):
- The National Cherry Festival which draws a half-million visitors each July
- Traverse City Film Festival – hugely successful annual event that draws 130,000 visitors in late July-early August
- A Winter Comedy Arts Festival each February
- Microbrew and Music Festival in August
- The Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) non-motorized trail network
- North American VASA Festival of Races – one of America’s premier cross-country skiing events along an awesome year-round trail system
- Several alpine skiing venues including Mt. Holiday, Crystal Mountain, The Homestead, and Hickory Hills
- The Little Fleet – eight yummy food trucks and trailers corralled on a parcel with a trendy bar/performance venue
- Bijou by the Bay and the State Theater – lovingly restored/renovated using funds from the TC Film Festival – a theater aside Grand Traverse Bay automatically gets bonus points.
- Boardman Lake and River – wonderful canoeing and kayaking waterway that passes right through the heart of the city
- Downtown, The Warehouse District, Grand Traverse Commons, and Old Town
- Old Mission Peninsula and the Leelanau Peninsula with their cherry orchards, vineyards, and wineries set amidst this scenic nirvana
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore located just to the west
- Interlochen Center for the Arts
- Charming small towns like Alden, Elk Rapids, Glen Arbor, Leland (Fishtown), Northport, and Sutton’s Bay
- Lakes by the boatload
- A plethora of wineries, cafes, and brewpubs
- Innumerable outdoor recreational opportunities throughout the year
Sure, TC does not have a major college sports program in its midst, but A2 does not have a coastline, lighthouses, breathtaking scenery, or a national park. Apparently others have noticed TC’s rise as well, given the positive press received – here’s a weblink to a listing of them.
If you are from Michigan, you probably know about many of TC’s attributes. If you live outside the state, consider a visit to the Traverse City area – it’s totally cool!