Is Petoskey or Traverse City the Best Small Town in the Midwest?

Is Petoskey or Traverse City the Best Small Town in the Midwest?

Grand Traverse County Lighthouses Old Mission Point

It’s one of our favorite times of year, as USA Today launches a round of 10Best Reader’s Choice polls centered around small towns. Michigan is always well-represented in these contests, and this year we have two northern Michigan towns fighting for the top spot in the Best Small Town in the Midwest contest. We love both Traverse City and Petoskey and agree that either would be a great choice, and today we look at the case for each one. This round of contests is also looking for the Best Historic Small Town (Ludington is a finalist), Best Small Town Cultural Scene (Marquette is a finalist), Best Small Town Food Scene (Traverse City is also a finalist in this one), Best Coastal Small Town (Saugatuck is a finalist) and the Best Small Town in the West, Northeast, and South. Voting for all of these contests takes place now through April 1st, and you can vote once per category per day. Now let’s take a look at Petoskey and Traverse City:

Lake Michigan Dunes Petoskey State Park

Petoskey is one of our favorite places in northern Michigan to have a great time exploring the outdoors while also having plenty of modern convenience. We love Petoskey State Park, Petsokey Brewing, Beards Brewery, following in the footsteps of author Ernest Hemingway, and searching for Petoskey stones on the waterfront. From its nomination: “The northern reaches of Lower Michigan are renowned for their abundant natural beauty, and Petoskey is no exception. During the late afternoon, visitors can stroll along the aptly named Sunset Park and bask in the beauty of Lake Michigan amidst the golden glow of twilight, while daylight hours bring the opportunity to explore Bear River Valley Recreation Area, a natural feature that’s rife with rapids.” A walkable downtown full of shops, restaurants, and parks make this a great place to spend some time, and there’s a treasure trove of historical sites to dive into as well. As of this writing, Petoskey was in second place trailing only Council Grove, Kansas.

Traverse City Perry Hannah Statue Michigan

Now let’s turn our attention to Traverse City. First let’s see what 10Best has to say “Traverse City showcases the beauty of Lake Michigan and the wilderness that surrounds it. Be sure to see the Sleeping Bear Dunes along the lake, taste the famous wines produced here, and enjoy the flavorful cherries that put the town on the map in the first place. There are outdoor adventures to be had throughout the year, as a little bit of snow doesn’t stop the locals from getting out and having fun. They just strap on their snowshoes and go — and you should, too.” Certainly a great starting point, and we will add that Traverse City also has lots of breweries, several big summer festivals, tons of art, a state park that is great for camping and beach days, a beautiful downtown, and even a Northwoods League baseball team. You can vote for Traverse City once per day, as of this writing they were sitting in sixth place.

Rare Bird Brewpub Traverse City Ale Trail

As far as the food scene in Traverse City goes, 10Best noted: “Traverse City on the shores of Lake Michigan enjoys a buzzing food scene. Morel mushrooms grow in the area woods, and local chefs pair them with everything from local fish to farm-fresh eggs. Top dining options include Trattoria Stella by James Beard semifinalist Myles Anton, The Filling Station Microbrewery, and the Cordwood BBQ food truck.” The Little Fleet food truck area just a few blocks from the lake offers great variety and has become a destination for out of town visitors and locals alike. As of this writing Traverse City was also in sixth place in this contest.

Petoskey Brewing Michigan

So who will it be? Petoskey and Traverse City are only 67 road miles and a little over an hour of drive time away from each other, but each offer a unique experience for visitors. Will voters choose Traverse City for its food and proximity to Sleeping Bear Dunes, or help Petoskey to a victory for its parks and outdoor adventure opportunities? Either way, we love to see Michigan towns get national attention in these contests and hope to see another winner come from the Mitten State!