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Your guide to Grand Haven
Welcome to Grand Haven
One of Michigan’s most popular summer retreats, Grand Haven swells with visitors attracted to its beach, boutiques, and festivals — including the much-celebrated Coast Guard Festival. Allegiance to the Coast Guard is a big deal here: Grand Haven was established as the nation’s first Coast Guard City in 1998, and the related festival lasts for two full weeks, drawing crowds of more than 300,000 people. The rest of the tourism season revolves around more traditional pastimes: lazy beach days, ice cream parlors, and people-watching along the boardwalk. With its soft, sandy shoreline, more than 100 miles of bike trails, and a bustling downtown, Grand Haven checks all the boxes of a classic beach getaway. It also happens to be a major hub for technology. It was the first city in the country to establish free citywide wi-fi, which extends up to 15 miles out on the lake to service the area’s thriving boating community.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Grand Haven
Grand Haven is practically synonymous with summertime, when beach days and festivals take over the calendar. The city’s famous Coast Guard Festival takes place in late July and early August and is spread over a full two weeks, resulting in nonstop festivities across town. If you time your visit to the festival, be sure to plan well in advance. Other popular times to visit coincide with the Great Lakes Kite Festival in mid-May, the Grand Haven Art Festival in June, and the Grand Haven Sand Sculpture Contest in mid-August. Though the city is much quieter the rest of the year, lighter crowds mean a slower pace and more time to enjoy the town’s many shops, restaurants, and attractions. Grand Haven retains its popularity through winter, when cross-country skiers visit its parks and trails, many of which are lit up for night skiing.
Top things to do in Grand Haven
The Boardwalk and Lighthouses
Stretching 1.5 miles from end to end, the Grand River Boardwalk is a great way to get a riverside glimpse of downtown. Along the way you’ll walk through Lighthouse Connector Park, with a handful of large public sculptures, and eventually reach the pier, whose catwalk-style framing connects the city’s pair of photogenic red lighthouses.
The Grand Haven Musical Fountain is a 20-minute lights and water show that plays every evening at dusk during summer. The fountain is surrounded by an amphitheater with plenty of seating, but there’s also a great view from across the river at the Kitchel-Lindquist-Harquist Dunes Preserve. Alternatively, watch from the comfort of your car and turn up the radio: The fountain’s audio is broadcast to local station 88.7 FM.
North Beach Park
For a quieter, family-friendly alternative to the main city beach, head to North Beach Park in neighboring Ferrysburg. The seven-acre lakefront park is a top spot for swimming and sunbathing, and there’s even a children’s play structure. Nearby hiking trails provide a change of scenery.