Our 12-Hour Grand Haven Day Trip: Beaches, Eats, & Sunsets

Wading in Big Shoes - Our 12-Hour Grand Haven Day Trip: Beaches, Eats, & Sunsets
Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself on the west side of the state a couple of times . . . and I can’t say I’m mad about it. Extending church retreats into impromptu exploration days, Brad and I have been getting to know Lake Michigan a bit better through quick day trips to Pentwater, Muskegon, and most recently, Grand Haven. Last weekend’s Grand Haven adventure was actually our second ever (the first was in April with friends), and wow-ee—what a difference a few months can make when you’re visiting a Michigan beach town! Grand Haven is indeed a beautiful and magical place before the snow has melted, but there are definitely some special experiences to be had once the sun has emerged for the season.

Morning Coffee Run

Wading in Big Shoes - Our 12-Hour Grand Haven Day Trip: Beaches, Eats, & Sunsets
Arriving in downtown Grand Haven late Saturday morning, Brad and I were excited to see that there was a lot going on in the area. An art show, farmer’s market, and sidewalk sales? Sign. Me. Up. But first, coffee. And we knew just where to find it.

Our friends had introduced us to Aldea Coffee back in April, and we loved it so much, we couldn’t pass up a return visit. Located in Grand Haven’s historic Armory Building, Aldea brews up flavorful espresso drinks (my iced latte was strong and delicious), pour-overs, and all the good stuff you look for in a legit, local cafe. And because the full-service coffee counter shares a large, two-story space with Grand Armory Brewing Co., The Armory Art Center, and Righteous BBQ, there’s plenty of space to sit, hang out with friends, and even get some work done if you so choose.

Downtown Sidewalk Sales

Wading in Big Shoes - Our 12-Hour Grand Haven Day Trip: Beaches, Eats, & Sunsets
Caffeinated and ready to shop, we walked over to Washington Ave. to take advantage of the sidewalk sales (there were so many vendors and tents, we thought this was the art show at first!). Apparently, Grand Haven’s downtown sidewalk sales are an annual occurrence and always line up with Art On The Riverfront, a juried event that takes place each August along the nearby boardwalk and municipal marina. Browsing the tables of discounted goods, we picked up some deals from our favorite Grand Haven shops, Mar├╝shka (hand-screen-printed clothing with designs from local artists) and MACkite (games and kites galore!). If you need me, I’ll be wearing my new red flower shirt and kicking tail at a round of Trash Pandas.

Lunch By The Water

Wading in Big Shoes - Our 12-Hour Grand Haven Day Trip: Beaches, Eats, & Sunsets
When early afternoon rolled around, we headed to Snug Harbor, a popular on-the-water restaurant that was definitely bustling on that sunny Saturday. The outdoor patio was big, but crowded, so we headed downstairs to dine indoors with the A/C. With large windows that allowed us to boat-watch, the dining room provided a much calmer atmosphere without sacrificing the benefits of the restaurant’s prime location. We ordered a couple of Mexican dishes (Brad got an enchilada and I got a quesadilla—we both liked mine best), and when we were finished, walked right outside to sit by the Grand Haven Channel. Finding a shady spot under some trees, we joined dozens of others on a grassy hillside to yacht-gaze and soak up the perfect August air.

Wandering Around Grand Haven's Waterfront

Wading in Big Shoes - Our 12-Hour Grand Haven Day Trip: Beaches, Eats, & Sunsets
After a lovely rest by the water, we got up to stretch our legs and wander around a little bit. My mood was temporarily dampened by a sitting-in-dirt mishap, but after some frozen yogurt at Pump House and a walk around the art festival, all woes were (mostly) forgotten. We also tried out one of those pay-as-you-go electric scooters for a few minutes, but my coordination and patience level were not strong enough to handle that challenge for an extended amount of time (If you’ve tried one of these scooters, please let me know about your experience in the comments).

Much-Needed R&R By Lake Michigan

Wading in Big Shoes - Our 12-Hour Grand Haven Day Trip: Beaches, Eats, & Sunsets
Thankfully, Brad had suggested we throw some swimsuits and beach gear into our luggage ahead of the trip, so when he mentioned going to the beach, we were all set. We drove down the road (really, everything is so close and conveniently-located) to Grand Haven State Park, did some quick changes (the park has large bathrooms with changing rooms and showers), and ambled out onto the sand. Brad went straight for the water, I decided to watch seagulls from the shore, and for an hour or so, we let ourselves just . . . be. It was bliss, because I couldn't remember the last time we'd visited a beach when the weather was warm and we had no obligations or schedule to stick to. For this little window of time, we were allowed to rest, and I was reminded of how precious moments like these are. And so, so grateful.

South Pier Lighthouses At Sunset

Wading in Big Shoes - Our 12-Hour Grand Haven Day Trip: Beaches, Eats, & Sunsets
As the sun lowered and the sky got cloudier, we packed up our belongings and made our way over to the south pier lighthouses. This was THE spot to be, as was confirmed by hundreds of other people taking selfies, fishing off the pier, and admiring the sunset as it grew increasingly more vivid. We walked to the end of the pier, marveled at some more fancy boats as they passed by, and even witnessed an engagement (congrats to the happy couple even though I do not know who or where you are)! It’s times like these that I want to bottle up Michigan summers and hold tight to them before they inevitably flee. For those of you rushing to get to autumn (*side eye*), I urge you to take notice of the summer beauty that’s in front of you and truly appreciate it before it fades for another year. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Grand Haven’s Famous Corn Dog Stand

Wading in Big Shoes - Our 12-Hour Grand Haven Day Trip: Beaches, Eats, & Sunsets
I learned long ago that it's impossible to have a conversation about Grand Haven without someone bringing up Pronto Pup, so we had to try out this Grand Haven tradition before heading out of town. The open-since-1947 hot dog stand sells inexpensive, deep-fried corn dogs (the batter is very thin and just present enough to provide a tasty crunch) that cause a steady stream of vacationers to form a line down the sidewalk whenever the walk-up window is open. Pronto Pups are $1.75 each, cash only, and can be ordered plain, with mustard, ketchup, or both. The food stand also sells soft drinks, but if you’re really hungry or looking for a more substantial meal, you may want to have a backup plan ready. For reference, Brad and I were tired and hungry after walking around all day and each ate two Pronto Pups . . . and we both still had room for sandwiches afterward. Most people walked away from the stand with three or four corndogs each, so if you want to keep your cholesterol levels somewhat in check, I’d say this place is best-suited for a mid-afternoon or late-evening snack.

Visiting Grand Haven, Michigan: Quick Facts

Wading in Big Shoes - Our 12-Hour Grand Haven Day Trip: Beaches, Eats, & Sunsets
Grand Haven is located on the west coast of Michigan and surrounded by Lake Michigan, Spring Lake, and the Grand River. The popular beach town is 15 miles from Muskegon, 100 miles from Lansing, 264 miles from the Mackinac Bridge, and 195 miles from Detroit (around a three-hour drive depending on where you live in the metro area). It's beautiful all year-round, but you'll definitely find lots more to do during the summer (plan early because hotels and Airbnb properties fill up!). There's also a camping area right by the water at Grand Haven State Park, so if you've got an RV, that's an option.

What did I miss? If you've been to Grand Haven, drop your favorite activities and sites to visit in the comments! Have another favorite spot along Lake Michigan that you'd like to see featured? Let me know and I'll do my best to cover it in a future post!

Wading in Big Shoes - Our 12-Hour Grand Haven Day Trip: Beaches, Eats, & Sunsets // We stopped by Grand Haven, Michigan on a whim and fit so much into just one day! See where we shopped, ate, relaxed, and got the best views here.