Lucky for us, our fine state provides an abundance of picturesque waterfront views. A shimmering lake as the backdrop to times spent enjoying good food and drink? Yes, please. The hard part is deciding which one to settle on for the evening (or morning or afternoon).
Pick a spot on the patio at Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant (216 Van Raalte Ave, Holland) and take in lovely Lake Macatawa. Plenty of outdoor seating means you won't have to vie for a good perch. And a daily happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m. gives you a good reason to head out of the office early.
Situated on the Bear Lake Channel, the aptly named Bear Lake Tavern (360 Ruddiman Dr., North Muskegon) offers up standard American fare in a homey, no-frills setting. Grab friends for beers, burgers and tasty seafood at this historic Michigan landmark. If you're the early(ish) type, stop by on a Sunday morning and enjoy the scenery over breakfast, served from 9 a.m. to noon.
A trip to scenic Saugatuck gets even better with a stop at The Butler Restaurant (40 Butler St, Saugatuck). Located downtown, this restaurant has an outdoor deck that offers stellar views of the Lake Kalamazoo harbor. Live music entertains guests every weekend from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Overlooking Terrace Point Marina is the The Lake House (730 Terrace Point Blvd., Muskegon), an ideal locale for watching boats pass by and soaking up a gorgeous sunset. It's hard to resist the allure of an indoor-outdoor bar here, especially with a happy hour running six days a week from 3:30 to 6 p.m.
Enjoy a lazy Sunday lunch at another historic landmark, Rose's Restaurant (550 Lakeside Dr. SE, Grand Rapids). With a patio overlooking Reed's Lake, this dining establishment has an ambiance that's both classy and comfortable. If you happen to stop by on a Wednesday, take advantage of their wine special—half off all glasses from 11a.m. to 10 p.m.
Day or night, the spacious outdoor deck at Snug Harbor (311 S Harbor Dr., Grand Haven) offers a relaxed atmosphere set against the Grand Haven Channel. Unwind with a thematic cocktail—we recommend the Summer Breeze (raspberry vodka, lemonade, and grenadine) or Harbor Sunset (Absolut Mandarin, Absolut Citron, orange juice, grapefruit and grenadine). And if the weather disappoints, head to the lower-level indoor dining room, where you can still enjoy great waterfront sights.
OK, so it's not a lakeside destination, but we couldn't leave out Reds on the River (8 E. Bridge St., Rockford). Why not? From the outdoor deck you'll take in views of Rogue River and instantly feel calmer. Select a glass or bottle from the restaurant's extensive wine list and stay a while. And when the cold gets you down next winter, come back and enjoy the warmth of the huge outdoor fireplace here.
There's something about being on top of a building that can make you feel, well, on top of the world. Imagine a light summer breeze, a night sky sprinkled with stars and a cocktail in hand. Sounds pretty great, right? Here's how to get there.
If it's a romantic night you're after, head to Reserve Wine & Food (201 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids), an upscale restaurant and bar downtown. Even if you've been before, you might not have known about the al fresco option just upstairs. While not technically on the roof, the patio offers some high-up city viewing that adds just a little more pizazz to your wine and cheese.
Occupying the fifth floor of the City Flats Hotel in downtown Holland, CityVu Bistro (61 E 7th St.) offers exceptional views indoors or outdoors, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows framing the space. But when the sun's out, you can't beat the patio as the place to be during the Sunday brunch buffet.
Check out The Kirby House (2 Washington Ave., Grand Haven), a restaurant housed in a former hotel that serves up a diverse menu of American-influenced cuisine. From the rooftop, enjoy seaside appetizers like conch fritters and calamari along with a charming scene of the Grand River.
The Grass Is Always Greener
Consider an upgrade to your backyard porch scene by heading to one of these spots for an authentic, au naturale dining experience.
The sprawling lawn at Mangiamo (1033 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids), an Italian restaurant housed in a 19th century mansion, is the perfect place to lounge post-meal. After digging into pasta and pizza (or lighter fare like soups and salads), extend the evening with conversation and cocktails enjoyed in a stately, spacious environment.
Sample some local brews at Bell's Eccentric Café (355 East Kalamazoo Ave., Kalamazoo), which offers more than 20 different beers on tap. The beer garden here does great justice to its name, with plenty of green space, plants and flowers. Settle into one of the benches with a Bell's in hand and you won't want to leave. If you do get restless, however, check out the beer patio—another great outdoors option for enjoying a few cold ones. There are also plenty of hearty dishes on the menu to fill you up, from dips to jambalaya and beyond.
Wait, There's More
The following don't fit neatly into one category, but we thought we'd give you just a few more choices in case you exhaust the above.
If your summer travels don't include exotic destinations, you can at least pretend you're somewhere else for the evening at a hotel in town. Stop by the outdoor patio at the JW Marriott's signature restaurant, six.one.six (235 Louis Campau NW), to experience an intimate setting with downtown views.
If you're the sports-loving type, you'll want to make The Score (5301 Northland Dr. NE, Grand Rapids) your spot for catching all the summertime games. Don't go stereotyping this restaurant and bar for being just for sports fanatics—it's also got a patio, volleyball courts and a cabana with palm trees outside. So if you're not captivated by what's on the TVs, we're sure you'll find another way to be entertained at this place.
Looking for downtown dining that blends a refined menu with a casual vibe? The outdoor patio at The Wine Loft (161 East Michigan, Kalamazoo) can't be beat. An extensive wine list, tasty tapas-style plates and a sidewalk setting create an experience that's equal parts satisfying and relaxing.
Call this a two-for-one deal. We couldn't help mentioning the delightful juxtaposition of outdoor decks at neighboring spots Brewery Vivant (925 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids) and Maru Sushi (927 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids). Topping off a sushi dinner with some craft beers next door just seems like the obvious thing to do, especially when you can plainly see how much the patrons are enjoying their time.