film festival tourism

Traverse City

The Traverse City International Film Festival

Michale Moore in front of the State Theater during the festival

Michale Moore in front of the State Theater during the festival

A well-organized, intelligently programmed event held in an attractive Midwestern tourist center. The festival is Michael Moore’s gift to his Michigan hometown, and he supports it wholeheartedly by welcoming audience members to the screenings, introducing films, and leading panel discussions throughout the event.

Festival Website:

Timing: Six days at the end of July/beginning of August.

Dates for 2009: July 28-August 2


As one would expect, the fest is especially strong on documentaries, but it also features a judicious selection of international and American indie features from the festival circuit as well as some revivals.

Special Guests

A reasonable number of filmmakers attend (mostly documentarians, but some others as well). Moore makes sure that all guests get star treatment.

A panel discussion at the 2006 festival

A panel discussion at the 2006 festival


Mostly locals, but also out-of-towners who take advantage of the occasion to enjoy the scenic surroundings and tourist activities offered in the area.


The festival’s five theaters and converted auditoriums are all serviceable enough. Most are close to the center of town, and the fest runs a free shuttle if you need it. Free outdoor screenings each evening in the park are geared to locals, who like to picnic and socialize.


In keeping with the festival’s location in a vacation Mecca, movies start in mid-morning and continue through the evening hours. The last screenings begin at 10pm. As many as five movies may screen concurrently.


Easy to acquire. Films rarely sell out.


Traverse City

Traverse City

Among vacation options for Midwesterners, Traverse City ranks high, though it’s a good distance from any major urban area. (The town does, however, have a good airport.) Because the festival takes place at the height of the tourist season, there is ample opportunity for extracurricular pleasures when you attend.


If you stay at the upscale Park Place Hotel in the center of town, you’ll be able to walk to most events. Park Place Hotel, 300 E State St,Traverse City. (231) 946-5000

The town's main street


Two upscale places I tried during my visit there in 2006 aspire to a high standard and are close to the center of town:

  • 310 Restaurant. Good food in a convenient and picturesque location by the river. 310 S CASS St, Traverse City. (231) 932-1310.

  • Hanna Bistro. A pleasant atmosphere—and what you get is worth the money. 118 Cass Street, Traverse City. (231) 946-8207.


  • Winery Tours. Michigan wines are beginning to take a place in wine-lovers playbooks—and the scenery around the vineyards on Leelanu Pennisula, just outside of town, is itself worth the trip.

  • Sailing on Lake Michigan. The Lake here has a special beauty best appreciated when you’re on it. Traverse Tall Ship Company, 13390 S.W. Bayshore Dr., Traverse City, MI 49684. (231) 941-2000, (800) 968-8800.



Outdoor screen at the 2006 festival

Outdoor screen at the 2006 festival

Best Film I Saw: Who Killed the Electric Car. A crisply argued, timely documentary from Chris Paine.

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