By Kyle Moroney
Families find the Tri-Cities area to be a Michigan gem.
Nestled along Lake Michigan’s shores, the area boasts many family-friendly activities no matter the time of year.
Here are our top 10 activities for families to share laughs, build memories and explore the area:
1: Beaches — Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg share a picturesque landscape complete with sand dunes and sandy beaches near or along Lake Michigan. The popular Grand Haven State Park and Grand Haven City Beach on Harbor Drive provide hours of endless fun building sandcastles, playing beach Frisbee and splashing in Lake Michigan waves. Several other beaches up and down the shoreline, and along Spring Lake, are just as relaxing. Soft beaches, pure lake waters and glowing sunsets make Grand Haven stand out from all the rest.
2. Mulligan’s Hollow recreation area – The area provides a variety of activities for children of all ages to enjoy. During the winter, children and their families strap on their snowboards and skis and head to the ski hill where they can tackle eight downhill runs. Sledders are welcome on certain days. When the weather turns warmer, children climb, swing, hang and slide on the enormous wooden Imagination Station play structure. Across from the YMCA is the Grand Haven Skate Park, where 13,000 square feet of cement overlook the Grand River. The skate park features a full-size bowl, quarter pipe, hubba box, rails and stairs. The area is on Mulligan’s Drive near the YMCA.
3. Splash Pad — The new splash pad is sure to be a big splash with kids during hot summer days. Located between Chinook Pier and the Municipal Marina on Harbor Drive, the splash pad has a computer-controlled program operating 17 nozzles that provide a variety of water features. It is activated by motion sensors and powered by a solar panel.
4. Harbor Trolley — The Harbor Transit’s old town trolley car offers riders a historical narrative of the city of Grand Haven as it drives through the downtown district, near the beaches and along the west side of Grand Haven. Trolley rides offer an affordable form of entertainment that is sure to be a hit with any child as they wave to passersby. For information about the trolley, call 616-842-3200.
5. Grand Haven harbor, boardwalk and pier — There is nothing like enjoying a sunny day strolling the boardwalk and along the pier to the lighthouse or relaxing on the grassy hills of the Grand Haven harbor. Families here have picnic meals, walk or bike, indulge in an ice cream cone or Pronto Pup from the nearby stands, play tag on the grassy field or just watch the boats motor in and out of the channel. Near the Chinook Pier there are plenty of ice cream shops and seasonal stores, a putt-putt golf area, and a place to watch the charter fishing boats clean their catch of the day. It is also a good spot for watching the Musical Fountain — Grand Haven’s own synchronized water and light show. The free 20-minute show runs nightly beginning at dusk from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
6. Bike paths: There are more than 100 miles of bike paths through northwest Ottawa County. There are paths that run the Lake Michigan shoreline, as well as more inland paths throughout the Tri-Cities. Highlights include the often challenging Bass River Recreational Area, southeast of Grand Haven, for mountain bikers with 2- to 4-mile loops; and the 3.3-mile first phase of the North Bank Trail in Spring Lake. Enjoy the scenery as you pedal near the shoreline or down a woodsy path. Free bike maps are available at the Grand Haven Visitor’s Bureau, 225 Franklin Ave.
7. Exploring the sand dunes — Miles of hiking trails are etched into the Lake Michigan sand dunes. The Rosy Mound Natural Area, on Lakeshore Drive just north of Ferris Street, is a 164-acre park that includes a 0.7 mile (one way) hiking trail from the parking lot to the Lake Michigan beach. Throughout the trail, there are high wooded dunes, foredunes, beach and a dune blowout. Area residents often hike and make daily runs on the trails. It is a fun way to get children to explore the natural sand dune habitat with a dip in the Lake Michigan waves at the end.
8. Area parks and playgrounds — A variety of climbing structures and other amenities await curious minds and energetic bodies. Grand Haven’s East End Park offers a boardwalk to the Grand River, Grand Haven Township’s Pottawattomie Park offers a small beach area and boating dock on the bayou, Hofma Park and Preserve, also in Grand Haven Township, and North Ottawa Dunes in Ferrysburg host a variety of wooded dunes and nature trails winding through the parks.
9. Farmer’s Market — The Grand Haven Farmer’s Market is a fun way to spend a morning picking up local produce and plants. The market runs from 8 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays and Saturdays from June 2 to Oct. 31. It is located under the green canopy on Chinook Pier. Families together enjoy shopping and experiencing the different colors, textures and tastes grown by local farmers.
10. Tri-Cities Museum — The Tri-Cities Historical Museum, 200 Washington, in Grand Haven offers numerous programs for families and children, including “What is it? Wednesdays” and “Tuesday’s History for Kids.” To learn more about the Tri-Cities area, stop in to the museum and get a personal, hands-on tour by its staff. For information, call the museum at 616-842-0700.