Summer Fun in Holland, Michigan

The Beach

Arguably the best place to be in Holland, Michigan during the summer months, the sandy shores are a favorite getaway.  Stroll the white sandy beaches at Laketown, camp out at Holland State Park and enjoy the sun setting over Lake Michigan before retreating back to your campfire, or, walk through a concrete tunnel that actually cuts right through the sand dune at Tunnel Park! There are plenty of beaches in Holland, Michigan to explore this summer.  So, take your time, make some memories, and enjoy some of the finest stretches of lakeshore in Michigan.

4th of July Fireworks

Enjoy our Celebration Freedom with fireworks and family fun! This year Celebration Freedom will kick off at 1:00pm on Wednesday, July 4 at Kollen Park.  Celebration Freedom includes: vendors, children’s games, inflatables, martial arts demonstrations, live music, food booths, and an array of other free family fun activities. At dusk  fireworks will be explode over Lake Macatawa.

Fireworks will also be shot off over Lake Michigan, also around dusk. For best viewing, head to Holland State Park.

Fun on the Water

With the summer season in full swing, it’s time to venture out to the lake. Ideal water conditions provide the perfect play ground for stand-up paddle boarding, sailing, kayaking, and much more! Interested in a charter excursion? No problem, we have charter fishing boats for those who want to land the perfect catch, and power and sailboats for those who want to cruise! Looking to rent a Sea-Doo to ride along the waves of Lake Macatawa? We have those, too! With plenty of boat and water sport rentals, you’re sure to have an adventurous day on the lake.

Click here for outdoor activities!

Downtown Street Performer Series

In need of a fun family activity to fill your Thursday evenings? From 6:30pm -8:30pm, visit Downtown Holland as Street Performers showcase their talents for all. The lineup changes from week to week and varies from live music to juggling, to tap-dancing and acrobatics. There’s always something new to see as you travel down 8th Street. So, take your time and wander the street (it will be closed to traffic, keeping you and your little ones safe), and enjoy the talents and entertainment of our Street Performers!

Ride Your Bike!

With over 150 miles of paved and separate-use bike paths, there is a road, path, or trail to suit your biking needs.  Holland has plenty of off-road trails and adventures for fat tire and mountain biking, as well as long scenic lakeshore rides for road biking. If a bike rental better suits your travel plans, several bike shops in Holland offer rentals, which include a helmet and lock.
Check out our free bike brochure here.

Handcrafted Passport

Get a real taste of the local hops, grapes, and spirits scene by experiencing our very own Handcrafted Beverage Passport! Visit any of the participating breweries, wineries, or distilleries and enjoy the beverage that they are known for, hear the individual establishment’s story, and learn about their handcrafted product. The passport provides a space on each page to jot down tasting notes leaving a handy reference for visitors and locals alike!

When you take the Passport to a participating establishment, it will be stamped with each artisan’s specially designed stamp; those collecting all of the stamps can return their Passport to the Visitors Bureau for verification where they will receive a custom-stamped “Handcrafted in Holland” bar blade, compliments of the Holland Area Visitors Bureau.

Click here for details and to see a list of participants
Click here to watch our Handcrafted Beverge Passport video!
*Special Thanks to City of Holland for creating our video*

Visit Windmill Island Gardens

Windmill Island Gardens

Visit Windmill Island Gardens, one of Holland’s must-see attractions and our very own “treasure island”! Spend an afternoon wandering through 36 acres of beautifully manicured lawns and gardens filled with over 122,000 tulips during our annual Tulip Time Festival; the tulips are replaced with breathtaking annuals and perennials for the summer months.

In a nod to our Dutch heritage, enjoy performances by authentically-clad Dutch dancers, complete with wooden shoes; take a spin on the imported hand-painted Dutch carousel, and listen to an antique Amsterdam street organ, also straight from the Netherlands!

Take a guided tour of the 260-year-old working windmill, DeZwaan, (The Swan), that arrived in Holland from the Netherlands in the mid- ‘60s, and remains the only authentic working Dutch windmill in the United States. And don’t miss the opportunity to step out onto the fourth-floor deck where you can catch a birds’ eye view of the lush gardens, dikes, and canals surrounding the mill. For a more in-depth understanding of DeZwaan, keep an eye out for our Dutch-certified miller (the only one in North America) and watch as she grinds locally-sourced winter wheat into flour and corn into meal (available for purchase in the gift shop).

The tastes of DeZwaan are embedded in our community from the grains used in local craft beers and spirits, to the breads and doughs used by local bakers and chefs. Proud of the “mill to table” tagline, the vision of DeZwaan feeding its community, (which goes back over two centuries), has far exceeded expectations! Be sure to make Windmill Island Gardens a “must see” destination for your west Michigan touring! And don’t leave without grabbing a bag of mill-ground flour while you’re there!

View Big Red Lighthouse

Holland’s beloved and popular “Big Red” lighthouse, which stands proudly at the south side of the Holland Channel, has a long and rich history dating back to the first structure built on that site in 1870. Currently the lighthouse is owned and maintained by a non-profit lighthouse commission and is Michigan’s most photographed lighthouse.

For the best view of Big Red, visit the Holland State Park where you can walk along the board walk to the north pier (wheelchair accessible). You can also view Big Red from Mt. Pisgah, where the dune stair case takes you 157 feet above sea level.

The Holland Harbor Lighthouse is an integral part of the history of Holland. A stormy history it is filled with disappointment countered by determination. Soon after the Dutch settlers came to the area in 1847, their leader, Dr. Albertus C. Van Raalte, wrote to the governor and the U.S. Congress requesting funds for the building of a harbor. Van Raalte knew from the beginning that if this new community were to flourish, access to Lake Michigan, to and from Black Lake, (now Lake Macatawa) was essential. However, the entrance to the lake from Lake Michigan was blocked with sandbars and silt.

Repeated requests for government help were made in the years that followed but to no avail. All the while, the Holland settlers made numerous attempts to establish a harbor. A permanent pier was built into Lake Michigan that was battered year after year by winter storms. Dredging was done both by hand and machine.

In 1860, citizens managed to cut a new channel-present location from Lake Macatawa to Lake Michigan. It was deep enough for barges to float from Lake Michigan into Lake Macatawa.

In 1866, harbor officials received word from Congress that they would receive an appropriation for work on the harbor.

In 1867, the Federal Government took over improvement of the harbor. Additional monies came in 1870, 1871 and 1872 but it was not until the turn of the century, fifty years after the effort was begun, that the harbor was substantially completed. It was too late for Holland to become an important commercial port, but not too late to help foster a thriving resort business. The Graham and Morton shipping lines made two trips daily from Chicago bringing eager vacationers to the lakeshore.

In 1893, a Life Saving Station opened on Lake Michigan. Ten years later it was replaced by a U.S. Coast Guard Station.

The first lighthouse was erected with $4,000 of federal funds in 1870, twenty years before the harbor was complete. It was a small, square, wooden structure that stood on an open platform on legs above the deck of the pier. On top was a lantern deck with a ten-window lantern room.

The lighthouse keeper had to carry his lighted oil lamp along a catwalk, which stretched from the shore where he lived to the lamp under a lens or magnifying device. When fog obscured the light, he signaled incoming boats by blowing an 18 inch fish horn often used on sailboats.

Steel Tower-Early 20th Century Improvement

Both the pier and the wooden lighthouse had taken a beating from the weather over the years. So after the turn of the century, when the harbor was finally finished, a breakwater was built.

The steel tower was an obvious improvement from the wooden structure. Not only could it better withstand severe weather, it could be spotted by incoming vessels as far away as thirteen miles.

When fog lay on the lake, as it so often did, a light signal was useless. It was obvious that a fog signal, stronger than a fish horn, must be incorporated. In 1907, a steam operated fog signal was installed. Two coal fed Marine boilers produced steam to sound the locomotive whistle used as a fog signal. The 1907 building was built as a fog signal building only. It had no light (the light stood adjacent to it as a separate sructure unitil 1936 when the Coast Guard consolidated the two structures by putting a light tower on top of the fog signal).

To house the signal, the 12th Lighthouse District, which had federal jurisdiction over the lighthouse, designed and constructed a separate building, the basis of today’s lighthouse. This structure, unlike its two predecessors, was not placed on legs, thereby affording greater stability. The wood upper level is Queen Anne Victorian in style. The steeply sloped roof gables and Palladian window motif that are still still intact evidence this. The original roofing material was probably cedar shakes.

Originally, both the steel tower and the fog signal building were painted pale yellow with a deep maroon base. In 1956, however, the Coast Guard sandblasted the tower and painted it bright red to satisfy a requirement for the aids to navigation that a structure or light on the right side of any harbor entrance must be red.

This final phase of lighthouse development brings us to the structure as we know it today. In 1934 the light was electrified. In 1936, plans were made to abandon the steam driven fog signal, now nearly 30 years old, and install air powered horns using electricity as a power source for air compressors. Electrification also marked the end of the era of lighthouse keepers that had spanned 68 years.

Lighthouse Keepers

The first lighthouse keeper was Melgert van Regenmorter, appointed to service in 1870 at an annual salary of $540. He served until April, 1908, just prior to the steam fog signal going into operation. It is said that he wanted no part of the new technology.

Between the years of 1908 and 1912, three different keepers shared time tending the light, Charles Bavry, George J. Cornell and Edward Mallette. Their relatively short terms of duty indicate that it took a special type of individual to withstand the constant pressure of maintaining the signal.

The last active lighthouse keeper was Joseph M. Boshka who came to Holland in 1912, after serving 15 years in the Lighthouse Service. Joseph Boshka, known as “Cap”, served until 1940. He retired to reside in Macatawa one year after the federal Lighthouse Bureau was abolished and the Coast Guard took over responsibility for aids to navigation.
In addition to tending the light and signal, the keeper and his assistants also stood watch. This was especially important during the use of the steam powered foghorn since it took about 45 minutes of firing up the furnace to build up enough pressure for operation. Watch was generally broken down into six-hour shifts. All work activities and times of operation were recorded in the watch log.

In 1934, when the lighthouse was wired for electricity, electric air compressors for the horn were installed. The light turned on automatically at the right time and the fog horn was activated by remote control leaving the lighthouse keeper basically without a job.

Lighthouse Commission

In 1971 the lighthouse was declared to be surplus since the Coast Guard could not justify the expense of repair and maintenance of this structure that no longer housed the electrically operated light and fog horn. Private citizens started a petition and letter writing campaign to save the lighthouse. In 1974 the Holland Harbor Lighthouse Historical Commission was formally organized to coordinate the effort, even crafting the name of “Big Red” to personify the lighthouse and generate awareness to save it.

In 1978 the Coast Guard transferred ownership to the commission and, with it, the responsibility for the preservation of the lighthouse. Repairs and maintenance of the lighthouse are paid for out of endowment funds raised by the commission.

Twice a year, the Coast Guard inspects the facility and maintains the light. A new $6,000 light that can be seen for 20 miles has been installed. The use of a fog signal had been discontinued. The original Fresnel lens is on display in the Holland Museum.

Over the years, “Big Red” has taken on a life of its own, popular with painters, photographers, beach-goers, and boaters. There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting in the shade of a tree, and watch the river empty into Lake Michigan, while the red sentinel stands guard on the opposite shore.

Top 10 Places for Families

Finding the perfect place for family fun isn’t hard to do in Holland, Michigan. Whether you are looking for fun outdoor recreation, traditional Dutch activities, or indoor play, there are plenty of options for fun and adventure!

Dutch Village

One of Holland’s favorite attractions, Dutch Village offers an authentic Dutch experience for the whole family. A quaint, yet interactive cultural throwback to the Netherlands, Dutch Village is home to fully costumed employees dedicated to immersing the family in Dutch traditions. Make your own Dutch “Stroopwafel” cookie, enjoy demonstrations of how the Dutch make wooden shoes, participate in traditional Dutch dancing, experience the petting zoo (De Kinderboerderij), taste Dutch Brews and local beers, and even enjoy the Ferris Wheel in its small theme park!

The Beach

Kick off your shoes and enjoy the sand beneath your feet at any of our Holland beaches! Visit the Holland Michigan State Park for an expansive beach front, walks on the pier, and stunning views of Lake Michigan. Head to Tunnel Park to walk in Michigan’s only concrete tunnel through the dunes, or use the wooden staircase to walk up the dune and dune jump down to the beach!

BAM!

Holland’s one-stop family fun indoor entertainment center! BAM! Is known for its tagline: Eat. Drink. Play. Repeat…and for good reason! With Multi- level laser tag, bowling, mini and monster bowling, karaoke, high ropes courses, and a huge arcade (that rotates its games frequently), there is non-stop action! While the kids play, parents can enjoy a brew from the on-site brewery, or enjoy a meal from the full-service restaurant. With a variety of cool prizes and treats, your family will have a great time at BAM!

Windmill Island Gardens

Take a few hours to walk 36 acres of the beautifully manicured grounds of Holland’s own treasured Island! Explore the gardens, dikes and canals, take a ride on a hand-painted Dutch carousel, enjoy the music from an antique Amsterdam street organ, and shop for Dutch souvenirs in the Dutch “village” themed gift store. Spend the afternoon and tour the 250-year-old DeZwaan Windmill, the only authentic Dutch windmill operating in the United States!

Critter Barn

Open six days a week, year ‘round, this active farm provides an unforgettable hands-on learning experience for the whole family. The Critter Barn strives to educate with its teachings and demonstrations on animal care, agriculture, and even instructional education on how local farmers to grow our food! Bottle feed a calf or kid, milk a goat, play with the kittens in the kitty corral, hug a bunny, and even find eggs from the hens! With a heated barn, the Critter Barn is a favorite year ‘round destination!

Square Play Café

– A fun place for parents to grab a cup of coffee or their favorite café drink, while the kids play! Square Play Café is filled with adventure and imagination. The toys and interactive play stations are switched out frequently in order to provide fresh experiences and enthusiasm. Think of it as an indoor classroom/toy room combined with a café atmosphere. It’s the perfect spot for kids to play while the parents visit and chat over their cup of joe! And, if the kids work up an appetite while playing, the café sells awesome children’s snack foods like string cheese and applesauce! This place is a win for kids and parents alike!

Kollen Park

A local favorite, Kollen Park is located along the shores of Lake Macatawa. Along with the Heinz Waterfront Walkway, this site design award winning park sits on 24-acres of waterfront public access. Public boat launch access, various fishing decks, and a boardwalk that stretches to South Shore Village, border the park along the water, while the playground and manicured lawns border the streets. Take the entire family and spend the evening catching a sunset, fishing, walking on the Heinz Waterfront Walkway, playing on the playground, and even taking in some of the summer outdoor concert series, and free movie in the park series put on by our friends at @cityofholland!

Holland Community Aquatic Center

Grab your bathing suits and towels and head to The Holland Community Aquatic Center for non-stop water fun. With the Splash Zone indoor water park, you have plenty of options for play. Enjoy the 150-foot water slide, vortex pool, Alpine Challenge, zip line, water cannons, tumble buckets, Wiggle Bridge, Aqua Track, and much more! Don’t feel like the Splash Zone? No worries, enjoy the state of the art 50-meter pool, sauna, and fitness room. It’s open 7 days a week, so it’s the perfect destination for exercise, relaxation, and fun!

Outdoor Nature Centers

With two GREAT outdoor education centers, you can’t go wrong! Holland is home to both the 18- acre DeGraaf Nature Center, and the 150-acre Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway. Both centers have live animals on site, educational and interactive programs for the family, trails to explore and hike, and naturalists on site to educate and inform. For outdoor enthusiasts, there is plenty of exploring and adventure to be had!

Herrick District Library

Are you looking for a quiet and relaxing activity for the family? Head over to the Herrick District Library to check out the latest novel, up-and-coming author for your book club, or just enjoy a quiet and relaxing space while the kids unwind during story time. With plenty of hands on activities in the interactive play area and teen hangout area, there is access to board games, a used bookstore, and even scheduled classes and events, for ALL ages. It’s more than just a library- it’s a fun and educational destination!