Can’t Swing a Trip to Europe for Tulip Time? Find the Best Place to See Tulips in Holland Michigan
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As spring approaches and Mother Nature awakens from her deep slumber, winter’s barren landscape starts to transform with flowers blooming and foliage emerging on trees. One of the most famous places to visit during this season is the Netherlands, where the Tulip Festival starts and is a sight to behold. Millions of tourists descend onto this European country to witness these wondrous flowers’ beauty and charm. In Holland tulip time is peak tourist season, so visiting the Netherlands makes for a very expensive experience.
History of Holland Michigan
If you want to experience the colorful glory of tulip fields but Europe is not an option, then another great place to get this unique experience is to visit Holland, Michigan, in the United States. A pretty small town on Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa about 30 miles southwest of Grand Rapids, Holland was founded in 1847 by Albertus C. VanRaalte.
VanRaalte came to the United States from the Netherlands with a group of other Dutch immigrants to escape religious oppression and economic instability. With hard work from the new settlers, the city prospered, and the Dutch heritage permeated through the settlement.
How Tulip Time Festival in Holland Got Started
It was in 1927 that Miss Lida Rogers, a biology teacher in the city of Holland, suggested embracing the tulip as the city’s official flower because of its strong ties with the Netherlands. In 1928, 100,000 tulip bulbs of different varieties were purchased from the Netherlands to be planted around the city.
In 1929, with the blooming of these flowers, Tulip Time came into being as an annual festival in Holland, symbolizing the end of winter and the start of spring. The Holland Tulip Time Festival was a chance to not only admire vivid tulips in bloom but to also showcase Holland and its heritage through traditional dances, costumes, and iconic wooden shoes.
Gorgeous Tulip Varieties and Colors in Profusion
You’ll notice tulips come in a multitude of colors and varieties: white tulips are often sent as condolences, pink tulips are delivered for congratulations, red tulips signify love and passion, orange tulips could mean you have a spiritual connection, and yellow tulips are associated with happiness and cheer.
Varieties such as double blooms which resemble peonies, gaily striped and multi-colored hues, “parrot” tulips, and fancy frills and fringes represent the skills with which cultivars were developed. Remember, tulips were highly coveted as a luxury item, and so in demand in 17th century Europe, that “Tulip Mania” created an economic bubble that eventually caused financial collapse.
Things to Do in Holland Evolved with the Festival
No longer just a flower festival, over time the Tulip Time festival has evolved and combines a variety of activities and entertainment throughout Holland, Tulip Time attractions and activities celebrate Holland and its Dutch heritage, which include concerts, parades, Klompen dance, historic tours, and of course, viewing the millions of tulips. This unique experience in the USA has helped The Holland Tulip Festival receive the badge for “Best Small Town Festival in America” by Reader’s Digest.
2023 Tulip Time Dates are May 6 – 14
When you visit Tulip Time in Holland in Spring during the month of May, you’ll notice amazing tulip vistas just about everywhere. The below locations are highly recommended to choose the best place to see tulips in Holland Michigan. Plan for a charming, mesmerizing experience during Holland’s Tulip Time with the best tulip displays along with the best chance to take the tulip photos you want to commemorate your visit.
Every Visit to the Tulip Festival in Holland Begins with Centennial Park
Kick off your annual Tulip Time festival visit by heading to Centennial Park which is located in downtown Holland. This beautiful Victorian-style city park is free to visit and is one of the best places to enjoy the display of beautiful tulips in serene surroundings. You can either relax near the traditional Dutch fountain or admire the koi pond as you enjoy a picnic in the park’s shade. During the Tulip Festival, this acre park also hosts traditional Dutch dances which makes it a popular spot for tourists.
Downtown and Tulip Lanes
You can further explore Holland’s downtown streets, home to shops, restaurants, and everything in between. Head to 8th Street where tulips in planters are strategically placed in Holland’s historic district, which makes for an enjoyable and vibrant stroll throughout the downtown area. If you time your visit to coincide with the famous Tulip Time parades, then you will be in for a treat.
The Kinderparade, or Children’s Parade, is kicked off with a beloved tradition of street scrubbing, where elementary school children wear traditional Dutch costumes and scrub the streets of Holland with a broom for upcoming performances. You’ll see floats, Dutch dance performances, bands, etc, all of which combine to create a festive atmosphere.
If all that walking and standing around Holland has tired you out, but you still want to see the 6 miles of tulips that the city has planted, you can! A great way to see some of the 5 million tulips Holland puts out is to just drive around Holland’s neighborhoods along the tulip lanes, where up to 250,000 bulbs are planted along Washington Avenue and 12th Streets.
For the athletic traveler, a more vigorous but equally fun way to experience and see thousands of tulips planted around the city is to participate in the Tulip Time Run. This event is for everyone, featuring a 5k,10k, and even a Kids Fun Run. It starts early morning in Kollen Park and you can choose to either walk or sprint to complete the course that winds through Holland’s Tulip lined streets.
Tulip Immersion Garden
One of the most unique experiences during the Tulip festival is visiting the Tulip Immersion Garden. Previously housed in the Ottawa County Fairgrounds, it has now moved to the new location of Beechwood Church in Park Township. Crafted by the renowned Dutch horticulturist, Ibo Gülsen, the exhibition will feature 50,000 tulips.
The garden’s tulip beds will be raised to eye and chest level to make for a truly immersive experience. The installation depicts the history of the tulip, which was initially cultivated by the Turkish people, but it was the Dutch who were able to grow it on a full scale and therefore incorporate the flower into their culture. There is an admission fee that allows for entry on an hourly basis so make sure you book before you go.
Windmill Island Gardens
If you are looking for a truly authentic Dutch experience while being surrounded by a carpet of blooming tulips, one of the best things you can do is take a road trip to the Windmill Island Gardens to see how the tulips burst into bloom.
This beloved island is home to the ‘de Zwaan’, the last authentic windmill that was allowed to leave the Netherlands. This historic landmark is still functional, as it grinds homegrown grain into flour and is sold to visitors and locals alike. You can also take a tour of the windmill and visit the top from where you can view the sprawling manicured gardens covered in thousands of tulips that bloom in time for the Tulip Festival.
Other attractions at the garden include rides on the antique kids’ carousel, complete with hand-painted horses that add to the overall charm of the place. The gardens are also dotted with several replicas of Netherlands’ structures to give you a taste of the Dutch way of life. If you are looking to take a piece of Holland back with you, then the onsite souvenir shop has a wide variety of options you can peruse while partaking in some cheese tasting.
Take note that instead of large fields of colorful tulips, these beautiful blooms are planted in smaller beds, which you can enjoy by strolling on the walking trails that meander through the beautiful grounds. The park welcomes up to 50,000 people during Tulip Week so it’s important to plan transportation and visit times accordingly as it can get very crowded.
There is an admission fee for both kids and adults, but it is well worth the price as it’s a great place to visit and see a variety of tulips in a setting that is truly reminiscent of the Netherlands.
Window on the Waterfront Park
This 30-acre park overlooks the Windmill Island Gardens and is home to 100,000 tulip bulbs that start to bloom in late April during the tulip season. Not only is it home to a spectacular display of beautiful flowers, but it is an idyllic escape from daily life to experience nature’s wonders. With numerous walking and biking trails that meander through the marshlands and foliage, this is a great option to enjoy the great outdoors and admire the tulips.
Nelis’ Dutch Village
If you want to know what life was like in the Netherlands over 100 years ago, then making a day trip to visit Nelis’ Dutch Village is highly recommended. Modeled after a Dutch village, this family-owned theme park is a true celebration of Dutch heritage, traditions, and architecture.
Make sure to schedule at least 3 – 4 hours to fully experience the rich Dutch heritage that is part of the village. Every year around 30,000 tulip bulbs are planted around the park, which makes it a must-visit attraction during the Holland Michigan Tulip Festival.
A guided tour through the park by employees clad in traditional Dutch costumes is a great way to experience the ritual of cheese making, candle making, and the quintessential wooden shoe carving. An on-site petting zoo is a great hit with the kids, where they can interact with a variety of animals such as llamas, goats, sheep, etc.
The admission ticket allows you unlimited access to rides such as a classic carousel, a reimagined Ferris Wheel, Dutch Chair Swing Ride, and the recently added tractor ride.
In between the rides, take a break from Tulip Time festivities and fuel yourself with some traditional Dutch snacks, such as Frikandel, a Dutch version of the hot dog, or Banket, a traditional pastry. If you time it right, you might also get to experience some traditional dance performances that are enjoyable and super fun to experience.
Veldheer’s Tulip Farm and DeKlomp Delft and Wooden Shoe Factory
North of Nelis’ Dutch Village lies the famous Veldheer’s Tulip Gardens, a major attraction during the Annual Tulip Festival. This family farm has one of the biggest displays of tulips, with around 5 million colorful bulbs planted in gardens for a truly spectacular display.
Veldheers Tulip Farm also boasts one of the biggest varieties of tulips which makes it an ideal place for some Instagram-worthy pictures. As a private establishment, there is a $15 entrance fee per person which allows you to roam the 40-acre area which also has other decorative plants besides tulips.
A visit to the Veldheer Tulip Farm is incomplete without checking out the Deklomp Wooden Shoe & Delft factory, an onsite store where you can purchase authentic Dutch souvenirs, food, and tulip bulbs. You get a chance to observe artists carving authentic wooden shoes on machines that are imported from the Netherlands.
You can also observe authentic blue and white delftware being handmade on-site by skilled artisans. Delftware is tin-glazed blue and white pottery that is now synonymous with the Netherlands and includes things like plates, vases, etc. Even though this experience comes with a price, the Veldheer Tulip Gardens is a great option to not only view the tulips but also sample some truly authentic Dutch products and delicacies. Best of all, it’s not crowded which makes for an enchanting experience.
Plan Accordingly! Tulips are the Stars of the Show in Holland’s Popular Tulip Festival
If you are looking for a unique travel experience in North America, then look no further than Holland, a city located in West Michigan. The city’s Spring Tulip Festival is an exceptional week-long celebration of Dutch heritage outside of Europe, along with a stunning display of several million tulips all over the city. From traditional Dutch Dancing to live music to the only authentic Dutch windmill in North America, you are certain to have a great time in Holland during Tulip Time, especially while strolling through colorful tulip lanes that are vibrant and colorful.
Because of the festival’s popularity, it can get very crowded, especially during the weekends, so it’s important to plan the itinerary accordingly. If you have a car, keep a buffer in your plans for finding a parking lot due to the sheer number of people plus closures due to parades, dances etc. If admiring the tulips are a priority versus parades etc, then you can also plan to come a week before or after the festival ends (Tulip Time 2023 dates are May 6-14) to see the tulips while avoiding heavy crowds and take advantage of lower prices. So is your next spring trip to Holland, Michigan?