On the northeastern side of Lake Michigan, Traverse City is a hip little town that has exploded in recent years with new wineries, a slew of fantastic farm-to-table restaurants, and its very own Michael Moore-founded film festival. Surrounded by lush farmland, vineyards, and pristine beaches, the area is still blissfully under-the-radar. But not for long: with summer-resident and star chef Mario Batali singing its praises, Traverse City’s on the rise.

BEST MEAL: Located in the historic Bowers Harbor Inn on Old Mission Peninsula, Mission Table reopened in 2010 after a major renovation and menu overhaul. Their commitment to local, sustainable ingredients is evident in their ultra-seasonal farm-to-table fare.

BEST BREWERY: Located next door to Mission Table, the cozy Jolly Pumpkin Brewery crafts artisan ales (including the award-winning Belgian-style Oro de Calabaza) and serves top-notch pub grub to match.

BEST BAKERY: Start your morning off with warm, flaky croissants, homemade jam, and café au lait at Traverse City’s newest bakery 9 Bean Rows. Baker-owner Jen Welty makes European style breads, pastries, and quiches from scratch daily, while her husband Nic runs their CSA farm.

BEST WINERY: Two Lads (run by South-African born Cornel Olivier and native Michigander Chris Baldyga) specializes in drier style cool-climate reds (Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir) and sparkling blends. Their sleek tasting room offers gorgeous vineyard and lake views, and a knowledgeable staff.

BEST VIEWS: The 2.8-mile Sleeping Bear Point trail in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park offers phenomenal views of Lake Michigan, plus a chance to climb rolling dunes and walk through a bizarre “ghost forest”–long dead trees left standing in eerie formations.

Guest-blogger Anna Watson Carl is the author of The Yellow Table.

By Anna Watson and Anna Watson Carl