There’s no better place to experience the beauty of spring and the blooming of tulips than the Holland Tulip Time Festival. No, I’m not telling you to get on a plane and fly to the Netherlands. Rather, you should get in your car and drive an hour and a half north to Holland, Michigan, sometime between May 7 and 14.
With five million tulips in bloom throughout the city of Holland and surrounding area, the Tulip Festival is an absolutely stunning sight. There’s also a variety of other touristy attractions, such as an art and craft fair, Dutch dancing (complete with wooden shoes), a carnival, and trolly rides. The tulips are in bloom throughout downtown, and also at locations throughout the city, such as Windmill Island Park and several tulip farms.
The festival can get crowded, especially in the afternoon on weekends, so I would suggest going early. Here’s an itinerary to maximize your tulip viewing time:
8:30 am – Depart South Bend, Indiana, with the goal of arriving at Centennial Park in Holland by 10 am. (If you decide to leave even earlier, try having breakfast at Deboer’s Cafe and Bakery for some Dutch treats.)
- 10:00 am – Park at one of the many lots near Centennial Park in downtown Holland. Last year, parking was $5-$10 depending on the lot. Check out the art and craft fair as soon as it opens and see the many tulips blooming in Centennial Park.
- Walk or drive over to Window on the Waterfront Park to see the tulips there.
- Get the heck out of downtown – things start getting crazy around noon.
- Drive over to Windmill Island Park – this is my favorite stop along the route and shouldn’t be missed. Windmill Island Park has a variety of attractions and is family friendly. In addition to the tulip fields, there’s a huge windmill you can climb up, a Dutch village, and a reenactment village complete with people dressed in period costumes. It’s the best place for some “Dutch” photo ops.
- Head over to Salt & Petter Savory Grill and Pub for a late lunch. It’s outside of downtown so the crowds shouldn’t be a problem. Plus, it’s on the way to the next destination. The menu is creative and the food is super tasty.
- After lunch, go to Veldheer Tulip Garden. Veldheer has millions of tulips to view on site. They also have bison. The best part is that you can purchase all of the tulip bulbs on display. Make sure to grab a booklet of bulbs so you can mark off which tulips you like best. I’ve heard Nelis’ Dutch Village also offers the opportunity to buy bulbs, but has more attractions for kids.
- If you’re not super tired, stop in one of the many cute beach towns on your way home for dinner, like Saugatuck, South Haven, or St. Joseph.
FYI – you do have to pay a fee to enter certain places, such the Windmill Island Park, Veldheer and Nelis’ Dutch Village.