Our Guide to Grand Haven’s Coast Guard Festival

The Coast Guard Festival has been a tradition in Grand Haven since 1924, making it one of the oldest and largest celebrations of its kind in the country. It is an annual event to honor and celebrate the United States Coast Guard and its personnel. The festival usually takes place during the full week between the last Friday of July and the First Sunday of August. There are tons of activities to enjoy-many of them are free! Some of the highlights include:

  1. The Coast Guard Grand Parade: Takes place on the final Saturday of the festival, this is definitely a crowd favorite! Various military units, bands, local organizations, and businesses march through the streets of Grand Haven to honor and support the Coast Guard. It starts at 11:45am and usually lasts for over an hour.
  2. Ship tours: One of the coolest parts of the festival is the ability to tour some of the big Coast Guard vessels as well as other military and civilian ships. You can watch the boat parade as they come in the channel to dock for the week too. It provides a unique opportunity for visitors to learn about the Coast Guard’s operations and equipment. These tours are free and something you don’t want to miss out on!
  3. Music and entertainment: There is tons of live music with a main concert every night at the Lynne Sherwood Stadium! There are typically many buskers and performers around to enjoy throughout the day too. The big concerts require tickets to enter but are usually pretty reasonably priced. Many of them are tribute bands of your favorite big bands with a closing national touring band on the final Saturday night.
  4. Fireworks: This is the grand finale of the whole event! It is a spectacular display of fireworks and the famous Grand Haven Musical Fountain at the same time! It takes place on the final Saturday night of the festival and draws people in from all over West Michigan. Many have said it is one of the best fireworks displays in West Michigan.
  5. The Carnival: What is a festival without carnival rides? There are dozens of rides set up every year for Coast Guard Festival, and it is definitely a fan favorite of the event! Wristband prices vary per day, so be sure to check on the day you planning to come!

Some tips for enjoying the Coast Guard Festival:

  1. It’s busy-plan for waits and traffic. Downtown Grand Haven has very limited parking, and it fills up very quickly during the Coast Guard Festival. This festival typically brings in thousands of additional people to the area, and Grand Haven isn’t a very large town. There are multiple shuttles that run to the festival area to help relieve congestion that are free to use. Expect very long lines of traffic Saturday night after the fireworks. Many of the main streets change directions when people are exiting to help with the overload, but it is stop-and-go for quite a while following the end of the fireworks.
  2. Check schedules-events vary year to year. You can find all the event updates on the official website! Figure out what events you want to come to and make a plan! It’s also just fun to come down and hang out!
  3. Check out local shops and eats. Stores and restaurants are a bit busier than usual, but make sure to take time to just shop around or eat at one of the amazing restaurants in Grand Haven. Some of our favorite stops include Odd Side Ales, The Toasted Pickle, Tip-a-Few, Morning Star, JW’s, and Kirby House!
  4. Don’t miss out on Grand Haven’s East Side! Need a little respite from the crowds but don’t want to leave Grand Haven? Make your way to Grand Haven’s East End on the other side of 31! There’s East End Coffee, Kenzies Be Cafe, Unicorn Tavern, Sydekick Toys, and Norm’s Ice Cream (home of the largest large ice cream!) There’s also a dog park if your furry friend just needs to enjoy some time off-leash and running around!
  5. Take time to chill on the beach! Grand Haven’s beach is one of the top-rated beaches in the country! Bring your suit, towel, and some snacks and just chill on the beach! Yes, it’s busy, but if you’re making a trip to the area, you need to add the beach to your list of things to do!

For many, Coast Guard Festival is the highlight of the summer and a tradition for their family! It’s a great time of celebration and a fun way to experience the beautiful town of Grand Haven, Coast Guard City, USA! This is just one of the cool things that happens in West Michigan that makes it unique! Have you been to Coast Guard Festival? Do you have any tips for enjoying the event? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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