Western Michigan: Lakes, Sand Dunes, and Lighthouses

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After spending two days in Detroit, I went off to Western Michigan to spend some time in Michigan’s outdoor wonders.

Our first stay was in Grand Haven, which get its nickname “Coast Guard, USA” because of its more than 200-year association with this branch of the military. Every summer, there is an event known as Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival that pays tribute to these servicemen and women with a carnival, firework displays, parades and tours aboard ships.

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Two other summer fun offerings are a Musical Fountain, a popular synchronized light and music tours, and historic trolley tours that show and tell more about Grand Haven on wheels.

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Though my visit to Grand Haven was during the warmer months, I’ve been told there are activities to do here year-round. One of them is for nature lovers. Rosy Mound is a system of dunes with hiking trails that take you through wooded areas eventually leading you to sand dunes. It’s a fairly easy walk to and part of you path takes you a section of red pine trees that are like a miniature version of California’s redwoods. Planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps, these trees not only provide good shade on a warm day, but also are pretty to look at.

If shopping is more your thing, you’ll find it in Grand Haven’s downtown area with clothing boutiques and specialty goods stores.

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For some down time, I recommend stopping for a drink at Odd Side Ales. It’s a brewery inside a former piano factory that concocts an inventive list of suds ranging from the light Citra Pale Ale to the dark and spicy Mayan Mocha Stout. On one back wall, you’ll spot beer labels framed as works of art – they look like it too. Odd Side Ales doesn’t serve food, but you can a good meal at Kirby Grill, an American restaurant with nice deck views and a selection of salads, sandwiches and pizzas inside a former hotel.

Ludington

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After Grand Haven, my next stop was in Ludington. Once home to a major lumber industry, Ludington is a destination that brings back vacationing natives and keeps locals around with much to do. Former baron mansions have become B&Bs, and you can find quaint lodging such as the Summer’s Inn.

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Ludington’s downtown area has a good mix of restaurants, bars and stores. If you’re craving for ice cream, head ASAP to House of Flavors. But be patient. Here you can expect a line out the door at this diner/ice cream institution with classic flavors and in-house creations such as Blue Moon. Carrot Cake was my favorite. For lunch or dinner, The Jamesport Brewing Company offers good meal options with beer choices extending to German lagers and American ales.

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Park lovers will have a good at the massive Ludington State Park, which has options that could keep any outdoors person busy. Here you can go on hiking trails, spend time on beach areas, and hit the water to do anything from swimming to boating to SUPing. Michigan has the most lighthouses in the U.S., and you’ll see one of them in this park: the Big Sable Point Lighthouse.

Ludington is also located near other natural attractions such as the Silver Lakes Sand Dunes. Take a ride on them by letting Mac Wood’s Dune Rides do the driving on their 40-minute excursions. Another lighthouse to see near Ludington is the Little Sable Point Lighthouse. For a small admission fee, you can climb up the staircase and spend some time on the lookout area.

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