By Jim Hall
Winters in the Midwest are not for the weak. Having survived the winter allows you to fully appreciate the blessing that is a Michigan summer.
But, that doesn’t mean enjoyment can’t be found in our winters. With the negativity seemingly engulfing everything right now, it’s necessary to find ways to clear the clutter in our brains. Finding “awe” in life is a documented way to harness your inner voice and a staycation to discover that awe is just what this retired doctor ordered.
When vacationing, we often explore areas far from home, but have found some of the greatest gems within easy reach of our house. When time, cost, or a pandemic makes long-distance travel challenging, exploring one’s backyard becomes an adventure you didn’t know was accessible.
Thus began this chapter of a Midwest Staycation in Traverse City, Michigan. Although it’s hard to compete with summers in Traverse City, being able to support businesses, restaurants, hotels, and more in their off-season, allows you to receive more individualized care and connections (not to mention finding some great deals on outstanding hotels and outings).
We began our two-day winter escape to Traverse City, staying at the Delamar Hotel in downtown. Although it was early December, we managed to find snow, providing a beautiful backdrop for our drive. As retirees, we were able to stay mid-week, which is a great option (if you can make the timing work on vacation or working remotely) for finding exceptional rates at phenomenal hotels.
The Delamar Hotel is a 173 room hotel on Lake Michigan waterfront. Originally built in 1968, the building used to be West Bay Beach (a Holiday Inn Resort). After undergoing a full renovation, by luxury boutique hotel group, Greenwich Hospitality Group, the significantly updated hotel now welcomes guests year round and now even offers an electric vehicle charging station.
We received a warm greeting at the hotel by Brandon, the general manager. Brandon led us on a tour pointing out many of the hotel’s features, all of which exude an inviting and relaxing atmosphere.
Most notably, the entire back of the hotel is glass, allowing those awe inspiring views of the lake at every turn. The hotel features art with subtle respect, including a modern chair in the lobby that, upon closer inspection, was made entirely of quarters (created by American artist, Johnny Swing).
Throughout the hotel grounds, there are multiple sitting areas with stunning views of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay. Several outside terrace areas include numerous fire pits and a bocce ball game court.
The Delamar’s outside heated pool is open year-round and even features private outdoor igloos in the winter to warm yourself while eating and drinking from Artisan’s to go menu. They also have an inside pool which is accompanied by a large hot spa and sauna with the exercise room overlooking that pool space.
Once we settled in, it was time to begin our favorite pastime….eating.
The first night, we chose to dine at the hotel’s restaurant, Artisan, as it came highly recommended. Artisan’s dining options reflect the rhythm of the seasons with local seafood, farm fresh fare (from an on-site garden and local farms), and homemade pastries. The wagyu hanger steak, quail appetizer, salmon, and whitefish chowder left us amazed. And, their deliciously crafted Manhattan helped my personal relaxation setting turn on.
We had asked the hotel’s concierge for recommendations in the area for this time of year. Beyond the expected recommendations of skiing/snowboarding nearby (~1hr away) at Boyne Mountain or Crystal Mountain, we were excited to see the expansive list of winter activities available.
Some notable outdoor winter activities in Traverse City that appealed to us were snowshoeing and the craft drink tours available. However, if we had our grandkids with us, we would have gone to Sleeping Bear Dunes to sled down those hills (it had never occurred to us to visit there in the winter)!
The hotel offers a shuttle service for hotel guests within a five mile radius of the hotel, and it can also be used for airport transfers, so this made our travel easy.
In the end, we opted for some shopping in downtown Traverse City (I needed an M22 hat), poking in and out of the quaint boutiques, often talking with the owners who were running the shops this time of year.
Next, we opted to try the local craft drinks in downtown Traverse City that offered heated outdoor setups and food. Starting with some light appetizers at Taproot Cider House then walking ten minutes to Mammoth Distillery stopping to shop along the way. We then headed another five minutes to Right Brain Brewery and Traverse City Whiskey Co. Nothing warms the winter cold like whiskey…and it did the job!
Next up, dinner! Per the concierge’s recommendation, we ate dinner at The Flying Noodle. Calling itself an Italian Pasta House, it truly delivered. Our food was fresh and creative, but the surprise winner was our beet salad. Topped with blue cheese, cashews, and a vinaigrette, the simple flavors worked together to create a decadent salad.
The next morning, the day of our departure, we packed our bags to head home while staring at lakefront views, then we headed to The Village at Grand Traverse City Commons for breakfast at Sugar2Salt and some shopping.
We had been told to check out this asylum converted into shopping and eateries, and we had to see it for ourselves. If you haven’t been yet, it’s a beautiful, creative use of space with truly magnificent restaurants and shops to explore. We were hoping to eat at Trattoria Stella, however, it was closed for lunch, so we plan to go there on our next trip Up North.
Hopping into our car to return home, we felt relaxed and thankful that food, views, drinks, shopping, and outings are available for our exploration so close to home. We are hoping to return soon to explore the long list of things we missed. But for now, onto our next awe-inspiring adventure.
Please note, when planning your trip, with covid restrictions and off-season travel, one should always check for updated hours of operation and which locations are currently open.
Delamar Traverse City 615 East Front St. Traverse City, MI 231.947.3700 firstname.lastname@example.org https://delamar.com/traverse-city