A Michigander’s Guide to the Tulip Time Festival in Holland, Michigan

by | Apr 12, 2024 | Family Adventures, Midwest, Mommy Getaways, USA

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The Tulip Festival in Holland, Michigan, officially called the Tulip Time Festival, occurs annually in May. The festival brings to mind a special memory.

One October in the late 1980s, my mom had a great idea. She was going to plant tulip bulbs all along the fence in our backyard. I was 5, so I don’t remember much, but I do remember a few things. 

I remember shoveling the dirt and carefully placing bulb after bulb into each wormy hole. It took what felt like a very long time. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t make it all the way around the fence, but I do know that my mom did.

Every day that spring, we walked our trail of tulip buds, checking on their progress and waiting for the flowers to bloom.

Until one day in late April, I walked out the back door, and there they were. Tall and bright, our yellow, purple, and red tulips had arrived! 

 

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The Tulip Festival in Holland, Michigan

My mom passed away ten years ago. The year we planted the tulips is one of my fondest childhood memories. I remember that the tulips we planted made my mom’s green eyes twinkle. 

There’s just something about tulips. The Tulip Time Festival is magical for our family and for the hundreds of thousands of other people who attend each year. And don’t limit yourself to a trip there with the kids! Tulip Time is also a perfect girlfriend getaway and the most romantic afternoon. Imagine the social media posts!

Let us show you why…

 

Yellow tulips in foreground, buildings in back - Holland, Michigan Tulip Festival

A tulip paradise, so long as the bees stick to the tulips and not to the visitors. @Shutterstock

 

Tulip Time History

The very first Tulip Time Festival was celebrated in 1929. In 1927, a biology teacher at Holland High School, Miss Lida Rogers, inspired by the town’s Dutch history, suggested that the town council plant tulips in the parks and along the streets. The next year, the town imported 100,000 tulips from the Netherlands. The following year, the town celebrated its first tulip festival.

 

Today, this tulip festival regularly gets nominated for USAToday’s 10Best Flower Festivals. It took home the prize in 2016!

 

Tulip Time Events

Kinderparade

This adorable children’s parade kicks off all the festivities. The towns’ children, along with the public, march down the street in their best Dutch attire, some carrying mops and brooms. Why the mops and brooms? To literally clean the streets for the festival! If you fancy sweeping on your vacation, then be advised this is a BYOB situation. (That’s B for broom; they will have the beer.)

 

The Tulip Time Parade

The city of Holland dedicates two miles of streets to its Tulip Time parade route. Picture giant tulip-themed floats, hopping marching bands, and hundreds of dancers twirling down the street in Dutch costumes. This parade introduces the festival by showing off Holland’s incredible community vibe. Since it takes place in downtown Holland, visitors can stay to explore the fun shopping or eat in one of 25 unique restaurants.

 

Person inspecting tulips in basket by artwork - Tulip Time in Holland Michigan

The artisan markets in Holland, Michigan, are going to require some large shopping bags. #BorntoShop #gettingmybagsready @Shutterfly

 

The Tulip Immersion Garden Tours

In Holland, over 5 million tulips are waiting to dazzle. These garden tours? They’re not just a walk in the park. Led by world-renowned Dutch horticulturist Ibo Gülsen, this tour, which takes place at Beechwood Church, is a deep dive into the history and science of everything tulip. It’s a crash course in flower power and one of the best places to get an Instagram-worthy tulip photo.

 

The Artisan Market and Tulip Time Quilt Show

The only way to do the Artisan Market during the Holland Tulip Festival in the Ottawa County Fairgrounds is with a stroopwafel (a Dutch cookie) in one hand and a straw basket of tulips in the other. The market is filled with food trucks and gift shops. It is the perfect spot to indulge in Dutch treats like Fatballs (giant balls of fried dough filled with pudding) and find those one-of-a-kind Dutch heritage gifts. And at the same location is the Tulip Time Quilt Show. Its 100 colorful quilts are guaranteed to rival the tulip lanes. Trust us, it’s a quilter, foodie, and shopper’s paradise rolled into one.

 

Couples in Dutch costumes lined up - Tulip Time Festival in Holland Michigan

What you can’t see in this photo- the infamous wooden shoes of Holland, Michigan. Clomp your way to the nearest shop for your very own pair. @Shutterstock

 

The Klompen Dancing

Hundreds of dancers in wooden shoes bringing down the house with their moves? I’m in! It’s not just entertaining; it’s a whole vibe. Klompen Dance performances fill the streets of Holland, Michigan, during Tulip Time. The fun tradition can be traced back to a troop of high school girls in 1935. Be warned, these dance performances are so fun that many visitors end up purchasing those wooden shoes to bring home. 

 

The Tulip Trolley Tours

After all that dancing and walking, it’s time to kick back and let the tulip trolley whisk you away! The Holland Michigan Tulip Festival’s trolley is the perfect way to soak up the sites of Holland, like Windmill Island Gardens and Centennial Park. The windmills, historic shops, and tulip fields look like they’ve been taken straight out of a painting. The Tulip Trolley is the chill, scenic way to soak in all the beauty and heritage this festival offers.

 

 

Our Favorite Spots for Tulip Viewing

Veldheer Tulip Gardens

Veldheer Tulip Gardens isn’t just any garden. Over 5 million tulips bloom every spring during Holland’s Tulip Time, showcasing an array of colors that would make a rainbow jealous. 

This place isn’t just about tulips; it also has an assortment of perennials and Dutch artifacts. 

Established in 1950 by Vern Veldheer, Valdheer Tulip Gardens has grown from a 300-bulb tulip farm to the sprawling spectacle it is today. Visitors can even order bulbs to bring a piece of this magic home to their own garden. Imagine your garden turning into a mini Veldheer next spring! What would the neighbors say?

 

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Window on the Waterfront Tulips

Window on the Waterfront Tulips is Holland, Michigan’s little slice of paradise when it comes to waterfront parks, especially when the tulips bloom. Overlooking the stunning Lake Macatawa, this 30-acre park becomes a technicolor dream with over 80,000 tulips each spring. 

It’s not just about the blooms; the park is a hub of activity. A leisurely stroll down the walking paths gives guests the best views of the tulip fields and the lake. The park is the perfect picnic spot. And, oh! They host events like yoga in the park, making it the perfect mix of tranquility and community spirit. 

With its combination of natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and that unbeatable lakeside backdrop, Window on the Waterfront is the go-to for experiencing the whole magic of tulip season.

 

Windmill Island in Holland, MI

Windmill Island in Holland, Michigan will make visitors feel as if they were transported to the actual Holland. @Shutterstock

 

Nelis’ Dutch Village

Nelis’ Dutch Village is a must-see during Holland, Michigan’s Tulip Festival. This place is a mini Netherlands, complete with authentic Dutch architecture and over a hundred thousand tulips. But there’s so much more than just tulips here! Traditional Dutch crafts, like wooden shoe carving and cheese making, are both on exhibit during the festival. 

They’ve got these adorable Dutch dance performances that’ll make you want to join in, and the history lessons here? Totally immersive and fun. 

The village even has a 1924 carousel that adds a touch of whimsy to the whole experience. And for the little ones, there’s a petting zoo. 

Nelis’ Dutch Village isn’t just about strolling through tulip fields; it’s about diving headfirst into Dutch culture, making it a standout spot during the Tulip Festival. It’s educational, picturesque, and perfect for a day out.

 

Kollen Park

Kollen Park in Holland, Michigan, is an off-the-beaten-path spot, especially during the Tulip Festival. 

Nestled along the shores of Lake Macatawa, the park features the iconic DeZwaan Windmill, the only authentic Dutch windmill in the city. It is a picturesque backdrop for selfies. 

There’s also a spacious boardwalk, perfect for leisurely walks, where one can watch boats glide by on the lake. 

Kollen Park is a tranquil retreat during the Tulip Festival. It offers a blend of natural beauty and recreational activities.

 

Tulip Time Fastival

Tulips for days every May! @Shutterstock

 

Where To Stay During The Tulip Festival

Tulyp, Tapestry Collection by Hilton

Only a mile from Riverview Park, Tulyp is an excellent spot to enjoy all of the festival action, not to mention some seriously cute cafes and shops. It’s all about modern comfort with a tulip twist here. The rooms? Absolute perfection for kicking back after a long day. Plus, breakfast and parking are free.

 

The Dutch Colonial Inn

Families craving that home-away-from-home vibe, will find it at this bed and breakfast. Stepping into the Dutch Colonial Inn is like wandering into a cozy Dutch painting, complete with all the comfy amenities of grandma’s house. The innkeepers serve up a homemade breakfast that’s to die for, and the warm, welcoming atmosphere will have you feeling like part of the family. 

 

Tulips in a bedroom

Sunshine and tulips wait to greet visitors every morning. @Shutterstock

 

Haworth Inn & Conference Center

Right on the campus of Hope College, Haworth Inn & Conference Center blends convenience with comfort. The rooms offer a tranquil retreat from the festival buzz, and the service is top-notch. We’re talking prime location, with easy access to both the tulip fields and the quaint downtown area. The hotel offers a swim package that includes access to a nearby pool and an on-site Bigby Coffee shop.

 

When You Go

 

 

The Holland Tulip Time Festival is held annually in May. The exact dates are posted on their website so it’s important to check every year. To avoid the crowds, one might consider a trip before or after the festival.

 

Getting To Holland, MI, From Los Angeles

The quickest way to get to Holland, Michigan from Los Angeles is to hop on a flight to Grand Rapids. Only a 30-minute drive to Holland, this fun city is known for two things- craft beer and furniture. It’s next to impossible to find a direct flight to Grand Rapids, but most flights only involve one stop and clock in at around 6-7 hours.

An excellent discount site for flights (and cars, hotels) is Expedia! This is where we start our research for the best deals!

If you’d like to be in the know for exclusive discounts to fly anywhere in the world, check out Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights). Their website shows current deals, and they send emails when they find crazy cheap discounts. Some can even be booked with points.

To get discounts on tours in the area, we recommend Get Your Guide or Viator (which offers 51% off last-minute tours!).

To save time (and because we travel so much), we got an annual travel insurance policy for the whole family from this site. They have affordable policies for individual trips too and tools to make picking one easy.

 

So, between us? The Tulip Festival in Holland, Michigan, is the perfect excuse to get out, explore, and make memories with your family, sweetheart, or your favorite girlfriends. It’s the United States version of Amsterdam’s Tulip Festival. 

 

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Steffy McCourt is a mom to three active and awesome boys, two budgies, one cockatiel, and a mischievous corgi. Currently an ELA Teacher in Plymouth, Michigan, she also writes for parenting magazines and education websites. She just recently launched her own travel website, www.mifamilytravel.com; a tribute to the state of Michigan. She has an MS in Educational Leadership from Butler University and a BA in English from Indiana University.