Traverse City, tucked away in the northwest of Michigan’s lower Peninsula is a deceptively close weekend getaway destination from Chicago. Though it looks far from the Windy City (if the lower Peninsula is a hand, Traverse City is at the top of the ring finger), it’s actually only about five hours by car, the same distance as Door County, Wisconsin.
Here’s how to get to Traverse City from Chicago.
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Flights from Chicago to the Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City take only an hour and can cost anywhere from $150 to $300 round trip, depending on the time of year and how far in advance you book. American, United and Us Airways all service the route. Once in Traverse City, you could get away without a car if you stay downtown and plan to just hit the beach and explore the small city, taking the occasional cab or tour to go further afield. But to really get the most out of a visit – particularly if you plan to visit some of the wineries in the area or want to explore more than the area around your hotel, you’ll need to rent a car.
Drive southeast out of Chicago on 90/94 and then take I-94 towards Detroit as it curves along the shores or Lake Michigan. At I-196, branch off to the north towards Grand Rapids. Here, get onto US-131 towards Cadillac. Shortly before Traverse City, you’ll go left on M-113 and then head north on M-37, which will run you right into downtown Traverse City. In average traffic, the drive will take 4.5 to 5.5 hours, depending on how fast you drive. Once outside of Chicago, it’s mostly two lanes (in each direction) on the highway, making for an easy drive with lots of rest stops and gas stations along the way.