Jaunts: 24 hours in Traverse City
When cherries are ripe and lake waters warm enough for a comfortable dip, there are few better ways to spend a mid-summer day than in a town nestled between two sand-lined bays, on a winery patio, amid the rows of a you-pick orchard or on a gentle float to the newest microbrew or a tapas-style lunch. Have only 24 hours or so to spend?
Noon: Savor your post-drive meal with chopsticks amid the clever “East meets Midwest” décor of old-style blonde brick mixed with Japanese anime-covered wallpaper at Gaijin, the newest offering of Simon Joseph, a local chef who has made a (successful) mission out of bringing a lively street food scene to Traverse City. Try the lemongrass chicken potstickers, bao buns stuffed with pork belly, hoisin and fried garlic, or the rich duck shoyu ramen bowl with homemade noodles.
2 p.m.: Your winding route to pick-your-own dessert fun leads to Santucci Farm (11789 Center Road), over the rolling hills of the Old Mission Peninsula, past photo-worthy hilltop bay views carved by glaciers, orchards and vineyard land intentionally preserved by local conservancies. Call this your Traverse City history tour: The Rev. Peter Dougherty, a missionary, is said to have been the area’s first cherry farmer when he planted a tree on this peninsula; today, Michigan produces 75 percent of tart cherries grown in the U.S. You’re picking for the fun — or a few smoothies — and a shady, peaceful counterpoint to the month’s National Cherry Festival fun downtown. But keep it easy: Pick up your pie at one of the many popular farm stands along the route.
4 p.m.: Your wine-tasting perch is high over the Chardonnay grapes at Old Mission’s Brys Estate’s bridge and patio over the vines — one of the most creative offerings in a slow tasting trend at regional tasting rooms. Sip an award-winning red crafted by South African winemaker Coenraad Stassen, paired with charcuterie and cheese, before strolling the new secret lavender garden. Progressive patio visits are in order, if only to take in the wide bay view from Bonobo Winery; there, TV carpenter and Traverse native Carter Oosterhouse designed the patio and tasting room to be a chic but comfortable space to linger — and you may end up doing so with Oosterhouse himself, his brother Todd or his actress wife Amy Smart.
7 p.m.: The food of a James Beard nominee, a date-night cozy feel and the unusual history as the one-time Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane combine for your memorable Trattoria Stella dinner setting in a castle-style building with turrets. The Village at Grand Traverse Commons is an urban re-use development with quite a story; the former asylum was designed under the philosophy “beauty is therapy” — and that’s now offered, tourism-style, via chef Miles Anton’s locally sourced Italian cuisines or village bakeries, wineries, boutiques and trails.
10 p.m.: Dusk lingers in Michigan’s north, so you’ll still catch the soft colors on the bay from your room at downtown’s new Hotel Indigo, where the décor combines city chic and lumber history via room mirrors crafted from circular saw blades.
9 a.m.: Keep breakfast leisurely and Parisian at Patisserie Amie, a local strolling distance favorite where the café au lait comes in a bowl, crepes are savory or sweet and the Crepes Georgette come filled with pineapple, caramel and chantilly cream. Eat up. You’ll work it off on your “Hull of a Ride.”
11 a.m.: Book the oddly named “Hull” tour at Paddle TC’s kiosk at downtown’s Clinch Park marina to see the region the natural way. Peddle a paved trail to Hull Park then swap your bike for a waiting kayak and paddle back on a portion of Boardman Lake before floating toward the bay on the gentle current of the Boardman River. Linger as budget allows (you’re renting by the hour) by pulling off at worthy stops like small-plate-focused Red Ginger at river’s edge or a microbrewery; there are so many within a short stroll of the river that they’re now marked as the riverside ale trail. End with a float in the bay, where for as long as you can, you’ll want to stay.
“Jaunt” is a new feature in The Ann dedicated to vacations and getaways within driving distance of Ann Arbor. You’re invited to share stories of special places you love to visit or wondrous adventures you’ve had. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 369-4239.