Heading up to Michigan?

As someone who loves to get out of town, even if just for a couple days, I always have some destinations in mind. What makes it extra special is if I know it's a dog-friendly area. I'm a firm believer that my dog, Lars, should be able to see as much of the world as he can and he thoroughly enjoys new company and experiences.

Enter the Mitten State.

Being from Indianapolis, there are lots of places nearby that are easy to access and different enough from home to entertain for a weekend. Michigan is absolutely one of my favorite go-tos because of the accessibility and wide variety of scenery and activities.

I recently visited the Traverse City area and was pleased to find that even on the initial cusp of "on season", there were plenty of places to visit that allowed Lars to join in that included wineries, breweries, parks, and restaurants. What's also great about this area is that it is so easy to support local! The charm of the town is sustained by the fact that the whole region is filled with unique small businesses you won't find elsewhere. Below, I've included links to everyone's website or socials so be sure to check them out!

It's important to note that many of the beaches around this area of the state are known as piping plover breeding grounds so it is absolutely vital to double check if pets are allowed in areas you want to visit. According to the Michigan DNR website, the majority of shoreline is open to pets September through March with many closed to pet April through August. As always, be sure to watch your dog carefully, keep them on leash, and clean up after them so that everyone can enjoy the space!

A Weekend Away


My boyfriend, Bryan, and I awoke from our bed at the Tru by Hilton hotel just south of downtown Traverse City. This hotel is very dog-friendly; they provide poop bags, a doggie welcome bag, and even a door hanger advising passersby that there is a pet inside the room (very helpful for unwanted knocks/barking). It was a drizzly morning so we got ourselves ready and headed out to downtown TC to get some coffee before heading to Sleeping Bear Dunes.

We stopped at Good Harbor Coffee & Bakery for some much needed caffeine and were delighted to find bakery goods for dogs also for sale (obviously we got some!). From there we embarked through the countryside out to find the Empire Bluff trail, a trail I knew to be dog-friendly. After driving the day before, it was nice to stretch our legs and take in the overlooks. Speaking of, the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is an excellent way to take in the sights if you are short on time or unable to do hikes involving terrain/elevation. There are multiple stops along the way that allow you to take a short walk, have a picnic, or just enjoy the view!

Empire Bluff trail in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

I had visited Van's Beach in Leland in the past and knew that Lars would enjoy the quieter water, soft sand, and rocky shoreline. We all spent some time looking (unsuccessfully) for Petoskey or Leland blue stones and simply enjoying the sunshine and warming temperatures. No one else happened to be out there with us so Lars was able to fully enjoy the water and getting as sandy as possible.

We could see the shacks from up and over a small dune but after we left the beach, we wandered over to Fishtown to grab lunch at the Village Cheese Shanty. We both got different sandwiches and honestly, they were some of the best we've ever had! Lars also enjoyed the small sampling of bites we gave him. Being able to see all the huts coming together for the season also seemed like a rare sight as the boats and water were quiet and free of the hustle I'm sure the crowds bring.

Hopping around Van's Beach


Amazing sandwich from the Village Cheese Shanty

We got back in the car and cut east across the peninsula to go find the Leelanau Cellars tasting room. Along the way, we saw orchards, vineyards, beautiful homes, and forests. Bryan commented multiple times about how much he was enjoying simply driving around. We made it to the winery and went in for a tasting, leaving Lars in the car temporarily (cool temperatures and open windows made this possible. Safety first, always!). Dogs are not allowed in the tasting room but are outside on the patio so after making a selection, we went and got Lars, all three of us basking in the warm sun while enjoying the beautiful boatyard view this space has to offer. This happens to be one of my favorite wineries (hello, Witches Brew!) so I bought a few bottles on our way out and off we went for a spectacular drive down the coast of the peninsula. Sunroof and windows open, sunshine beaming in, music turned up... what more can you ask for?

Cruisin' down the peninsula

View from Leelanau Cellars' tasting room

Enjoying the patio

An absolutely picture perfect day

We made our way back south to The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Here you will find old, restored buildings, common areas, shops, coffee, wine, and food! You could spend a whole day here if you wanted! Dogs are allowed on grounds, down in the mercantile (only select shops though, so be sure to ask), and on the patios of nearby establishments.

Left Foot Charley and its sister, The Barrel Room, offer a wide variety of wines and ciders, games, and event nights. We happened to run into an open mic night and people sounded so good! The big patio allows space for everyone and the friendly staff will ensure you get something you really like.

Knowing we needed some food after all this wine, we stopped by a takeout pizza place called Crusted Creations and got a custom pie just for us. We took it back to the hotel and oh my gosh, it was so good. Pizza in bed after a long day out and about was just the thing!

Get cozy in The Barrel Room

Embarrassing him in public

Left Foot Charley's tasting room

day two

Bryan and I took it a little easier getting out of bed since we had seen and done so much the day before. But I still always want to get out the door so we made our way back to downtown TC to grab some donuts. I happened to find a little shop called Peace, Love, and Little Donuts that specializes in fresh, custom orders so we got a whole box full (worth it!) and went back to the beach to watch massive waves come crashing into the shore. It sure was windy! I knew I wanted to walk around some and see local shops so we drove back to Front Street, parked, and got some coffee from Espresso Bay. We window shopped for a little bit before a "pet friendly" decal in a window caught my eye at Backcountry North. Always one to shop an outdoor brand store, we happily went in.

Watching big waves before diving into donuts

The staff of Backcountry North were some of the most helpful people I've ever met! Not only were they friendly to humans and animals alike upon entry, they genuinely wanted to get to know us: where we were from, what we planned on doing, and how they could help. We got a lot of local dog-friendly recommendations and Bryan ended up with a new travel pack that he couldn't wait to use.

We then got back in the car and drove up the Old Mission Peninsula to the Mission Point Lighthouse and beach. Dogs are again allowed on grounds but not in the building itself. We walked around to see it and saw stairs going down the (currently empty) beach so strolled down there. I was immediately jealous of all those who get to enjoy this beach in the summer. Perfectly shallow water was dappled with stones big enough to sit on. I can imagine bringing a cooler and just enjoying the water for hours. Lars very much enjoyed this space since he doesn't like deep or rushing waters and played for quite a bit in the soft sand.

Backseat driver Lars

Driving up Old Mission Peninsula

Mission Point Lighthouse

Coming back down the peninsula, we stopped at Chateau Grand Traverse winery where, again, dogs aren't allowed in the tasting room but are outside on the patio. We each grabbed a glass and went out into the far corner to enjoy an epic overlook of the peninsula down into the west arm of the Grand Traverse Bay. The patio is massive and includes covered and uncovered portions to accommodate everyone's needs! And just in case you don't want to stop in but still want to see the view, there is a scenic overlook you can also take advantage of just past the entrance on the west side of the road.

When in Rome, get a Cherry Riesling

For real, stop at the scenic overlook

For real, stop at the scenic overlook

Next up was making our way back into town to go visit Silver Spruce Brewing. It sits close to downtown and has large spaces both inside and out with pups allowed outside. They also feature a food truck on site for a much needed snack. We enjoyed the warming temperatures and friendly patrons who gave Lars a hello before going inside. Once dinnertime rolled around, we wandered west and got a meal at Dillinger's Pub, though for as much as I can tell, they do not allow dogs. Once again, cool temperatures helped us out and we left Lars in the car to rest while we quickly ate then took our leftovers back to the hotel.

The next morning we checked out of the hotel and made our way back to the nearby Village at Grand Traverse Commons to visit Higher Grounds Coffee. They feature organic coffee sourced from small scale farmers and give back to the communities they serve. Once we roamed a bit more, we hopped back in the car to make the trip back to Indy!

Water bowls are always appreciated

Lying in wait for pets

Lying in wait for pets

Other options!

We did quite a bit in two days but there is still way more to explore! Maybe you're there for a week or maybe you just want to have more options in case of crowds, closures, or menu availability. Here are more dog-friendly spots around the Traverse City area (in no particular order):

Let me know!

I hope this post was helpful to you!

If you had a really great experience at a place listed or know of a business/location that should be added to this list, reach out and let me know! I'd love to keep this as comprehensive as possible to eliminate some of the workload that comes with traveling with dogs. It's not always easy but it's always worth it!