Romantic Summer Destinations in West Michigan
It’s hot. You’re hot. It’s sunny. It’s summer. Time to put on your shades and get your beach on! If you live in Michigan or anywhere in the Midwest – it’s time to toss your mittens and head to The Mitten State for a relaxing, romantic getaway, complete with some great sandy beach adventures!
One of the most popular areas for romantic and queer-friendly tourism in the region is Saugatuck/Douglas. It’s actually a pair of small towns in Western Michigan, but they are often hyphenated as one perfect destination for gay beaches and resorts, boutique shopping, and recreation on the water. Nestled along Lake Michigan’s sandy shore, this superb summer spot features rolling natural sand dunes. Oval Beach is acknowledged as “a great spot to enjoy the spectacular sunsets all year.” Or sunrises, depending on your personal romantic clock.
According to GayCities.com, “Saugatuck is the better-known destination, and people sometimes refer to this small Michigan town as the ‘P-Town of the Midwest,’ due do the collection of art galleries in town and a long history of attracting gay residents and tourists.”
Of course, Saugatuck has gained fame and acclaim as one of the best gay Michigan beaches and destination for gay and lesbian vacations in the United States, starting with Oval Beach. The beach boasts just the “right combination of stunning sand dunes, seclusion and services.”
“Hugging the mostly undeveloped dunes of Lake Michigan’s eastern shore, Oval Beach is perfect for sunbathing!,” raves GaySaugatuckDouglas.com. “Beaches like these in Saugatuck are a rare gem: the clean, unspoiled, and pristine beauty of the place takes your breath away. Oval Beach is one of Saugatuck’s true treasures.”
Of Douglas, Saugatuck’s sandy sibling, Joey Amato from GayCities.com writes that The Dunes Resort is “quite possibly the most popular attraction” in the city.
“This lodging and entertainment complex has indoor and outdoor dance floors, a cabaret room, and multiple bars,” Amato continues. “The weekend is definitely a busier time for the property, when people of all ages from surrounding towns and cities come to party. The Dunes hosts numerous events throughout the week, including drag performances, bingo and go-go dancers. During the big holiday weekends—Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day—gay guys from Chicago, Detroit, and Indianapolis drive in (each city is only 3-4 hours away) and pack into The Dunes, and party all weekend.
Other attractions include several great coffee roasters, breweries & distilleries, superb art galleries, as well as Ox-Bow Art School, which has a partnership with the Chicago Art Institute and artists from all over the world who go there to practice their craft or possibly teach a workshop. If you’re looking for a fun & affordable place to stay, just outside of town in Fennville, Campit “operates as an RV and camping resort that caters to gay and trans mid-westerners, where you can rent a cabin, bring in your own RV, or tent camp out in the wilderness while still enjoying the resort’s many amenities…and fabulous queer parties and meet-ups. Don’t be afraid to camp alone, either…Campit is a great space for meeting other queer singles in an amazing, safe space. Overall, Saugatuck/Douglas makes for a wonderful, charming, and very LGBTQ-friendly spot for everyone to enjoy some sun and fun.
Michigan, as expected with all its shark-free & unsalted Great Lakes water, is loaded with numerous great places to stay and see and do cool enjoyable things on your summer vacation at the beach. When you feel like rinsing off the sand between your toes and seeking a little cultural engagement, you can head over to Grand Rapids to check out The Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. There you and your favorite beach buddy and vacation companion will enjoy a distinctive combination of masterpieces of art and wonders of nature, since the property features one of our nation’s premier horticultural display gardens and sculpture parks. Need some time in the air conditioning, or a way to spend a rainy day? Downtown Grand Rapids is chock full of indoor museums, too. Learn a thing or two while walking with your arm around your lover, and cap off the day with a selfie by the LOVE sculpture. What could be better for a love-filled long weekend (other than a stop at the nearby Grand Rapids/Wyoming Lover’s Lane location, anyway)?
Head over to Kalamazoo for a day of romance & exploration, where you can experience the Medieval-esque mansion known as Henderson Castle, which offers engaging walking tours, fabulous wine tasting events, luxurious overnight accommodations and delicious gourmet dining.
At the far end of modern-day fun, Kalamazoo also tempts with the wild and wonderful Bell’s Beer and Eccentric Café. Rising from “humble basement beginnings all the way to national recognition,” Bell’s grew from a homebrew shop to a full-service brewery, offering choice beers for you to sample and share. “Bell’s Brewery is deeply rooted in homebrewing, our community, and sharing our craft with beer lovers old and new,” informs their website. Larry Bell started it all by brewing commercially in a 15-gallon soup pot before opening Kalamazoo Brewing Co, and selling its first beer in September 1985. Now, they’re waiting for you to savor all those years of brewing expertise on a hot summer day in 2023!
Western Michigan offers visitors and residents alike many other choices to explore while you’re visiting or vacationing. You’re there to take full advantage of the waterfront, right? Leisurely strolling along the boardwalk? Got it. Waterside dining al fresco? Got it. Sunset sailing? Got it. Grand Rapids Kids lays out a full range of superb summer activities perfect for families or pleasurable date nights with a loved one.
Your options include ambling hand-in-hand along the Boardwalk in Grand Haven and stopping to savor a tasty sandwich like “The Tipsy Texan” or the “Nashville Hottie” from The Toasted Pickle (112 Washington Ave.) Or you can tuck into a sweet frozen yogurt while being completely entertained by a performance of the Grand Haven Musical Fountain (101 N. Harbor Drive), where you will experience this “iconic lakeshore attraction” featuring a roughly half-hour synchronized water and light show set to a diverse range of music that ranges from Justin Timberlake to the Trans Siberian Orchestra.
Your biggest challenge will be deciding whether to take in the waterside sights along Lake Michigan, the Grand River, or numerous inland lakes and rivers. You can hike, bike, swim, or sail. However and wherever you select to spend your summertime in the region, there’s always the promise of cooler breezes enhanced by the serene sounds of waves lapping the shores, and what everyone describes as “epic Lake Michigan sunsets.”
If you want our advice, this summer you should accept that getaway challenge and plan and implement one giant fun & romantic summer extravaganza to a gay and LGBTQ-friendly destination in Western Michigan!