When I realized how easy it would be for us to drive to explore Michigan rather than fly, I immediately started googling dog-friendly attractions so that we could take our girl with us. I was extremely excited when I discovered that the town of West Olive, Michigan (outside of the larger suburb of Holland and not far from Grand Rapids), has a dog beach, but I didn’t realize just how amazingly dog-friendly the area would be until we got there.
If you have a dog and you’re down for a road trip, I highly recommend spending a weekend in Holland, Michigan, and the surrounding area.
How to Get to Holland, Michigan
The closest city to fly into to get to Holland, Michigan, is Grand Rapids. Downtown Grand Rapids and the airport both are about a 35 minutes drive from central Holland.
It’s also very easy, beautiful to drive to the Holland, Michigan area no matter where you’re coming from. We drove from Nashville to Grand Rapids with our 33-pound dog in tow. It took about nine hours with stops but we found it to be a super easy drive.
Where to Stay in Holland or Grand Rapids with a Dog
We stayed at the Hyatt Place Grand Rapids South*, which is technically in a town called Wyoming, Michigan. You can stay directly in the Holland area, but we wanted a chance to tour Grand Rapids while we were there!
What we really liked about this hotel was that it had a lot of grassy areas for our pup. We’ve been to a few dog-friendly hotels that didn’t have a lot of pet relief areas, and that was not the case here. It was also ideal for our pup because the hotel is a bit out of town, and we knew we were going to need a quieter place for her to relax given that she doesn’t always do well around strangers and other dogs. We also found our bed to be very comfortable and the room was bigger than we needed.
You can use our affiliate link to find hotels in the Holland, Michigan area here (just make sure to check that the hotel you like is dog-friendly as of your travel date as hotels may change their policies):
*Travel Goals Club will receive a small percentage if you book through our link. Thanks for supporting us!
When to Visit Holland, Michigan
Summer is the best time to visit Holland, Michigan, and the Grand Rapids area. While I’m sure it’s beautiful in the winter, you’ll want to go during the warmer months so that you can visit the beaches, lakes, and beautiful outdoor activities that Michigan has to offer. We visited Michigan during July 4th weekend and it was perfect!
If you visit during the month of May, you’ll be lucky enough to see the tulips! Every year, Holland hosts the “Tulip Time” festival in May. If you go before or after, you might not catch the tulips in full bloom – but you’ll still see a lot of beauty.
What to Pack for Your Dog-Friendly Michigan Road Trip
Here are some things you won’t want to forget to bring on your trip to Michigan with a dog:
- Microfiber towels (to dry your dog off after a trip to the beach)
- Extra old towels just in case
- Dog toys you don’t mind getting dirty (or losing) at the beach
- Car seat protector (keep the backseat sand, dirt, and drool-free! We like this one, which comes with a dog seatbelt as well!)
- Dog seatbelt for safety
- Collar with tags
- Short leash (to keep your dog close while in stores and crowded areas)
- Long or extendable leash (for beaches and dog parks where you don’t want to let her loose)
- Portable dog water bowl
- Portable dog food bowl
- Plenty of food and water bottles (for you and your dog!)
Things to Do with a Dog During a Weekend in Holland, Michigan
Have Breakfast at Sundance Bar & Grill and Explore Downtown (Grand Rapids)
While Grand Rapids isn’t quite as dog-friendly as its neighboring beach towns, it’s certainly a cute city to take a stroll through if you have time during your weekend trip to Michigan.
The historic brick buildings mixed with sleek modern architecture will have you snapping pictures of random buildings like the tourist you truly are. There are several independent book stores, coffee shops, and bars, and the downtown area is very walkable.
If you have your dog with you, you may not be able to duck into the random stores, but you can still enjoy the walk and enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants with dog-friendly patios. We enjoyed breakfast at Sundance Bar & Grill, which sits on a quiet enough street that our pup was relatively unbothered sitting under our table with a bowl of water (and maybe getting the occasional stray bacon crumb off our plates).
Splash Around at Kirk Park Dog Beach (West Olive)
Kirk Park Dog Beach may have been the highlight of our trip if it wasn’t so crowded. Our dog was overwhelmed – but we do not frequent dog parks, so she was not used to being around a bunch of high-energy, off-leash dogs. We kept her leashed, for the most part, knowing that she was not super comfortable, and we didn’t stay there long, but it was cool. If your dog likes other dogs, this will be paradise for her.
The 45-minute drive from Grand Rapids to the beach, which is located in a town called West Olive, was beautiful. We found ourselves on some local roads admiring the homes near the shore. Living in Nashville, we don’t have the opportunity to go to the beach very often ourselves, let alone take our dog to the beach. So despite the chaos, we laid in the smooth sand for a while, dipped our toes into Lake Michigan, met some cute dogs, and then escaped to go find a mid-day treat.
Grab Lunch at Dune Dogz and Treats (Holland)
About 20 minutes down the shore from Kirk Park Dog Beach in West Olive, you’ll find Dune Dogz and Treats. This cute little shop is situated on a pedestrian and bike traffic-heavy street, near other (non-dog-friendly) beaches. Since our dog was stressed out from the dog beach, we were excited to find more private seating behind the building, where we were able to enjoy our light lunch of hot dogs and shakes. We treated our pup to a plain, bunless hot dog as well.
You can easily walk off your lunch right there on Ottawa Beach Road, or you can head into downtown Holland, where there are dozens of cute shops to duck into, many of which are dog-friendly.
Instead of staying in Holland, we opted to head back to our hotel before dinner to give ourselves and our dog a break from the busy day. We did struggle to find outdoor restaurants in Grand Rapids where we could bring our girl, so we opted to pick up takeout from Hopcat in Grand Rapids. If you don’t have a dog with you, Hopcat is a fun place to sit and have a beer or two. If you do have a dog and you can’t stay, that’s ok – their menu is full of apps, burgers, tacos, and more that you can very happily enjoy in front of your hotel room TV.
Wander Around Downtown Holland, Michigan (Holland)
Downtown Holland, Michigan is a cute little neighborhood with free parking and dozens of great shops and restaurants. Several of the shops allow dogs as well! I won’t provide a list of the dog-friendly shops here because it’s been a few years and stores can change their policies. As always, make sure to check for signs that welcome dogs before bringing your pet into a shop, as they are certainly not ALL dog friendly – and always keep your dog on a leash in public places!
The Downtown Holland website has a great list of the shops in the area: https://www.downtownholland.com/shopping/.
Update: The local pet store, Decadent Dogs, has unfortunately moved their downtown Holland location to the town of South Haven.
Admire the Tulips and Windmills at Windmill Island Gardens (Holland)
About a mile from the shops of downtown Holland sits Windmill Island Gardens. Every year, the gardens are open from about mid-April through early October. Check their Facebook page for updates on their hours of operation!
The gardens are often used for local weddings and events and are extremely popular in April/May, when the tulips are in full bloom. Tickets must be purchased at the gate. Admission is currently listed at $12 for adults and $6 for kids 15 and under, and parking is free. Inside, you’ll find beautiful windmills, gardens, and Dutch shops where you can pick up snacks and souvenirs ranging from ornaments and little figurines to authentic Dutch shoes. You can also take a self-guided tour through the De Zwaan’ Windmill, which is the oldest working windmill in the United States.
Appreciate Dutch Culture at Nelis Dutch Village (Holland)
Nelis Dutch Village is basically a theme park that celebrates the Netherlands right in the state of Michigan. You’ll enter the park through a beautiful bell tower and feel like you walked right into Europe. Tickets right now are just $15 for adults and $14 for kids (ages 3-15).
Once inside, you can purchase Dutch cheese, fresh fudge, authentic wooden shoes, and all sorts of souvenirs. You can also wander around the petting zoo and watch demonstrations of wooden shoe carving, cheese making, and more. If you’re there at the right time, you might even catch a dance performance!
The park also has a small eatery where you’ll find simple treats such as burgers, wraps, bratwurst, and fries to fill you up before your next adventure. If you’re looking for an amazing meal, go sit somewhere in downtown Holland or a neighboring town instead – but this is a cheap, quick option that allows you to keep your dog in tow! Plus, you can enjoy your meal outside by the river with the beautiful landscaping and Dutch architecture all around you.
It’s not typical for places like this to allow dogs, so take advantage of it while you can! As long as your dog is on a leash, she can go almost everywhere with you (just not inside the stores or places that serve food).
Relax at Warner Vineyards (Paw Paw)
Warner Vineyards, which coincidentally is in a town called Paw Paw, is our last but certainly not least dog-friendly mention for the Holland/Grand Rapids, Michigan area. Though I’m more of a red drinker, I tried several of their whites on that warm summer day and ended up taking home a bottle of their Pinot Grigio!
Be aware that Warner Vineyards does have a tasting room in downtown Holland as well, which we believe is not dog-friendly. The actual vineyard in Paw Paw does allow dogs on the patio as well as in the tasting room. Here, you’ll get six tastes for just $10 while you enjoy the beautiful, lush green scenery. The building itself is photo-worthy, though I may not have done a great job of capturing it.