Splashdown! Keeping Cool in West Michigan E-mail
A Guide to Bangin' Beaches & Cool Pools
by Steve Ralph

Hot summer sun making you sweat? Need to cool down? Wanna work on - or show off - that tan? Looking for a much-needed diversion for bored and restless kids? With more than 11,000 inland lakes in Michigan - not to mention that big one to the west - and more than 3,800 public swimming pools in the state, hot spots to take a cool dip aren't exactly in short supply. But where are the best ones? Here's a sampling of some of the area's banging-est beaches and coolest pools for your splashin' summer soirees, with detailed descriptions of a few favorites.

BEACHES

Millennium Park
Grand Rapids
Admission: Day passes are $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, $2 for ages 3-15 and free for age 3 and under. Season passes also available.
Details: Featuring a 6-acre beach on a 100-acre lake; a splash pad with buckets, splashers and sprayers; and a beach house with concessions, lockers, changing rooms and picnic tables, this beach rests in a park that also offers nearly 20 miles of hiking trails. The park is the result of a massive land reclamation project that encompasses extensive wetlands and lakes between Johnson Park and John Ball Park. One of the nation's largest urban parks, Millennium Park borders Grand Rapids, Walker, Grandville and Wyoming.

Tunnel Park
Holland
Admission: Parking permits are $4 daily or $12 annually for Ottawa County residents and $6 daily and $24 annually for non-residents.
Details: Like most Lake Michigan beaches, a big dune separates the parking area from the shoreline. Unlike most, this one offers three ways to traverse the dune: a stairway, a dune climb and a tunnel, accessible via barrier-free trail. Amenities at this popular beach include picnic shelters, a playground, modern restrooms, picnic tables, grills, sand volleyball courts, a horseshoe pit and seasonal vending machines. If you find Tunnel Park too crowded, just head north on Lakeshore Drive and you'll find free small beaches at the ends of James, Riley and Quincy streets.
Distance from GR: 33 miles

Holland State Park
Holland
Admission: Vehicle permits are $6 daily or $24 annually for Michigan residents.
Details: Nestled in the corner of Lake Michigan and the north shore of Lake Macatawa, this well-used state park offers an expansive sandy beach and two large campgrounds, with views of the historic Holland Harbor channel, pier and Big Red Lighthouse. Amenities include picnic shelters and tables with fire pits and grills, boat launch, playground, kayak, canoe and paddleboat rentals, free Wi-Fi, a beach house with concessions, modern restrooms and ample parking. Pets allowed with some restrictions.
Distance from GR: 33 miles

Saugatuck Dunes State Park
Saugatuck
Admission: Vehicle permits are $6 daily or $24 annually for Michigan residents.
Details: This day-use park features 1,000 acres of 200-foot-high coastal dunes and rolling hills along 2.5 miles of secluded Lake Michigan shoreline. The beach is a half-mile hike from the picnic parking area. Amenities include a picnic shelter, tables, grills, wildlife viewing and 13 miles of hiking trails. Dogs on leashes are permitted on the trails. The park is a short drive from the artsy resort villages of Saugatuck and Douglas along the Kalamazoo River.
Distance from GR: 43 miles

Norman F. Kruse Park
Muskegon
Admission: Free
Details: Free is always good, but the other cool thing about this Muskegon City Park is that a section of the beach is just for dogs! The beach stretches for about a mile along Lake Michigan and features a picnic area with four shelters and an accessible ramp to the beach. Amenities include nature trails, accessible dune walkways and overlooks, playground, basketball court, restrooms and two parking lots. If dogs aren't your thing, nearby Pere Marquette Beach and Harbour Towne Beach are also city parks - so they're also free - and offer similar amenities and Lake Michigan vistas.
Distance from GR: 44 miles

Myers Lake Park
Rockford
Admission: Free
Distance from GR: 13 miles

Long Lake Park
Sparta
Admission: Free
Distance from GR: 14 miles

Gun Lake Park
Wayland
Admission: Free
Distance from GR: 20 miles

Grose Park
Casnovia
Admission: Free
Distance from GR: 21 miles

Yankee Springs Recreation Area
Middleville
Admission: $6/day; $24/year
Distance from GR: 22 miles

Grand Haven State Park
Grand Haven
Admission: $6/day; $24/year
Distance from GR: 39 miles

P.J. Hoffmaster State Park
Muskegon
Admission: $6/day; $24/year
Distance from GR: 44 miles


POOLS

City of Grand Rapids Pools
Grand Rapids
Admission: $4 adults; 17-and-under free.
Details: The city's Parks and Recreation Department operates three outdoor pools at Briggs Park (Lafayette & Knapp NE), Martin Luther King, Jr. Park (Fuller & Franklin SE) and Richmond Park (Richmond & Tamarack NW), in addition to various water playgrounds and wading pools for the younger kids. The parks also include picnic tables, grills, playgrounds, ball courts and parking lots. Pool hours vary by the day, but are usually 12:30 to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Here is the full info for pools and wading pools/water playgrounds.

David D. Hunting YMCA
Grand Rapids
Admission: Membership required. Family membership is $160 plus $95 per month. Individual memberships are also available.
Details: Although a YMCA membership is pricier than a single-day admission to a public pool, the fee gets you access to any of the 10 YMCA of Grand Rapids facilities, six of which have indoor pools in addition to ball courts, fitness facilities, swimming programs and parking lots. The pool at the David D. Hunting main branch, downtown on Lake Michigan Drive, features a water slide and a lazy river.

City of East Grand Rapids Pools
East Grand Rapids
Admission: Day passes are $3 for East Grand Rapids residents and $4 for non-residents. 10-visit, 3-, 6- and 12-month passes are also available.
Details: The City of East Grand Rapids operates two indoor pools. The High School Pool offers lap swimming and diving, while the Wealthy School Pool is a warm-water, shallow-bottom pool for adult exercise, youth lessons and family time. Parking is available at both pools.

Holland Aquatic Center
Holland
Admission: Day rates for Holland Public School District-area residents are $3.50 for adults and $2.50 for kids/seniors. Non-resident rates are $5.75 for adults and $4.75 for kids/seniors. Special family rates available Monday through Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. are $7 for residents and $11.50 for non-residents. Annual, semiannual and summer memberships are also available.
Details: Although it's about 30-mile drive from Grand Rapids, the extensive and well-maintained facilities at the Holland Aquatic Center make it a worthwhile trip. Owned by the Holland Area Community Swimming Pool Authority and funded in part through local tax levies, the center features a three-story Yellow Streak water slide, Splash Zone water playground, Giant Aqua Log, diving boards, Aqua Challenge giant water obstacle course, water basketball, zip line, spa, vortex pool, water cannons and a 50-meter lap pool. A warm-water therapy pool - kept at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit - is available in a separate room. The center has an ample parking lot.



Updated July 6, 2012
 
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