OT-Grand Haven Vacation

Submitted by learmanj on July 2nd, 2010 at 9:12 PM

Hello again MGoCommunity:

Next week, my entire family has rented a cottage on Lake Michigan in Grand Haven.  For those of you who have visited or lived in that area; What would you recommend I check out?  I am looking for both kid/family friendly ideas as well as more adult orientated things for my wife and I to do (I mean, grandparents love to babysit for free, right?).  I am interested in restaurants, touristy attractions, golf, etc.  

Edit: We do plan on bringing our bikes.  I know there are some trails there.  Any recommendations in that department?



July 2nd, 2010 at 9:24 PM ^

A great place to eat (and get some brews) is the Kirby, on the corner of Washington and Harbor (across the street from the water).

Grand Haven Golf Club is a nice course, but might be a tad pricy, depending on your range.

Obviously walking the boardwalk at nite is a must, and there are several ice cream shops along the route.

GH has fantastic beaches, but you probably already knew that.

Unfortunately there isn't a whole lot in the way of nitelife in Grand Haven.  The main drag (Harbor) has a few bars but nothing is jumping out of my brain as a "MUST-GO" place.  I'm from Muskegon so I've spent a decent amount of time in my life in GH, though I must admit it has been a few years since I've done much in town.  Now that I think about it, there are a few hole-in-the-wall bars away from the beach area, but for the life of me I can't remember their names or locations.

Hmmm, I'm not sure if I was much help.  There's gotta be someone on the blog from GH that can provide more insight.


July 2nd, 2010 at 9:34 PM ^

Hey, all info is great.  I am from the thumb (live in Indiana now) so this is a long way from where I grew up.  There is some info online for some of the big tourist attractions but I like seeing more of the local/others' favorites.

Steve Lorenz

July 2nd, 2010 at 9:53 PM ^

Grand Haven is overrated IMO as far as everything besides the beach is concerned. There's a new brewery that just opened either in Grand Haven or Spring Lake. The name escapes me but I've heard good things. I usually take girls out to Portobello or the Grill Room. You could stop at Fricano's also; I've bartended at the one in Muskegon for 6+ years now and still love the pizza. 


July 2nd, 2010 at 10:01 PM ^

Only brewery in that vicinity I can think of is Old Boys, near the M-104/US-31 exit.  It's been there for at least 10 years now.  Of course I don't get out to GH must anymore so I may have missed this new place.


July 2nd, 2010 at 10:05 PM ^

Where, roughly, is the cottage?  I remember climbing the dunes just inland from North Beach Park.  It's at least a couple hundred feet up and it would be a good way to wear out your kids (and you, maybe).  I also remember walking south from that park to the pier across from Grand Haven State Park.

grand river fi…

July 2nd, 2010 at 10:14 PM ^

It's a long ways to the north shore then, but there are plenty of dunes on the south shore as well.  There is also a long interconnected boardwark through the dunes marked by white railings that would be worth walking along with the kids if you can find it.  Lots of cool cottages along the route.

I miss Spring Lake

July 2nd, 2010 at 10:25 PM ^

I used to live in Spring Lake as a kid, which is next door to GH. Things I remember: The Clover Bar for pizza, and The Front Porch for ice cream. No idea if it's as good as I remember. Hope that helps.

Kalamazoo Blue

July 2nd, 2010 at 10:33 PM ^

...I proposed to my wife-to-be at the end of the pier.

The beach/pier/board walk are very fun if you're into just hanging out.

A bike trail runs south to Holland. A 30-45 minute car trip north will take you to the Hart-Montague bike trail.

Grand Haven is a great home base to go up and down the coast. I like visiting different beaches and lighthouses.

Everyone has to do the Mac Woods dune ride in Silver Lake at least once. Maybe an hour north of GH.


Mr. Robot

July 2nd, 2010 at 11:28 PM ^

If you've been in Muskegon all your life like I have (With the exception of 8/12 months in Ann Arbor the last two years), you kind of get desensitized to it and don't really care that much anymore, but if you've never been here before, you may want to check it out.

The main park doesn't hold a candle to Cedar Point, obviously, but the main draw is that the water park is included, which IS actually pretty good. Plus, like 80% of my friends are working their for seasonal wage because they can't find any other work.

Also, if you like golf, Lincoln Golf Course is right across the street from MA. Its not quite what it used to be, but its still one of the nicer courses around, and it if they hadn't slacked up a bit on the privatness a guy like me never would have gotten to play it. If you really, REALLY like golf though, I'd recommend Thoroughbred, which isn't too terribly far from MA.

That's about all I've got. The one place I always go to when I'm home is Pablo's Tacos, but its not exactly a tourist attraction, although if you happen to see it on your week here, go there. Grand Haven and, apart from MA, Muskegon, aren't really much on the way of tourist attractions. I like living here, and I enjoy going to Grand Haven once and a while, but unless something special is going on, there really isn't much of a reason to go out of your way to come here for a visit. The Muskegon Summer Celebration is still going this weekend, but if I recall, all the good artists have already gone, and I'm not actually sure what day it actually ends, so you might not even be here for that.

I haven't figured out where its at yet, but I'm pretty sure Bennie Oosterbaan is buried aorund here someplace, too. Let me know if you pursue that and end up finiding it.

Edit: As far as bike trails go, I've only really extensively used the Hart-Montague trail, but that's quite a distance from GH. Definitely a good trail though, and if you take up the suggestion of doing the dune rides, you could hit that up along with the Gem Factory up there and, again if you like golf, Oceana Golf Course.


July 2nd, 2010 at 11:26 PM ^

can walk the boardwalk which goes along the river to the pier during the day. Wear your sunglasses, there can be some good people watching and lots of bikinis walking around. At night you got the musical fountain, which is also downtown by the river, which is pretty cool. After musical fountain, you guys could then go to The rosebud, also downtown, to listen to live music while enjoying a few cocktails. That's about all I can think of.


July 3rd, 2010 at 1:50 AM ^

I am thinking about going out there also one of these times with my family. Two things I heard to check out is Michigan Adventure amusement/water park and the sand dunes. If you're into fishing you might want to consider taking a charter while you're out there. I heard Lake Michigan is excellent for catching Salmon.

Not to scare you or make you not swim, but if you swim in Lake Michigan be aware of rip tides. I recall hearing several drownings out there from rip tides. That's when current from a broken sand bar pulls you out. When you try to swim back in you can't, unless you keep swimming sideways to reach water that won't pull you back out.


July 3rd, 2010 at 8:32 AM ^

Our family vacations as a kid, we tent camped for two weeks at GH State Park.  Back in the days when there was a minnow hatchery right next to the pier.  You could rent bamboo poles and fish for perch off the pier and cuss at the big tankers as they came into the harbor and chased the fish away.  You pitched your tent right in the sand on the beach!  Anyway:

1)  GH Golf Club is not to be missed.  It's not too pricey and it's built right into the sand dunes for a very unique experience.  My dad introduced me n my brothers to the game there and there is a plaque to his memory by the three evergreen trees we planted next to the 5th green when he passed away.

2)  As previously mentioned, Fricano's in GH is an institution.  It's a tad off the beaten path back in the warehouses, but definitely an experience.  Cash only.

3)  Have a family dinner one night at the Bil-Mar on the beach.  Make reservations for a window table or an outside deck table ahead of time:  bil-margrandhaven.com


True Blue Crew

July 3rd, 2010 at 9:45 AM ^

I live in Spring Lake and there are miles and miles of bike paths around Spring Lake.  You won't find much regarding food in SL, but Old Boy's Brew House is okay.  Down town Grand Haven is fun.  Kirby Grill, Snug Harbor, Tip-A-Few(great Mexican food) and Rose Bud are the best for food and drinks.  They are also pretty decent night time attractions.  The beach in GH is awesome.  You might consider booking a charter if you like to fish.  Steelhead and Salmon are running right now.  You can take kids north to Michigan Adventure where there's a water park and amusement rides.  Not bad for a small town park. If you go further North you can go to Silver Lake and go on the dune rides.  If you can get your hands on a boat the water around the area is great.  Lots of "talent" on the many boats you'll find there.  If you want to head South I hear Holland is decent.  Good luck and enjoy the vacation!


July 3rd, 2010 at 10:08 AM ^

1. Fricano's good greasy thin crust pizza

2. Butch's Beach Burritos

3. North Ottawa Dunes/PJ Hoffmaster State Park have good hiking trails

4. Charter a fishing boat for Chinook

5. Pontaluna Country Club if you get tired of Grand Haven Golf, you have a more scenic view IMO


July 3rd, 2010 at 10:40 AM ^

theres the imagination station in downtown. it's just a huge playground by the ymca down there near the water. really fun place and costs $0


July 3rd, 2010 at 11:35 AM ^

Tom and Lupe.  The Izzo's have a summer home in Grand Haven.

I kid......  But they do have a summer home. Saw them a couple of times up in Muskegon.

Mr. Robot

July 3rd, 2010 at 2:17 PM ^

Totally forgot about the drive-in. Easy to take that for granted when its always been there, I guess.

Drive-ins are awesome. Just mak sure your car's radio works and doesn't completely suck. You get two movies for the price of one and you're actually allowed to bring your own stuff in, although if you go on bargain night, you can get food real cheap too, last I remember. The whole place is ancient, as they haven't done any renovations in a long time (ever?), so you get an authentic old-school experience too (And yes, if you really want to, you can still take one of the old boxes and hang it in the window, although they to have been neglected and getting one that works is kind of hit and miss).


July 3rd, 2010 at 12:08 PM ^

Thank you everyone for the suggestions.  I have 7 days to fill so I will be sure to hit up a ton of these suggestions.

Seriously, thank you!


July 3rd, 2010 at 3:49 PM ^

For some reason I always have to go to downtown dogs. To me their chili dogs are second to none. I am by no means a chili dog expert though. Good lunch place with a little old fashioned diner feel to it. Its on the main street where all the shops are. Washington?

S.G. Rice

July 4th, 2010 at 10:03 PM ^

Definitely hit up Fricano's or Clover Bar for pizza.  Personally I prefer the Clover Bar, but both are very good.  I would also suggest a stop at Ray's Drive In if you like burgers and fries.  Another favorite that's a sitdown restaurant is JW's at 7th and Washington, probably not the best choice to bring the kids.  If you like breakfast, two of the best places are the Morningstar Cafe on Washington between 7th and 8th and Jeanne's Cafe on Robbins Road.

If you have your bikes, there is a nice bike path down Lakeshore Drive - it's the only notable north-south road west of US 31.  It runs south toward Holland, a decent ride might be down to Kirk Park and back, probably close to 10 miles each way.

Also along Lakeshore Drive is the Rosy Mound Natural Area.  It's a nice place for a hike if you're up to climbing stairs up a big dune.

Grand Haven Golf Course is a nice course, recommended.  You might want to call ahead if you want to play - they're not always super busy during the week but they do a fair number of outings.  Probably the next best course within a reasonable drive is the Meadows course at Grand Valley State U, about a 20-25 minute drive in Allendale.

The Tri Cities Museum downtown isn't anything huge but they have some neat exhibits.  Might be a good way to kill an hour or so.

If you like Farmer's Markets, the GH one is near downtown, on Harbor just north of Columbus past the municipal marina.  It runs Wed AM and Sat AM.

There are free outdoor concerts in the area several nights a week.  Tuesday nights in central park near downtown, Thursdays in Spring Lake, others at spread-the-music.org  And don't forget the musical fountain - it's a little hokey but you have to see it at least once!


July 5th, 2010 at 9:40 PM ^

I actually live in Grand Haven and I would suggest Clover Bar pizza over Fricanos. If you want some good sushi the Grand Seafood Restaurant is really good--the best you will find along the Lakeshore at least without going to some pricey place in Grand Rapids. Butches is a must, as most of my classmates in High School were "sick" the day Butches opened in the spring every year. Rays is good, but not as good as it used to be since Tip A Few bought it out, but you should definitely have one of the milkshakes. If you want to go to a bar, I would suggest Kirby or K2 (the upper part of Kirby), or if you don't mind driving Old Boys Brewhouse is really great (and I'm biased because my cousin is a manager there). Old Boys is a bit pricey for food, but they make their own beer and its pretty strong, so well worth the money. I also agree with whoever mentioned JWs--they have fantastic food and they've been around along time. Best beef stroganoff I've ever had.


If your kids are little, there is a park down by where the farmers market-and sometimes I still go there (yes, at age 23) just to relax. You should walk the pier from Shinook Pier to the lighthouse (something you could do with your wife). If you and your family decide to go to the beach and its a warm day, make sure you get down there at about 9am to get a good spot on the beach, otherwise you won't find parking at the state park and it will be packed. Don't leave Grand Haven without a Pronto Pup either. Washington st. has some cool stores--Floto's is an interesting store where you can find some really cool souveniers. Mackinaw Kite Company and Michigan Rag are also notables

I honestly feel that there isn't a WHOLE lot to do in my town, but thats because I've "been there done that" for so long. A day trip is usually sufficient to see everything that our town has to offer, but if you do want to venture out, the Muskegon Drive In and Michigan's Adventure are fun to go to. Hope you and the family have a great time!