Beach Weekend in Grand Haven and Holland, Michigan
*Disclosure: I received attractions passes from the Holland Visitors Bureau to help facilitate this post. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.
Michigan’s “West Coast” has some of the best beaches in the state, and maybe even the country. Grand Haven is one of my favorites: I used to attend a fine arts camp in the area when I was in high school, and my parents and I would drive up a day early and go to the Grand Haven beach. It had been a good ten years since then, however, and two of my coworkers and I took off for a “Girls Weekend” in the area recently.
We were staying in Holland – Grand Haven actually only has a few hotels within its city limits, it’s mostly B&Bs and cottages – and after unpacking, we hit the Grand Haven beach first. I hadn’t been back to the town since 2004, and I was happy to see that a lot of my favorites were still in place: the Peace Frogs store, the boardwalk, and the place where my parents and I used to go for the best turtle sundaes in town.
The next day, we returned back to Grand Haven to do some shopping, and then decided to check out downtown Holland for the remainder of our stay, including the Tunnel Park Beach. I had been to Holland’s state beach back in 2010, and it’s nice but I prefer Grand Haven’s beach more. Tunnel Park is not a state beach, so to get in for the day (per car) was $7 versus having to buy the “Recreation Pass” that’s valid at any Michigan state park.
Unfortunately, we chose to go to the beach around 6:00 p.m., and the bugs were biting something fierce, so we didn’t last that long there, though we did get to see a nice sunset.
The next day, we headed to Dutch Village and the Windmill Island Gardens, both of which are popular attractions in Holland. I had been to Dutch Village before, briefly, but only to the store, and had never been to the gardens.
We found that Dutch Village is more suited to kids than adults (we are two 20-somethings and a 40-something), but it did have a lot of neat things. It reminded me of a mini Greenfield Village, but Dutch-themed, in that it had demonstrations going on hourly and little “houses” you could visit. We also rode the ferris wheel in the picture above, as well as a swings ride, and there’s a merry-go-round too. There was also a Dutch dancing demonstration, where the dancers wore wooden clogs, and we were told beforehand that they wear six to eight pairs of socks so that the clogs fit comfortably and also don’t fall off.
You could also pet some rabbits at the Village, walk a goat, and check out their gift shop.
Windmill Island Gardens has similar activities to Dutch Village, in that it has a Dutch dancing demonstration on the hour, as well as clogs you can try on. We wandered around its Conservatory a bit, as well as a (smaller than DV’s) gift shop, but overall if I had to just choose one of the two to go to, I would choose Dutch Village, as there was more to do. Dutch Village is $10 admission for adults and the Gardens were $8, but if you did want to do both, you could buy a combination ticket for $16 (a savings of $2).
I almost forgot to talk about the restaurants in the area, and I’m definitely a foodie. Ironically, two of the restaurants I would recommend – at least based on my 2000-2004 experiences – we didn’t get to go to (Porto Bello and The Kirby House, both in Grand Haven), but instead we tried out some new places. We had a great brunch at Morning Star Cafe in Grand Haven, but be prepared for a wait (we waited about 50 minutes) and some great food; I had cream cheese-stuffed French toast.
Also of note is Boat Werks (you can eat outdoors by the water!) and the CityVu Bistro at the CityFlatsHotel (all one word), both in Holland, which had great views of the city.
I’m definitely hoping to go back to the area sooner than in the next ten years – it was about a three hour drive from the Detroit area, which is a quick jaunt for a weekend or long weekend trip.