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Summer dreaming - West Michigan

As I watch the snowfall in March in Michigan, I dream of warm summer days. They can't be too far away. Right? Growing up in West Michigan, summers meant trips to beaches along the gorgeous shores of Lake Michigan. From my perspective as a kid, I loved spending entire days with friends and family playing, swimming, and floating in what seemed like giant waves. The waves were always my favorite part. As I grew into a teen, we piled as many friends as possible that could fit into a car to enjoy endless days of beach volleyball. Now, as a parent, I get to share my love of West Michigan with my kiddos.

If you, too, need to do some summer dreaming of getting through the continued unpredictable March weather, here are some great West Michigan spots to add to your summer exploring list.

South Haven is a cute beach town that offers a walkable downtown full of shops for sports enthusiasts, fashion, toys, kites, and even dogs, which my kids can spend an endless amount of time in. There are plenty of hotel and vacation rental options, but you can easily park and go to the beach and walk downtown for several excellent dining options if you are going for the day. The walkability is our favorite part of this city. Plus, you can watch all the boats in the channel while you walk. This town gets hectic in the summer, so I recommend reservations and arriving early for parking. Visit the Michigan Maritime Museum, where you can learn more about the Great Lakes and book a boat experience on Lake Michigan, including a pirate adventure. Walk the South Haven Lighthouse Pier to take a break from the beach or watch the sunset, and if you're a camping enthusiast, The Van Buren State Park offers beach access and dunes.

A bit further north is the charming beach town of Saugatuck. Oval Beach is picturesque with beautiful sand. There is plenty of beach parking, but you will likely be climbing dunes to and from your car. I think my kids would bring the kitchen sink to the beach if they could, so it makes this beach a little more work. A Saugatuck gem is the over 100-year-old soda fountain found in the back of the Saugatuck Drug Store downtown. It has the original counter and seating.

Traveling an even a bit more north on the West Michigan shoreline is Holland. Here you will find an upscale downtown with ice cream, candy, and fashion shops along with fine and casual dining options. The beach, Holland State Park, is a short drive from downtown. This beach is very spacious, clean, and has a campground attached. However, the lines to get to parking can be lengthy in the summer, so I plan to go early and stay for the day. Another option is visiting Lake Macatawa, where you can rent a boat for the day.

I can't write about West Michigan and not include my favorite all-time ice cream shop, Plainwell Ice Cream. It's not summer for our family without a trip here. When I was a kid, this was our stop for that final treat that made the day super special after returning from the beach. The old fashion banana splits and malts are unbelievably delicious.


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