Holland, Michigan – Weekend Getaway
I know how to start this post off in order to reduce anxiety and anger: I am not a University of Michigan fan.
With that said, I really like the state of Michigan. Between the beaches and amazingly-varied, outdoor destinations, the state really stands out for a go-to weekend getaway for us Ohioans.
My first, and not last, weekend vacation in Michigan was just at the end of June, and it was much more than I expected. After a trying week, we decided to getaway on a last-minute trip to Holland, Michigan this year.
Not only were we able to get a hotel last minute, our hotel was actually pretty great, and in the best location. E got us a place at the Hampton Inn which was updated, fab and clean (I’d recommend it), and most importantly, centrally located. We were 6 minutes from downtown (breweries, shopping and museums) and 12 minutes away from Holland State Park (beaches and lighthouse). Breakfast included, bar and lounge, coffee in the lobby, blah, blah (except the last thing) blah, the important stuff… beaches, breweries, food, festivals and other good stuff.
Wowza. Bright white (HOT) sand and waves, Woo-hoo! The beach was better than anticipated, especially after a trip to Presque Isle last year. I had kind of chalked up all the Great Lakes’ beaches to be “nice” but not really lounge-worthy. The sand in Holland is perfect, just like you stepped in a sandbox.
The water isn’t clear (it is a lake after all) but it’s really blue and perfect for wading in the water and jet skiing. Not only can you lounge on the beach and jump into the waves, you’re also able to boat, sail and ski across the lake.
In addition to laying out and jumping in the water, there are a ton of piers and a couple lighthouses to check out as well. While lighthouse scouting isn’t so much my thing, I did find it to be great mix in the scenery.
In Holland, the two major beach destinations we found were:
Holland State Park – Lively, with lots of families, couples, kids and teens; you’ll find a lighthouse + pier, concession stand, tons of volleyball courts, grills and pavilion areas, a large beach area and a lot of people. We didn’t consider it “too crowded” on a Saturday, mostly because it stretches pretty far. Parking is plentiful, and it costs $9 to park one out-of-state car, the amount of people doesn’t factor in.
Tunnel Park – This park is smaller, but definitely worth checking out. Not only is it smaller, but there are SO many less people – the sand and waves are still just as good. After checking out the shoreline, you can see HSP from here, so it’s within a comparable distance. What’s cool about Tunnel Park? This little park has dunes, a look out point, in which you can look directly at CHI (what up, sis?) and an awesome tunnel to walk through. In addition to these things, it’s connected to a recreational park with public facilities, pavilions and jungle gyms. All-in-all, I’d go again.
Well, let’s be honest – beer is my favorite thing. So, checking out one of the many craft breweries in the area was a no-brainer for the weekend agenda.
Our Brewery – Not widely distributed, but it should be. This hipster themed brewery/bar is decked out with industrial metal chairs, wood tables, an exposed stone wall and beautiful modern light fixtures. While it’s not a large facility, there is plenty of hightop, bar and table seating. Grab what sounds good, or do what we did and opt for the tasting flight of 5 and find your favorite. I had my first coconut stout here, which was FANTASTIC; it was one of many innovative brews (10 on tap to choose from). Learn more about some of their creative beers here.
New Holland Brewing – If you’re into beer, or have veered away from the domestics, you’ve most likely had a New Holland creation. Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout is one of the more well-known in our area, and for good reason. Their brewing style and choice of ingredients leads to powerfully tasty beers. The establishment is on the “touristy” side, but still has a great selection ranging from session ales to high gravity IPAs and stouts. Aside from the beverages, the draw of this spot was the live music all weekend. It was a great spot to wrap up the night with entertainment and a really good beer.
Other notable breweries include Big Lake and Saugatuck Brewing. Both of which will be on the list for next time, in addition to a distillery in Holland, called Coppercraft Distillery. Coppercraft offers live music, classes and tours at their facility.
Downtown Holland was our destination to find a spot to eat. After scoping out our options, we decided on The 8th Street Grille. The menu is pretty extensive, but focuses on burgers, sandwiches and pub-fare. If you stop, you have to try the pretzels and home-made beer cheese. I dream of it. If you’re a brew fan, they have 28 taps of beer including anything from local MI breweries to more well-known distributors. Bonus: they offer tasting flights of anything on draft. Two other places we were interested in were Butch’s Drydock and Curragh Irish Pub.
I apologize for the lack of lunch recommendations, between the hotel breakfast and beach-lunch of Combos and Chex-Mix, we only grabbed breakfast once. However, it was at an AMAZING cafe just a few blocks down from the main drag called Biscuit. And I’d go many times again, their french toast and scrambles were delicious.
Festivals and Other Attractions
The Tulip Time Festival, early each May, celebrates Holland’s Dutch heritage with parades, fairs and emphasis on its themed attractions. While we missed the festival itself, our hotel was by a VERY Dutch themed spot called Nelis’ Dutch Village. The village is themed in 1800 Dutch fashion, with 36 things to do and see, all at $8-$10. It’s kind of a big deal in the area – not so much my thing, but it would be great for a family.
Saugatuck – we will be back for you next year. This town is just a 15 minute drive from Holland. If you love the East Coast, you’ll love Saugatuck, for a variety of reasons. A) it looks like you’re on the East Coast, B) the boating – yachts, pontoons, whatever you prefer, you’ll see it, or can rent it. C) the lakeside bars are great. Their beer offerings for the most part are pretty decent, the booze is there, but what’s most important is the view. A handful of the bars/restaurants have a front-row view of the water. Not only do you feel like you’re living high-class, the people watching is excellent. D) restaurant options and shopping boutiques are fantastic. Whether you’re looking for a steak, seafood, ice cream or want to grab a cardigan, Saugatuck had it all.
Saugatuck reminded me of Peninsula (Akron, OH) with a good mix of Ellicottville (Holiday Valley, NY) with the luxury of warm weather and a lake. We really loved it. It’s quaint, a little more walkable than Holland and has a little more seclusion charm – E and I made plans immediately to come back.
Shopping options were wonderful in Downtown Holland. Men and women’s clothing stores, home boutiques and specialty food shops lined the main drag on either side. Two stuck out as favorites:
- Fustini’s Oils and Vinegars – a tasting room and shop for small-batch, fresh oils and vinegars. Great products, and bonus points for being owned by a former Canton resident.
- Cotton Bay Boutique – the target is women, and the clothes are so cute! Ranging from beachwear to work-wear, the prices were appropriate for the items.
As for other places to go, and things to do in Michigan, numerous destinations are within just a couple hours of Holland. While I think Holland is fantastic for 3-4 days, you could easily stretch your time in Michigan to a week, or two weeks. If you plan on taking a good portion of vacation days for your one-shot summer vacation, I recommend checking out Grand Rapids, Traverse City, South Haven and Ann Arbor (no telling me what you think A.A is by the way). I personally hope to eventually get to each of these spots, because they are so close, and have a lot to offer.
Have another Michigan getaway perfect for a weekend retreat? Share it with us!