A rich maritime heritage permeates Grand Haven, from its nickname of “Coast Guard City, USA” to its iconic lighthouse and boardwalk. Stunning natural beauty makes Grand Haven, Michigan a popular destination, but the area also offers cultural experiences, history, and adventure awaiting your family. Retreat to one of many Grand Haven vacation rentals after trekking up dunes, touring museums, or spending a day at the beach.

1. Visit the Lighthouse

One of the most prominent structures of the Grand Haven skyline, the Grand Haven Lighthouse stands as a reminder of the town’s maritime history with a bold red paint job that can’t be missed. Two lights, one at each end of the pier, make this lighthouse unique. A lighted catwalk runs between the two lighthouses. You can’t actually tour the lighthouses, but you can get a good look at them from the beach or the boardwalk.

2. Explore the Boardwalk

A 2.5-mile boardwalk follows the harbor, offering an ideal spot to watch boats and get exercise with your kids. Benches along the boardwalk give little legs a break while offering the perfect vantage point for watching all of the harbor activity. The boardwalk also features restaurants and shops with plenty of options for souvenirs from your trip.

3. Watch the Musical Fountain Show

Set aside one evening of your Grand Haven trip to watch the Grand Haven Musical Fountain. Each day during the summer, the fountain plays a new 20-minute show featuring water, colored lights, and music. Find a spot at Waterfront Stadium or along the Boardwalk to take in this massive synchronized water and light show each night.

4. Ride the Trolley

In the summer months, the Harbor Trolley shuttles you through the town. The historic trolley transports your family back in time with a fun way to travel. The trip is narrated, so you can learn more about locations along the waterfront and downtown. Several stops along the way let you easily hop off and explore certain areas. This fun tour option works for the whole family.

5. Play on the Beach

The shores of Lake Michigan offer a sandy retreat during your vacation, so be sure to pack your swimsuits and sand toys if you’re visiting in the warmer months of the year. Younger kids can dig in the sand and splash in the waves near the shore, while older kids can venture out into the waves. North Beach Park, Grand Haven City Beach, Grose Park, Lakeside Beach, Grand Haven State Park, and PJ Hoffmaster State Park are a few areas with beach access. Kirk Park features a dog beach if your furry friend is staying in your pet-friendly vacation rental with your family.

6. Go for a Bike or Hike

The Grand Haven area features over 100 miles of bike paths perfect for exploring the area. Store your bikes in your vacation rental garage until you’re ready to see where the trails take you. If you’re looking for water views, you can find trails along Lake Michigan, Spring Lake, and Grand River. Walking is another way to enjoy the trails if can’t bring your bikes on the trip.

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7. Ride a Boat

Boating is a popular activity in Grand Haven, thanks to its waterfront location. If you feel comfortable behind the controls, rent a boat, and explore the area on your own. You also have many options for cruises and tours via boat. The Wind Dancer Schooner lets your family experience a sailing adventure. Infuse history into your boat ride with a trip on the Grand Lady Riverboat featuring a giant paddlewheel.

8. Visit a Museum

Grand Haven has several small museums, each with a different theme to suit the ages and interests of your kids. Allendale Engine House No. 5 is a hit with kids of all ages. The beautiful building houses vintage fire carriages, pumpers, and other artifacts related to firefighting. Coopersville Farm Museum focuses on agriculture with a series of interactive exhibits and a special children’s activity area. Learn more about Grand Haven, Spring Lake, and Ferrysburg at the Tri-Cities Historical Museum, which displays an assortment of artifacts detailing the history of the area.

9. Check Out the Dunes

Several sand dunes in the area offer beautiful scenery for leisurely strolls or fast-paced exploration with your kids. Woods surrounding the dunes in the Rosy Mount Natural Area add to the beauty of this outdoor adventure. Climb the stairs to go up and over the dunes to enjoy amazing views of Lake Michigan from above. Young kids may need to make frequent stops to make it up and down all of the stairs, but they can spot lots of interesting things along the way.

10. Ride a Vintage Train

Reserve a spot on the Coopersville & Marne Railway for your family to experience a history lesson and a fun tour of the area. Vintage locomotives pull 1920s train cars on a 7-mile stretch between Coopersville and Marne just east of Grand Haven. A highlight for kids is the return trip. Upon reaching Marne, the locomotive uncouples and rolls past the coach to the other end, where it is coupled for the return trip. Kids also enjoy the ridge and creek crossings. Seasonally themed train rides at certain times of the year add to the fun for visitors young and old.

11. Explore Parks

Grand Haven boasts more than 60 public parks, so you’re sure to find one near your vacation rental when your kids need to burn off energy. Chinook Pier Park features a real locomotive on a track as a focal point that gets kids excited. Grose Park serves up assorted recreational activities over 40 acres, making it an ideal place to find green space. Visit Eastmanville Bayou for views of the Grand River plus wetlands and bayous for diverse sights. Head to the Grand Haven Splash Pad to cool down on hot days. Take kids of all ages to Mulligan’s Hollow Park, which features a huge wooden playground, a skatepark for older kids, and the Ski Bowl for fun winter play.

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