“No, We’re Not Lost!” Heading North to Traverse City for Spring Break

Traverse CityFebruary 26, 2015

HEADING NORTH TO TRAVERSE CITY FOR SPRING BREAKEvery year, millions of Americans travel south on spring break in search of warm weather and sunny beaches.

Not Meranda Lamoreaux. She and her entire 20-member family are heading in the opposite direction – to the resort town of Traverse City on Michigan’s northwestern shore. All three generations of the family will be spending their April break splashing and socializing at the local Great Wolf Lodge.

“We’ve done this several times already,” says Lamoreaux, whose branch of the family lives in the southern part of the state, near Grand Rapids. “It’s a great place where we can all be together — and since there are a lot of different things for everybody to do, nobody gets bored.”

They’re not alone, either. Though the overwhelming majority of spring break vacationers continue to brave crowded airports and clogged highways on their way south, a growing number are looking northward. In summer resorts like Traverse City, whose beaches and golf courses will still be shaking off the chill of winter, they find a quieter, less congested holiday experience.

Springtime here is relaxed and easygoing, they say; accommodations are plentiful, and the locals appear genuinely glad to see some fresh new faces. And since it’s still the “off season” in this part of the country, vacationers not only can save themselves the expense of a long drive or a fistful of airline tickets – they can also take advantage of seasonal rates and discounts.

A case in point: the “True Escape” package from Traverse City Tourism, good until May 13, combines special rates at participating hotels and resorts with a wide range of deals at some of the area’s best restaurants and discounts on shopping, spa services, movies, wine tastings and outdoor recreation.

Once known largely as a summer resort area, Traverse City’s year-round appeal has been broadened by its emergence as a wine-growing and culinary hotspot (thanks to endorsements by such luminaries as celebrity chef Mario Batali) The area’s wines are celebrated at national and international competitions, while the local craft brewing and microdistillery scene has been recognized as one of the most vibrant in North America.

Meanwhile, spring shoppers flock to the town’s tree-shaded and pedestrian-friendly downtown and its scores of fascinating boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops and galleries. (Another popular attraction is the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, a complex of shops, apartments and restaurants tucked into the castle-like buildings of a 19th-century Victorian mental asylum.)

The community’s museums, concert halls and artists’ studios – including the renowned Interlochen Center for the Arts — provide some added spring diversion, too. The National Center for Arts Research just named Traverse City one of the nation’s top “arts vibrant” cities.

But most families who head for Traverse City find their youngsters are more than contented with the chance to swim indoors – whether that’s in the 38,000-square-foot indoor waterpark at the Great Wolf Lodge or the more modest pool at a downtown hotel like the 120-room Bayshore Resort.

“It’s usually more of a last-minute decision with most of our Spring Break guests,” says Bayshore manager, Melissa Bonham. “We’ll start getting calls around the first week in March. A lot of people even ask if there’s anything open up here in spring. We tell them, yep, everything’s open!”

Spring break is even a profitable time for golf resorts like the 580-room Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. “Not everyone goes to Florida or other points south,” says spokesman J. Michael DeAgostino. “There’s a certain amount of people who go in this direction, and we usually offer some special packages or activities to encourage them.”

Since the Resort’s three designer golf courses are usually buried under snow in March, its main spring break attractions are its spa, restaurants, large indoor pool and water playground, and self-contained Gallery of Shops – as well as the 160 condominium units available for rental, which provide families with a measure of privacy and flexibility.

Ski resorts are in much the same position, since spring break usually comes too late for good skiing, even in northern Michigan. Shanty Creek Resorts, just east of Traverse City, has adapted to the season by creating a slew of “slush-related” spring events, from a March 21 “Beer & Boards Brewfest” to a three-day “Schuss Mountain Snow Challenge” in which one ski hill is turned into a sloppy uphill arena for truck and ATV racing.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a 38,000-square-foot indoor waterpark at your disposal like the one at the local Great Wolf Lodge. In fact, spring is one of the strongest seasons of the year at the resort, says general manager Chris Ballou; thanks to the combination of rolling midwinter and spring breaks throughout the Upper Midwest and Canada, that surge lasts from the middle of February until mid-April.

“My advice to people who want to spend spring break with us is: book early,” he says.

For detailed information about spring break activities and attractions in the Traverse City area, and for details about the 2015 True Escape package, contact Traverse City Tourism at 1-800-TRAVERSE or visit their website at www.traversecity.com.

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