Spring Break idea: Have America’s ‘most beautiful place’ all to yourself!

Spring Break idea: Have America’s ‘most beautiful place’ all to yourself!

Traverse City Tourism by Matt Vande Bunte

When it’s Spring Break, you’re not headed south and it’s not quite beach weather in Michigan, what do you do? Check the movie listings!

Of course, you can go see a movie any time. So why not make this Spring Break special by visiting the No. 1 movie theater in the entire world?

Historic State Theatre in downtown Traverse City

The State Theatre in downtown Traverse City

The historic State Theatre in Traverse City will show free movies throughout Spring Break from Friday, March 27, through Thursday, April 2.

Even if your school’s Spring Break doesn’t match up with that week, you can still experience State Theatre at a bargain. That’s because tickets to matinees every Wednesday and Saturday cost just 25 cents each, with late-night cult classics every Friday only $3.

“It’s an old, small-town movie palace with some touches that evoke what going to the movies used to be like when going to the movies was a real event,” said Louis Dickinson, manager of the historic movie house. “We’re right downtown. We have a beautiful old marquee. We have deliberately low concessions prices.

“We aim to make it as affordable as possible for working families and people who aren’t traveling (out of state) for Spring Break. We try to be the staycation capital of northern Michigan.”

State Theatre will screen up to five movies per day for free during Spring Break. Of course, seeing a movie is far from the only thing to do on Spring Break in Traverse City. The area offers a great mix of indoor-outdoor family fun that’s perfect for a weekend getaway, or even the entire week.

Here are five more things for Michiganders to put on their Spring Break staycation bucket list this year:

Go to a water park – The Great Lakes are still too cold for swimming during Spring Break. But the water’s fine at Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City. The resort makes for an active, fun family getaway with a gigantic indoor water park, huge arcade and the innovative MagiQuest 3D interactive game that invites families to solve mysteries by working together.

Get outdoors and enjoy the Mitten State! – Depending on the weather, you can probably still hit the slopes for downhill skiing and tubing on Spring Break in Traverse City. Ski resorts can often make snow into April. There might still even be some snow on the ground during Spring Break, which means you can get out and do cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Even if the snow is all melted, you can still enjoy a last blast of winter by heading to one of the area’s indoor ice rinks for ice skating.

Great Lakes Children's Museum in Traverse City

The Great Lakes Children’s Museum in Traverse City features interactive exhibits geared for children ages 1 to 10

Send the kids to Spring Camp – Lots of kids go to summer camp. Did you know that Traverse City has spring camps, too? Your kids can track animals, build campfires and tap maple trees at the Grass River Natural Area Spring Camp. You can also find special Spring Break activities for kids at other Traverse City attractions including Crooked Tree Arts Center and Professor Qwbli’s. While the kids are busy at camp, it’s a great time for the adults in the family to relax at one of Traverse City’s dozens of wineries and breweries. Enjoy discovering a new favorite while roaming the scenic countryside of the Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas.

Explore a museum – Whatever the ages and interests of your kids, Traverse City has fun and educational museums right up their alley. The hands-on exhibits at the Great Lakes Children’s Museum in Traverse City are ideal for children ages 8 and under, while older kids will appreciate the artistry on display at the Dennos Museum Center at Northwestern Michigan College. At the Music House Museum, the whole family will get a kick out of antique automated musical instruments.

Experience a national park – This year is the 50th anniversary of the Most Beautiful Place in America: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Even if you’ve been to Sleeping Bear in the summer, you’ll be amazed at how the park takes on a whole different kind of beauty in the spring. Many trails are open for hiking or biking in late March and early April. And, of course, the views are incredible all year round.

RELATED: Tips for planning a Spring Break getaway to Traverse City

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in the Spring: Hike the Empire Bluff Trail that rises to a tremendous view high above Lake Michigan or take your family back in time by visiting the old farms in historic Port Oneida.

One perk of visiting Sleeping Bear in the spring: it’s much less crowded than during the summer.

“You don’t have to fight for a parking spot this time of year,” said Merrith Baughman, the park’s chief of interpretation and visitor services.

Plus, migratory water birds, including the endangered piping plover, start returning to the dunes in the spring. And it’s a great time to scour the beach and see what rocks and other treasures have washed up during winter storms, she said.

Another perk of visiting Sleeping Bear this spring: The park is celebrating its 50th anniversary! Spring Break activities include a film festival March 21 and March 28 at the Visitor Center in Empire. The visitor center is also the place to find the park’s new junior ranger booklet for kids, new 50-mile Trail Trekker Challenge maps and a 50th anniversary scavenger hunt that will take you to some of the less familiar parts of the park.

RELATED: 5 unexpected ways to enjoy Sleeping Bear Dunes in the winter

Whatever you choose to cross off your Spring Break staycation bucket list – and whether you can get away for just a couple nights or even the entire week – you can take advantage of TC Escape Packages during your stay. The Escape packages include lodging discounts and coupons on everything from dining, movies and spa services to wine purchases and entertainment.