Michigan : Safety by City
- Ann Arbor
- Battle Creek
- Farmington Hills
- Flat Rock
- Glen Arbor
- Grand Rapids
- Mackinac Island
- Mackinaw City
- Port Huron
- Sault Ste. Marie
- Sterling Heights
- Traverse City
Traverse City, Michigan, is considered “Up North” in the state’s Lower Peninsula.
This is not to be confused with the Upper Peninsula (UP), where the access bridge is two hours away from Traverse City.
The Lower Peninsula is known as “The Mitten,” and if you had to describe Traverse City’s location on the mitten, it would be the pinky.
However, Traverse City is more commonly known as the Cherry Capital of the World, a nickname backed up by the region’s airport, Cherry Capital Airport, and the annual Cherry Festival.
40% of the nation’s cherries are grown right here.
Not to be outdone, grapes also dominate the landscape and the tourism industry, with vineyards and wineries galore.
You can even visit the winery owned by Madonna’s father.
Stay tuned for more on that!
Traverse City has quickly become a four-season tourist destination, as it sits on two prongs of the Grand Traverse Bay, which leads to Lake Michigan.
Summers are so fun that Kid Rock made a reminiscing hit in 2008 titled “All Summer Long.”
He spoke of summertime in Northern Michigan, splashing through the sandbar, catching Walleye from the dock, and watching waves roll off the rocks.
This community is also known as the premiere LGBTQIA+ destination in Michigan.
Up North Pride is the organization that fostered the advancement of safe, diverse, and inclusive spaces and created the largest Pride Parade in Michigan.
Whether you’re a solo adventurer, couple, family, or a bunch of friends looking to “sip whiskey out of the bottle and not think about tomorrow,” Traverse City has something for everyone.
Warnings & Dangers in Traverse City
OVERALL RISK: LOW
With low overall risk and a high potential for fun, Traverse City is truly an ideal Michigan destination. You get the best of the lakes, beaches, mountains(ish), and a safe city rooted in history and growing into the future.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) provides the local bus system, and you have plenty of options. One route loops the city; another rides the bayfront with many stops along the way, and a third connects Grand Traverse County to Leelanau County cities to explore more of the region. Taxis and rideshares are readily available. A rental car will give you the most flexibility, but that bus system is pretty expansive. The TART Trail is a cross-town (10.5 miles) paved route for cyclists, joggers, or skaters.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk, with no pickpockets or purse snatchings reported since at least 2018. While the theft rate is 25% lower than the national average, car burglaries make up 27% of all thefts.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
Major winter storms are the biggest risk, with potential blinding snow and dangerously cold wind chills. Travel can be brought to a standstill during the worst storms. Lake effect snow can happen in Traverse City, but it's not as common as in other waterfront cities. Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are possible in spring and summer. Flooding and the erosion effects of global warming on the Great Lakes are other risks. You have plenty of safety resources to get through any dangerous weather from the Grand Traverse County Emergency Management team.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
The city hasn't seen more than five robberies in a year since 2011, and in 2021 only two robberies were reported. The risk is consistently low here.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
Even in a city with seemingly low risk, you must remain vigilant. In 2021, a man posted a social media threat about a mass shooting in downtown Traverse City. The video was reported to the police, and the man was arrested. Police say they found an AR-15 rifle at his home. Always report suspicious activity or threatening posts to the police.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Keep up with Scam Alerts on the same named section of the county's website. You can review a list of common scams and sign up for notifications when a new scam is reported. If you suspect fraudulent activity, there's a contact for reporting it on that site. Most scams in this area will target senior residents, not tourists.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women traveling in groups or solo female travelers will love the safety of this city and the abundance of things to do outdoors. You should still use smart personal safety steps, even when visiting safe places.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows full compliance with state and federal standards with no violations. You can also review the 2021 improvements made to water treatment and water security in that report posted on the city's website.
Safest Places to Visit in Traverse City
TraverseCity.com is the official tourism site, not the city website.
The city site is TraverseCitymi.gov.
Both provide great information about attractions, parks, and events.
The city website is better for information about parking and community organizations, while the tourism website provides attractions and outdoor recreation areas.
DowntownTC.com is a site dedicated to downtown.
The city’s northern edge grips either the east or west end of Grand Traverse Bay, with Old Mission Peninsula between the two (HELLO WINERIES!).
Highway 31, which changes names along the way to Front Street or Munson Avenue, is where you’ll find the most hotels.
Chain and local hotels line the way, but there are rentals and inns along the nearby peninsulas.
As much as Michigan is shaped like a mitten, Traverse City’s region has peninsula “fingers.”
Old Mission is just one of them.
Downtown spans Wester Grand Traverse Bay, and Front Street District is the focal point.
Old Town District is just south of there.
To the northwest of the Front Street District is the Warehouse District.
Each district is a mix of shopping, dining, and entertainment.
The Boardman River circles the Front Street District before opening to Boardman Lake near Old Town.
That means water surrounds each entertainment district, from the bay to the river to the lake.
Parks along the way offer walking trails, kayak launches, fly-fishing, and boat tours.
Just west of Old Town, you’ll find the Village at Grand Traverse Commons.
This shopping destination is built into a historic hospital.
Along the bayfront, you’ll have several beaches before you even leave the city limits.
- Clinch Park Beach
- Sunset Park Beach
- Bryant Park Beach
Hickory Hills Ski Area is less than three miles from downtown.
This newly renovated destination includes ski runs for kids up to expert level.
Sledding and Nordic skiing are other options.
Hickory Hills Recreation Area is open year-round, with an 18-hole disc golf course.
Great Lakes Children’s Museum is on the western edge of West Arm Grand Traverse Bay.
Interactive exhibits are broken down into age group, with several being offered to children of all ages.
Reservations are strongly recommended since the museum is so popular.
Take the Old Mission Wine Trail up the peninsula and end at the Mission Point Lighthouse surrounded by Old Mission State Park.
If you want to visit the winery owned by Madonna’s father, that’s not on Mission Point.
It’s in the Sutton Bay Region, and it is called Ciccone Vineyard & Winery.
That is more of a fun fact than a pilgrimage for Madonna fans, since the winery has no signs it’s connected to her.
It’s a tried and true winery built on more than a century of family experience.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is 40 minutes from Traverse City.
The legend of a mother bear who lost two cubs to the sea explain the large dune like a “sleeping bear” and the “cub” islands that rise from the water offshore.
This park offers many things to do, from shipwreck sightings to lighthouse views to hiking to fishing.
The sky comes to life at night with incredible unpolluted views of the galaxy.
Ferries to the islands leave from Fishtown, about 30 minutes north of the landlocked portion of the park.
Places to Avoid in Traverse City
You don’t need to worry about a crime-ridden neighborhood or part of town.
While there might be some more rundown areas of the city, sticking to the main roads and highways will keep you in the safest places.
The Cherry Festival in Traverse City is usually at the end of June or early July.
If you aren’t visiting for that event, you might notice sold out or expensive hotel rooms.
More than 500,000 people attend this festival, so you should plan very early if you’ll be here during that time.
If it feels like I rushed through things to do – I did.
There are SO many things to do here and that’s before you leave Traverse City.
Even with the intrepid research I do for these articles, this place is filled with a dizzying number of options.
Even just checking out the breweries or wineries can take a full vacation.
Avoid “winging it” and plot your itinerary ahead of time.
The tourism website is filled with sample itineraries and breaks down each region of the peninsulas and city.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Traverse City
- Traverse City has its own police force, but outside the city boundaries you’ll be in the Grand Travese County Sheriff’s jurisdiction. Follow them both on Facebook @TCPoliceDepartment and @grandtraversesheriff.
- Sign up for CodeRED notifications to get weather and safety alerts to your email or mobile device. The weather risks can help you make safer plans, but also cause road closures or shut down certain attractions.
- Use Mi Drive as the traffic tool to get around Northern Michigan. This program is provided by the Department of Transportation and you can see interactive real-time maps of accidents, traffic backups, and road closures. Live cameras are also available. If you create an account, you can set routes and receive alerts about delays or issues along the way.
- You can easily report a crime tip or non-urgent situation by emailing TCPDOnlineReports@TraverseCityMI.gov.
- Traverse City is known for its breweries and wineries, but also wants to foster a safe and healthy environment for those who enjoy the social interactions involving alcohol. However, with the number of police calls related to drinking, this group wants to work with the community to lower the risk of overconsumption, drunk driving, bar fights, and destruction of property connected to alcohol abuse.
- TCPD has an LGBTQ+ Police Liaison. You can reach Officer Krista Fryczynki through the main line of the police department and ask questions to have the best experience possible.
- Downtown Traverse City is a mix of one-way streets and two-way streets laid out in a way that doesn’t always make sense. Then there are pedestrian crosswalks that tell walkers to wait until a break in traffic, with drivers seeing signs to yield to pedestrians. Bike lanes can be found near the center of the roadway, not always on the right side. Use extreme caution no matter how you travel the city. The city hears the complaints and sees the dangerous statistics, and as of 2023 is working on a plan to turn one-way streets into two-way roads.
- Use the ParkMobile app to find parking spots and pay for parking. You can also pay at the meter when applicable. Most parking meters allow 30 minutes of free parking, so push the meter button once before you enter change to see if it starts the 30-minute countdown.
- Download the National Park Service (NPS) app to get detailed information about Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. With a mainland park and two islands to explore, there are plenty of specific details you need to know.
- Bring a NOAA weather radio with you if you’re heading to the park or shoreline, since mobile phone service will be spotty. Bring shoes, even during summer, as the hot sand and jagged dune grass can hurt your feet. Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back. Rip tides are still a safety issue, even though the beaches are on a lake and not an ocean.
So... How Safe Is Traverse City Really?
The Kid Rock song All Summer Long also touched on one of the bigger risks in Traverse City – drug use.
He bellowed “We were trying different things, and we were smoking funny things…” The drug crime increase has been so concerning that the DEA set up shop in Traverse City in 2018 and the police department has a Tactical Narcotics Team (TNT) chasing down drug dealers and offering help to addicts.
You can see the sheer number of busts that happen here by looking at the TNT Facebook page.
While Northern Michigan battles the exponentially growing drug problem, this also leads to more crime related to assaults and involving guns.
Violent crime has increased by 1300% (not a typo) since 2011.
In raw data, that means it went from five crimes to 63 crimes, but it’s still a trend consistently going in the wrong direction.
Overdose deaths also went from seven in 2015 to 19 in 2021.
As a tourist, you should know that only 21% of violent crimes happen against strangers and women are 15% less likely to be the victim of a violent crime.
27% of thefts were related to car break-ins, so keep the doors locked, windows rolled up, and personal items of plain sight.
Traverse City provides a lot of fun, indoors and outdoors, but it also can trigger those with abuse issues or bring drinking disorders.
Pace yourself with any activity.
Check the weather before heading outdoors because severe or dangerous winter weather are common.
How Does Traverse City Compare?
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|La Paz (Bolivia)||52|
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A valid passport not less than six months from expiration and a U.S. visa are required for every international visitor to get through Customs and Border Patrol. Travel visas take longer, but before you apply, read the new rules on the U.S. State Department website to speed up the process without compromising safety.
The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted here. You can exchange currency in Traverse City, but you'll get a better value and lower fees if you do that before you leave your home city. When available, make purchases and reservations ahead of time with a credit card for the best fraud protection.
Traverse City is precisely at the midway point between the North Pole and the Equator while snuggled up against the western edge of the Eastern Time Zone, giving longer days than places like Maine, which are on the eastern boundary of the time zone. You should bring snow attire for winter and casual summer clothing, but fall and spring can have big swings in temperature and weather. Bring layers and bug spray. Don't forget sunscreen if you'll spend a lot of time outdoors.
Cherry Capital Airport (TVC) is the Traverse City Airport, just five miles from downtown. With 17 destinations through various airlines, you can get a great connecting international flight without driving to a larger airport.
Travel insurance for standard items like flight reservations, baggage, and health is valuable. You should also consider wilderness or adventure insurance if you'll be spending time in remote areas or on the water to avoid hefty out-of-pocket costs should there be an accident.
Traverse City Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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Michigan - Safety by City
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