Grand Haven sits on the shores of Lake Michigan and at the mouth of the Grand River, Michigan’s longest river. Located between Holland and Muskegon, you’ll find a quaint west Michigan beach town. Known for its opportunities for fun in the sun, you’ll also find many festivals throughout the spring and summer. The Kite Festival kicks off the spring festivals. Summer brings the Grand Haven Art Fair and a chance to enjoy the murals, sculptures, and outdoor art. Grand Haven has the designation of Coast Guard City, USA, so you’ll even find the city hosting a festival honoring the men and women of the Coast Guard. Foodies will find the autumn’s salmon festival to be a great time to visit where they can sample the bounty of the Great Lakes.
Here are my suggestions for spending the perfect weekend in Grand Haven, Michigan.
Things To Do In Grand Haven
Grand Haven offers a quintessential beach experience featuring many outdoor activities. Some cultural activities, like the annual art fair and the Musical Fountain Show, bring the artistic experience to the outdoors.
Ride The Harbor Trolley
The Harbor Trolley runs seven days a week from Memorial Day through Labor Day, starting at 11 a.m. Beginning at the Chinook Pier, the historic trolley provides a narration of the area’s history. Go back in time and discover Grand Haven’s past. The trolley travels along the waterfront and downtown areas. Check here for a map of the trolley’s path. In addition to the narration, this is a great way to get around town without your car. Passengers 19 to 59 years old ride for $1.50. The ride costs 75 cents for seniors and those under 18. Those under two ride free.
Pro Tip: You can flag the trolley down anywhere on the route. If you’re within three-quarters of a mile of the trolley route, you can call (616) 842-3200 during business hours and they’ll pick you up.
Experience The Musical Fountain Show
At dusk, head on over to the Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium to watch the Musical Fountain. Throughout the summer, the fountain features a nightly 25-minute synchronized water and light show, where the music takes a variety of styles from Disney and Star Wars to Jimmy Buffet. All shows have free admission.
Pro Tip: During May and September, they also have shows on Friday and Saturday nights.
Walk Grand Haven Boardwalk Pier And Lighthouse
Grand Haven Boardwalk Pier is a popular fishing spot and an excellent place to watch the sunset. Enjoy a walk along the boardwalk that outlines the Grand River Channel and the pier. Here is the perfect spot for photographing the bright red Grand Haven lighthouses.
The two lights on the south pier connect by a lighted catwalk that also adjoins them to the Grand Haven Boardwalk and the shore. Built in 1839, Grand Haven Lighthouse has a tower light and the fog house light. Unfortunately, the tower and fog house aren’t open for tours.
Pro Tip: Use North Shore Drive in Ferrysburg to access the north pier for an alternate view of the lighthouses.
Spend A Day At The Beach
If you’re going to visit Grand Haven, you’ll want to spend some time at the beach. Grand Haven features three beaches depending on your mood and budget. Grand Haven City Beach, situated between the beach at Grand Haven State Park on Harbor Drive and the beachfront restaurant, The Noto’s at the Bilmar, doesn’t require entrance fees or passes. They have restrooms and limited free parking. They do allow dogs on leashes at this beach during restricted times.
North Beach Park is an Ottawa County Park with associated fees; however, these fees are less than the State Park fees. During the summer months, dogs aren’t allowed on the beach. This park features dune stairs and a deck with panoramic scenic views of Lake Michigan.
Grand Haven State Park is a popular beach and an excellent place for sunbathing and sand volleyball. For lighthouse enthusiasts, the lights are at the end of the pier, and this beach has the perfect view.
Pro Tip: The Harbor Transit Beach Express Bus allows you to enjoy the beach without the parking hassles. The service runs every 15 minutes from noon until 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The cost is one dollar per person roundtrip. The service picks you up at one of four parking locations in the area and drops you off at the city beach drop-off point.
Explore The Tri-Cities Historical Museum
With a mission of creating local history connections, the Tri-Cities Historical Museum offers a variety of exhibits throughout the community, in addition to those within the museum building. For example, you’ll find outreach exhibits in the Ottawa County Courthouse and within the Grand Haven City Hall.
This museum has free admission.
Pro Tip: The Tri-Cities Historical Museum offers a variety of walking tours throughout the summer. These include the Historic Tavern Tour, Cemetery Tour, and Downtown Walking Tours.
Grand Haven has over 40 registered charter fishing boats. These boat captains know all the details of how to find those secret fishing holes. Then, once you’ve caught your limit, you can have your catch for dinner. To find a fishing excursion that meets your needs, check out charter fishing in Grand Haven.
Pro Tip: Have the crew clean your catch and take it to one of the local restaurants participating in the Catch and Cook program. Kirby House is one of my favorite restaurants. While they participate in Catch and Cook, landlubbers will also enjoy their prime rib dinners.
Best Restaurants In Grand Haven
During my visits to Grand Haven, I kept returning to the same restaurants, but I forced myself to try some new spots on my last visit and loved my discoveries as much as my favorites. Here are some new-to-me places that I enjoyed.
The Toasted Pickle
The name is what first attracted me to The Toasted Pickle. It’s fun and intriguing, but the food is what keeps me going back. The Crusty Cuban at the Toasted Pickle was a standout. It featured house pulled pork, sweet and spicy pickles, and smoked bacon with tangy aioli on a hoagie roll. Accompany your sandwich with some house-made truffle fries with a side of aioli for a special treat. Skip the fountain drinks and try one of their fresh-squeezed lemonades that you can choose to flavor with another fruit. I chose the pomegranate as a refreshing alternative to my usual iced tea.
The Pump House Frozen Yogurt Bar
If you’re on the way to the Musical Fountain, stop by The Pump House to grab a cup of frozen yogurt to enjoy during the show. It’s just across the street from the Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium. They offer about a dozen flavors. Once you’ve made your selection, you can top it off from the myriad of topping choices from the center island.
Before you grab your ice cream, check out the complimentary digital photo booth, where you can take some snaps to remember what a fun time you had in Grand Haven and then email them to yourself for sharing later. If you can’t wait until evening for your frozen treat, get some in the afternoon, cool off on the indoor street-facing swings, and spend some time people-watching.
The Village Baker
The Village Baker sits on Michigan 104 as you go into Spring Lake from the east. Stop and pick up some treats to snack on later at the beach. They have various cookies, pastries, and loaves of bread that will work out well if you plan to make sandwiches for a picnic. The Village Baker is less than 10 minutes by car from Grand Haven and has a restaurant, so if you want to escape for a bit, this is the place for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Best Hotels In Grand Haven
Grand Haven offers various accommodation styles, from luxury bed and breakfasts to camping on the beach.
Looking Glass Beachfront Inn
Looking Glass Beachfront Inn is a five-bedroom bed and breakfast 79 steps above the street, offering stunning views of Grand Haven State Park, the pier, and the Grand Haven Lighthouse. Each morning at 9 a.m., they serve breakfast with a rotating hot dish, local bread, fresh fruit, and coffee.
Holiday Inn Grand Haven – Spring Lake
If you prefer a national chain, then the Holiday Inn Grand Haven–Spring Lake is less than 10 minutes from the beach, but you’ll still have to drive to the beach and find a parking spot unless you get there early. The Harbor Beach Express Bus and the Harbor Trolley stop in Spring Lake if you want to avoid the parking hassle.
Grand Haven State Park Campground
Grand Haven State Park Campground is a popular 48-acre park that sits on the shores of Lake Michigan. This campground offers camping right on the beach, so you can wake up and run in for a swim. In addition, the park connects to the boardwalk, making it easy to walk a few blocks to downtown Grand Haven.
Pro Tip: Michigan requires recreation passports to enter state parks. You may purchase annual or daily passes at the entrance to a state park. The park’s track chair is available for those with mobility challenges to explore the park at no charge. The off-road, electronic chairs are available on a first come, first served basis.
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