Make the 2024 IAS meeting part of a mini-vacation

For the 2024 Inuit Art Society meeting, we are returning to the Dennos in Traverse City, Michigan. This will be the fifth time we’ve met here, and we are happy to be returning. (If you are keeping count, we were at the Dennos in 2007, 2009, 2012, and 2018.)

However, we are changing things up a bit this year by holding our meeting during the summer.

Summer is a busy time in Traverse City, But it’s also a beautiful time to be here and you’ll find plenty to do if you decide to spend an extra day or two in the area!

Where is Traverse City?

Traverse City is located at the end of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay – a bay with two arms that offer lots of activities on land and on the water.

Graphic showing the location of Traverse City Michigan and nearby cities and points of interest for tourists © Traverse City Tourism.
Traverse City is a great base for exploring this lovely area in Michigan. (Graphic © Traverse City Tourism.)

This is a gorgeous part of Michigan. It’s a popular summer vacation area, noted for lakeshore resorts, beaches, vineyards, cherry orchards, historic architecture, a lively arts scene, shopping, dining, and more. (We’ll miss cherry season, but it’s a great time for everything else!)

Where are we meeting?

Most of the IAS activities will be held at the Dennos Museum Center at Northwestern Michigan College. It’s located in Traverse City, but at the foot of the Old Mission Peninsula, so NOT right in the heart of the always hopping historic downtown.

The Dennos has one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Inuit art south of the Canadian border.

Photo of a drum dancer by Inuit artist Uriash Puqiqnaq at the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City, Michigan in 2018 © Cindy Carlsson at
A drum dancer by Uriash Puqiqnaq on display at the Dennos.

Their collection also has significant collections of work by Michigan artists, 19th and 20th century graphic art, and 20th century art by indigenous artists from Great Lakes and Canada.

If you haven’t been to an IAS meeting at the Dennos before, here’s a bit on what to expect.

If you haven’t booked lodging yet, don’t wait! Summer is a busy time of year in Traverse City!

The meeting will keep you busy Friday afternoon and all Saturday. So, you’ll want to add some extra time before or after to explore Traverse City and the surrounding area.

Things to do right in Traverse City

Front Street, the city’s historic main street, is a fun shopping area where you’ll find a wide variety of unique shops. (Of course, you’ll also want to do some shopping right at the Dennos.)

Photo of women walking in downtown Traverse City, Michigan © Meg Bowen Photography
There are plenty of unique shops in Traverse City. (Photo © Meg Bowen Photography via Traverse City Tourism.)

Looking for a good book? Traverse City is Michigan’s book city, with a good selection of new and used bookstores in and near downtown. (You may even find a long out-of-print classic to add to your personal Inuit Art library.)

Visit the insane asylum – now the Village at Traverse Commons. Yes, really. This elaborate 19th century residential institution is now a lively village complete with gorgeous grounds, shops and galleries, a great restaurant (Trattoria Stella – reservations required), and the Left Foot Charley wine and cidery.

Of course, Traverse City abounds in scenic beauty and options for outdoor recreation. Relax on a beach or get out on the water. You’ll find public beaches all along Lake Michigan’s shore, including within a few blocks of Front Street. Or get out on the water on a paddleboard, in a kayak, fishing boat, or aboard the Traverse Tall Ship Company’s replica schooner Manitou.

Photo of the tall ship Manitou sailing on Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan © Traverse City Tourism.
Sail Grand Traverse Bay on the tall ship Manitou. (Photo © Traverse City Tourism)

Eating in Traverse City

Traverse City is nationally noted as a great city for eating and drinking. You have lots of options at every price point – often with a view of the water.

I’ve already mentioned one of my favorites, Trattoria Stella in the Village. Like most of the city’s fine dining restaurants, you’ll need a reservation. (Unless you are visiting on a cold rainy/snowy fall evening. Then you can just walk in!)  But it’s worth planning ahead, as Traverse City has more than its share of highly-regarded fine dining restaurants, including Artisan, The Cook’s House, and Amical. All of which will require advance reservations on a summer weekend.

If you’re looking for something a bit more casual, decide what type of cuisine you want and do a quick online search – you’ll find lots of great options at all price points.

Want a lot of variety in one place? The Little Fleet is an outdoor space with cocktails and beer, live music, and an array of food trucks. It’s sounds like a lot of fun.

Ok, it’s not in town, but the consensus is that it’s worth the scenic five-mile drive to get to the dairy where Moomers Homemade Ice Cream is produced. You’ll find at least 20 of their 150 flavors available when you arrive – but call ahead and, if they don’t have your favorite on hand, they’ll whip up a batch for you and let you know when it’s ready!

Looking for something more substantial while checking out the area around Traverse City? Head toward the Leelanau Peninsula and over to Farm Club, a brewery, bakery, restaurant, and market in a beautiful rural setting.

For a list of what’s happening now, check the New York Time’s 36 Hours in Traverse City. (Limited free access if you aren’t a subscriber.)

Other things to do in the area

While there’s plenty to keep you busy right in Traverse City, you’ll find even more options if you travel beyond the city itself.

Scenic drives and bike routes

Whether you’re traveling on four wheels or two, you’ll find plenty of scenic routes to explore.

Old Mission Peninsula

From the Dennos it’s very easy to get on Michigan Route 37 and drive through the Old Mission Peninsula. This Scenic Heritage Route passes through cherry orchards, vineyards, markets, restaurants, and galleries as you travel up to the Mission Point lighthouse.

Photo of the Mission Point lighthouse on the Old Mission Peninsula in Michigan in fall 2018 © Cindy Carlsson at
A fall day at the Mission Point Lighthouse.

The Leelanau Peninsula

Michigan Route 22 is a scenic route through the Leelanau Peninsula that follows the shore of Lake Michigan. Along the way you’ll enjoy views of the lake, historic Fishtown, and vineyards. Stop at the end of the peninsula to visit the Grand Traverse Lighthouse.

Photo of an old wooden shopfront in historic Fishtown on the Leelanau Peninsula in 2007 © Cindy Carlsson at
Fishtown’s historic buildings offer a sense of what this fishing village was once like, but with gift shop and local treats!

Stop at the end of the peninsula to visit the Grand Traverse Lighthouse.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is at the foot of the peninsula (almost due west of Traverse City) and makes a great sunset-viewing end to the day. (More on Sleeping Bear below.)

Michigan Route 31

Beginning in Traverse City, follow Michigan Route 31 along Lake Michigan’s shore up to Petoskey for a scenic drive that includes forests, parks, orchards and vineyards, and quaint towns. It’s gorgeous in fall, but should be lovely in summer as well.

Check out all the lighthouses

If you love lighthouses, Lake Michigan is a great place to see some. You can find eight historic lighthouses without driving very far from Traverse City!

Photo of beach with the Point Bestie Lighthouse on Lake Michigan in fall 2007 © Cindy Carlsson at
Point Betsie features a classic Great Lakes lighthouse.

Tour by bicycle

A well-developed network of paved multi-use TART trails makes it easy to site-see in and around Traverse City. You can tour Sleeping Bear Dunes via the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail or do your own vineyard tour on the Leelanau Trail. Or check out the map for many more options.

Beaches, dunes, and inland lakes

Pretty much all of Michigan’s shore along Lake Michigan is noted for sandy beaches. And that includes right in Traverse City beaches, which are popular gathering spots right in town. For a more peaceful experience, head out of the city where (with a little looking) you may find a beach you can have almost entirely to yourself!

Photo of a sand beach in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan in Wisconsin in 2007 © Cindy Carlsson at
There’s no shortage of sandy beaches near Traverse City.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

West of Traverse City, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore includes its namesake dunes, as well as beaches, inland lakes, and forests along the shore of (and on two islands in) Lake Michigan. It also includes historic Glen Haven, which has several museums.

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive takes you through several of the park’s ecosystems and includes a couple of great scenic overlooks. The Glen Lake website has good information on the Heritage Trail, the Pierce Stocky drive, and hiking trails within Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Photo of a dune in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan in 2007 © Cindy Carlsson at
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is noted for large sand dunes like this, but there are dunes all along the lakeshore.

Note: As part of the National Park system, an entry fee or National Park Pass is required to visit sites within Sleeping Bear Dunes.


Traverse City area courses show up as top golf destinations on a lot of lists. Golfers will find more than 30 public and championship courses, including courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Doak, and other noted course designers. With a wide variety of courses available, you should be able to find just the right one for you. Not sure where that is? A friend suggests the Grand Traverse Resort, with courses that range from one suitable for golfers of all ability to one of the top 20 toughest courses in America.

Vineyards, breweries, and more

The Traverse City area is home to many, many vineyards, breweries, cideries, and distilleries. Stop at one or two or book a tour to visit a few more without having to drive.

Try the local wine

You may not think of Michigan as wine country, but Traverse City is on the “Michigan Wine Coast.”

Between them, the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas are home to more than 40 wineries.

While the area is noted for cool-climate white wines, particularly Rieslings, you’ll find a wide variety of wines, including reds. You’ll also find wines made with Niagara grapes, as well as a good number of ice wines.

Check the Traverse City Wine Guide for more information or see what Wine with Paige recommends. And keep in mind that some of these are beautiful spots to visit even if you aren’t sampling wine.

Photo of a vineyard on the Old Mission Peninsula in fall 2018 © Cindy Carlsson at
Late season vineyard on the Old Mission Peninsula.

Drive and visit a winery on your own, or book a tour. Wine tours usually only cover one of the peninsulas, but take you to three or four wineries, allowing you to sample a number of wines without having to worry about safely returning to your lodging.

Don’t have time for a wine tour? You’ll find tasting rooms right in Traverse City.

Try the local craft beers, ciders, and spirits

The boom in craft beers and ciders is also alive and well in Traverse City. Visit a taproom, brewpub, or distillery on your own or book a tour. Check the Brewery, Cidery, and Distillery Guide to see all your options.

Mackinac Island

Do you have time to travel just a little further? Mackinac Island is an hour drive, a short ferry ride, and a century away from Traverse City.

Getting to Traverse City

Traverse City is about a two-hour drive almost straight north of Grand Rapids.

If you are arriving by car on Friday, be prepared for a LOT of traffic along the way. This is a VERY popular weekend destination!

Flying to Traverse City

The Traverse City Cherry Capital Airport is served by 20 non-stop flights via Allegiant, American, Avelo, Delta, Sun Country, and United with service from Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis−Saint Paul, Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte, Washington DC (Dulles and Reagan), Newark, New Haven, Philadelphia, New York (LaGuardia), Boston,  Phoenix-Mesa, Punta Gorda, St. Pete-Clearwater, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando.

Of course, many more connecting flights are available from across the country.

For more information

Want more information? Check the Traverse City website and order a copy of their Visitor Guide. For more personal recommendations, check 14 Charming Things to Do in Traverse City. It’s the best overview of what to see, do, eat, and drink here that I’ve seen online.

For more information and to register for the 2024 Inuit Art Society meeting in Traverse City, head to the home page!


This area is part of the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary Lands of the Anishinaabeg – the Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi peoples, who are today represented by the nations of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.

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