GTPulse Weekend Planner: It’s All Grand—What’s New at the Grand Traverse Resort

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I was reminded of my first introduction to the Grand Traverse Resort as I sat in the lobby last week, staring up at the exquisitely decorated Christmas tree.  I was waiting for Caroline Rizzo, the Resort’s effortlessly cheerful Public Relations Manager, to give me a tour of some recent updates to the massive property located just off US-31 in Acme.

It was 1988 when my Dad first took me and my siblings to the sparkling 17 story, glass paneled building known as the Tower of the Grand Traverse Resort. Walking through the doors that December was like walking directly into the North Pole. The lobby was buzzing with animatronic penguins and reindeer, as lights and garland seemed to dazzle every surface. The line to use the iconic glass elevator stretched into the lobby, but we didn’t mind the wait. Instead, we were mesmerized by the Christmas splendor that surrounded us. My sister wondered aloud how many Nintendos were in the hotel, after seeing a television ad that proclaimed each of the 186 rooms were equipped with both cable tv and a Nintendo. To four local kids under the age of 10, the concept of a Nintendo in every room was the highest of high living.

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It was finally our turn to enter the Tower’s elevator, and I could feel my heart racing. As it slowly ascended, I looked out to see the snow covered view, and for the first time in my young life, I saw a brief portrait of the community outside of my small world. What I was not able to comprehend, however, was how the Grand Traverse Resort would bring the world to my community.

With 900 acres of landscape, three championship golf courses, nearly 600 guest rooms and 86,500 square feet of meeting space, the Grand Traverse Resort attracts visitors from across the globe.

Many traditions continue at the Grand Traverse Resort. Traditions like the holiday décor that adorns nearly every surface of the lobby and gallery of shops. Or, The Bear, a beautiful and challenging golf course designed in 1985 by the legendary Jack Nicklaus himself.

Tradition itself is at the heart of the Resort’s owners, the Anishinaabek, who make up the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. The Grand Traverse Band works to honor the past while embracing the future, and that balance is evident in each of the properties it owns and operates.


By embracing the future, the Grand Traverse Resort has added a state of the art spa which offers an array of personal services from the tried-and-true to the trendy. The Resort’s sister property, Turtle Creek Casino and Hotel, recently ushered in Michigan’s first sports betting in the form of the Onyx Sports Book by William Hill. Onyx goes beyond the bet offering with a full service bar with over 20 HDTV’s and an elevated sports bar menu. The atmosphere is welcoming for both the seasoned sports bettor and anyone looking for a place to unwind and watch the game.

Back at the Resort, Caroline and I walk along the Gallery of Shops, noting the detail in decorating and the new renovations as I tell tales of growing up in the area. We find our way to The Den, the Grand Traverse Resort’s newest addition, which offers entertainment to the young and the old.

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“It’s actually the former sales office,” Caroline says as we enter The Den, “we told them to pack up, and this is what was born!” she laughs and I think of dozens of sales people in suits carrying boxes to their new offices while dozens of arcade games, a bar, an escape room, axe throwing cages and even boutique bowling lanes are installed in place of their cubicles.

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The Den’s designer is clearly attuned to what a game room should look like. The space reminds me of a mancave on steroids, as even the color scheme harkens notes of Star Wars and the Marvel Universe. But, it’s more than a mancave. It’s a true family gathering spot that offers entertainment for every age.

Mom and Dad can easily have a drink while the kids play arcade games or goggle up for one of the virtual reality installations just steps away. Groups of friends can gather for a a Flint-style Koegel Coney Dog or an order of Redneck Nachos before embarking on a quest to conquer the multichambered Escape Room, or try for a strike on the smaller lanes of Boutique Bowling.

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However, my absolute favorite part of this multifaceted gaming adventure is the Axe throwing. I imagine a new couple, side by side in the cages, talking casually while throwing real axes. Or, the exhausted Mom group that meets for a much needed break from virtual learning to channel their stress into the business end of an axe. (sign me up for that group, please!)

The Den is truly a multi-generational meeting place, offering something for everyone in a fun and inviting atmosphere. And, in a world that seems to trade stress as a currency, it’s nice to know that there’s a place where we can go unwind, destress and have an axe to throw instead of an axe to grind.

Notes: Located in the Main Lobby of the Grand Traverse Resort, The Den is open Tuesday through Thursday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays from 2 p.m. to midnight and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to midnight. The Den is available for private events. Find out more here or call 231-534-6336.

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