Grand Haven is a western Michigan town located at the mouth of the Grand River on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. American Gangster Al Capone supposedly once owned a safe house near town, and George "Baby Face" Nelson committed his first bank robbery here. On the other end of the, ahem, spectrum, it was also the first town in the US to offer city-wide Wi-Fi access.
The City of Grand Haven, located about 35 miles west of Grand Rapids, Michigan and 14 miles south of Muskegon has a population of about 10,500. Grand Haven is part of the Holland-Grand Haven Metropolitan Area, which has a total population of about 264,000. It's a buzzing beach resort community with many surrounding recreational areas, including campgrounds, biking trails, golf courses and a large boating community. Due to its location close to the center of the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, and because it is centrally located to the much larger urban centers of Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Holland, Grand Haven is a vacation destination and weekend getaway for many residents of those cities, as well as people who live in the many smaller towns that dot the central western Michigan landscape.
Moving to Grand Haven
Whatever it is that's bringing you to Grand Haven, lucky you! This cozy beach town has a little bit of something to offer everyone without all of the headaches and traffic that come with life in the big city. As for rental homes, you pretty much get to choose whatever suits your taste. There are many apartments for rent in Grand Haven, including one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, as well as larger homes, and for decent prices considering the city's location right on the sparkling waters of Lake Michigan. There are also apartment communities spread throughout town to consider, and townhouses and condos closer to the beach serving up fantastic views within walking distance of having your toes stuck in the sand. You can always use Harbor Transit public transportation to get around town, too, and the bus lines connect you to the nearby communities of Spring Lake and Ferrysburg, which are right across the Grand Haven Bridge on the north end of town.
It's important to remember that while Grand Haven is a grand beach community, especially during the summer, it gets downright freezing cold in this part of the country during the winter. Spring and fall seasons are pretty nippy too, but all in all the entire city of Grand Haven is downright gorgeous with lots of lush, green parks, wooded areas to stroll through, and trees lining the sidewalks and streets. Just shopping around for the right rental property can be a fun adventure because it's so easy to get distracted here, but you want to start your search early. Give yourself at least one month to find the right rental homes to consider, especially during the summer when everyone comes for a visit and dreams of owning a vacation house or moving into one of the apartment rentals in Grand Haven. Summer can be a busy time for landlords, property managers and individual owners showing their properties.
Make sure you have all of your documents in order so when you do find the right rental homes in Grand Haven to check out you are prepared to go through the application process. You're going to need some form of official ID, whether it's a driver's license, state ID card or passport, as well as your social security number, in case the landlord wants to conduct a thorough background and credit check. You're also going to need a detailed rental history, contact information for former landlords, and proof you can pay for the place. Showing a recent pay stub should suffice. And of course, most apartment rentals require at least first and last months' rent, and often a security deposit that can be as much as one month's rent. It's a good idea to ask if pets are allowed too, and if there is an additional fee for moving in a feline friend or pleasant pooch.
Neighborhoods of Grand Haven
One of the cool things about moving to Grand Haven is the city isn't very spread out. According to the 2010 Census, the population density is about 1,800 people per square mile, and the town's entire land area is just 5.8 square miles. Needless to say. It's pretty easy to get around in Grand Haven, and the city's more than 100 miles of bicycle trails add to this ease of movement.
Downtown: Downtown Grand Haven is about a nine-block-by-nine-block area that fans out from Washington Avenue, a street that dead ends at Harbor Drive, which is right on the Grand River. Here's where you'll find Central Park, city hall and lots of little shops, cafes with sandwich boards lining the sidewalks, restaurants, bars and taverns, small businesses and boutique shopping. There are also many apartments for rent, rental homes, rental cottages and even kooky little studio apartments for rent. Everything is within walking distance here, making it the hot area in town to find the right rental home. Some neighborhood joints worth checking out include Jumpin' Java, Tip a Few Restaurant and Tavern, and Porto Bello when you crave Italian food. Feeling like dessert? Try Culver's or Desserts by Design. For beach accessories stop in at Mackinaw Toy and Kite or the Down to Earth gift shop.
Ferrysburg: The other end of Washington Ave. leads you to Beacon Blvd., also known as US Highway 31, which takes you across the Grand Haven Bridge and into the Ferrysburg community. Ferrysburg is a little more spread out and not really a walkable area, with many single-family homes, duplexes and apartment communities from which to choose. There's not much in the way of shopping here, but when you get the itch to eat out Appolonia's and Pine Street Cafe are always close by. Fire Barn Park is in this neighborhood, too, if you want to get outside.
Spring Lake: Just to the east of Ferrysburg is another little community known as Spring Lake. You have your pick of the litter here as far as rental properties go, with tons of single-family homes and apartments for rent, duplexes, apartment communities -- you name it. There also are some rentals located right on the banks of the Grand River, and many are pretty affordable considering we're talking about waterfront real estate. If you like to work out ExerciseMan Fitness is located here, and when you feel like taking care of yourself you can stop in at Eclectic Hair and Nail Salon. Spring Lake Ace Hardware is here, too, as well as a Rite Aid Pharmacy and the Spring Lake Orchard Market grocery store.
South Grand Haven: Headed back the other way on Beacon Boulevard, south of downtown Grand Haven is where the majority of the city resides. The south side of Grand Haven is suburban-style living, yet still very walkable and easy to get around. There are many one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments for rent, as well as condos, townhouses, duplexes and single-family homes to consider. There's even a large trailer park -- well-kept dwellings with manicured lawns -- located on the south edge of town near Grand Haven Memorial Airpark. All in all, there are some good deals on rental homes to find on Grand Haven's south side. This area also has many dining options, including Mario's Pizza and Sub and The Fortune Cookie, or there's D&W Fresh Market if you feel like grocery shopping and picking up ingredients for cooking at home. South Grand Haven has a Walmart, too, for one-stop shopping. Also nearby is Duncan Park, known locally as Duncan Woods, which has 40 acres of untouched land with walking trails and picnic tables.
Living in Grand Haven
There are a lot of entertainment options in the port community of Grand Haven. Everyone knows about hanging out on the sand at the beach at Grand Haven State Park, which also has more than 170 campsites available, but there are many other waterfront attractions to check out too. Take a stroll along the boardwalk, or over to the Grand Haven Lighthouse and Pier. There's also the Grand Haven Wharf Marina right on the edge of Lake Michigan, with its floating docks and customer pavilion, all within a 10-minute walk of downtown.
Like to golf? There are 25 golf courses in the region, two of which are within the Grand Haven city limits. As always, make sure you call ahead to reserve a tee time.
And who could pass up a chance to check out the Grand Haven Musical Fountain? The Musical Fountain, physically located on Dewey Hill on the other side of the Grand River from downtown Grand Haven, puts on a dazzling synchronized water and light show that's visible from just about any point along Harbor Dr. Nightly performances occur on Friday and Saturday evenings from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, but the exact starting time changes throughout the summer. It's always somewhere between 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., it just depends on the darkness behind Dewey Hill as the time of sunset changes with the progression of summer.
Since Grand Haven is a vacation destination there are countless things to do, but when you live in town even the excitement of the Grand Haven Musical Fountain will wear off after a while. Luckily, there are many restaurants, taverns, markets, parks and arts and entertainment options that locals aspire to check out too. You'll definitely want to check out the fine-dining establishment, The Kirby House, which has been a Grand Haven mainstay for 25 years. For breakfast, many locals love Morning Star Cafe and its fresh-baked pastries, and there are dozens and dozens of dining options for lunch and dinner.
So, have fun getting to know your new hometown once you move to Grand Haven. Poke around the neighborhood close to your new rental home, and see what's out there. Pretty soon you'll have your own places to show people when they come to visit -- and you will have visitors once you move to Grand Haven!