Everyone else enjoys GH; we should, too

As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, Grand Haven residents will complain about tourists.
Jul 5, 2013


But there’s a reason why hordes of out-of-towners flock to our lakeside town every summer.

For many of us who live here, it’s easy to overlook all the wonderful aspects of our quiet little town — which, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, turns into a bustling hub of activity.

Instead of complaining about all the tourists who clog our streets, pack our shops and restaurants, and flood our beaches, why not head downtown and see what all the buzz is about?

Spend a few nights at the Grand Haven State Park. You don’t need a monster fifth wheel or a giant motor home (although most spots are taken up by them). A pop-up camper or even a tent will do.

Go for a walk down the pier and see what the fishermen are catching — or better yet, bring along a rod and some tackle and see if you can catch something yourself.

Hop on the trolley. It only costs a couple of bucks for the whole family, and it’s a fun way to learn something you might not already know about the town in which you live.

Wait in the line and get Pronto Pups for dinner, then hurry across Harbor Avenue and wait in line again for a Rock Pile at the Dairy Treat. Both are well worth the wait! Or sit on the deck at Snug Harbor (or any of the other local restaurants, for that matter).

Stroll back down the boardwalk, find a comfortable spot and watch the sun go down. Take some pictures while you’re at it.

Before you know it, you’ll feel like you’re on vacation, despite the fact that you’re hanging out in your own backyard.

Downtown Grand Haven is a wonderful place to spend a few days during the warm summer months. The tourists who come here realize it.

And, as the old saying goes: If you can’t beat them, join them.

Sounds like great advice to us.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.




I don't understand the hate for tourists. Is it sometimes a pain? Definitely! However, the other option is having Grand Haven be the abandoned industrial wasteland it was quickly becoming before focus was put on drawing tourists in back in the 50's and 60's. want to know what it is like in one of those Michigan towns that did not adapt? Go to Flint. Scary stuff...

Yes, the traffic may be a royal pain in the @$$, but there is a very easy solution for that... Walk or ride a bike! I commute on my touring bike during the summer whenever possible, taking advantage of the many bike lanes and multi-use paths in the area. Every time during the summer, I beat cars heading to the same destination all while getting a great workout and breathing in the fresh lake breeze. Bypassing all the long traffic back-ups is nothing on a bike, plus you get to see (and actually enjoy) the scenery.

It is amazing how many residents don't get out and enjoy all this area has to offer. Being at the fountain nearly every night, it is simply amazing how many residents stumble down there during a show and say to us that they have lived here for decades and never even knew the city had a giant musical fountain.

So please, stop complaining about tourists, and enjoy the area. After all, we could be like the east side of the state, where a huge number of buildings are abandoned, crime is through the roof, roads are bad (I always laugh when people say roads are bad here; growing up in Flint, I have seen BAD roads!), and the local governments are corrupt and pocket tax dollars. Many people in this town (and one downtown business owner who HATES tourists) don't realize how fortunate they are living in this town.

Karen Gallagher

I grew up in Grand Haven and cherish my annual visit during the Coast Guard Festival. I presently live in a small community on the Gulf that reminded me of Grand Haven, and that's why I retired there. We are a tourist area as well, but appreciate how tourism helps the economy in our community. Two small Perfect communities!

Grand Haven Happy

So obvious that the constant visitors to our area seem to enjoy their experience here and know why more than a lot of the local residents do. They just keep on coming back year after year! We had our RV down at the waterfront yesterday in a $10 for the day parking spot with full view of the fountain and the fireworks and the thousands of very pleasant visitors that walked past us constantly from approx 12:30 pm until 11:45 pm when we left for home.

So many will say "hi" and stop to ask if our gorgeous dog is friendly and we say "Very". The majority will then ask if they may pet her or can their kids pet her and it almost always strikes up a conversation. Most of them will ask us if we live here (there's an outline map of Michigan that says Grand Haven with an arrow pointing to it's location) and of course we say "yes we do". Which is very often followed by a comments like "you are so lucky because we had to drive X hours just to get here. When we asked "why do you drive hours just to get here then?" The most common answer we hear is that "it's such a wonderful and fun place to be and so many things to do!" Another very often uttered comment is that "it's an very affordable real fun place to vist for our whole family to enjoy, money's tight having kids".

Sure makes us swell up with pride and want to help them if they need it! Sure have met so many very pleasant visitors over the years!


It's always that minority of tourists that act like jack-wagons and think because they are forking over the $$$ they can be pushy and rude. I've grown up and lived in tourist areas my whole life. When I travel, I always make sure to be respectful of the locals and not be one of those completely oblivious people who you would like to ask to just go home.

The majority of tourists to this area are great, please come back again next year. To those who spend some cash and act like they own the place, please go somewhere else.


I am a mother of 3 childern and I have lived in Gh most of my life and when my first son was 2 yrs old and potty training he needed to go potty while we were downtown walking in and out of the stores and it was coast guard time and I spent a fortune that day on rides and food downtown and the one store I frequently shopped at had a sign up no public restrooms. Totally was ok with that because alot of people just want to use the bathroom and never shop there because they are not from here, but the owner knew who I was because I shopped there and I said to her "please could you let him go he is potty training and I know he can't make it alll the way to the resurants down further. I got a nasty rude " you saw the sign no public restrooms right on the way in didn't you? You'll have to go somewhere else. And we did after I handed her the stuff I was going to purchase and said shame on you. I learned that the prices go up at the grocery stores and Gas stations when its coast guard time and the shop owners get more rude to the people who keep them in business 11 months out of the year, not just that 2 weeks in August. I do not shop down there anymore and very seldom do I go down for other events because I get sick of all the rude nasty people who forget we live here all yr long. And yes many of the tourists are rude as well and have no respect for us or themselves

Mark Brooky

I'm sorry to hear your bad experience, Kelly.

There public restrooms in Grand Haven: On Second Street near Franklin Avenue, at the Riverview Shops along the boardwalk, and at the state park. Am I missing any?

I directed a couple of women to the one on Second Street on July 4. They were very grateful as they scurried to it.


Mark, there are also public rest rooms at the City Marina.


C'mon Mark...tell a woman that's shopping downtown with her munchkin that all she needs to do is load up her kid in her car and drive down to the state park to hit the bathroom? Assuming of course she has a sticker on her car to get in the park? She's probably not working with that much advanced warning.
Are the bathrooms at the marina open to the public? I always thought they were for marina users only, but I don't know either way for sure....don't hang out at the marina often. Aren't there bathrooms over by the fish cleaning station too or are those only for the boat owners and their customers? Are there public bathrooms at Mulligan's hollow in the ski area building there? Again, don't know for sure.
I doubt 9 out of 10 people shopping downtown are aware of the bathrooms on second street. Not exactly sure how you'd get the word out that they're there, but there is certainly a need for more than one facility downtown, especially on days like yesterday when the downtown area is overrun with humanity.....there are occasional port-a-potties scattered around town, but I don't know any women who'd use one of them unless circumstances were dire.
Wow, my life has really gone in the toilet...here it is Friday night and I'm home discussing bathrooms, or the lack thereof.


And I'm at home on a Friday night correcting a previous comment about public toilets....you are right. The marina rest rooms are not public, but there are public bathrooms near the fish cleaning station.

Say no to new taxes

It was a relatively quiet 4th of July on the North Shore. It seemed the people who came to this side of the channel this year to view the fireworks respected the fact that this is a residential neighborhood just like the one they live in, parked only where permitted and picked up after themselves when they left. ALL fireworks ended at midnight which was a nice change from the usual all night mayhem. That made it an enjoyable holiday for everyone, residents and tourists alike.


We lived most of our lives in Chicago and spent many vacations and weekends in western Michigan. As tourists we always felt welcome in Grand Haven and when we retired decided that this is where we wanted to spend the rest of our days The tourist traffic here is sometimes a problem but it is nothing compared to Chicago We love it here and feel that the quality of life here is outstanding The upside of the tourism is it helps keep taxes down so the people who live here full time don't have to bear the entire burden of maintaining the infrastructure necessary to keep the community viable. The value of our home here is similar to our home in the Chicago suburbs and the taxes are $5000 per year cheaper. We should all keep that in mind when we complain about the tourists


I love my town and was born and raised here. My biggest gripe about tourist is that they leave trash on the beach!!!! We like the visitors but not the clean up our city has to take care of.. Pick it up and put it in the trash....

Greg Harr

Yes the tourists can be a pain to the locals, especially the disrespectful idiots that think they can trash whatever they want wherever they want. But, what really pulls my chain, is that the day after Labor Day weekend they "winterize" the park! How about letting the locals enjoy the "natural" view, tourist and fence free for a couple of weeks! I know I would enjoy the "gesture".


My family has been rooted in GH for several decades now. There are definitely pluses and some minuses to having all of the tourist here. The only thing that frustrates me is the traffic control after fireworks. The past few years we have opted to do a smaller 4th of July with family and friends, then venture down for Coast Guard fireworks a few weeks later. The issue is when you come from the North over the bridge, there is nowhere you are allowed to take a left to the East side of the city. I live in the NE section, near Fricano's, but yet I have to drive all the way down to Meijers to get across the highway. This year it ended up being almost an hour and a half drive. Only options are sneaking past a dump truck parked in the road, or driving into the west side, contributing to the great plug of traffic, to get to a street that allows you to get across. Maybe just one street along the way??

Ottawa Observer

I find our local merchants and restaurant/bar proprietors to be very welcoming to both locals and tourists. Most local folks on the streets are also welcoming, but there is an element of young punks on Washington St. in the downtown area who spoil things for many of us. These pests carelessly ride skateboards down the sidewalks and into the streets, often releasing the uncontrolled moving boards when their tricks go awry. Last week while walking in front of the Fifth/Third bank a punk kicked his board loose and it sailed into the back of my leg. When I turned in surprise and politely told the kid that he should be more careful, I was assaulted with a loud burst of F-bombs by him and his crew. This was not an isolated instance. Why don't the GH police, the Downtown Merchants Association or the C of C work on eliminating this trash? All it takes is the thoughtless action of a very few to sully the reputation of a very Grand place.


Consider the viewpoint that many tourists are not really tourists. I grew up in Grand Haven and left in 1969 but Grand Haven has never left me. My children were born in Virginia and North Carolina and have subsequently lived in six more states in this union. The one thing that has remained a constant in our lives is Grand Haven. Returning every few years during The Coast Guard Festival and at other times of the year when travelling on business, I re-assume my role as a wide-eyed 12 year old. My children, now in college near Chicago, know every street, every shortcut, which stores to frequent, the name of the newspaper (The Daily Tribune) and who lived in each house around ours on Lake Avenue. For me, this is a pilgrimage. We do not consider ourselves tourists and maybe, many tourists are just coming home again. Ray Olsen, Arizona


Great article!
The sentiment needs to be shared with the locals but also with the city leadership and the city police department. I grew up in Ottawa County and my family has vacationed in Grand Haven since the early 1900's. Renting cottages, camping and boating.

Lately, however, it seems as though the city is becoming less and less friendly to boaters. Unless you are shelling out the big bucks for the municipal marina, this town doesn't seem to want you around. Last Thursday, I was going to take my family to the sea wall and go out for a late lunch. Unfortunately, they closed the wall off at noon for fireworks that happen after 10pm! I could NOT get a straight answer as to why it has to be closed 10 hours early! Then, Friday, my kids wanted to spend the night on the wall, as we have several times before. As I have done for the last 10 years, I went to the municipal marina to pay for access to the bathrooms and showers and was told they don't sell it to the people staying on the wall anymore.

It's obvious the town doesn't want us or our money - and we spend PLENTY of money in the city. What a shame for the business owners, who have about 3-5 months to make a years worth of profits. What a shame for the lifetime boater.

Grand Haven thrives IN SPITE of it's leadership, not because of it.


I worked at the marina when I was a teenager and can tell you that I still hold rude and obnoxious people up to the benchmark set by the boat owners I met there. Locals and visitors alike. The reason they close the sea wall so early is because if someone parks there and leaves, they don't have the option of towing the boats left there at 6 pm like they do with cars. I don't put every boater in the rude/obnoxious class, but the ones who are dfinitely set the bar for all aspiring jerks. As for the bathrooms, call City Hall for an explaination and leave them with your suggestion.


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