Often, when I describe the natural beauty of Traverse City to non-Michiganders, their first response is, “Wait, that’s in Michigan?” Shimmering turquoise waters, imposing windswept dunes, and over 100 miles of sandy Lake Michigan shoreline are just a tiny taste of everything to enjoy! You still have countless wineries producing sweet Riesling and peppery reds (including vegan wines), charming independent boutiques featuring Michigan artisans, farm-to-table restaurants, and so much more.
But what about if you’re a vegan?
I mean, I love a good hike with scenic views as much as the next girl, but if my post-hike meal is only going to be a Beyond burger (no offense, Beyond, I do love you!), then we’ve got a problem.
Thankfully, that’s not the case in Traverse City!
This chic little beach town has everything to appeal to its vegan visitors — jaw-dropping Mexican-inspired feasts, superfood-packed bowls, and even upscale dining — I promise you won’t go hungry after that hike.
Now, if you only have two days in Traverse City, you might wonder, where in the world do I start? Don’t worry; I’ve got your back with this perfect two-day vegan itinerary to Traverse City. It has everything you need — heart-pumping activity, vegan-friendly wineries, and of course, some of the best vegan food Traverse City has to offer.
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Two-Day Vegan Itinerary to Traverse City
This two-day Traverse City itinerary has absolutely everything you need and then some. I’d be willing to bet that if this is your first visit, it won’t be your last! Oh and, don’t miss these lovely hotels and resorts on the water in Traverse City.
Day One Itinerary
Rise & Shine to Enjoy the Beauty of Lake Michigan
Don’t turn that alarm off and roll back over — you’ve got to get moving this morning; otherwise, you’ll have severe Lake Michigan FOMO (fear of missing out for anyone that’s not up on the lingo). We’re kicking off this gorgeous day with a “choose-your-own-adventure” hike, but first, you’ll need a little fuel.
Head downtown to Zest Plant-Based Kitchen to carb up with a delicious fruity acai bowl or some scrumptious vegan and gluten-free toast — Basic Avo, PB & Berry, or Blueberry Almond, just to name a few. Whether you’re craving something savory or sweet, Zest has something you’ll love! Oh, and by the way, everything here is 100% vegan and gluten-free!
Now that you’re carb’d up and ready to go, you’ve got to decide just how much heart-pumping activity you want to sign up for this morning. If you’re thinking, you know what, I am going to sit this one out, don’t (remember Lake Michigan FOMO is real)! I promise I’m not sending you on some epic two-day hike!
This first option is the 2.8-mile Sleeping Bear Point Trail which loops through the rolling dunes and leads to a secluded beach on Lake Michigan. Fair warning, this trail is strenuous; those dunes aren’t playing around! If you don’t want to do all 2.8-miles, a shorter and easier Dune Trail leads right out to that beautiful beach, and it’s only about a .5 mile from the trailhead.
The second option is the 2.7-mile Pyramid Point Trail which loops through a hilly meadow and maple and pine forest with a .6-mile trail that leads to a sandy bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. The views from the overlook are mesmerizing — on a bright, sunny day, Lake Michigan sparkles. You may see a trail of footprints that lead down the dune; I don’t advise doing that. Going down the dune isn’t so bad, but coming back up could take you over 2 hours — it’s no small feat!
After all that hiking, your stomach is probably rumbling; I’ve got the perfect place for you to refuel!
Good Bowls & Michigan-Made Souvenirs
Your lunchtime stop is at the fast-casual Vietnamese eatery, The Good Bowl, in the heart of downtown Traverse City. Not only are they dishing out fragrant bowls of piping hot noodles with turmeric tofu, but for every bowl purchase, they’ll donate $1 to a charity of your choice (from a selection of three that rotate monthly) — now, that’s genuinely a good bowl, right!? Aside from Pho, they also offer a few other dishes that can be made vegan and gluten-free.
After lunch, it’s time to get your credit card out and support the endless selection of independent boutiques that line the city.
The first shopping spot is downtown Traverse City. Pop into West Bay Handmade (next door to The Good Bowl) for Michigan-made art, candles, and even vegan chocolate! For a stylish dress or skirt, check out the ethical handmade apparel from Yana Dee (most fabrics are vegan-friendly, just check the tag). If you haven’t had a chance to try any of the area’s famed cherries or cherry products, be sure to stop into The Cherry Republic — some of the products like cherry salsa, jam, and soda are vegan!
Next, I have a special stop for you if you’re a tea lover. Hop in the car and head 15 minutes west to North America’s only certified USDA organic and Demeter-certified biodynamic tea farm, Light of Day. The award-winning teas are all grown with the utmost care for the environment and picked by hand — it takes approximately 70,000 tea leaves to produce one lb. of white tea! You can grab a tin of tea (my favorite is Michigan cherry mint) to take home and/or learn about their tea classes.
The last shopping spot will take you back into town to a fantastic example of adaptive reuse — The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. You’ll notice this isn’t your traditional shopping complex; this campus of historic buildings was previously a hospital and mental asylum but is now home to many unique shops and restaurants. Inside you’ll find locally grown lavender, zero-waste home goods, and handmade jewelry — I even found a cool vegan cork wallet at The Sanctuary!
Vegan Dinner with a View
There is no better way to end your day than with stunning waterfront sunset views at the upscale Artisan Restaurant inside the new Delamar hotel. The restaurant has prioritized highlighting the local community as much as possible, from sweet Traverse City-grown peaches in a fresh salad to the handmade blankets they offer guests when it gets a little chilly on the patio.
The vegan-friendly menu is well marked (hooray) and features multiple vegan dishes and a few items that can easily be made vegan. The staff is knowledgeable and will ensure that no matter what you choose, you’ll enjoy it!
Day Two of the Traverse City Vegan Itinerary
The Bay is Calling!
Depending on how you’re feeling this morning will decide your breakfast plans. If you’re in the mood for something a little sinful and sweet, then head to Traverse City’s only gluten-free bakery, Third Coast! Almost all their baked goods are vegan, and they post all the ingredients, so you don’t have to play the dreaded “Is there egg or milk in that” guessing game.
If you’re feeling more savory, head to the hip Hexenbelle inside the Warehouse Mrkt. The Middle Eastern-inspired vegetarian menu at Hexenbelle is unique and features dishes inspired by the owner’s Palestinian heritage. Start the day with a traditional Fūl Mudammas (smashed fava beans with tahini and fresh herbs) along with a house-made vegan donut and oat milk latte. They also make energy bites (bars made with dates, oats, sesame, quinoa, pepitas, walnuts, and cocoa) — you might want to grab a couple of these to fuel your morning activity!
I know the shimmering blue water has been calling your name, and it wouldn’t be right for you to leave Traverse City without getting up close and personal! The best way to do that (without getting too wet) is on a kayak adventure!
Floating along Grand Traverse Bay and Boardman River will give you a unique perspective of the city. There are multiple kayak options. You can rent one hourly, book a longer guided tour, or even check out a KaBrew tour (you visit various breweries while biking on the city’s TART trails and kayaking in Boardman Lake, River, and Grand Traverse Bay).
From a Northern Michigan Field to Your Table
After cruising around on the water, I’m sure you’re ready to eat, and one of the best places to experience flavorful Michigan produce is Taproot Cider House. Their “Earth to table” menu supports local farmers and businesses, from beans harvested in Omena to local tart apples used to make their extensive cider lineup.
Their vegan-friendly offerings range from ooey gooey grilled cheese (which can also be made gluten-free) to bowls loaded with local veggies, grilled tofu, and their vampire-stopping garlic sauce (Toum); you can’t go wrong. On top of great food options, almost all of their ciders are vegan, and they mark which wines are vegan, which is an excellent segue into our afternoon activity!
Vegan-Friendly Traverse City Wine Tour
Wine is one of those things that many people think is just naturally vegan; I mean, it’s just grapes, right? Wrong! During the clarification process, animal products like eggs, gelatin, and even fish bladder are used, but thankfully there are wineries throughout Traverse City that have kicked the animal products to the curb in favor of vegan-friendly options!
For a scenic vegan-wine tour experience, head down M-37 to Mission Peninsula.
The first stop on our wine tour will be Mari Vineyards — it looks like an Italian villa perched on a hill overlooking East and West Grand Traverse Bay. Mari produces European-style wines (which means not as sweet) and is well known for their reds. I’m not a huge red fan, so if your palate is similar, don’t skip over their Troglodyte Bianco — an herbal white wine with hints of peach. They also have vegan and gluten-free crackers to help balance the flavors in between sips!
Halfway up Mission Peninsula and hidden amongst countless rows of grapevines is our next lovely spot, Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery. The wines here are more American-style, focusing on fun and fruit-forward whites — perfect for the summer! For the perfect summer sipper, check out their Brys Bubbly — light and fruity with hints of strawberry and cherry.
During the summer, Brys also opens its secret garden, which is 12 acres of fragrant lavender and gardens, along with a gift shop with soaps, bath products, and more (all of the products are cruelty-free, and most are vegan).
The last stop on our wine tour is the perfect spot to enjoy a variety of wines featuring the sweet Traverse City cherries, Chateau Chantal. This French chateau is known for various fruity blends, but if you love something on the sweeter side, don’t skip past the Bubbly Cherry or Cerise Cherry Port!
Before heading back downtown, let’s make one more stop for a gorgeous souvenir at Old Mission Flowers. This charming u-pick flower farm features multiple gardens with a kaleidoscope of blooms beginning in the late spring through Labor Day. The farm provides a variety of vases at different price points for you to fill to your heart’s content!
Flavorful Vegan Dinner Finale
Some may say that I saved the best for last — you can be the judge!
Just across from the East Bay, inside Stone Hound Brewing, is the vegan pop-up, Rad.ish. Their Mexican-inspired menu is irresistible — crispy fried taquitos topped with tangy pickled onions, a veganized spin on the Taco Bell Crunch Wrap, or addictive Mexican street fries loaded with multiple types of melty cheese, house-made salsa, and guacamole.
You’re honestly going to have a hard time deciding, so I say go out with a bang and order multiple epic dishes! If you want to wash it all down with a cerveza, belly up to the bar at Stone Hound for a variety of options, including Michigan-made beer, cider, and kombucha.
This article was created in partnership with Traverse City Tourism.
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