Traverse City Region
Traverse City, its surrounding suburbs, and the Grand Traverse region thrive as a resort destination, a haven for retirees and a nurturing environment for small businesses. Quaint villages abound across the region outside the urban/suburban Traverse City area. The Grand Traverse region includes Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Leelanau counties. Some UUCGT members commute up to an hour each way, but most live within 15-30 minutes of the building.
Traverse City is the economic and intellectual hub of northwest Michigan and sits at the base of Grand Traverse Bay, in the heart of the unique blend of fresh water and forested sand dunes that make up the Grand Traverse region. The area includes the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas, and fruit and wine producing areas with numerous small resort and agricultural communities.
Politically, our region is conservative like many rural areas, but Traverse City is the liberal hotbed of Northwest Michigan with active support of civil rights for the LGBTQ community and other progressive issues.
Munson Medical Center is Traverse City’s large hospital, serving Northwest Michigan, with a strong presence in the treatment of cancer and cardiac health. In addition there is a strong medical community which attracts talented practitioners drawn to the Grand Traverse lifestyle. The region also boasts ample big box shopping opportunities while the vibrant downtown areas in Traverse City and regional villages include farm to table restaurants, micro breweries, wineries, bookstores and specialty shops. Cherry Capital is the excellent regional airport with connections to many major air transportation hubs.
Traverse City possesses a well-developed arts scene. The city is best known culturally for the Interlochen Center for the Arts, which hosts the Interlochen Arts Camp where student actors, artists, musicians, and dancers from around the world flock to spend the summer. Notable alumni include Josh Groban and Jewel. Interlochen Center is also home to the Interlochen Arts Festival, as well as some 750 concerts and theatrical productions held throughout the year. Several other theaters and auditoriums dot the landscape throughout the city, boasting a variety of musical and dramatic performances, including specializations in world music, acoustic music, and the blues. Other events include the Downtown Art Walks, the Traverse City Film Festival, and Paint Grand Traverse. Home to the City Opera House, built in 1891 and one of only six historically intact Victorian opera houses in the state. In addition to the performance series throughout the year, the Opera House also hosts the National Writers Series. Traverse City is filled with commercial and public galleries, as well as several museums and arts centers such as Crooked Tree Arts Center and The Dennos Museum. There is also a 14 screen Cineplex, the Old Town Playhouse for community theatre, and the Traverse Symphony Orchestra.
NMC, the very first community college in the state of Michigan, was established in 1951 by a collaborative group of community volunteers, educators, business leaders, advocates and funders. NMC provides a college community that adds its own mix of students, teachers and administrators to the fabric of the region. The International Affairs Forum, founded by retired U.S. State Department diplomats 25 years ago, is closely aligned with NMC and now has its own paid Director. Experienced and well-known speakers present monthly lectures September – June on a wide variety of timely global issues.
There is also a wide variety of quality educational and recreational opportunities available for youth and families. There are many outdoor activities like sailing and boating from area yacht clubs and marinas, kayaking, dirt and paved cycling trails, cross-country and downhill skiing. There is a large YMCA which is used by many in the community. Nearly 1000 Traverse City area youth bicycle to school through the Norte healthy community program.
With 350 small to medium manufacturers, this is an entrepreneurial region, more recently drawing attention as a high-tech hub.
The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park is an emerging horticultural and education center. Volunteer gardeners tend the 7-8 distinct gardens, which can be visited free by the public. There is a gift shop and Docents are available for guided tours. A paved labyrinth was installed on the property in 2019 and a Native Plant Healing Garden will be established with the help of area indigenous people.
In Spring of 2020 concerned citizens formed the Northwest Michigan Anti-Racism Task Force. As the group evolves, so has the name to Northwest Michigan E3 – Educate, Elevate, and Engage. Leaders have sponsored rallies in support of equal justice for BIPOC, are working in partnership with area law enforcement on public safety improvements, and are providing Anti-Racism Training for White People in collaboration with Title Track. The fourth round of training is currently in session and has attracted hundreds of participants from the general public, law enforcement and other governmental agencies.
The Grand Traverse Region enjoys four distinct seasons, each with its own charm. The orchards contribute their marvelous array of spring blossoms, summer is incredible with its blend of forests, fields and sand dunes, always with the blue of Lake Michigan and hundreds of glacial lakes in the background. The Autumn color season is simply breathtaking. We do have real winter, with plenty of cold and snow and it takes a while to warm up in the spring.