Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Traverse City Civic Center

Now that summer has finally arrived in northern Michigan, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite places in Traverse CIty: the Civic Center. 

I know, I know. If you live here, you might think it's strange that I'm highlighting a place like the Civic Center because it seems so ubiquitous in our town, but I think it's a gem that is often forgotten since it's so centralized and utilized. In other words, I believe we take it for granted. Not too many towns have a multi-use park only minutes away from downtown!

The Civic Center is a 45 acre park in the city limits that attracts over a million visitors every year. Believe it! It is such a beautiful place, and it truly has an infinite amount of uses. 

In the winter, Howe Arena hosts local hockey games and open skates; in the summer, you'll find roller derbies, dog shows, and many other events like Relay for Life. The same building also houses the Easling Pool, the only public pool available to TC residents, which is open year-round. Even though I'm a big hockey fan, I must say this place really comes alive in the summer.

There is a mile-long walking trail around the perimeter of the park and it's always bustling with activity. Dog walkers, roller bladders, bikers, runners, stroller-pushers…this trail has seen it all. They clear it off in the winter, so you can always count on a safe winter run around the track, and in the summer it's a busy place. I know many devoted Civic Center walkers, and the nice thing about the track is that you'll never be alone.

My favorite thing about the Civic Center is it feels like a different place than the city, even though the city is right around the corner. I feel transported to a place lush with green grass, lots of trees, and seemingly hundreds of squirrels running around. It's rare to find such a large natural area in the city, and having the Civic Center so close makes escaping the city traffic easy.

One of the coolest features of the park is Kids Kove (which was named by one of my brother's elementary school friends). The playground was built in the 1990s by local families and volunteers who all chipped in to construct one of the most badass playgrounds I've ever seen.

Like, for real: I LOVE KIDS KOVE. Sure, I have a ton of great memories from when I was younger, but even today I love exploring the nooks and crannies of every tower, or trying to conquer every challenge. Besides, who doesn't love swing sets? 

For the more extreme athletes, the skate park is also located in the Civic Center. The skate park was built in 2001 and is a very popular spot. I'm way too intimidated by cool kids to ever go in there, but to be fair I can't even balance on a skateboard.

Nowadays, you'll find BMX bikers, rollerbladers, and scooter riders among the skateboarders. If you're brave enough to try it out yourself, go for it! If not, it's still a great place to see some cool tricks and entertaining teenagers.

The other big perks of summer at the Civic Center are the softball and baseball fields. The American Legion Little League plays there, as well as YMCA softball leagues (co-ed, men's, and women's leagues). 

There are always games going on, and with the addition of lights, the games last until 11 or 11:30 on weekends. There's nothing like a ballgame under the lights on a warm summer night. The YMCA does a fantastic job providing lots of recreational teams in the area, and I'm glad they've made the Civic Center their home for softball games. There is also a rugby team that practices on one of the old fields…sweet!

No doubt there are many other activities that take place at the Civic Center…what's your favorite?

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