Sometimes I just have to get away. Like I will explode if I don’t. But honestly, sometimes I really don’t have the time to take a long trip and don’t have the money or reward points for us to take a quick flight somewhere. Which is why I love long weekend trips. Being in Ohio, you wouldn’t think there’d be an overabundance of places you could go in a long weekend; but surprisingly, since I live closer to the Cleveland area, there are quite a few places that are really not too far to drive to and get away for a bit. Michigan is one of those places.
I never really considered Michigan a destination. Aside from a trip I took as a college student to the Upper Peninsula (which is beautiful BTW), I never really took much interest in the state. Sorry Michigan, I am a born and raised Buckeye and after attending OSU, there is no denying, we’re rivals. That’s just how it goes sometimes. But my attitude towards Michigan changed dramatically after a trip I took a few years ago to Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes while visiting a friend there. And I fell in love. So I’ve been trying to get back since then to explore more of the state and due to either weather or other trips, it just hasn’t happened. So this summer I decided I was going back, no excuses. I had no idea where I wanted to go, other than the west coast of Michigan because I love Lake Michigan. It is clean, beautiful and so blue that you will forget you’re not on a beach on the ocean somewhere.
So we chose Holland! And I’m really glad we did. Not knowing much about it going into the trip, I was a little nervous there might not be enough to do in a weekend, but there was actually too much that we didn’t get to see everything we wanted to. Such a cute little town!
Let me start by saying, this is a college town. So there is plenty to do. And the town is a 15 minute drive from the beach, which is a huge plus. We started our day at a local Dutch restaurant, de Boer’s. This place is crazy busy for breakfast(the main thing they serve), they have a full coffee bar and a Dutch bakery. Super cute and super busy, so get there early if you plan to go!
After that we headed into town, where we were lucky enough to be there during a city wide sidewalk sale! Some of the roads were shut down but the town is extremely walkable and there is plenty of (free!) parking which makes it super easy to get around.
I have to admit, shopping (even window shopping, which is mostly what we do) makes me tired. I am not a big spender and even thinking about spending money is exhausting! Although they do have quite a few art galleries, boutiques and little shops with that hipster vibe, I was ready for a break. So that calls for coffee of course. Luckily, Holland, being a college town, has some of the cutest coffee shops. And they are great! Lemonjello’s has actually been on several “best coffee shops in the U.S.” lists so this was definitely on my must try list. Such a cute place, try a mood latte. They also have pastries and drinks for kids too if you’ve got little ones in tow.
We decided the next day to head to the Farmers Market(open Wednesdays and Saturdays) and boy was I glad we did. They have a great farmers market here and we were actually able to get the rest of our food for the weekend, along with some cute little handmade souvenirs from the vendors. If you’re there while the Market is going on, I highly recommend it. It’s especially nice if you’re on a budget; load up on fruits, veggies, breads, pastries or whatever at the market and you’re set for the weekend!
Captain Sundae is a famous little ice cream/ mini golf establishment and we had heard this was a must try! Famous for their Tommy Turtle Sundae, we had to see what the hype was all about. And it’s on the way to the beach so we figured it was worth a shot. So delicious and definitely worth a stop. We didn’t play mini golf but that’s on option while you’re stopping here.
Needing to burn off the calories from the ice cream, we decided to give climbing Mt. Pisgah a try. First let me say- the steps are built into a sand dune and there are A LOT. 239 to be exact. So it’s a workout for sure! But the views are incredible! And we were there on a Saturday and almost had the place to ourselves. Such a serene place, you can view Holland State Park with the Big Red lighthouse, Lake Michigan, and Lake Macatawa from here. Just gorgeous. And its free!
The parking lot and entrance to the boardwalk can be a little difficult to find, but it is free and located off Ottawa Beach Rd. near Third Avenue with a sign that says Black Lake Boardwalk East. From there, you’ll cross the road and walk past a little place called Dune Dogz until you see the entrance. Definitely worth a stop for the views if you’re near the beaches, which are located just a few minutes away.
Tunnel Park, which will cost you $7 to park, is the less crowded of the two beaches and the main draw is that a tunnel was built right through a sand dune, which has beautiful views, especially at sunset. There’s a park and sand volleyball courts here as well. We were here during high tide and sadly, there wasn’t a ton of beachfront, so keep that in mind! It is located at 66 Lakeshore Dr N.
Holland State Park, which will cost you $9 to park, has the lighthouse, a much bigger beach, but also has more people. There is a concession stand, a beach shop and plenty of places for grilling. We loved both beaches, but definitely spent more time at this one. There was just a lot more of an area to explore and even with the crowds, we were able to find our own little piece of paradise without feeling too crowded. It is located at 2215 Ottawa Beach Rd.
Grab a coffee at Lemonjello’s, Jp’s Coffee and Espresso Bar or Way Cup Café. We loved them all.
Grab a quick meal at Crust 54 for Chicago Style deep dish pizza, New Holland Brewing Company for craft beer, a healthy lunch at Way Cup Café, or pick up some goodies from the Farmer’s Market, pack a picnic and head to the beach.
If you have more time, check out Nelis Dutch Village, Holland Museum or the Windmill Island Gardens, especially during Tulip time in May. We had planned on visiting these places but after suggestions from our waitress, we decided to skip them since we were limited on time. Next time!
Bring cash, especially if you want to go to the Farmer’s Market. Some of the vendors do take cards, but not all of them do.
Book early, especially if you are going in the peak of summer. You can find good deals if you book ahead enough of time and there are even campsites available nearby, however if you wait, the prices for lodging can skyrocket. Western Michigan tends to sell out of many of their campsites early in the season and the hotels only become more expensive as the season goes on. If you do book last minute, like we did, there are quite a few outlier towns that can be booked for a reasonable price but you will have to drive about a half hour and will be away from all of the action.
I hope this post has inspired you to check out all the Michigan has to offer! Often overlooked, Holland, Michigan offers beautiful beaches, an adorable little beach town and some very interesting history that will make you feel like you’ve traveled much farther. Happy exploring!