Nestled on the eastern shore of the vast Lake Michigan, Grand Haven is known for its stunning sandy shores along this scenic landscape. It is one of the most romantic places to visit in all of Michigan, and visitors flock here as there are plenty of things to do in Grand Haven for everyone.
Rich with both history and Americana, this quaint town offers a charming array of attractions, from natural wonders to cultural coups. Here are all the most remarkable things to do in Grand Haven, Michigan.
Where is Grand Haven, Michigan?
Grand Haven is a small Michigan city of 11,000 people on the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan. It’s a well-known vacation destination in the state, and one of the best places to visit, mainly because it has incredible sandy beaches.
There are plenty of fantastic Grand Haven restaurants and boutique shops in historic downtown. Grand Haven is well known for it’s red Grand Haven Lighthouse the is beautiful in both the winter and Summer. Grand Haven is also the site of the US Coast Guard Festival.
Grand Haven is particularly busy on weekends in the Summer as it’s only a 45 minute drive from Grand Rapids.
The Best Things to Do in Grand Haven
Admire the Grand Haven Lighthouse
This stalwart structure was built in 1839. The Grand Haven Lighthouse comprises two separate lights, each on either end of the enchanting south pier. Both are painted bright red and are connected by a lighted catwalk. This catwalk stretches on to connect with the boardwalk, as well.
The inner light is cylindrical, and the outer square, which is better for cutting through the fog. They are among the most visited lighthouses in the state. They aren’t open to the public so you’ll have to admire them from afar, and take advantage of some excellent photo ops.
See the Musical Fountain
Set on the northshore of the Grand River, the Grand Haven Musical Fountain has been wowing crowds since 1962. In an average performance the fountain will process over 90,000 gallons of water and it lasts about 20 minutes.
You’re in for an impressive display of synchronized lights and music. The soundtrack ranges across all genres and is always a fun surprise. It’s up and running every night in the Summer, so don’t miss this stellar show. This is one of the most fun and unique things to do in Grand Haven.
Walk the Grand Haven Boardwalk
This charming wooden structure stretches for two and a half miles along the harbor of Grand Haven. It’s lined with storefronts, snack shops, and sailboats. Take a stroll to admire the scenery; it’s especially spectacular at sunset.
If you prefer to gaze out on the waters there’s plenty of benches and grassy knolls to sit back and relax. The path is well-kept and easily accessible. It’s beautiful during any season, and great for watching people, boats, fishing, and of course the waves. Be prepared for a splash if it’s an especially windy day.
Enjoy the Fabulous Restaurants
Grand Haven is a great place to get your grub on and there are some fantastic Michigan breweries to enjoy. Old Boys Brewhouse offers everything you need for a divine dining experience. There’s an impressive selection of local craft beers on tap, along with specialty sodas. They boast a build your own pizza menu, each featuring a brewer’s malt crust.
The Toasted Pickle serves up gourmet sandwiches and sides and is one of the best Grand Haven restaurants. They craft inventive twists on all the classics using fresh, organic, and seasonal ingredients. The Kirby House is a trio of restaurants iconic in the area. The eclectic menu features the finest global fares. Set in a former hotel, it’s a cultural center for the local community. Enjoy the alfresco deck and live entertainment available here.
Cycle on one of the many trails
Grand Haven is home to over 100 miles of bike paths, weaving their way throughout the area. This a great active way to get out into the city. You’ll find sweeping vistas of scenery, native wilderness, cityscapes, and waterways as you cycle along these trails. There are options for every skill level, so pick and prepare accordingly.
One such favorite trail is the Spring Lake Bike Path Loop. It’s over 11 miles through wooded forest, and it offers beautiful views of the lake. The overall elevation gain is 321 feet without being overly strenuous.
Lakeshore Trail is ideal for a long ride. It connects to the neighboring town of Holland and is roughly 20 miles, taking you through the abundant nature of the area.
Take the Harbor Trolley
This city transport is a charming relic of the olden days. The Harbor Trolley provides a narrated tour of the city, for a fun and engaging way to learn more about the history and culture of the area. It starts at the Chinook Pier and takes you all the way downtown, past all the main attractions.
You can hop on anywhere along the one-mile route, and it’s also a cheap way to get from the beach to the heart of the city center. It runs seven days a week starting at 11 a.m. It’s a favorite of the things to do in Grand Haven for locals and visitors alike.
Walk around Downtown grand haven
The historical downtown of Grand Haven is the cultural heart of the city. You’ll find plenty of unique storefronts to browse local goods, and get an idea of the authentic spirit here. There are such charming independent shops such as Blueberry Haven, a quaint alcove honoring the beloved pastime of blueberry picking in the region with all things artisan.
It’s a walkable area, with many antique shops, boutiques, and one-of-a-kind gift stores to pop into. Try Vintage Green Antiques for unique finds and Off the Record for the best selection of vinyl around. Fortino’s Old World Shopping is a family owned institution of the area, selling specialty treats like coffee, cheese, wine, chocolate, and breads all with a small town smile.
Hire a Fishing charter
Grand Haven has one of the largest charter boat fishing fleets around all of Lake Michigan. It’s an all inclusive experience, so you don’t have to worry about a license, lunch, or prepping your catch. There are over 40 registered captains of seaworthy vessels awaiting your pick, and they know all the best spots to go for a fruitful day of casting away. Daniel Sport Fishing is some of the best in the business.
Around these parts, you’re most likely to hook King Salmon, Lake Trout, Steelhead, and Chinook Salmon. Several local eateries are part of the Catch and Cook program as well if you want to dine out on your triumphs. If you’re not interested in reeling in a big one, you can try just a cruise for a more relaxing sail around the sparkling waters.
Enjoy one of the many Festivals
The city hosts many exciting annual events unique to the culture and spirit of the area. In the Summer, the Grand Haven Art Fair brings an abundance of masterpieces to admire, including murals and outdoor sculptures. Winterfest is a long-standing tradition, as is the festive holiday favorite Jingle Bell Parade.
Venture here in the Fall and you’ll find the Salmon Festival, perfect for sampling the seafood bounty of this great lake. In the Spring, the Kite Festival is an ethereal affair, with whimsical fabrics soaring high in the air everywhere you look.
Grand Haven is also home to the nationally recognized US Coast Guard Festival, to celebrate and honor the men and women who have served. It’s one of the best things to do in Grand Haven and has people traveling from all over the state to attend.
Enjoy Grand Haven State Park
Set on the south side of the harbor, at the mouth of Grand River, is Grand Haven State Park. This popular recreation area is 48 acres, and includes those famous soft sandy shores along Lake Michigan. It’s one of the best spots for a beach day; enjoy a refreshing cool dip in the clear waters.
It offers all the needed amenities, like restrooms and picnic areas, and welcomes all furry friends as well. You get a great view of the lighthouse from here, and you can even play some beach volleyball if you’re so inclined. Expect some crowds when you hit this sunny spot, it’s one of the most popular things to do in Grand Haven.
Tri-Cities Historical Museum
Explore the heritage of Ottawa County at this educational cultural center of the Tri-Cities. It strives to create connections of local history through thoughtful exhibitions that authentically interpret the past and present of the region. It has successfully created an inquisitive and fun environment that cultivates curiosity.
It hosts both permanent collections and rotating outreach displays that you can find throughout the city, like at Centennial Hall. They explore a range of historical subjects, from geology and indigeous tribes to early European settlers and the Victorian-era. There is always something engaging on deck as well, such as the new Silent Films and Speakeasies exhibit.
Rosy Mound Natural Area
Rosy Mound Natural Area is a hidden gem of Grand Haven. This natural wonderland offers a stunning excursion into the wilderness and boasts picturesque panoramas overlooking Lake Michigan. The trail itself is less than a mile long, a fairly easy hike surrounded by sand dunes and wooded forest and ending in a boardwalk that leads down to a secluded beach.
There is no lifeguard on duty so swim at your own risk, though many do. There are several flights of stairs built into the dirt paths throughout for an overall gain of 1,000 feet in elevation, culminating in a breathtaking observation deck. Keep your eyes out for many species of native plants, birds, and small mammals. It’s an idyllic escape into nature.
Kitchel Lindquist Dunes Preserve
The Kitchel Lindquist Dunes Preserve features over 100 acres of protected landscape to explore. In an adventure trek here you will traverse many unique ecosystems including dunes, forests, and wetlands. It offers a chance to see all stages of dune development, from bare beach to thriving dune forest and everything in between. There are two trails to try, both winding alongside the Grand River.
It’s a pristine undeveloped area that promotes conservation education as well. You have a high chance of spotting raptors, water birds, and songbirds inside this preserve. Take in the views from atop some of the taller dunes and enjoy sweeping scenes of Grand Haven, Lake Michigan, Spring Lake, and Grand River.
ski at Mulligan’s Hollow
This 80 acre area is a haven for active outdoor adventure, and the most versatile park around. It has known many iterations over centuries, from farmland to Coast Guard boot camp. Today it’s most known for its ski bowl. Winter sports are a popular pastime of the region, and this is by far the most beloved local ski hill. So if you’re looking for the best things to do in Grand Haven in the winter, head here.
Mulligan’s Hollow is set on the shores of Lake Michigan and as a nonprofit aims to make its activities as accessible as possible for everyone in their community.
There are six different slopes to soar down, either on skis or snowboard, ranging from easy to very difficult. There are also five rope tows, a thrilling mechanism that takes you back up to the top of the peaks. The longest run is 700 feet and the highest elevation is 1,300 feet. At the base you’ll find a quaint and cozy lodge to warm up in with a hot beverage. At Mulligan’s Hollow you can also find a YMCA, tennis courts, soccer fields, and a skate park.
check out the historic Pere Marquette 1223
Pere Marquette 1223 is a historic steam locomotive is on permanent display in Grand Haven. It was built in 1941, and was used to haul freight from Toledo to Chicago until 1951. It has been cosmetically restored since, shining bright as a beacon of a bygone era.
1223 is one of only two surviving engines of this kind, referred to as Berkshire steam locomotives, of which a fleet were made by Lima for the Pere Marquette railroad. Its max speed was once 70 MPH. It’s an engaging exhibit of historical significance for all ages.
shop at the many Galleries
You’ll find an array of eclectic art spaces throughout Grand Haven. Carlyn and Company is a gallery offering handmade reclaimed finds that are all eco-friendly. You’ll find many unique pieces, jewelry, and other accessories here. It’s been a home for local artists to share their work for decades.
C2C Gallery lives by their credo, art for your everyday life. This includes a variety of artisan crafts, such as pottery, hand blown glass, photography, hand poured soaps and candles and home decor pieces. Gallery Uptown is the oldest artist owned and operated gallery in the entire state of Michigan. They host a themed show each month for new work as well. You’ll find many mediums here, from paintings to drawings and woodworking.
North Beach State Park
North Beach State Park is a seven acre park is home to a long stretch of shore full of the famous sugary sands of Grand Haven. It’s the perfect place for swimming and sunbathing, and can often be less crowded than some of the other beaches in town.
Climb the wooden stairway to the top of an impressive dune to soak up the scenery from a birds eye view. There are plenty of places for a picnic, so be sure to pack some snacks. There’s a playground for the little ones, as well as a small hiking trail behind it.
Where to Eat in Grand Haven?
- The Paisley Pig Gastropub: This is a fun gastrohouse with delicious sandwiches, great pizza, and an amazing Michigan Bison Meatloaf.
- The Toasted Pickle: As mentioned before this is a well priced sanwich shop that serves up gourmet sandwiches and quite possibly the best french fries you’ll ever taste.
- Righteous Cuisine: If you are craving Mexican food in Grand Haven you can’t go wrong here. Fresh tacos and burritos are served all day.
Where to Stay in Grand Haven?
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