Whenever a three-day weekend rolls around, as it mercifully did a few days ago, I typically leave town. It’s more psychological than anything, I think—just to see a new place, escape my daily routine and maybe hit “reset” without even really knowing it.
So when it came time to think about Labor Day plans, I considered the usual suspects: Lake Geneva or another Wisconsin town, maybe somewhere in southern Illinois. Then I realized I’d never been to Michigan, despite my Dutch roots (and even a few family members from Grand Rapids). With an 8-year-old and his iPad in tow, I hit the road with our GPS set to Holland, Michigan—an adorable little town a mere three hours from the North Shore. Here are five fun things to do (including a cocktail you basically have to try).
Your kiddos are into animals, you say? Visit the Critter Barn to see everything from ducklings, chicks and bunnies to hogs, sheep, donkeys and calves. Little ones can milk a goat or bottle feed a baby goat, collect eggs in the chicken coop or plant seeds in the idea garden. The less adventurous will love the kitty corral or collecting a few fresh eggs for sale.
9275 Adams St., Zeeland, Mich.
Holland Peanut Store
Authentic nostalgia doesn’t get better than this. Owned by the Fabiano family for more than 100 years, the Holland Peanut Store is one of my most favoritest confection shops I’ve encountered in a loooong time. Enjoy the freshly roasted peanuts, yes, but also pick up some homemade chocolates and Nutty Paddle Pops made with the family’s own ice cream recipe.
46 E. 8th St., Holland, Mich.
OK, yes, I’m totally pandering to my heritage with this one, but that doesn’t make it any less cool. Visit this colorful village to be transported back to the Netherlands in the 19th century, down to the detailed Dutch architecture, canals and tulip gardens of that era. Watch the Klompen dancers, enjoy music from the Amsterdam Street Organ and stop in the gift shops for a variety of Dutch-inspired artwork and crafts. One thing not to miss: the giant wooden shoe that doubles as a slide.
12350 James St., Holland, Mich.
Snowshoeing, hiking, cross-country skiing, fishing—the list goes on at this 130-acre preserve with nearly five miles of trails to see West Michigan’s natural wildlife up close and personal. The center sponsors plenty of educational programs and events designed to teach little ones about ecology and the environment, with plenty of resources scattered throughout the park to tell you more about what you’re seeing.
4214 56th St., Holland, Mich.
Well, I saved the best for last, and it might be the only one you really care about, anyway: the New Holland Brewing Company’s Pub on 8th, a delightful, open-air restaurant and bar made for adults to get their cocktail on and kids to chow down. Basically, it’s just a really cool space that serves up seasonal eats sourced from local ingredients, artisanal cocktails, small-batch brewing, live music and more. My must-order? The lavender earl grey cocktail, made with local honey and plenty of perfection.
66 E. 8th St., Holland, Mich.