Grand Traverse Resort & Spa: A Family-Friendly Resort in Traverse City, Michigan
Our weekend in Traverse City was hosted by the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa which included our room as well as two meals on resort property. We sought out this partnership with the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa because we were familiar with the accommodations and amenities that we feel make The Grand Traverse a wonderful family-friendly resort in Traverse City, Michigan.
The Grand Traverse Resort & Spa
Located in the northwest corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula, Traverse City ranks as one of the best small towns in America- and rightfully so. Situated on the shores of the Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan, Traverse City offers everything from sparkling turquoise waters and stunning hiking trails to world renowned wineries and five star dining. With it’s four distinct seasons, each offering a plethora of outdoor activities- Traverse City is a tourist mecca all year long and a perfect location for families to stay and play together. Autumn brings some of the most spectacular colors you’ll find anywhere in the Midwest with people flocking to the area to see nature’s most beautiful displays of fall foliage. Winter offers stunning snow covered landscapes and winter sports including cross-country and downhill skiing, ice skating, and ice fishing. Spring in Traverse City is best known for it’s splendid display of cherry blossoms while summer ushers in the season of pristine beaches, every water sport imaginable, and the National Cherry Festival which brings over a half a million visitors to this small town nestled on the shores of the Grand Traverse Bay. Whatever the season, the gorgeous Grand Traverse Resort and Spa is the perfect family-friendly resort in Traverse City, ready to help you enjoy one of Michigan’s most beautiful beach towns!
The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa boasts over 900 acres on the shores of the Grand Traverse Bay. With nearly 600 hotel rooms and condominiums, five restaurants and lounges, three championship golf courses, nine tennis courts, a 7,000 square foot world class spa, a variety of shops, an indoor water playground and a private beach club on the crystal clear waters of Lake Michigan, the Grand Traverse Resort is the premier destination for families in the Traverse City area. It is the perfect combination of luxury and family-friendly all in one resort. With first class accommodations and dining situated on a beautiful piece of property- the Grand Traverse Resort offers a luxurious getaway while also maintaining a family-friendly feel. Kids will love the indoor water playground, the outdoor pool and the the private beach club complete with poolside snacks and drinks at Fin’s Sandbar. They’ll even love the resort shops which include Tumbleweed’s toy store and the famed Dylan’s Candy Bar! Parents will love the variety of dining options and Health Club as well as the Cub House- a fully licensed child care center where kids can play for the day while mom and dad enjoy a round of golf, a game of tennis or a couples massage at the spa!
The main entrance of the Grand Traverse Resort opens into the lobby with grand pillars and natural light beaming from a beautiful skylight in at it’s center. The lobby is both large and elegant, inviting guests into the resort with the Grand Lobby Bar serving as a gathering point. Spacious and with plenty of seating, restaurants branch off of one side of the lobby while a collection of quaint shops branch off the other.
The boutique shops in the lobby offer everything from beautiful home decorations and clothing in Mud Pie to ice cream, candy and fudge in Dylan’s Candy Bar. Kids will love Dylan’s with it’s brightly decorated candy walls and giant ice cream cones! Dylan’s, like it’s flagship store on the Upper East Side of New York City is more than just a candy shop- it’s a destination for kids as everything must be explored before decisions are made! Kids will also love Tumbleweed’s, a toy store featuring Melissa and Doug products which are fantastic for children of all ages. A logo shop offers clothing and gifts with the resort logo as well as local Traverse City clothing. There’s a little something for everyone in the shops here!
The Grand Traverse Resort offers nearly 600 guest rooms, meaning there is the perfect place for everyone! With a stunning glass panel exterior, The Tower is the main architectural icon of the resort- soaring 17 stories above the Grand Traverse Bay and the resort’s beautifully landscaped golf courses. Rooms in The Tower offer a King bed or two Queen beds with golf course or bay views. We stayed in a two Queen room with sweeping views of the golf course. The room was by far one of the largest non-suite hotel rooms we’ve ever stayed in, making it perfect for small families. Often times a hotel room can feel cramped and confined with four people in it- but not at the Grand Traverse Resort. Our Tower room was more than spacious enough for all four of us, which meant our time in the room was relaxing and rejuvenating. Our boys loved the turn down service before bed which felt incredibly luxurious to our nine year olds- mostly because of the tiny chocolates left on their pillows!
The Grand Traverse Resort also offers 240 rooms in The Hotel, conveniently located within steps of the Spa and the Health Club making these rooms a convenient option for families looking to be close to all the action!
Additional family-friendly options at the resort include The Shores as well as condominiums and resort homes. The Shores are located a short walk from the main resort as well as the private beach club on the bay and offer one and two bedroom condos with a kitchenette, dining area, pull-out sleeper sofa in the living room and a private patio or balcony. Additional condos and resort homes that offer up to three bedrooms are great options for larger families or those planning on longer stays.
With five different restaurants and lounges, you don’t have to leave resort property to enjoy world class dining. The resort’s flagship dining experience, Aerie Restaurant and Lounge is located on the 16th floor of The Tower and offers fine dining that pairs locally grown produce with bold, exciting, international flavors. Sweeping views of the bay make Aerie a five star dining experience. They do have a menu specifically for “younger guests” including traditional children’s meals as well as some more upscale options for kids.
Located just off the main lobby is the Sweetwater American Bistro, a full-service casual restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had breakfast here during our stay and it was truly wonderful. There is the option of a breakfast buffet as well as a breakfast menu. We were delighted to discover that Sweetwater has gluten-free bread (and pasta for lunch and dinner) and when our boys asked our friendly waiter if their French Toast could be made gluten-free, he went directly to the kitchen to find out. A chef came right out to discuss our gluten-free options and the possibilities of cross-contamination which was above and beyond what we’re used to at most restaurants! Our boys were thrilled to be able to order the French Toast! We also ordered steel cut oats that were served with brown sugar, granola and Traverse City’s signature dried cherries. My Sweetwater Benedict was served over gluten-free toast and my husband ordered the Hash and Eggs- both delicious choices. In addition to the great food, our breakfast was highlighted by the friendly waitstaff.
Sweetwater American Bistro is a fantastic family-friendly dining option in the resort with a children’s menus for all three meals. Best of all, they carry real Crayola crayons for younger guests! Anyone with kids can relate to the frustration of little ones trying to draw with the waxy, off-brand crayons usually handed out with children’s menu’s. Not at Sweetwater! Real Crayola crayons made all the difference- and even my big “kid” passed the time waiting for our breakfast by drawing!
A short but beautiful walk from the main lobby will take you to The Grille Restaurant, located in the clubhouse overlooking the 18th hole of The Bear, a world renowned golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus. The Grille is a full-service, casual restaurant with floor to ceiling windows and beautiful golf course views. We had dinner here on our first night at the resort and found both the food and the views to be wonderful! I had a chicken Caesar salad with freshly grated parmesan, my husband had the grilled jumbo wings with sweet chili BBQ sauce, and our boys shared a burger served with the Grille’s signature homemade potato chips. There’s an option to substitute fries with the burgers and sandwiches and while I almost always prefer fries over chips, I’m here to tell you- don’t do it! Stick with the chips! They are truly fantastic!
Additional Dining Options
Also located off the main lobby is Jack’s Sports Bar, featuring four large screen televisions and a variety of bar food including burgers, sandwiches, salads and pizza. Jack’s does offer a children’s menu making this another great casual, family-friendly dining option. There is a Marketplace in the main lobby that has a coffee shop so you can grab espresso drinks in the morning as well as deli sandwiches, wraps, salads and snacks to go. This a great option if you’re headed to the beach and want to take a picnic lunch, or for a quick afternoon or bedtime snack for the kids! Room Service is available as well, with a wide variety of options and reasonable price points for in-room dining.
Activities and Amenities
What truly sets the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa apart from any other hotel in the area? The activities and amenities available right on the property! You could spend an entire week here and never need to leave the resort as there are year-round activities available for the whole family.
The resort may be best known for it’s golf. It boasts three top notch courses- Jack Nicklaus’ “The Bear”, Gary Player’s “The Wolverine”, and the easier yet equally gorgeous “Spruce Run” course. The clubhouse features a pro-shop as well as the Grille Restaurant. The Golf Academy is a 2,000 square foot indoor facility that is home to three heated, indoor/outdoor hitting bays outfitted with the latest motion capture technology for swing analysis. The Golf Academy also offers lessons and clinics year round, making the Grand Traverse Resort a premier year round golfing destination.
The resort also features a full service spa where you can book relaxing massages, rejuvenation facials, manicures and pedicures, as well as make-up and Novalash eyelash extension applications. You can schedule individual spa treatments or opt for a more luxurious package deal with multiple treatments in one day. The spa also offers a menu with micro-brews, wine and cocktails for the ultimate relaxation experience!
The Health Club is available for both resort guests and club members. It features a 10,000 foot state of the art gym with weight and cardio machines. Fitness classes including spinning and yoga are available for resort guests. The Health Club also features a total of nine tennis courts- five indoor and four outdoor courts. There is also a 2,000 square foot childcare center so mom and dad can play a few games of tennis or take a yoga class while the kids play!
For kids and families, the Health Club offers four different pools, including the Indoor Water Playground. The Indoor Water Playground features two indoor pools- a shallower pool for younger children and a four foot deep pool with a water slide, a hanging ropes course where kids can hop across the water on lily pads, and multiple basketball hoops and basketballs! The pool offers a variety of sizes of life jackets that are free of charge for it’s youngest guests to give moms and dads a little extra peace of mind when it comes to water safety- though children should always be closely monitored near the water even when wearing life jackets. All children under 4’6″ tall must wear a life jacket on the water slide regardless of swimming ability. Our boys spent an entire afternoon enjoying the pools and we had to drag them out, sopping wet and begging to stay just a bit longer, so we could feed them dinner!
Outdoor Pool and Private Beach Club
While it wasn’t quite warm enough to swim outdoors during our stay, the Grand Traverse Resort also offers a beautiful outdoor pool- though the real highlight of their summer amenities is the private beach club on the shores of the East Bay. You’ll be hard pressed to find more gorgeous beaches than the beaches of Lake Michigan- and access to a private beach club on the bay is simply spectacular! The beach club offers water sport and boat rentals so you can rent a paddle board, kayak, jet ski or pontoon boat right on resort property to explore the bay. Fin’s Sandbar offers burgers, fries, sandwiches, drinks and snacks such as salted peanuts and ice cream bars. There are nightly bonfires with s’mores, live music, and kids activities on the beach- making Grand Traverse the perfect place to enjoy Lake Michigan on a summer vacation without ever leaving the resort. While all of the area’s beaches get quite crowded in the summer, a private club elevates the Grand Traverse Resort to a whole new level of luxury.
Off Property Activities
The trickiest thing about staying at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa is fitting everything in to one trip. In addition to all of the incredible amenities right on the resort’s property- there’s an incredible variety of family-friendly activities in Traverse City and the surrounding areas. You’ll want to make sure you stay long enough to spend time both at the resort and in town!
The resort offers shuttle transportation into downtown Traverse City for two family-friendly activities. On Saturdays, a morning shuttle heads into town for the morning matinee at the State Theater- costing only a quarter per child! What a steal of a deal! The theater features the latest animated films every Saturday morning and the resort will drive you to the theater and pick you up after the movie. The resort also offers shuttle service to the farmer’s market downtown where families can go pick up an assortment of fresh fruits and veggies for snacks with fresh, locally grown cherries being a summer highlight!
Downtown Traverse City offers lots of family-friendly activities and dining options. With outdoor play places, bike rentals, bookstores, fudge shops, and an adorable food truck lot- you’ll surely want to plan a day to spend downtown.
Both the Leelenau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula offer beautiful drives, gorgeous beaches and parks, lighthouses, dining and wineries. Both peninsula’s are decent sized and can take some time to fully explore. We were hoping to catch the mid-May cherry blossoms during our stay- both peninsula’s are noted to be simply stunning when the blossoms are in full bloom- but alas, the blossoms are a bit late this spring due to a long, cold winter so we missed them by about a week.
Another area you’ll want to check out is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, located about an hour due west of the resort. In 2011, The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was voted the “Most Beautiful Place in America” by ABC’s Good Morning America and receives a great deal of national acclaim for it’s natural beauty and grandeur. The dunes and beaches, which cover 35 miles of coastline on Lake Michigan are simply stunning and deserve a day of exploring! There are fantastic hiking and biking trails of all levels as well as scenic drives, overlooks, and boardwalks down to the beach. Just think twice if you plan on hiking up the dunes and over to the water as these hikes are listed as “difficult” and at roughly 3 miles from any given parking lot, can take 2 to 4 hours to reach the water. If your kids are up for the hike and you’re prepared for both the duration, the elevation and the heat- it’s an incredible experience!
If you’re looking for longer day trips from the resort, Petoskey is an hour and a half drive and features a beautiful state park on the beach where you can hunt for Petoskey stones as well as a quaint little downtown area. Mackinaw City is a little over two hours away, where you can catch the ferry to Mackinaw Island for the day and still be back to the resort by bedtime.
As you can see, there’s a lot to do in and around the resort! You’ll want to plan accordingly so that you have time do pack it all in! Be sure to check out our Family-Friendly Things to Do In and Around Traverse City for more details on our favorite spots for kids and families in town! The Grand Traverse Resort is the perfect home-base for your family vacation in Northern Michigan. It’s central location gives you easy access to all of the natural wonders that northern Michigan has to offer, or you can choose to stay right on the resort property where you’ll find fantastic amenities for the whole family! We’ll surely be returning to the resort in both summer and autumn as each season here offers a whole new experience from the same family-friendly resort in Traverse City, Michigan!
To book your stay at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, click here to check out their latest packages and specials!
While our stay was hosted by the resort- Roots, Wings and Travel Things does not receive any commission from bookings. We simply want to share a fantastic resort for kids and families in northern Michigan with our readers!