Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan
Last weekend, we day-tripped over to Holland, Michigan, for the 90th anniversary of the Tulip Time Festival. Holland is about three hours west of Detroit and the festival this year is from May 4-12. (Good news if you’re wanting it check it out next weekend when the tulips should be even more in bloom!) Though it was a bit of a hike, we enjoyed the drive through Michigan’s farming country.
Tulips abound in flower beds and planters around town, and the tulip action is kicked up a notch at Windmill Island Gardens, a garden on an island in the Macatawa River that pays tribute to the town’s Dutch roots. It was the perfect spot to mill around (so to speak…) and we spent several hours enjoying all the island has to offer – acres of tulip gardens, an Amsterdam street organ, dikes and canals, a frontier encampment (complete with blacksmith demonstrations, soldiers, and many reenactors), a Dutch carousel, and a village street. The namesake of the island is their original Dutch windmill, De Zwaan (the Swan). Signage at the gardens explains how unique it is to have a Dutch windmill (it’s the only one in the States!) since windmills are considered national monuments in the Netherlands after so many were destroyed during WWII. This particular windmill was heavily damaged during the war and the city of Holland purchased and transported it in the 1960s. Pretty cool stuff!
Adding to the cool factor, De Zwaan isn’t just for show – it still actively grinds flour which is used in some bakeries and restaurants throughout town, or you can buy some to add a little pizzaz to your own baked goods!
After exploring the gardens, we headed downtown to take in the festival. There were street food stands scattered throughout the town and we made good use of them. 😉 It was fun to see a large number of townspeople in traditional Dutch garb, including wooden shoes! Even apart from all of the festival trimmings, Holland is a really charming town. There are coffee shops, restaurants and breweries with outdoor seating areas, and squares and fountains that make it a great spot to wander around.
In front of the Civic Center is where our kids’ favorite part of the festival was – the Kinderplaats (Children’s Place)! At the welcome tent, each child chose a snack and got their “Province Pass.” Different tents and areas were set up as each of the 12 Dutch provinces (see the picture below of Utrecht’s for an example) and the kids were able to learn about each province by doing a related activity. As a reward, they got stickers from each one until they filled their passport. They had a blast!
Notes for Next Time:
- We’ll be sure to catch some Dutch Klompen dancing! (If you’re interested, check the events page for the schedule.)
- Eat more Dutch food! We tried some imported licorice (the salted and sweet varieties) and kept searching for fresh Stroopwafels but sadly only found the packaged variety. On our list to check out next time is DeBoer Brothers Restaurant and Bakkerij for all the baked goods! Banket (puff-pastry dough filled with almond paste), butter cookies, apple tarts, Olliebollen (Dutch donuts), and Saucijzenbroodjes (Dutch sausage roll) are a few of the food items on our list.
- I’d love to see “Big Red,” Michigan’s most photographed lighthouse. It’s located in Holland State Park, about 20 minutes away on the shores of Lake Michigan.
- Peter’s Gourmet Market is near Grand Rapids, but it seems to be the place to head if you’re in search of imported Dutch goodies.
- There are more Tulip Time areas around town that can be explored, we just didn’t have time for them all. Check the map to make sure you see it all!
Know before you go:
Parking on Windmill Island was full when we arrived, so we ended up parking at a (free!) recommended lot on this map. If you are touring the garden and attending the festival, you might want to plan on parking in between the two. Admission to Windmill Island is $10/adult and $5/child (ages 3-15). There is no additional cost to take a tour of the windmill but you’ll want to make a beeline for the windmill once you enter the park to get your timed tickets to go up.
You might want to bring a little cash. We waited through a short line to buy tickets to enter the gardens but there was no line for the cash only ticket window. While most vendors at the Dutch frontier camp took credit cards, a few didn’t. A few booths at the festival had minimum purchase amounts for using a credit card. You’ll want to baby-wear for the windmill tour, but everything else was quite stroller-friendly.
Tulip chairs imported from the Netherlands!