Spring Break in Traverse City: Low Prices, Great Fun, Unpredictable Skiing

When March rolls around, millions of Americans will brave crowded airports and clogged highways, trying to make their way south for spring break.

But a growing number of spring vacationers are starting to look north instead. In summer resort towns like Traverse City, whose beaches and golf courses will still be shaking off the chill of winter, they find a significantly less congested vacation experience – at a significantly lower cost.

Just one example: Shanty Creek Resorts, just east of Traverse City, is offering major discounts on spring getaways – ski lift tickets for $25 per person, regardless of age, and rooms starting as low as $75 per night – between March 6th and the end of ski season. (Those savings will be even more significant for spring break vacationers from nearby Canada, since Shanty accepts Canadian currency on par with US dollars.)

Chris Hale, Shanty Creek’s vice president for sales and marketing, says March can be a slow season at ski resorts since spring snow conditions are fairly unpredictable. Over the years, Shanty has responded by creating a slew of “slush-related” spring events: from a March 4th “slush cup” event where skiers and snowboarders try to fly across a pond of icy water, to a March 11th “cardboard classic” race where participants use sleds made from cardboard.

By April, the resort has abandoned all hope of a prolonged ski season, so the hill at Schuss Mountain is given over to truckers instead. The Schuss Mountain Snow Challenge, on April 1st and 2nd, is a series of 400-yard off-road truck and ATV races up the snowy hill. It’s a classic side-by-side hill climb race, where anywhere from 80 to 90 vehicles roar their way up the hill for two days.

An added inducement is the “True Escape” package offered by Traverse City Tourism, which runs until May 11th, combining special rates at participating hotels and resorts with a wide range of discounts on recreation, shopping, dining and entertainment.

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 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 has 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 pools at downtown hotels like the 120-room Bayshore Resort or the 140-room Park Place Hotel.

Spring break is even a profitable time for golf resorts like the 580-room Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. 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.

“Everything people love about Traverse City is still here — great restaurants, charming downtown boutiques, wine tastings, and exhilarating outdoor recreation,” said Traverse City Tourism spokesman Mike Norton. “And with fewer crowds and great off-season pricing, spring is the perfect time to visit.”

For detailed information about spring break activities and attractions in the Traverse City area, and for details about the 2017 True Escape package, contact Traverse City Tourism at