Grand Haven is a great place for families to spend a day, weekend or an entire vacation! The city is situated alongside Lake Michigan with the Grand River to the north, creating excellent opportunities for boating, fishing, swimming, relaxing on the beach and all sorts of other outdoor recreational activities.
The boardwalk is the perfect place to walk and bike. There are multiple ice cream vendors, snack shops, retail stores, a marina, charter fishing boats and the world’s largest musical fountain. For a sure-to-please kids’ activity, look no further than Chinook Pier’s putt putt course. And, there is even a small park tucked between the river and an antique steam engine, Pere Marquette 1223.
Just across the street from the waterfront is Downtown Grand Haven, which boasts a wide range of restaurants, retail shops, art galleries and service businesses. The Hilltop and Centertown are only a short walk away, with even more art exhibits to view, pubs, eateries, Lakeshore Yoga Center, several book stores and more.
Downtown Grand Haven also hosts events throughout the year, with most offering activities for kids of all ages. The Coast Guard Festival is a big hit with families. So is Grand Haven ArtWalk, which holds an annual youth art competition along with a family art day and other related events. If you are looking for a fantastic family place, look no further than Downtown Grand Haven!
Downtown Grand Haven is teeming with entertainment year round! During the summer months, the Musical Fountain is the must-see show. It’s the largest of its kind in the world!
There are tons of events and activities to keep you busy too. From art fairs and ArtWalk, Salmon Festival, Coast Guard Festival and Frozen in Time, there is so much to enjoy in the winter, spring, summer and fall. Grand Haven even has its own theater group, the Central Park Players, which puts on a host of plays and musical from season to season.
Many of the area’s eateries and pubs have live musicians in house to entertain patrons. JW’s Food & Spirits, The Kirby House, Theater Bar, The Grand and Odd Side Ales are just a few of them.
The local music scene is rockin’! There are jazz musicians, blues bands, folk singers, indie rock groups, acoustic entertainers and more. And of course, there are open mic nights all over town for those who wish to take the stage themselves!
Getting around Downtown Grand Haven is easy whether you are traveling by car, bus, bike or on foot. The district is conveniently located just off of US-31. Simply take US-31 to Washington Ave., turn west and you’re there!
Washington Ave. is our Main Street. It runs the length of the district, passing through Centertown, the Hilltop and Downtown ending at the Waterfront. Once in Downtown Grand Haven, there are eateries, shops, service businesses, marinas, beaches, activities and events galore–all within walking distance.
There is ample free parking throughout the region. And, an inexpensive ride on Harbor Transit is just a call away, with stops throughout the tri-cities area.
During the summer, the Harbor Trolley buzzes around town, offering an historical narrative of the City of Grand Haven. The trolley runs seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day only. Fares run from free for those ages 4 years and under to $1.50 for people age 19 – 59 years.
Downtown Grand Haven is wonderfully walkable! The beach and the Grand Haven Lighthouse are just 1/2 a mile west of the main business district and are easily accessible on foot. Chinook Pier offers a range of amenities including miniature golf, shopping, a marina and eateries, and it’s just across the street from the principal shopping district.
Downtown Grand Haven boasts an array of eateries, shops, service companies and art galleries, among other things. Centertown is just a short stroll up the street and offers restaurants, pubs, book stores, service businesses and much, much more!
If you are arriving by car, there is ample free parking throughout the district. Once there, take the time to walk around, taking in everything that the area has to offer! You can even enjoy the area’s walkability in the winter, thanks to the new snow-melt system that keeps the roads and sidewalks free of snow and ice.
Grand Haven has an abundance of lodging for visitors, ranging from hotels and inns to beach rentals and more. Many of the places offer special discounts during events like Grand Haven ArtWalk, Salmon Festival and Coast Guard Festival.
Some even offer weekend entertainment packages, including wine tastings and shopping discounts at local retail stores, plus in house activities for guests. Women’s Weekend at Harbor House Inn is always a big hit in the spring. Serendipity Resorts and other rental companies provide a unique option for visitors too, with homes and cottages throughout Grand Haven.
The Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) can provide you with information about where to stay during your visit to the area.
Please visit the CVB’s web site for details.
Historic Grand Haven
Rix Robinson had a trading post for his fur business when Rev. William M. Ferry, his family, and a few others arrived from Mackinac Island on November 2, 1834. Robinson, Ferry, Nathan M. White, Ferry’s brother-in-law, and Robert Stuart, Ferry’s friend and financial supporter formed the Grand Haven Company to buy land, built a lumber business, and develop the area. Rev. Ferry wished to name the town Stuart, in honor of his friend, and for a few months he was Postmaster of a town by that name. Robinson’s plat, recorded in April, 1835, preceded Ferry’s application and the name Grand Haven became official on August 12, 1835. Ferry remained Postmaster Grand Haven until 1853. Prior to 1853 the post office was located in Ferry’s building on Harbor Drive. In 1853 it moved to a building then occupied by H. Tepon, and Ebenezer W. Barns became the new Postmaster, a position he held until 1861. By the 1890s Thomas Parish held that post. In 1872 a new post office was constructed at 100 Washington Street, and in 1906 a Federal Building, including the post office, opened for business at the northwest corner of Washington and Third Streets.
Grand Haven was incorporated as a City on March 30, 1867.
Source: Dr. Wallace K. Ewing, Ph.D.
In 2016, the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, listed the Grand Haven Central Historic District, Grand Haven, Ottawa County, in the National Register of Historic Places. We are delighted this significant property has been recognized through this historic designation. The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. The complete application may be found here.
Downtown Grand Haven is rich in history with a heritage that dates back to the early 1800s when the city was founded by French settlers. It was best known in those days for its fur-trading outpost called “Gabagouache,” which was first established by Madeline La Framboise and her husband. The outpost took the name from the Pottawattamie Indians name for the area, Gabagouache. The trading post was later taken over by business tycoon and first millionaire in the United States, John Jacob Astor and the American Fur Company and became a hub of economic activity in the area.
Over the years, downtown Grand Haven evolved into a modern day district with architectural elements still evident from virtually every decade in the 1900s and beyond. For more detailed information about the heritage of Grand Haven, visit the Tri-Cities Historical Museum web site.