11 Top-Rated Things to Do in Grand Haven, MI
Where the mouth of the Grand River spills out into Lake Michigan, that is where you'll find the lovely, historic city of Grand Haven. The beautiful lakefront city has played a vital role in the evolution of Michigan's history and, today, is one of the top places to visit in the state.
You'll find things to do here for every type of traveler. Grand Haven is most famous for its historic downtown, lighthouses, protected natural areas, and, of course, Lake Michigan beaches. Downtown Grand Haven is a thriving community center, with historic buildings, riverfront parks, restaurants, galleries, and shops. It is one of the most beautiful spots in Western Michigan and one of the top destinations for tourists in the state.
Plan your trip with our list of the best things to do in Grand Haven, Michigan.
1. View the Grand Haven Lighthouse and Pier
Michigan has some of the country's most historic and beloved lighthouses. Grand Haven has two of them. Built in 1839, two lighthouses on the south pier of the town, both painted red, have remained beacons of the city for nearly two centuries.
Connected by a catwalk, the two lighthouses are icons of Grand Haven, and popular spots for strolling and snapping pictures out over Lake Michigan. A boardwalk borders the Grand River channel and the pier, which is lovely for walking and soaking in the lakefront views. Together, the entire area is one of the most photographed spots in the Midwest.
Visitors can access the boardwalk from the beach in Grand Haven State Park. Another way to see the lighthouses is to head to the north pier in Ferrysburg, which overlooks the north side of the river. Whichever way you choose to view the lighthouses, this is the best introduction to Grand Haven.
2. Explore Grand Haven State Park
While you're visiting the lighthouses, you might as well spend some extra time roaming around Grand Haven State Park. The park spans 48 acres along the shores of Lake Michigan and the Grand River. The top reason for visiting Grand Haven State Park is the beachfront area, as the majority of the park is essentially a beach on the shores of Lake Michigan.
As already mentioned, the park is the best place to view the lighthouse and the Grand Haven pier, but the park is also a popular spot for camping, swimming, fishing, and volleyball.
It even has more than 170 campsites, which are extremely popular in the summer. The campgrounds have some of the best views in the entire area. The crashing waves of Lake Michigan make for a perfect evening soundtrack and a beautiful sight when you wake up in the morning.
The park was one of 13 parks that were created in 1920 as part of the newly established Michigan State Parks Commission.
3. Visit the Rosy Mound Natural Area
Among the many outdoor areas to enjoy in Grand Haven, Rosy Mound Natural Area is one of the best. Part of the Great Lakes dune system, Rosy Mound includes undulating open dunes, dunes carpeted in forest, and a wide stretch of sandy beach.
Rosy Mound is named for its 200-foot dune. The name was given by early settlers who said that the top of the dune was covered with wild roses. Another version is that the Native Americans named it that way because of the pink-colored hue that casts off the dune at sunset. Either way, it's a magical place to visit.
One of the best spots to soak in the views at Rosy Mound is up the .7-mile hiking trail that leads from the parking area and climbs 1,000 feet of stairs over the dunes, featuring sweeping views along the way. The best perch is from the Dune Overlook observation deck.
Rosy Mound Natural Area spans 164 acres and is one of Michigan's most beloved protected dune areas. The trails are only open to visitors on foot, and most of the trails are on boardwalks.
Address: 13925 Lakeshore Ave, Grand Haven, Michigan
4. Marvel at the Grand Haven Musical Fountain
Come nightfall, the waterfront of Grand Haven comes alive with this spectacular music and lights show. The Grand Haven Musical Fountain is an enchanting display of light and water, synchronized to music at the Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium.
Since 1962, the waterfront has been lit up every evening between Memorial Day and Labor Day for a 30-minute performance that dazzles visitors and residents. Playlists span all different genres to ensure that everyone is entertained.
In addition to nightly performances, the fountain also hosts themed shows, which can be set to musical favorites like Encanto, Frozen, Jimmy Buffet, the Moody Blues, and Beauty and the Beast. If you're visiting Grand Haven in the summer months, this is one can't-miss performance.
In addition to the musical fountain attraction, the Waterfront Stadium also hosts a variety of other events throughout the year from its Grand River-side perch.
Address: Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium, 1 N Harbor Drive, Grand Haven, Michigan
5. Stop By the Tri-Cities Historical Museum
The three towns that make up the Tri-Cities of Michigan include Grand Haven, Ferrysburg, and Spring Lake. Since 2004, the Tri-Cities Historical Museum has been bringing the history of the region to life within the historic Akeley Building in downtown Grand Haven.
The museum is home to both a permanent collection, as well as space for rotating exhibits. The first floor of the Tri-Cities Historical Museum takes visitors back through time to visit the communities of the Odawa, Ojibwa, and Potawatomie Native Americans. It also weaves through the histories of the fur traders, pioneers, and the Victorian era in Grand Haven.
A second house of the museum is in the former Grand Trunk Railroad Depot, which dates to 1870. This historic spot is not far from where fur trader Rix Robinson had established his trading post in the early 19th century.
The museum has more than 70,000 artifacts that cover everything from photographs and maps to books, furniture, and more. Three spaces are available for rotating exhibits, which change throughout the year.
Address: 200 Washington Ave, Grand Haven, Michigan
6. Stroll Lighthouse Connector Park
Grand Haven is yet another city in Michigan that prides itself on its outdoor spaces. It has so many wonderful parks and community gathering places to choose from, including Lighthouse Connector Park, located right downtown.
Running along the banks of the Grand River, the pocket-sized, 1.5-mile Lighthouse Connector Park runs from Chinook Pier to the end of South Pier. It features a boardwalk, along with public art installations, and runs along the river overlooking the Grand Haven South Pierhead Outer Lighthouse.
The Chinook Pier is an interesting spot to check out, as well, with its many stores and restaurants. It also has an 18-hole mini golf course and a small waterfront playground. You can rent surf boards along the pier, as well as paddleboards and skateboards.
7. Visit the Train Depot Museum
What was once the original home of the Tri-Cities Museum has transitioned to become a historical landmark, as well as an addition to the museum, which now sits down the street on Washington Avenue. Its location is fairly close to the original location of the first fur trading post in what would become Grand Haven in 1821.
The railroad depot building was built in 1870 and was integral to the development and prosperity of Grand Haven, as it shuttled passengers and freight around the state. The last train left the station in 1958. Nearly 15 years later, the building emerged as a museum dedicated to the history of Grand Haven.
Just outside the train depot is the Waterfront Stadium overlooking the Grand River at the top of Washington Avenue, meaning it has one of the very best locations in town. In the winter months, the train depot transforms into Santa's Workshop, bringing a heavy dose of holiday cheer to downtown Grand Haven.
Address: 25-99 N Harbor Drive, Grand Haven, Michigan
8. View the Pere Marquette 1223
If you haven't gotten your fix of railroad history, you can stroll over to the Pere Marquette 1223, which is not very far from the old rail depot. The Pere Marquette 1223 is a historic steam locomotive that is permanently stationed in Grand Haven. It is one of two remaining 2-8-4 "Berkshire" locomotives, which are among the most beautiful and classically designed steam locomotives in history.
The locomotive was built in 1941 and was used to transport freight trains between Toledo and Chicago before and after World War II. It was pulled from service in 1951 and sat in storage for quite a while. Eventually the locomotive was moved to Detroit to be displayed at the state fairgrounds and, finally, was moved to Grand Haven in 1981 where she has been sitting ever since.
Today the locomotive sits on display in Grand Haven and is an absolute must for train enthusiasts who come to marvel at her pristine condition and decades of important history.
9. Wander Escanaba Park
If you haven't gotten your fix of green space in Grand Haven, Escanaba Park is another wonderful waterfront option to explore.
Escanaba Memorial Park was constructed to commemorate the United States Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba. The vessel was based out of Grand Haven from 1932 to 1942 and was used for many rescue missions out on the Great Lakes. It was also utilized in World War II before eventually being struck by a torpedo in the North Atlantic in 1943.
Today the park is used as a commemoration for the ship and the crew that were lost after the 1943 attack. Visitors can still see the original wooden mast that soars above the park. The boardwalk passes through Escanaba Park, so those strolling along the river will be sure to cross through it, as well.
Address: 673 S Harbor Drive, Grand Haven, Michigan
10. Explore Kitchel Lindquist Dunes Preserve
The dunes of Michigan are famous in many lake towns across the state, but the dunes at the Kitchel Lindquist Dunes Preserve are among the most beautiful. Stretching across 115 acres, the protected area features massive natural dunes, thick forest, and rich wetlands.
The area was founded in 1971 with 60 acres and has grown since then to encompass the 115 acres of today. It sits next to the Grand River and is one of the best examples of dune development in the country, with dunes being featured through the park at all their many stages of development.
Visitors can explore the two trails that weave through the dunes and then run along the river shoreline. Bring binoculars to try to catch a glimpse of the many hawks, bald eagles, herring gulls, great blue herons, and other birds in the sky.
Address: 20001 Berwyck Street, Grand Haven, Michigan
11. Browse Gallery Uptown
Downtown Grand Haven has a slew of charming shops and galleries, but Gallery Uptown is perhaps its most famous and most popular. The oldest artist-operated gallery in the state, Gallery Uptown uses its platform to showcase artists from the area.
The gallery features art from a variety of different media, from watercolor and oil to pastel, watercolor, glasswork, jewelry, photography, and beyond. Every month, the gallery hosts a themed show, which is open to the public in the Walburg Gallery.
Gallery Uptown also has an annual Holiday Gift Art & Craft Show that showcases arts and crafts from more than 30 artists.
You can explore some of the other beautiful galleries in Grand Haven, too, like The Fire Barn Gallery, which also showcases work from West Michigan artists. The Grand Valley State University in Allendale has a variety of galleries, too.
Address: 201 Washington Ave # 100, Grand Haven, Michigan