There's something special about Traverse City's State Theatre.
It’s not very often I have the opportunity to visit something acknowledged to be the best in the world. I have to admit I wasn't expecting to find anything with that stamp on it in a small city in Michigan. And even more unexpectedly – it’s practically free!
The State Theatre on Front Street, Traverse City, Michigan, is a movie theatre and film festival site whose roots go back nearly 100 years. Citing it's location, architecture, and diversity of spirit, the State Theatre, TheCredits.org (a film industry news site operated by the Motion Picture Association of America) declared it to be the best theatre in the world.
Over time, this beautiful building has gone through many incarnations, most recently in 2005 when filmmaker Michael Moore threw his support behind the theatre and the Traverse City Film Festival. Today, the State Theatre is the heart of Traverse City, leading the way in keeping the downtown core lively and the arts scene flourishing.
I stumbled upon the theatre almost by accident as I was exploring Front Street and I was fortunate to strike up a conversation with one of the volunteers. This incredible venue is almost entirely volunteer run and their passion for their work and their community is evident in everything they do.
As I happened upon the State Theatre while it was in the middle of screening a film, I wasn’t able to fully explore the main theatre (which employs fibre optic lights and the skills of a local astronomy professor to pay homage to northern Michigan’s August night sky!). Luckily, I was invited to explore the lobby and to take a quiet peak in the theatre as well. The restored building is both charming and stunning, with beautiful murals and posters from bygone eras. It’s no wonder the Motion Picture Association of America named it the best movie theatre in the world!
Going to the movies isn't very economical these days, so you would expect the greatest theatre in the world to charge a premium, wouldn't you? Prices at the State Theatre start at free – for both special events and summer days when the temperature hits over 100 degrees. Active military and peace workers are free too. There’s even free popcorn on Tuesday! And if you feel like a big spender, you can splurge on 25 cent morning matinees on Wednesday and Saturday (the same price the theatre, then called The Lyric, charged when it opened). In fact, the most you’ll ever pay for a regular movie is $8.00, and there are further concessions for seniors, students, children, and members.
I love watching movies when I travel (occasionally art house films, but frequently something far cheesier!) Movies are a fun way to relax and unwind but even when the title film is a little on the silly side, it doesn't mean you aren't having an amazing travel experience. A trip to the State Theatre proves that fun, value, history, and art can happily co-exist.
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments. Have you made an amazing travel discovery that was practically free?
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