8 Steps to the Perfect Summer Day in Grand Haven

Grand Haven is a quintessential, all American beach town located on the shores of Lake Michigan. While staying in the area, you’re always within minutes of walking along the sandy beaches and dipping your toes in the water. Though it is a year round destination, you can’t beat a warm, sunny summer day. Here are 8 Steps to a perfect day by the lake in Grand Haven!

1)      Wake Up & Fuel Up

You have a big day ahead of you so start it off right with coffee and breakfast at Morning Star Café. Whether you have a big appetite or are looking for healthy options, you will quickly discover how hard it is narrowing down your options. It all sounds so good – and it is! Menu favorites include the marble corn bread scramble, stuffed French toast, and vegetarian crepes. To top it all off, the restaurant is colorful yet cozy and the staff is top notch and super friendly.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Grand Haven

2)      Take a Hike

Now that you’ve fueled up and had your caffeine fix, you’re ready to burn off some calories. Mid-morning is the perfect time to head out to Rosy Mound Natural Area before the temp rises. Rosy Mound is a classic Great Lakes dune system including high wooded dunes, foredunes, beach and a dune blowout.  The winding trails, stairs and boardwalks offer quite the workout but the views are beyond worth it.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Grand Haven

3)      Hit The Beach

Let’s go to the beach! Lucky for you there are many public beaches to choose from in the Grand Haven area. The Grand Haven State Park is a popular choice since it’s located close to downtown, the boardwalk, and offers a stunning view of the pier and lighthouses. Kirk Park is the more laid back option and even offers an off-leash dog beach. Don’t forget the snacks and the sunscreen!

Photo Courtesy of Visit Grand Haven

4)      Lunch Time

It’s already been a busy day but there’s still more to do -  so it’s time to refuel with a quick lunch break. On Harbor Drive you will find two iconic Grand Haven eateries: Pronto Pups and Butch’s Beach Burritos. Pronto Pups is a tiny, white and yellow stand that has served up their addicting Pups since 1947. Butch’s offers up classic burritos and tacos with freshly-made salsa along with specialty hot dogs. The Chiwawa Chili Dog is their famous dog topped with beef, beans, cheese, and salsa served in a bun and then wrapped in warm tortilla. Don’t knock it until you try it!

Photo Courtesy of Visit Grand Haven

5)      Discover Downtown

Downtown Grand Haven is just down the boardwalk from Grand Haven State Park and is lined with picturesque, historic buildings who are home to a unique variety of shops and eateries. Favorite stops include Fortino’s, MacKite, Michigan Rag Company, and Calico Cat. Don’t miss stopping in at the Tri-Cities Historical Museum’s two locations including the restored 1870s railroad Depot. Not sure where to start? Jump on the open air trolley for a narrated tour of the city.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Grand Haven

6)      Rooftop Dinner & Drinks

The Kirby House started as a hotel in the late 1800s and has had many lives since. Today it offers three different dining options including K2 which serves up wood-fired pizzas and seasonal cocktails. The specialty pizza menu has something for everyone including the classics as well as the likes of the Spicy Thai, Lobster Carbonara, and Boursin Mushroom. Be sure to sit outside on the rooftop patio for views of the boardwalk, Grand River channel, and Lake Michigan.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Grand Haven

7)      Sail Into the Sunset

The Grand Haven pier and the beach are fantastic options for catching the nightly sunset over Lake Michigan. However, the best seat in town is aboard the Wind Dancer – a 63-foot double gaff-rigged schooner. During their nightly sunset sails, you are invited to help raise the sails, take the wheel or simply kick back and enjoy.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Grand Haven

8)      Lights, Water, Action!

At dusk the Grand Haven harbor is filled with music and lights thanks to the nightly Musical Fountain performance. For over 50 years, the Musical Fountain has delighted visitors of all ages with its synchronized water and light show accompanied with music from almost every genre.  On your way to see the fountain, be sure to grab an ice cream cone or sundae from Temptations to enjoy during the show. The perfect ending to the perfect day by the lake in Grand Haven!

Photo Courtesy of Visit Grand Haven

What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!

StephanieHerderAbout the Author: Born and raised in the Grand Haven area, Stefanie Herder has worked in the hospitality and tourism industry for over fifteen years where she has done everything from scooping ice cream to destination marketing. Now as the Marketing & Communications Manager for the Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, she loves seeing the area through the eyes of a visitor and sharing it with the world. You can follow Visit Grand Haven on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to add ‘VisitGrandHaven’ as a friend on Snapchat, too!

5 New Ways to Enjoy Traverse City This Summer

Even on vacation, you can get stuck in a rut.

Fortunately, up here in Traverse City there are so many different things to see, do and taste that there’s really no reason for doing the same thing over and over. There are new thrills in store for those who are willing to try something different. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Watch the sunset from a kayak.

Summer sunsets are part of Traverse City’s magic, whether you watch them from your hotel balcony, the top of a sand dune or a lonely Lake Michigan beach. But one of the most beautiful ways to enjoy the lovely colors of sundown, the deep hues of twilight and the wonder of a star-dusted night is from the cockpit of a kayak as it knifes its silent way through the dark water of Grand Traverse Bay.

Photo Courtesy of Northern Swag

The ladies at Paddle Away Tours have years of experience leading small groups of kayakers on sunset, moonrise and starlight excursions in the waters of Bowers Harbor and Power Island.

2. Explore a Shipwreck.

There are dozens of shipwrecks lying in the crystal-clear waters near Traverse City – schooners, steamships, freighters and tugs. Some are in deep waters and can only be reached by experienced scuba divers – but a surprising number can easily be reached from shore, and all you need is a pair of fins and a mask.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

The 160-foot wooden steamer Three Brothers and the 246-foot freighter Francisco Morazan, the Rising Sun and the skeletal remains of the 124-foot schooner Metropolis are all within easy reach of the adventurous snorkeler!

3. Do a Microdistillery Tasting

Traverse City is already well-known for the quality of its wines and its craft brewing scene. But if you’ve already done the wine trail route or the brew trail route — or if you’re just not the wine or beer-drinking type — there IS a third alternative. Traverse City is blessed with several fine microdistilleries that produce a bewildering array of brandies, vodkas, whiskeys, gins and other spirits – and putting together a tour of these places can be lots of fun as well as a great learning experience.

4. Walk, bike or skate the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail

The Traverse City area is well-known for its many hiking, cycling and skiing trails, but one of the most exciting ones is still being built. It’s the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, a paved pathway that allows cyclists, strollers, wheelchair pilots, in-line skaters and others to reach the highlights of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Right now the pathway is 13 miles long. When completed it will stretch 27 miles, from the northern end of the park to Manning Road, just south of Empire.

 5. Play a Round of FootGolf

Ever hear of FootGolf? This challenging hybrid between golf and soccer, where players try to sink regulation-size soccer balls in 21-inch holes with as few “strokes” as possible, is now being played at Elmbrook Golf Course in Traverse City and The Summit at Shanty Creek Resorts.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

The game is great fun, and its basic rules are like those of golf: the first shot at each hole has to be taken from the tee, and players must play past the usual array of bunkers, trees, water hazards and hills. Get your “team” together and try it!

Which of these Traverse City activities have you tried? Share with us in the comments!

Mike Norton spent 25 years as a newspaper writer and columnist before starting a second career as media relations manager at Traverse City Tourism. An avid cyclist, kayaker and hiker, he lives in the village of Old Mission.

Enjoy the Preserved Beauty of Michigan’s National Parks

Throughout 2016, the National Park Service is celebrating its 100-year anniversary, and are encouraging people to venture out and find their park! In honor of Earth Day on Friday, April 22, here are a few ways in which Michigan’s 7 National Park units are working to preserve native plants and wildlife.

Protecting Nature

While Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes may be best known for its sloping, perched dunes rising majestically above Lake Michigan, there are many life forms of flora and fauna nestled comfortably within the park’s boundaries.

Sleeping Bear actively monitors the Great Lakes Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus), which is an endangered species of shoebird that appears at the park from early April to mid-August. They are sand-colored on the back and white below. During the breeding season adults have a black forehead band between the eyes and a single black band around the neck. (Its larger relative the killdeer is commonly seen at parks, playgrounds, and golf courses, and has two dark bands around the neck.) Piping plovers nest only on beaches and prefer beaches with gravel.

Attaching a ankle tag to a young Piping Plover, Photo Courtesy of Austen Smith

Piping plovers remain at Sleeping Bear through the summer months to nest and raise their young. In mid-July the females begin forming flocks and migrating south, leaving their mates to watch over the chicks until they learn to fly.

As for its native plantlife, Sleeping Bear Dunes is a part of The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The GLRI goals of Sleeping Bear Dunes include:

  • Restoring habitat to protect native species
  • Preventing and controlling invasive species
  • Education and outreach
  • Studying avian botulism outbreaks

Sleeping Bear also works hand-in-hand with its NPS neighbor to north, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to identify beech bark disease resistant trees for future restoration efforts. They also are working on an aquatic invasive species citizen science program for early detection and evaluating Eurasian watermilfoil (an invasive aquatic plant species) management using native beetles.

Photo Courtesy of Austen Smith

These efforts among others help to preserve the sprawling natural beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes which has become a destination spot for generations of Michigan families. Visitors to Sleeping Bear Dunes can enjoy touring the inland lakes via canoe, hiking one of the park’s many trails, or visiting the Manitou Islands for bird watching, wildlife viewing and enjoying nature at its very best.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NPS and highlight the value of national parks as our nation’s “living laboratories,” the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is hosting a series of public talks called “Research Rendezvous” by park researchers in 2016. Visit NPS.gov for the current schedule of upcoming talks.

Being a responsible park visitor

National Park Service rangers and other stewardship employees work hard to preserve beauty in its most pure and natural form at all NPS sites. But they also need your help to be aware and responsible when visiting one of these pristine areas.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which was recently featured in the national IMAX release of “National Parks Adventure,” has some tips for park visitors that will protect the park’s natural resources, enhance your park experience and keep you and your family safe. Here is what visitors should know when preparing to visit a National Park:

  • Please don’t litter – pack it in and pack it out
  • Stay on developed trails, especially during early spring wet season blooming times
  • If you use the woods for relief, please follow BURY IT ethics: 2-4 inches deep hole into the duff and cover, including the waste paper

In celebration of the NPS Centennial, Pictured Rocks will be participating in a series of programs built around natural conservation and inspiring a new generation of park stewards by partnering with the Every Kid in a Park Program – sponsored by the National Park Foundation, the White House and Federal Land Management Agencies. Every Kid in a Park, or EKIP, encourages 4th-graders to visit any federally reserved land or water such as a National Park, forest refuge or wildlife reserve.

Melissa O’Donnell, Education Specialist for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore/Hiawatha National Forest, will kick off the  Every Kid in a Park program by visiting 6 of the 12 schools awarded a free field trip to the park, from a National Park Foundation grant. Over 160 students will learn about federal lands and waters, why they are important, and what to know during a series of field trips in May.

Photo Courtesy of Austen Smith

Urban Preservation

Just as important as protection of our trails, streams and plant life, cultural and historical preservation in urban settings stands as an important pillar in the NPS Centennial as those in the “Millenial” generation are moving away from the suburbs and into the city.

The city of Detroit has a rich history and through recent preservation and interpretation efforts, many of the sites that weave the storied tapestry of the region are being safeguarded for future generations.

As part of the Every Kid in a Park program, the MotorCities National Heritage Area – an affiliate of the National Park Service, that preserves and promotes automotive heritage in southeast Michigan – is working with the National Park Service’s Urban Agenda to educate Detroit students about an important piece of the city’s history in historic Fort Wayne.

Photo Courtesy of Austen Smith

MotorCities National Heritage Area in conjunction with the Detroit Historical Society, Michigan Historic Preservation Network, Preservation Detroit and the State Historic Preservation Office will be leading an interactive experience in which 4th-graders will learn about local history through a “grab bag” of historical items. Students will have to guess the origin of the item and what it does while talking with knowledgeable proctors.

This and much more will be happening during a special event from May 31 to June 3 at historic Fort Wayne.

This educational outreach program is just one way in which the MotorCities preserves and promotes the automotive and labor history and how our story in southeast Michigan impacted the state, the nation and he world.

Learn more about these and other Centennial happenings at: nps.gov and findyourpark.com.

Austen Smith is the Communications Coordinator for the MotorCities National Heritage Area. He can be reached at asmith@motorcities.org.