It is quite often that certain destinations look like they are best visited only at certain times of the year and then off limits at other times. While this may be the case for some places there are definitely others that fly below the radar when it comes to opportunities for year-round tourism. Michigan and its coastal cities happen to be one of those destinations.
Known most for the beautiful little beach towns that scatter the edges of Lake Michigan and the hiking and camping options more to the north, Michigan seems to be a place that falls off the radar when people are looking for travel options in the winter months. Having lived in Grand Haven, MI for the majority of my life I have certainly witnessed the sharp decline in external visitors from the months of November to April. Whenever the skies are clear and the beaches are open people flock here from all over the United States and settle in to soak up the sun, hoping against all hope that the summer will never end.
I’ll be honest with you though… I am not a fan of the cold. In 2016 I moved down to Panamá to start a new a different life - one that was not going to involve snow or actual “seasons” anymore. I like the warm, humid weather. I enjoy the sunshine year round and I would much rather sweat than be cold, no doubt in my mind about that. I will say, after being being pushed back to Michigan to wait out the world’s closing down, I have found a new respect and love for the winter months. Perhaps I just had to be away for a few years or maybe it is just due to my age or even a little nostalgia… who knows. Whatever the reason may be I have been enjoying the photography opportunities that the snow has brought us and I have found my home town of Grand Haven to be quite a beautiful place to explore when the snowfall comes through.
The downtown area has always been one of my favorite things here and in the summer it becomes such a fun place to hang out. There are tons of restaurants, bars, shops and it is overall a beautiful main street for a walk at any time of the day. During the winter it offers all the same things and I never really realized how cozy and pretty it is when everything is blanketed in fresh snow. It really feels like a town right out of a children’s Christmas book. Even the beaches are beautiful in the winter. I feel a little bit ashamed that this was the first year I ever even walked out on the beach or on the pier in the winter… it is absolutely gorgeous. The the lighthouse gives the most perfect pop of red against the white snow and grey/blue sky. It really is breathtaking and it makes for some absolutely amazing photos.
As a photographer and videographer I always love the opportunities to have a place all to myself. It can be difficult sometimes when we are doing work for brands or properties and the location is packed with people that are not a part of the project. It can be tricky to get the shots you need with no one else in the background. Exploring Grand Haven in the winter has been amazing due to how beautiful it is, but also due to the fact that no one is around. We had the whole pier to ourselves the other day, just snapping photos and doing some video work for other projects we have going on. What a reprieve from many locations that we have been to around the world that have become Instagram “hot spots” and actually have a queue to take a photo. For real though, that’s a thing.
If you are thinking of taking a wintery vacation we recommend putting Grand Haven, MI on the list. Hit the downtown area for a cup of coffee at SideBar, a few delicious craft beers at Oddside Ales, a build your own pizza at Kirby’s K2, or stop by one of the many sandwich shops scattered along Washington (the main road through downtown). Be sure to go over to the State Park to see the frozen pier that reaches out into Lake Michigan and check out the frozen shoreline that often sports small icebergs that have washed ashore. If you need a little more adventure than this you can always plan a day trip out to Cannonsburg for a skiing or snowboarding trip since it is only a little over an hour away. There are plenty of AirBnBs available so pack up your warm clothes and get ready for a unique USA based trip before the winter is over.