By Valorie Oonk

Since staying close to home seems to be the theme for 2020, the idea of a staycation or vacation in your own city has become quite popular. I recently did this in my beautiful and very charming home town of Holland, Michigan. I am very blessed to live in Holland, which is set at the edge of Lake Michigan shoreline offering the most breathtaking sunsets. Lake Michigan brings countless tourists throughout the summer not only to Holland but all of our neighboring cities providing endless possibilities to explore and create unforgettable memories.  

The thought of traveling is enticing and appealing but with the state of the country and world right now, we still want to feel safe. Recreational and public school sports such as football, soccer, traveling hockey teams are in full swing which would account for hotels filling up most weekends.  Schools in Michigan are open but it is left to the district’s discretion on how they conduct classes.  My five year old granddaughter attends in person with once a month virtual class to prepare or practice in the case of having to go fully virtual.  So life is still so different leaving us craving some sort of normalcy.   

This feeling of missing out and longing for connection led to my grown daughters, two grandkids and I wanting to spend some fun, quality time together.  We planned an overnight stay in downtown Holland at the Marriott with connecting rooms that had little balconies overlooking the splash pad and part of the city. I requested early check in so that I could spray and wipe both rooms down with Lysol, set up the baby’s crib and stock snacks and activities so we could come back later to a fresh room.  Would we have done that pre-pandemic?  Most likely!  Maybe not as extreme or thorough but we have always taken measures to sanitize the room when traveling before we unload and get comfortable.  

 Fall in Michigan brings dropping temperatures, the leaves are rapidly changing color and mostly cloud covered, drizzle filled days. As our adventure begins, we bundle up and order food from a couple of our favorite restaurants for pick up, stop for fudge and hand made chocolates for dessert and pop in a couple of the unique shops along the way. Once settled in with our spread of delicious food and delectable treats, we were able to see the sun setting over the cityscape and step out on the balcony to enjoy the view. One of my suggestions while being a tourist in your own town is to ask hotel staff what their favorite restaurant is, favorite thing to do, a must see. They may mention something you never heard of or thought of, such as sunset at the beach where you can see Michigan’s most photographed lighthouse, Big Red.

The next morning we got breakfast from the hotel cafe and then walked around downtown making a stop at The Holland Peanut Store, an old-fashioned, family- owned candy store.  You can imagine the saying “a kid in a candy store” as soon as you enter the store!  The family knows us by name and it is such a lovely tradition.  Next, we made stops at trendy clothing stores, toy stores and Cranes in the City.  We would typically go to Cranes Orchard but time and excessive crowds led us to purchase the cider and donuts at the downtown storefront.  Same goodies minus the hassle and driving time.  As we strolled through the streets and shops, we passed by several tourist attractions – The Bronze Statues!  There are many throughout the city but the most recent addition is the Holland Oz Project. The city gave the community the opportunity to purchase bricks as a fundraiser for the Project. The bricks line the Yellow Brick Road or are placed directly in front of the character statues. As a family, we purchased bricks as dedications to loved ones- what fun to go and find your bricks!

As the day comes to an end, we are reminded of the numerous attractions our city has to offer that draw people from literally all over the world!  A true treasure.  I highly recommend Googling your town as if you were visiting to see what sightseeing attractions come up, check restaurant recommendations and reviews, and see what new and exciting ways to explore as a tourist in your own town!