Before leaving on our trip, Mickey and I researched the area and were intrigued by the information that we found about Grand Traverse Commons. We just could not figure out what it was exactly. Well, no wonder. This is the most UNIQUE project I have ever seen.
A short drive from downtown Traverse City is a 63-acre site that used to be [starting in 1885] the Northern Michigan Assylum, a hospital dedicated to the mentally ill.
It was a self contained area with a farm, dairy, laundry, and hospital. This hospital is of century-old Victorian-Italianate architecture [when I first saw it, I thought that it looked similar to a huge university building].
This hospital complex closed in 1989. These castle-like buildings were abandoned and fell into disrepair. Since there was asbestos and lead in these buildings, the state decided to tear it all down. The beautiful 63 acres of forested grounds also suffered from inattention.
About seven years ago, a group of people made a deal with the state and bought the buildings/land for very little [a local told us that the buildings went for about $1.00 each!] as long as this group got rid of the asbestos and lead and renovated the are. They have been working on it since...it has been transformed into a mixed-use development. It is now known affectionately either as "The Commons" or "The Village". The Mercato is found on the lowest level of the hospital and has been tuned into restaurants and unique locally run shops and boutiques.
People can now walk this lovely grounds or run, ski or bird watch. It's a favorite place to shop for art, jewelry, gifts, etc. The Italian Restaurant called Stella is a great place to eat. One floor of the hospital building is used for businesses such as for lawyers, real estate, investment agents, etc. The two top floors are for residences [lofts and condominiums].
Several of the other buildings have been turned into such things as a bakery, coffee shop, wine tasting establishment, and Cheesecake shop. [see other tips]
DO NOT MISS seeing this unique and historic area. Talk to the locals about it...there are many unique and frightening stories about it.
The first thing that we did after finding our hotel and unpacking was to drive to downtown Traverse City to find The Traverse City Visitor Center Throughout this entire trip, we used Mickey's GPS to find locations [thank goodness]. Parking in the public parking lot nearby, we scurried off to the Visitor's Center to ask for some quarters because that was what we needed for the parking meters. As soon as the nice people at the center gave us change, I hurried back [only about 1 1/2 blocks] and fed the meter.
Since we visited Traverse City shortly before Memorial Day, we noted that the town was being "spruced up" for the summer season. I had a difficult time taking a photo of the center because a work crew was right in front of the building.
At the center, I note public restrooms and a public telephone [rare these days]. And that is when I saw the sign for FREE SHORT TERM PARKING ONSITE with that additional municipal parking nearby. This is a new building and very well maintained. It has over 400 brochures about shopping, dining, attractions, lodging, golf, galleries, and area businesses.
Here, you are able to purchase souvenirs of northern Michigan. The people who work here are more than willing to assist with any questions that you might have such as reservations, local events, and places to eat.
[Memorial Day through mid-October]
Monday-Saturday: 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Sunday: 11:oo a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Monday-Saturday: 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Closed on Sunday
Be sure to visit this beautiful Traverse City Visitor Center as soon as you arrive.
BE SURE TO SEE ALL THREE PHOTOGRAPHS
In this tip, I plan to give a small overview of some of the businesses that have sprung up in the surrounding buildings on the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. These are three that Mickey and I found quite interesting.
1. Pleasanton Bakery: This small bakery is located at 812 Cotton View Drive; (231) 941-1964
This was the mental asylum's former fire station; it is now the location of a unique bakery. The owners, Gerard Grabowsk and Jan Shireman use a wood-fired brick oven to bake hand-shaped loaves of bread made with organic Michigan grains and natural leavening agents. Now, this oven is enormous and uses large amounts of wood. Besides breads, they also make cookies in this oven. [Mickey bought a cookie, and we shared it]. The textured breads include Parmesan Olive Herb, Cranberry Pecan, Sesame Whole Wheat, and Village Rye. Yum. We would have bought some but we had no way to keep it.
2. Underground Cheese Company: This small cheesecake company is located at 1333 Yellow Drive, Traverse City, Michigan. (231) 929-4418
This cheesecake emporium occupies two brick buildings at the Grand Traverse Commons [ one is for baking and another is for sales; this one pictures is for sales]. They produce 42 different plavors of cheesecake, nine cake varieties, five kinds of brownies, and their famed "cheesecake on a stick". Salads, sandwiches and drinks are also served.
Be sure to see tip under restaurants, too
3. Left Foot Charley [Urban Winery] is located at 806 Red Drive, Traverse City. (231) 995-0500.
This building is located in the former laundry and is shared with Higher Grounds..see tip under restaurants. The owner/winemaker is Bryan Ulbrich purchases the grapes for his winery from growers on nearby Old Mission Peninsula. The wines are made here in "the old laundry building". There is a tasting room for sampling Rieslings, Pinot Grigios, and other whites.
I hope that from these descriptions, you are better able to understand the unique nature of this "Commons" renovation. We certainly enjoyed the half day that we spent exploring the grounds, buildings, and shops.
One of the beautiful buildings in Traverse City that I wanted to see was the City Opera House. This Victorian structure was built in 1891 by 3 brothers-in-law. The Opera House has 1200 seats and was designed by E.R. Prall of Pontiac, Michigan. Interestingly, the opera house was the first facility in Traverse City to use electric lights. The plaque outside the building says that the facility has a "43-foot ceiling, hardwood maple floors, and excellent acoustics."
It was originally used as a meeting hall and an auditorium. Traveling plays, vaudeville shows, high school graduation ceremonies before it closed in 1920. Now, it has been restored to its former splendor. Community meetings and dances as well as a full schedule of performance events are scheduled each year.
I almost bypassed it because as I walked down the sidewalk, I could not see the grandeur of this two story building. To see its beauty, I needed to cross the street in order to obtain the total view. Tours of the inside were not available when we visited.
Located on the shores of West Grand Traverse Bay, Clinch Park is a great park for walking and running, going to the beach, or using the Marina. The exceptional location, right in the city, makes for a lovely spot for urban dwellers as well as tourist.
At one time, there was the Clinch Park Zoo that was operated by the City of Traverse City and the Grand Traverse Zoological Society. It was 3.5 acres that exhibited the wildlife of northern Michigan. Evidently, the small train is STILL there.
We found this lovely park to be a picturesque setting in the heart of the city. In the summer, it is the area's most populated beach and has over 1500 feet of sand along West Grand Traverse Bay. There are picnic tables, lifeguards from mid-June through August. It is located east of Union Street on Grandview Parkway.
1. As we were walking within Clinch Park, we saw this lovely spot with flowers and a beautiful bronze statue of a father helping his son learn to ride a bike.
2. As we walked further along, we found this rocky area overlooking the West Grand Traverse Bay.
3. As we walked on the pier, I stopped to take a photograph, and, as you can see, with the sun position, Micky and my shadows are evident.
4. The canopy advertises Clinch Park, the Marina, Restrooms, and the beach.
We were amazed at how many locals use these facilities. Each day, we saw people on bikes; people running; people walking; and people sitting admiring the view of West Grand Traverse Bay.
Perhaps THE culinary events of the year in Traverse City is the annual "Epicurean Classic", held annually in mid-September. The 2007 event, which is held as a benefit for the Great Lakes Culinary Institute in Traverse City, will be held between Sept 13-15, and it's a perfect time to enjoy the good life and spirit of this classy town. The Classic bills itself as "A Celebration of Food and Wine Artisanship". My good friend Matt Sutherland is one of the co-founders/producers of this event, and trust me... Matt is all about first class culinary adventures and creations. Among the scheduled guest chefs at this years festival are Padma Lakshmi, Julie Rosso, Michael Tucker, Roberto Santibenez and Laura Werlin. Additionally, wine experts Evan Goldstein, Bob Paulinski and Madeline Triffon are schedule to participate. These folks will be featured in a variety of cooking demos, wine tastings and book signing events.
Another great attraction of interest during the festival are a plethora of culinary and gourmet classes taught by a wide variety of famous chefs and kitchen artists. They are generally held at the Great Lakes Culinary Institute. There will be classes associated with cooking, wine, beer & spirits, cheeses, and even cigars!
One of the more popular areas during the Classic is the "tasting pavilion", something that probably needs little elaboration. Here's your chance to really taste the good life of northern Michigan. :)
They also have a silent auction, with items up for bid consisting of dozens of wine lots featuring hard-to-find, prestigious, funky, and just plain great drinking vintages from around the world, as well as food/wine-related accessories for your home.
For more information, please visit the Classic website, www.epicureanclassic.com, or contact the EC brass at the numbers/website below. And if you can get by for the Classic, please find Matt Sutherland and tell him Pete from Tallahassee sent you. Ask him to say hello to Seth, too. (an inside joke, but he'll think it's funny)
The Hesler Log Home was built between 1854 and 1856 on the Southern part of the Old Mission Peninsula by Mary and Joseph Hessler who were one of the Earliest settlers of that area. They cut huge logs from the local pine trees and hand hew the logs and stacked them one on top of the other to form the walls. The wooden planks used to built the outside walls were joined with modified dove-tailed joints, which held the corners snugly together without any nails or fasteners! The Hesler Log House typifies the first shelters built by early ioneers. Faced with acres of forest, these brave pioneers cleared their land, built a house with the timber, and planted crops. The Heslers sold their house in 1866. During the following 1235 years, it served as a private residence, housing for migrand workers, a school, and quarters for a bull! When the house was threatened with demolition in 1992, the local citizens rallied. The cabin was eventually moved to its current location, repaired and furnished during 1992-1997.
Visitors can view the interior of the cabin and it's period furnishings through a glass partition while listening to a prerecorded explanation of the history of this unique cabin and Historical Monument.
I love a drive through Leelanau County.
Any season is wonderful - Fall colors are amazing and tourists come in droves to experience the area with it's charm and wonder. The many farm markets are full of apples, pumpkins, mums and cidars, petting zoos and maizes to get lost in.
Winter snows line the orchards and two-track seasonal roads with x-country tracks are visible from use by hardy visitors. Considered one of the most beautiful times of year here, it is quiet and peaceful.
Seeing the blooms on the trees just before they pop out as full leaves in the spring is heady stuff indeed. There is the hazy green that lets you look deep into the woods yet promises warmth and summer. You swear that you can see the blooms come. Cherry Orchards generally bloom the 1st or 2nd week in May.
Ah, summer in the North. Poets, musicians and artists have all tried to express the beauty that is Leelanau. Come experience it for yourself.
The North-Western coastline of Michigan has a great number of excellent wineries, growing in populariety and quality. The combination of the landscape and climate, enhanced by the proximity of Lake Michigan, makes for a perfect climate to grow and cultivate grapes for the making of wine. Winery tours, wine tasting and much more awaits the traveler to one of Michigan's best tourist and holiday area. Visit these wineries for wines of superior taste and pleasure: Bel Lago Vineyards & Winery, Black Star Farms, Boskydel Vineyard
Bowers Harbor Vineyards, Brys Estate Winery, Chateau Chantal, Chateau De Leelanau, Chateau Fontaine, Chateau Grand Traverse, Ciccone Vineyard & Winery, Circa Estate Winery, Gill's Pier Vineyard & Winery, Good Harbor Vineyards, Forty-Five North Winery, L. Mawby Vineyards, Leelanau Wine Cellars Ltd., Left Foot Charley, Longview winery, Peninsula Cellars, Raftshol Vineyards, Shady Lane Cellars, Silver Leaf Winery, Two Lads Winery, Willow Vineyard
Our visit to Chateau Chantal Winery was pleasant and 'fruitful.' This beautiful winery sits atop a well-groomed hill top on the Mission Peninsula on the outskirts of Traverse city, on the coastline of Lake Michigan. It has old-world charm and the wines produced are some of the best Michgan wineries have to offer.
'Chateau Chantal was established i n1983 when cherry orchards were replaced with grafted vinifera grape vines; the same type of wine grape grown along other parts of the 45th parallel in the Bordeaux region of France. The vineyards of Chateau Chantal are planted with Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Gewurtraminer, Merlot and Pinot Meunier. Wine grapes thrive in the unique micro-climate characteristic of the Northern Lake Michigan coastline.
Get up early on Saturday mornings and bike down to the Downtown Farmer's Market, right across from the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay. There you will find enough local foods and flowers that have flavor and beauty to last the entire week.
We like to eat breakfast at El Dorado first (see Places to Eat) and wander to the nearby market. A typical morning would include purchasing potting plants and flowers, seasonal fruits and vegetables, homemade salsa, cheeses, soup mix, and honey. mmmm Good!
Each Saturday from May through late October (and Wednesdays in the summer) hundreds of people bring their baskets and bags to fill with goodies. Come early. The 8:00 am start time is suggested only but the noon close is more apt to hold true because the vendors sell out of their fine products. Downtown Traverse City enjoys fresh and our market provides it.
The Four Seasons are well represented in Traverse City and the Grand Traverse Region. I appreciate the founding fathers' efforts to bring the country to the city when they had the forsite to plant blooming trees along Front and Union Streets and the current leaders who understand the importance of a lakeside trail.
There are approximately 18 wineries in the area, many of which have dedicated wine tasting facilities. One can easily spend an afternoon or longer doing tastings along with the picturesque drive from one winery to the next.
The oldest permanent town in the Grand Traverse area began in 1839, when the Rev. Peter Dougherty established a mission to the local Odawa Indians near the tip of what is now known as the Old Mission Peninsula. Many of its nineteenth-century buildings are still standing, including a church and general store that are still in use. A replica of Dougherty’s original log schoolhouse contains a small museum explaining the community’s history. Depicted is small beach near Old Mission.
If you are in Northern Michigan, I highly recommend the Cherry Bowl Drive-in Theatre. It's like stepping back into the friendly, uncomplicated 50's. All of the movies are PG-13 or under making the nightly double features family friendly. The food is homemade and features broasted chicken and "Crazy Harry's" BBQ Ribs (Named after owner Harry Clark). They have a 50's style mini-golf, playground for the kids and lots of hula hoop contests and giveaways. They are celebrating their 55th anniversary this year. Definitely worth a visit.
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