Located on the northwest side of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, at the base of Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City, Michigan, offers retirees affordable living and an active lifestyle. In 2022, Realtor.com named Traverse City, Michigan, the number one, best, and most affordable place to retire to in America. They cited reasonably priced homes, a strong base of amenities, a substantial population over 55, and plenty of things to do.
Since planning to retire in December of 2022, I decided to do a deep dive into Traverse City as a potential retirement destination. While I’m still considering my options, here are nine reasons I think Traverse City might be the perfect place to retire.
1. Affordable Housing Prices
While some may argue that a median home list price of $390,000 isn’t affordable, consider comparing it to similar locations throughout the United States. The median indicates that you’ll find an equal number of places above that price point and below that in the area. Then compare it to other coastal destinations such as California and Florida, and Traverse City housing prices look more attractive.
Also, it would help to consider that many 55-plus retirees have accumulated wealth. So while it may not seem affordable to those still moving up in their careers, it becomes more affordable for those selling mortgage-free homes and reinvesting in a new home.
2. Accessible Healthcare
Munson Healthcare is northern Michigan’s most extensive healthcare system offering nine award-winning hospitals. In addition, the medical center is a Level II Trauma Center.
3. Art And Cultural Activities
Traverse City and the greater region have numerous art galleries offering everything from photography and painting to sculpture and glassware. In addition, the area has several museums, and while small, they are impressive. Considered one of the best small art museums in the Midwest, the Dennos Museum Center is on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College. The museum has 10 galleries and some Inuit art on display.
Situated 13 miles south of Traverse City, you’ll find Interlochen Center for the Arts. They offer adult education art programs and feature performances and events.
Traverse City offers festivals almost weekly in the summer. Known as the World’s Cherry Capital, one of the most popular is the National Cherry Festival. Learn more about the special July festival you’ll want to experience in Michigan.
4. Farm-To-Table Dining
Staying healthy is essential no matter what life stage you’re in, but as we age, we need to pay particular attention to our health. Farm-fresh fruits and vegetables play a significant role in eating healthily.
Michigan is second in the nation only to California in its various agricultural products. As a result, Traverse City has attracted many chefs who take advantage of fresh ingredients in preparing their menus. The farmers market and roadside farmstands are great places to pick up fresh ingredients.
Michigan also produces 70 percent of the United States’ tart cherries, so you’ll find these ruby gems readily available and on most menus in some form. One of my favorites is the cherry bruschetta at Trattoria Stella.
If you’re interested in the range of restaurants Traverse City offers, check out my picks for 7 Must-Try Traverse City, Michigan Restaurants.
Traverse City’s wine region is on the 45th parallel, which makes it on the same latitude as many of the great wine regions of Europe. If you’re an oenophile, Traverse City has a lot to offer. With over 40 wineries in the area, you can enjoy a variety of wines. The Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail has more than 20 award-winning wineries. The Old Mission Peninsula features 10 wineries.
You’ll find it easy to explore the wineries via the Traverse Area Recreation Trail (TART), a 10.5-mile paved path from Bates Road in Acme Township to Carter Road in Traverse City to M 72.
TART connects to the Leelanau Trail, so you’ll find many bikers exploring wineries and enjoying a cheese board with their wine.
If you’d like to read about some of the region’s wineries, check out 7 Must-Try Amazing Wineries To Experience On Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula.
6. All Four Seasons
Traverse City is a four-season destination with activities to keep you busy year-round. Spring is an excellent time to dust off the golf clubs, bike, or hike. Summer is great for getting out on the water for boating, kayaking, or canoeing. In fall, the area explodes with color — crimson, gold, and tangerine. And while you might not think of Michigan as mountainous, there’s plenty of opportunity for winter skiing, too.
7. Outdoor Activities To Support An Active Lifestyle
Active seniors will find a variety of Traverse City activities to keep them moving year-round.
Hiking And Biking
In addition to using the TART Trails, another hiking and biking trail is the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, a paved corridor between Empire and Glen Arbor. You can access the 27-mile non-motorized paved trail via 11 trailheads. While the course is moderate to challenging, you’ll have restrooms and benches on the steepest parts of the path.
The area’s beaches provide other opportunities to stay active. You’ll find beaches perfect for taking Rover for a walk, swimming beaches, and if you want to relax, soak up some rays, and read a book, there’s a perfect beach.
If you’re looking for fun on the dunes, Traverse City is home to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I can see nothing but water when I look out over Lake Michigan. It reminds me of looking out over the Pacific Ocean on the California Coast.
People come to Traverse City specifically for golf getaways, so if you love golf, you won’t need to go far to experience Arnold Palmer- and Jack Nicklaus-designed courses. The Bear at Grand Traverse Resort is one of Michigan’s top golf courses. Here are some other golfing options.
If you love boating, Traverse City makes a great retirement option. Boating Magazine named it one of the Ten Best Places to Live and Boat. Located on Grand Traverse Bay, you’ll find the advantages of deep water with the security of a protected area.
Traverse City is a great place to live if you’re a snow bunny who will enjoy typical Michigan winters. The area offers a variety of wintertime sports, including skiing, both cross-country and downhill. While Crystal Mountain Resort is the area’s destination ski resort, Hickory Hills and Mt. Holiday are smaller local ski areas. You’ll also find opportunities to snowboard and go tubing.
8. Snowbirds Can Escape
As a native Michigander, I am not a big fan of our Michigan winters. With only 3 months of relatively cold and snowy weather, December through March, luckily the wintery months don’t take up most of the year. While November gets cold, we typically don’t get a lot of snow until December. So, while the spring, summer, and fall months are beautiful, I’m ready for a break from winter after the first of the year. So, if I do retire to Traverse City, I would likely escape most years from January through March to get away from the worst of the cold weather.
9. Proximity To An Airport
Even if you don’t plan to escape for the winter, you may want to travel during retirement. Cherry Capital Airport (TVC) is just minutes from downtown Traverse City, and the small airport is easy to navigate. So, with 17 non-stop destinations, traveling with Traverse City as your home base couldn’t be easier. In addition, all the major airlines and several budget ones support Traverse City, at least seasonally.
Pro Tip: If you’d like to visit and evaluate Traverse City as a possible retirement option, consider a stay at this gorgeous resort on the shores of Lake Michigan that the whole family will love.