The dog days of Dayton's summers are approaching, and we know the perfect place to escape from the blazing, humid air. Grab your bathing suit and sun block and head to Traverse City, Mich., for a memorable getaway.

Located on Grand Traverse Bay near Lake Michigan, Traverse City is a small town with a population of less than 15,000. But don’t let its size fool you — Fodor’s calls this gem one of America’s Best Small Towns. And it offers more opportunities than destinations that are much larger.

What draws tourists and keeps them coming back for more? There are a number of cultural attractions as well as fine dining, yet is it always the breathtaking scenery and ample outdoor recreation that makes visitors feel like they are in paradise while never leaving the Midwest.

“It’s a hub for people who love outdoor recreation,” says Mike Norton, a spokesman for the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Families can walk the beaches, swim, explore the shopping and restaurants, stay overnight and do it all over again the next day.”

The beaches of Traverse City highlight the majestic beauty of the area. With 180 miles of shore space on Lake Michigan and more than 10 beaches, the fun-in-the sun options are limitless. Too windy for you at West End Beach? Try East Bay Park Beach or one of the many other spots that will accommodate your sandy needs, no matter the time of day.

Morning beaches, evening beaches, more populated or more private beaches, the choice is yours, but you can’t go wrong in an area that is such a scenic delight.

“The cool summer breeze, the clean and clear water, the stunningly beautiful water,” says Norton. “When I first moved here I was blown away.”

The image of crisp blue ripples and pure soft sand mixed with the sounds of waves crashing in the background is sure to thrill anyone who is on the waterfront on a clear day.

With such a diverse array of options, it might seem impossible to enjoy all of them, which is surprising considering the size of the town. One not-to-miss beach is Clinch Park Beach. Its proximity to downtown allows you to splash and lounge in the sun one minute and enjoy the quaint boutiques and shops the next. The monumental Sleeping Bear Dunes, with its giant sand hills, is also a must.

If sun bathing in the sand isn’t your favorite pastime, that’s not a problem. Take a sailboat on the water or enjoy fishing on the lake. Recreational kayaking is also a popular activity.

“People love kayaking on the bays, rivers and lakes,” says Norton. “In the winter you often see people with skis on top of their cars. In the summer it’s the kayaks on top.”

Although the water is the main attraction for most folks, the area is also popular for its forest landscapes and trails. The peaceful parks and numerous hiking trails attract lovers of nature and outdoor adventure. Paved or unpaved trails, mountain bikes or walking shoes, you decide how you want to spend your time in the Northern Michigan wilderness.

For those who aren’t entranced by the beauty of the outdoors, there are ample shopping options from the small and charming shops found downtown, to the big name retail stores in the shopping centers. There are also plenty of indoor activities that are fun for adults and the whole family.

The dining is unlike anything you would normally find in a town this size. From fine dining to first-class wineries and breweries, Traverse City offers a wide selection of restaurants and pubs. Cook’s House is famous for its fresh ingredients, with a farm-to-table philosophy. The menu changes to fit what is available at the market on a particular day. If you are a fan of Italian food, Trattoria Stella serves great dishes prepared by an excellent chef in a unique location — the basement of a former mental asylum.

Summertime is festival time around the area. The Traverse City Film Festival, headquartered in the magnificently renovated State Theatre, is always a crowd pleaser in August. The Interlochen Center for the Arts and its world-class exhibits, concerts and theater and dance productions are just a few miles south of town.

The biggest event of the summer is the National Cherry Fest, an 80-year-old gathering that spotlights the region rich heritage of cherry production.

“There’s over 150 activities, parades, fireworks, air shows, competitions and obviously, a lot of cherries,” says Norton.

Traverse City might be a small town, but the pleasures are large, especially in the summertime. Enjoy.