Traverse City is the self-proclaimed Cherry Capital of the World, holding an annual week-long Cherry Festival the first full week in July to celebrate. Besides cherries, the surrounding Tuscany-like countryside produces grapes, and is one of the centers of wine production in the Midwest. Tourism, both summer and winter, is another key industry. Freshwater beaches, a mild summer climate, upscale golf resorts, vineyards, a nearby National Lakeshore, prodigious snowfall, nearby ski resorts and thousands of square miles of surrounding forests make Traverse City (based on AAA's 2005 TripTik requests) the second most popular tourist destination in the state behind Mackinaw City. In addition, the historic downtown area of Traverse City is the home of many shops, restaurants, and offices. Traverse City is a home rule charter city under the Home Rule Cities Act, incorporated on May 18 1895. The city is governed by six commissioners and a mayor, elected at-large. Together they comprise a seven-member legislative body. An appointed city manager serves as chief executive for city operations.
In 1847, Captain Boardman of Naperville, Illinois, purchased the land at the mouth of the Boardman River at the head of the west arm of the bay. During that year the captain, his son, and their employees built a dwelling and sawmill near the mouth of the river. In 1851 the Boardmans sold the sawmill to Hannah, Lay & Co (Perry Hannah, Albert Tracy Lay and James Morgan), who improved the mill greatly. The increased investment in the mill attracted additional settlers to the new community.
As of 1853, the only operating post office in the Grand Traverse Bay region was the one located at Old Mission, which was then known as "Grand Traverse." While in Washington, D.C. in 1852, Mr. Lay had succeeded in getting the U.S. Post Office to authorize a new post office at his newer settlement. As the newer settlement had become known as "Grand Traverse City," Lay proposed this name for its post office, but the USPS clerk suggested dropping the "Grand," in the name, as to limit confusion between this new office and the one at nearby Old Mission. Mr. Lay agreed to the name "Traverse City" for the post office, and the village took on this name.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.7 square miles (22.5 km²), of which, 8.4 square miles (21.8 km²) of it is land and 0.3 square miles (0.8 km²) of it (3.45%) is water.
It is considered to be part of Northern Michigan.
There were 6,443 households out of which 24.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.7% were married couples living together, 11.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 45.9% were non-families. 35.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.15 and the average family size was 2.82.
In the city the population was spread out with 20.3% under the age of 18, 10.8% from 18 to 24, 29.6% from 25 to 44, 24.1% from 45 to 64, and 15.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 90.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,330, and the median income for a family was $46,912. Males had a median income of $31,587 versus $22,512 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,247. About 4.8% of families and 8.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.2% of those under age 18 and 7.9% of those age 65 or over.
Daily editions of the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, and Grand Rapids Press also are available on news stands throughout the region (Northern Express Weekly) is the largest weekly newspaper in Northern Michigan, with distribution of up to 30,000 copies in 13 counties. It is owned and published by George Foster and Robert Downes.
The full color, glossy NM3: Northern Michigan Men's Magazine has content for both men and women and is distributed free throughout the region to its 25,000 readers monthly.
The Traverse City Business News, a monthly newspaper and news email service, serves 21,000 readers throughout the Grand Traverse region.
There is also an independent student bi-weekly newspaper called the White Pine Press at Northwestern Michigan College, with a circulation of 4,000.
At least seven magazines are published in Traverse City, including Thirdeye Magazine, a bi-monthly periodical focusing on social and political issues as well as art, and Traverse, published monthly with a focus on regional interests. Village Press Inc. is based in Traverse City. It publishes the Home Shop Machinist, Live Steam and Outdoor Railroading, Machinists' Workshop, Just Labs, Pointing Dog Journal, Retriever Journal and Twin and Turbine Magazines.
Traverse City has two television stations licensed directly to the city:
Additionally, WGTU operates a station carried on Northern Michigan cable television systems, but not transmitted over the air:
Stations licensed to nearby Cadillac are considered local to Traverse City:
Northwestern Michigan College also boasts a volunteer community radio station, WNMC-FM 90.7. The station plays mostly jazz and blues during the day, switching to rock and electronic genres at night. The station manager is Eric Hines. Also on WNMC is the community radio program Radio Anyway, where individuals can produce their own stories and features.
Traverse City is also a popular destination for boating, sailing, kayaking, wine tasting, and tourists wishing to see autumn colors in bus-driven "color tours." Numerous golf and ski resorts nearby bring in large numbers of tourists. Among these are Mt. Holiday and Hickory Hills. Mt. Holiday has two chair lifts, while Hickory hosts only tow ropes.
The locale and topography is conducive for bicycling. A map with routes, different trips, advice and local knowledge is available..
The Old Mission Peninsula is a great place to sea kayak. One gets close to shore, lighthouse, picnic grounds and parks. The bay offers a shelter from the prevailing westerly winds and from the Lake Michigan waves. Maps, rentals and guided tours are available.
The small Traverse City State Park, with about 250 campsites, is located some three miles (4.8 km) east of downtown on 47 acres (19 hectares) including a quarter mile beach on the East Bay arm of Grand Traverse Bay.
The Leelanau Peninsula north of Traverse City contains many attractions and areas of interest, including the Leelanau Sands Casino in Peshawbestown, Fountain Point and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
The inaugural Traverse City Film Festival was held July 27–31, 2005, in venues around downtown Traverse City, including a theater renovated by film festival volunteers. First-run feature and documentaries were screened, panel discussions were planned and free family movies at the Open Space were scheduled. A driving force of the Traverse City Film Festival is Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore. The following two years have seen a significant increase in the popularity of the film festival.
Interlochen, a small town about 19 miles from Traverse City, is the home to the world-famous Interlochen Arts Academe, which many celeberties have attended. The town is mainly forest, with a few lakes. A variety of activites such as color-tours, White-Tail deer hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, biking, boating, scenic drives, sunsets, bird-watching, swimming, diving, snorkeling and others are possible.
The Interlochen Arts Festival, held at various venues at the campus of the Interlochen Center for the Arts, features concerts, plays, art exhibits, readings, and dance productions by students and guest artists. The Arts festival has both a summer and winter series.
The Traverse City Film Festival, founded by Michael Moore, takes place every summer. The five day event showcases notable rare independent films and documentaries, as well as discussion boards with directors, actors and others involved with the film industry. In 2007, the film festival acquired the historic State Theater, which it fully restored, re-opening on November 17, 2007 for year round screenings.
The beginning of fall brings about the Festival of the Senses, a city-wide festival with events designed to stimulate all five of the senses. The festival features art exhibitions, music and theater. A centerpiece of the festival is the Epicurean Classic, an event which includes classes, wine and cheese tasting, dinner and the opportunity to mingle with some of America’s most influential chefs, wine experts and cookbook authors.
The City Opera House, located in downtown Traverse City features plays, movies, and other performances.
The Dennos Museum Center, located on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College, is home to a collection of Inuit art including sculpture, drawing and prints. The center is also home to a children’s museum, as well as various ongoing exhibitions in their large exhibition space.
Two major arts groups are active in Traverse City. The Traverse City Art Center offers art classes, a small exhibition space, and year-round member art shows. The Traverse City Art Works Alliance is a member-based arts group, founded by local artist Charly Hansen in 2005. The goal of the Art Works Alliance is to organize events and shows which feature the talents of the region’s artists.
Traverse City is also home to many notable and eclectic galleries. Gallery Fifty, located in the recently restored Building 50 of the former Traverse City State Hospital, highlights the work of many new and emerging artists from across North America. The Insideout Gallery, located in Traverse City’s warehouse district, focuses on Midwest urban, underground and Lowbrow art, as well as having an excellent venue for film and musical performances. Located in downtown Traverse City, the Belstone Gallery showcases more contemporary art work, including glass and metal work, fine art, pottery, and more.
| ||US-31 runs for in a northerly direction from the Indiana-Michigan state line southwest of Niles to its terminus at I-75 south of Mackinaw City. From Traverse City, it runs west across the base of the Leelanau peninsula to Benzonia before continuing south to Muskegon and other points on the Lake Michigan shore. Northwards, it continues along the east shore of Grand Traverse Bay to Charlevoix and Petoskey, ending just before reaching Mackinaw City and the Mackinac Bridge.|
| ||M-22 follows the Lake Michigan shoreline around the Leelanau Peninsula, providing a scenic drive.|
| ||M-37 runs almost due south through the Manistee National Forest to Grand Rapids. It continues north up Old Mission Peninsula to end at Old Mission Point in the middle of Grand Traverse Bay.|
| ||M-72 passes east-west through the city and is one of three true highways that crosses the lower peninsula from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. M-72 connects with Empire and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore west and with US-131, east in Kalkaska.|
Regular intercity passenger train service ended on October 29, 1966, after the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O) discontinued Grand Rapids - Traverse City - Bay View service. Since then, excursion passengers trains have operated in and out of Traverse City on an irregular basis. Recently, Lake Central Rail Tours has operated a summer excursion during the Cherry Festival. On May 11, 1996, the Grand Traverse Dinner Train began year round service from the Traverse City depot to Williamsburg and to Walton Junction. Unfortunately, dinner train service was suspended in 2004 after a derailment and the company entered into a bitter contract dispute with the Tuscola and Saginaw Bay Railway. The train itself was removed to Owosso in mid-July 2006.
It also is, or has been, the residence of: