Located just a few minutes drive from downtown Traverse City, the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa is the grand dame of area resorts. The 900-acre resort property is open year round and boasts 600 rooms, suites, and condos, 86,500 square feet of conference space in 36 indoor and outdoor function areas, 54 holes of championship golf, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a children’s center, a dog care facility, a spa and fitness center, and several shops and restaurants.
The Grand Traverse is a throwback to the sprawling and stately summer resorts of yesterday, when families made their trip to the same resort year after year, the parents golfing and playing tennis while the kids splashed in the pool or made s’mores by firelight. If the place wasn’t so sparkling and modern, you’d half expect to run into Baby and Johnny (a la Dirty Dancing) running around the grounds as though the place was Kellerman’s. But sparkling and modern it is, with a soaring ceiling in the spacious lobby and a glittering 17-story glass tower that overlooks the property and Grand Traverse Bay.
There are over 600 rooms at the resort, but due to its organization it manages to feel uncrowded and intimate rather than massive and packed. There are 186 rooms in the tower and 240 in the hotel; the rest are in eight condo buildings, some of which are privately owned. The condos are available in studio and one, two and three bedroom configurations and have a dining area, kitchenette, living room with queen-size sofa sleeper, and wireless high-speed Internet access. I stayed in a one bedroom condo that was spacious and comfortable and had beautiful views towards the Bay. It was situated behind the hotel, but could be accessed through an underground walkway.
Activities and Amenities
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Onsite, there are four indoor or outdoor pools and five indoor or outdoor hot tubs as part of 15,000-square foot indoor water playground that offers a 16-foot tall, 70-foot long waterslide and water basketball nets. If you’d rather hit the beach, visit the Shores, a private beach club where you can rent equipment like jet skis, pontoon boats, paddleboats and kayaks. There’s also a fitness center with nine indoor and outdoor tennis courts, aerobics and weight training machines and fitness classes. And after you’ve worked all your muscles, you can relax at the spa, which offers massage therapy, skin care and treatment, hair care, nail services, and more, from courteous and professional staff. The treatments use all natural ingredients, including cherry, a bountiful local fruit. Spa customers can also use the mineral pools, hot tubs, and saunas pre- or post-treatment.
Guest can also golf on one of the three courses – including The Bear, designed by Jack Nicklaus, and The Wolverine, a Gary Player signature golf course, take a shuttle to downtown Traverse City or the nearby Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel, or book a wine tour that visits three nearby wineries.
The Grand Traverse caters to families not only with plenty of activities for kids, but they also offer in-room babysitting and a daily kids club. And the resort is pet friendly. Guests can board their pets at the The Dog Dreams Inn where dogs receive attention and exercise in a cage-free environment that guests can visit anytime. The Grand Traverse is also a great destination wedding venue. They host about 50 weddings per year, all year round.
Though Traverse City is predominantly a summer resort destination, many people are finding the joys of off-season visits as well. In addition to saving on the cost of a room, guests who come in winter can go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating, ride a snowmobile, take a horse-drawn sleigh ride at a nearby farm, or go sledding, skiiing or tubing at Mt. Holiday.
Dining and Drinking
Taking advantage of the bounty of fresh local ingredients, the Grand Traverse has several onsite restaurants including the seasonal Grille and the lobby’s Jack’s Sports Bar. But the main dining attraction is the 16th floor Aerie Restaurant & Lounge. Open for dinner seven days a week, the restaurant offers floor to ceiling views of the golf course and Grand Traverse Bay. The menu changes seasonally and features locally-produced food and wine.
Dining at Aerie, I enjoyed a starter of crab cakes – which were made of big lumps of crab with very little filler – and a tender cut of filet topped with blue cheese and served with a port wine reduction that I had to stop myself from licking off the plate. The wine and beer lists highlighted local selections along with national and international producers, and local farmers contributed most of the ingredients; even the bread was served with flavored oils and vinegars from Fustini’s, a local shop.
In the lobby, have a pre-dinner drink at the Wine Shoppe Tasting Room & Bar, where you can have a glass, buy a bottle, or purchase several small tastes for a dollar or two each. I got some great advice on wine tasting in the region from the shop staff, and then purchased a bottle to enjoy with the sunset on my room’s balcony.
With pleasant staff, delicious dining experiences that focus on quality local ingredients, extensive amenities and services that make your stay just as relaxing as a resort vacation should be, the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa is one of the best places to stay in Traverse City. Though it’s ideal for families, it’s luxurious and quiet enough to also be a great escape for couples as well.