Discover Michigan: Grand Haven

By: Jennifer Sigouin | Online Only | Published August 7, 2016

On Michigan’s west coast, where the Grand River meets Lake Michigan, the city of Grand Haven offers visitors a beachy getaway with small-town charm.

Here are some tips if you plan on visiting:

190 miles — a three-hour drive

According to Marci Cisneros, executive director of the Grand Haven Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, “beautiful public parks — many with access to hidden beaches and quiet places to unwind on the shores of Lake Michigan,” are some of the city’s lesser-known treasures worth seeking out.

But if you only have one day to spend in Grand Haven, she offers this short list of three must-visit sights.

Grand Haven State Park — The 48-acre park features the scenic shorelines of Lake Michigan on its west side and the Grand River on its north side. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the park’s beaches, playground and camp sites, and take a walk on the Grand Haven boardwalk and pier for a closer look at the city’s iconic lighthouses.

Pronto Pups — This popular corn dog stand, located at 313 S. Harbor Drive, is a Grand Haven summer staple that has been family owned for nearly 60 years.

“Be sure to grab a bite of these tasty treats while on the way out to the State Park,” said Cisneros. “These local favorites have been a ‘must-do’ since 1947.”

Grand Haven Musical Fountain — “Another Grand Haven classic is taking in a performance of the Musical Fountain — dancing water, lights and music,” said Cisneros.

Each evening throughout the summer, the fountain, located atop Dewey Hill, lights up the waterfront with a 25-minute synchronized water and light show, choreographed to a variety of popular music.

According to the Grand Haven Musical Fountain’s website, ghfountain.com, the fountain was the largest of its kind in the world when it was built in 1962. It was later surpassed by the fountain built at the Bellagio Casino and Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1988.

The shows can be viewed from the Grand Haven Waterfront Stadium, located at 101 N. Harbor Drive. Shows run daily at dusk from Memorial Day through Labor Day, as well as on Fridays and Saturdays in May and September.

With a wide selection of eclectic boutiques and eateries, downtown Grand Haven is a great choice for a shopping excursion.

“We have a charming downtown,” said Diane Sheridan, executive director of the Grand Haven Main Street Downtown Development Authority. “I think one thing that makes us unique is that we have more than 60 individual retail shops.”

According to Sheridan, the downtown is in the process of being added to the National Register of Historic Places. Some of its noteworthy shops include Down to Earth, Blueberry Haven, Patricia’s Chocolate, Calico Cat, Fortino’s, and Grand Haven Vinegar & Oil, just to name a few.

“If you’re a dog lover, you’ve gotta see Must Love Dogs,” she added.

The dog boutique offers treats, clothing, accessories and more, and of course, dogs are always welcome. Sheridan noted that other downtown stores are also pet-friendly, placing water dishes outside for thirsty pets throughout the summer.

For a bite to eat, Sheridan suggests Righteous Cuisine, on Seventh Street.

“It’s this wonderful blend of Tex-Mex with a fresh, farm-to-table mix,” she said.

She also recommends The Kirby House, 2 Washington Ave., for rooftop dining with views of the waterfront.

Another downtown locale that’s gaining popularity is the historic Grand Haven Armory Building, on Second Street, which houses the Armory Art Center, Righteous BBQ (an offshoot of Righteous Cuisine), Aldea Coffee and Grand Armory Brewing.

“It’s kind of hidden away on Second Street, but it’s worth a visit,” said Sheridan.

In addition, the seasonal Chinook Pier shopping area, open May through September, offers everything from ice cream and popcorn to Celtic items and surf rentals.

Grand Haven offers plenty of options to keep kids busy.

In addition to hitting the beach and walking the pier, younger visitors can enjoy sweet treats at one of the city’s ice cream shops — including Dairy Treat, Kilwins and Temptations — play a round of putt putt at the Chinook Pier mini-golf course, or explore the 10,000-square-foot Imagination Station playground.

Also not to be missed is the MACkite store, located downtown at 106 Washington Ave.

“They are a really high-end toy store,” said Sheridan. “It’s a wonderful experience just to walk in the door.”

MACkite offers a wide selection of kites — both for flying and kiteboarding — as well as shelves upon shelves of unique toys and games. Best of all, kids are welcome to try out any toy before they purchase it.

Adults can kick back and enjoy a pint or flight at one of Grand Haven’s three craft breweries — Odd Side Ales, Grand Armory Brewing and the Grand Haven Brew House/HawkPeak Brewing Co. In Spring Lake, just outside of Grand Haven, you can also imbibe at Old Boys Brewhouse, Dutch Girl Brewery or the Vander Mill Cider tap room.  If wine is more your style, head to the 12 Corners Vineyards Tasting Room or Lemon Creek Winery.

Coast Guard Festival, July 29-Aug. 7 
Sand Sculpture Contest, Aug. 13 
Downtown Grand Haven Sidewalk Sales, Aug. 20
Salmon Festival, Sept. 16-18 
Artwalk, Sept. 21-Oct. 9 
Winterfest, Jan. 26-29, 2017

“Craft beer lovers visiting the Grand Haven area should make a point to stop at Odd Side Ales. The brewers are always experimenting with unusual flavor combinations, and they always have a lot of selections on tap. I recommend ordering a flight to try a few. We Be Jammin (a peanut butter and jelly flavored beer) and Mayan Mocha Stout are personal favorites. The Vander Mill Cider tap room, just a few minutes away in Spring Lake, is excellent too." — Jennifer Sigouin, Staff Writer/Social Media Coordinator

For more information on Grand Haven, visit www.visitgrandhaven.com or www.downtowngh.com.


Our Discover Michigan web series explores Michigan’s most road trip-worthy destinations and events. Where’s your favorite place to travel in the mitten? Leave us a comment or email jsigouin@cangnews.com. We may use your suggestion in an upcoming feature.