No matter how early I intend to leave Detroit, my trips to West Michigan always seem to have me on the road longer than anticipated. Regardless, the excitement over a #MittenTrip to Holland made the ride with my travel buddy worthwhile. Both of us had varied experiences in the lakeside town that concerned vacations during her childhood and a whole lot of wedding festivities for me last summer. Each of these exposures meant we had some inkling of what was to come, but not the faintest idea what to do with a late summer weekend that had rain showers predicted for most of our scheduled time in the town.
Undeterred, we packed up the car and made the journey across the state to Holland’s Lake Ranch Resort. Nestled on Lake Macatawa, the resort has a friendly staff, is located close to Holland State Park, and is convenient to the area’s many offerings of food and outdoor entertainment. As soon as we arrived, the owner, Bill Grimes, graciously welcomed us to the establishment and gave us a thorough overview of Holland’s downtown and various other spots along Ottawa Beach Road.
One of the places he suggested, and was at the top of many a helpful friends’ list, was the Itty Bitty Bar. After we settled into our cozy room, we decided to head to the bar for a drink to unwind from the drive. It was a lively setting with live music and a jovial crowd. We didn’t stay long since we had been on the move most of the day, but it was a great place to orient ourselves in the #MittenTrip mindset with other tourists and several locals.
Early on Saturday morning, we did some quick research to find a place that was serving breakfast and would be a good place to start adventuring. We settled on The Biscuit in Holland’s Washington Square. It was a quaint little breakfast joint situated outside of the downtown area, where we found several other newer businesses making a name for themselves. We tried the Eggs Harper Rose (named after the owner’s daughter) and the Nor’Easter Scramble with the specialty biscuit for the day. It was a delicious meal, but there was a bit of a wait since it’s a popular place on the weekends. I took the opportunity to peruse the Shoreline Visitors’ Guide to get a feel for what else Holland had to offer for the weekend.
We meant to check out the farmers’ market following breakfast, but the rain had other plans for us. Instead, we grabbed our umbrellas and headed toward New Holland Brewery. With the intention of checking out their Bloody Mary Bar, we found a seat on the covered patio to enjoy being outside but with some shelter. The rain was relentless, so we made ourselves comfortable and did some beer tasting after the Bloody Mary. When the rain showers transitioned into a tornado warning, we packed up and headed indoors with a bit of urgency. Looking for a place to wait out the storm, we went into the brewery’s shop, Sidecar, where we indulged in all of the whiskey their spirit menu had to offer. It wasn’t the worst way to wait out a storm, that’s for sure!
When the rain finally let up, we decided to wander around Holland’s quaint downtown streets for a while. My favorite stops were the great dress boutiques, the bookstore (Reader’s World), and the toy store (Sandcastle for Kids). Now that the sun was out, the adventures were much easier to enjoy, so we made plans for a walk to a park, Window on the Waterfront, following some food at Hops at 84 East. The park was vibrant and green, and it was tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the the tourists in Holland’s downtown area — a great place to wander, rest, and recharge.
Heading back toward our car, we stopped at Lemonjello’s for a “Buzzed Latte” made with honey and vanilla. We needed a little pick-me-up before heading over to another park, Windmill Island Gardens. There is a lot to be said about the windmill at the gardens, but I’ll leave that for a later article. For now, just know, the gardens are full of flowers (especially the tulips that Holland is infamous for), whimsical landscaping, a large windmill, and plenty of places to roam.
After a couple of parks and lots of walking, we decided it was time to head back to the Lake Ranch Resort. However, we couldn’t resist another stop at the Itty Bitty Bar to try some of their food because so many people had been raving about it. Believe me – we made the right choice. For a bar situated outside the main downtown bustle, it was sure busy because everyone knows what we were quick to discover — that menu was delicious! A scrumptious dinner wasn’t enough to keep us up much later, though, so we headed back to the resort for some Short’s Brewing Company beers on the docks before turning in for the night.
Although the weather was not going to allow for us to spend real time at the beach, we still wanted to visit Lake Michigan. A friend recommended James Street Beach, so we bypassed the more popular Tunnel Park for the hidden gem that is situated at the end of James Street. I’m not sure how much of Holland’s shoreline you’ve seen lately, but “beach” is a generous term. We had a great time following the trail to the sandy area that led straight to the water. Nothing is more exciting and magical than Lake Michigan in the morning — especially a morning after a storm.
After we were thoroughly sandy from climbing some small dunes, we decided to get some breakfast. Indulging in Holland’s Dutch history, we joined the masses at deBoer Bakkerij. The lines were long, but the hearty breakfast was worth the wait. We didn’t want the Dutch experience to end, so we headed over to Nelis’ Dutch Village to get a more interactive history lesson. This attraction has something to offer the whole family, and we had a great time checking out the replica village before heading back to our side of the state.
What are your favorite things to do in Holland? How do you make the most of a rainy weekend when you had plans for a grand #MittenTrip? Tell us in the comments!