25 Best Things to Do in Grand Haven, MI

25 Best Family-Friendly Things to Do in Grand Haven, Michigan

Directly between the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and the mouth of the Grand River lies Grand Haven, a lovely little city that has gained quite a reputation among residents and vacationers. Recognized as a Coast Guard City — where people honor the history and tradition of the United States Coast Guard, as well as where some of its assets are housed — the city is steeped in proud tradition. It also has a bustling tourism industry, attracting vacationers from all around the Midwest.

Families are drawn to Grand Haven for many reasons: it’s a safe city with affordable housing, low crime and good schools. Whether your family is visiting the area or settling down for good, Grand Haven has a lot of things to do that are fun for both adults and children.

Beaches, parks, trails, a fun downtown area and many attractions all help to make Grand Haven a great place to be. Here are 25 of the best family-friendly things to do in the area.

BEACHES

The beautiful beaches along Lake Michigan are Grand Haven’s biggest draw. They are the centerpiece of the tourism industry during the summer months and offer plenty of family-friendly fun. Families have several places to choose among for swimming, watersports and sunbathing. Here are a few of the best.

1. Grand Haven City Beach

A popular spot for weddings, Grand Haven City Beach is a sandy spot conveniently located near many of the downtown restaurants and amenities. It’s a perfect place to take a swim when it’s hot. City Beach is free to use and public restrooms are available. Parking is limited, though, so try to arrive early if you want to spend the day here.

2. Grand Haven State Park

Adjacent to City Beach is the state-owned part of the coastline, with 48 acres of sand and shore. Here you’ll find plenty of room to enjoy the lakeside. This state park provides scenic views, a fishing pier, an area for metal detecting and even some RV-friendly campsites. It is also a great place from which to view the Grand Haven South Pier and its iconic lighthouses.

3. Kirk Park

Kirk Park features hiking trails, picnic tables, a horseshoe pit and well-maintained restrooms. There is also plenty of beach space, of course. One feature that sets Kirk Park apart is the leash-free area of the beach for dogs and their owners, so you can keep both the kids and the pets happy. Families visiting Kirk Park should expect to pay for parking between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

4. North Beach Park

One of the great advantages of North Beach Park is the giant dune, which features a wooden staircase to help beachgoers reach the perfect view of the water. A great deal of this park’s coastline has been lost to erosion due to high waters in recent years, but the scenery, a barrier-free walkway and a playground make it an attractive stop for families.

25 Best Things to Do in Grand Haven, MI

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attractions

Grand Haven is home to many popular and beloved attractions, all connected to the city’s history and culture. Families will want to take some time to visit these local landmarks and learn more about the area.

5. Grand Haven Lighthouses

If you want to see some iconic imagery and learn more about the area’s history, the Grand Haven Lighthouses are a must-see attraction. Among the most photographed lighthouses in the Midwest, they have come to symbolize the shoreline of Grand Haven. While there are no interior tours of the lighthouses available, the conservancy is happy to provide historical information while spreading its mission to preserve the site.

6. The Musical Fountain

The Musical Fountain is a free attraction and one of the most popular in the entire city. Each night after sunset during the summer months, spectators can enjoy awe-inspiring visuals of music, water and lights synchronized to popular music. Each show has a theme, from Jimmy Buffet classics to hits from Disney’s Frozen. Families with younger kids will love to check out this nightly attraction.

7. Lighthouse Connector Park

Locals refer to Lighthouse Connector Park simply as “the Boardwalk.” Pedestrians can enjoy a 1.5-mile coastline stroll from Chinook Pier to South Pier.

Public parks

For places to run around or enjoy some fresh air and free play, Grand Haven has you covered. The following public parks all offer something unique for the thousands who visit each year.

8. Imagination Station

There is a lot of community pride in this playground that spans 10,000 square feet and is open all year long. Imagination Station features a variety of play structures, slides and swings, so the kids can play and get some energy out during the day. The park was designed and built entirely by members of the community.

9. Pottawattomie Park

Families flock to Pottawattomie Park for the amenities as much as the scenery. There are hiking trails, a boardwalk along the lake, a pier for fishing or sightseeing, and numerous facilities for sports and games. It’s the perfect place to work on your soccer or volleyball skills. Dogs are not allowed on the property, so plan to leave the family pet at home.

25 Best Things to Do in Grand Haven, MI

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10. Chinook Pier Park

Opened to the public in 1987, Chinook Pier Park is most famous for its central feature: the Pere Marquette 1223, a classic steam locomotive on permanent display. It’s a huge piece of the city’s history and a big draw for anyone who is into classic trains or vehicles.

11. Linear Park

This park, true to its name, consists entirely of a 0.7-mile walking trail where you can catch some great views of the Grand River and enjoy the fresh air. Picnic tables, grills and fishing platforms maintained by the city are available to the public.

12. Grand River Greenway

Families probably won’t be able to see all of the Grand River Greenway in one trip. It’s 9,000 acres of public land featuring a 36-mile walking trail between coastal Grand Haven and Grand Rapids to the east. It’s a great place to explore the river, and it will keep you coming back for more.

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Activities

Sometimes a leisurely trip to the park or beach won’t do, and families are looking for something a little more active. Grand Haven has no shortage of activities that offer fun for everyone.

13. Grand Haven Boat Rental

To fully enjoy Grand Haven, getting out onto the beautiful waters of Lake Michigan is a must. The boat rental has everything you need to get the family started on the water. You can opt for a gentle pontoon to enjoy a relaxing cruise, or select something with a little more power for water skiing and tubing the lake. Regardless of your preference, this is the place to go for ideal lake access.

14. Harbor Trolley

This quaint little ride loops through the city seven days per week from Memorial Day until Labor Day, following two different routes. It gives riders a glimpse of many of the city’s main attractions. It is an inexpensive way for the whole family to get acquainted with the area, and it’s a convenient way to get to some of the favorite local places in Grand Haven.

15. Chinook Pier Miniature Golf

Any opportunity is a good opportunity to work on your putting skills. The Chinook Pier offers a full 18-hole miniature golf course conveniently located within walking distance of the downtown area. It’s extremely affordable, too. A round for adults costs $3, and for kids it’s only $2.

16. Coopersville and Marne Railway

This one is about a 20-minute drive out of Grand Haven, but it’s worth the trip. This old-fashioned train ride covers seven miles between its two namesake cities, and passengers learn about the history of the railroad along the way. The railway specializes in creating an immersive experience for its guests.

Patrons can enjoy a Polar Express-themed ride in December and a pumpkin-themed show in the fall. There’s even a 1920s-style murder mystery train ride, with actors and musicians on board to help bring the stories to life.

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17. Mulligan’s Hollow Ski Area

Grand Haven has lots to do in the summer, but there are also some winter activities for its permanent residents. Mulligan’s Hollow is a small “ski bowl” for when the lake effect snow appears and people need to satisfy their urge for winter thrills. The hill only offers a few trails, but the big draw here for families is that parents always ski for free. New skiers can pick up skills with reasonably priced ski lessons.

18. Grand Haven Room Escape

Escape rooms seem to be popping up everywhere, and Grand Haven is no exception. The Grand Haven Room Escape boasts consistently great reviews from its visitors and is known for its customer service and fun-loving staff. Supervised kids are welcome, and multiple room options mean you can choose one that suits your family.

19. Annual Festivals

Grand Haven is a city of tradition, and it seems like there’s always some sort of annual event to enjoy. From the Kite Festival in the spring to the Sand Sculpture Contest in the summer and the Christmas Parade in the winter, Grand Haven’s calendar is filled with events that bring the community together.

The most famous is the Coast Guard Festival, which is held in the later part of each summer. It honors the long, impressive history of the U.S. Coast Guard and brings the community together for parades, carnivals, crafts and many more activities that the whole family can enjoy.

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Art and history exhibits

For families that want to spend time indoors appreciating art and local history, here are a couple of suggestions for places to visit in Grand Haven.

20. Gallery Uptown

The oldest art gallery in Michigan is always full of new and interesting works by local artists. Oil paintings, ceramics, jewelry and even digital art are put on display here for visitors to enjoy and purchase.

21. Tri-Cities Historical Museum

The Tri-Cities Historical Museum’s mission statement is “Creating connections to local history.” The museum, which is free to the public, captures the history of Grand Haven with exhibits on the geology, logging history, and architecture of the area, just to name a few. The museum is a popular destination for school field trips.

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Dining

Families with kids can’t cook at home every night. Sometimes it’s necessary to take an excursion out to enjoy some of the local eateries and restaurants. Here are some of the top family-friendly establishments in Grand Haven.

22. Fricano’s Pizza Tavern

This small pizza restaurant bills itself as a landmark, claiming to have brought pizza to Michigan in 1949. Many locals consider it to have the best pizza in the area, and it has won awards over multiple years.

23. Morning Star Cafe

This popular spot for breakfast or lunch has won the local people’s choice award multiple times. The food is prepared with a Southern theme, which means big flavors and big portions. It’s kid-friendly, too; children can draw with sidewalk chalk as you wait for a table.

24. The Toasted Pickle

A popular place to go for a unique sandwich, the Toasted Pickle claims to have been started by a secret society of sandwich artisans who were always looking for zany new twists on old sandwiches. The tradition continues to this day, and the restaurant has a reputation for surprising its patrons with one-of-a-kind meals like the “Get Pickled Grilled Cheese,” featuring house pimento cheese, bacon and two kinds of pickles.

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25. Downtown District

Shopping

The walkable downtown area is home to dozens of specialty shops. Shopping families will find souvenirs, clothing for everyone, antiques and many other products. There are also plenty of restaurants in the area where you can stop for lunch.

CONCLUSION

With so many fun and exciting things to do, it’s no wonder Grand Haven is such a good place for families. The sandy Lake Michigan beaches, the local cuisine and the sense of community pride all help make Grand Haven special.

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