You’ve heard of tiptoeing through the tulips, but what about partying through them? Turns out there’s a charming, picturesque city in Michigan that plays host to a nine-day bash devoted to these gorgeous early spring blooms each year, and it might just be the perfect destination for your next weekend getaway.
Holland, Michigan, located on the state’s western shore near Lake Michigan, is a 3-hour drive from Detroit and has a long and rich Dutch heritage. It’s also crazy for the flower that first became popular in Holland, a region and former province of the Netherlands. Since 1929, the Michigan town has played host to Tulip Time, a festival that features millions of blooming bulbs, entertainment, food, and lots of Dutch-themed fun.
Here are the best things to do during this terrific event.
Enjoy The Magnificent Blooms
You just can’t escape the festival’s lovely namesakes -- nor would you want to! Holland’s Parks and Recreation Department plants a whopping five million of the bulbs across town every autumn. Sourced directly from the Netherlands, these beauties are typically in their full, glorious bloom the first week of May, when Tulip Time is held. Everywhere you turn, you’ll see festive splashes of color, and there are perfect photo opportunities around every corner. Take in the floral splendor in parks and public spaces and along the roadsides -- or tulip lanes -- everywhere in town.
Tulip Time also features flower-specific activities and events for festivalgoers, including several Yoga in the Tulips sessions (bring your own mat and a donation of $10) and organized photo walks through the most scenic floral stretches. Be prepared to be dazzled!
Even if you’re prone to allergies, you’ll have a great time: It turns out that tulips are some of the most hypoallergenic blooms out there.
Watch (Or Try!) Dutch Dancing
Some of the biggest -- and most traditional -- draws of Tulip Time are the many Dutch dancing demonstrations held in Holland’s Centennial Park. Staged daily, these fun events feature hundreds of costumed dancers in authentic, hand-sewn Dutch outfits. A crowd favorite is the klomp, which of course involves the traditional wooden clogs.
The Dutch dancing sessions are free to attend; plan to head to Centennial at least once during your stay to cheer on the festive dancing troupes. You never know -- you might be inspired to try some of the dance moves yourself!
Take The Trolley Tour
If it’s your first visit to Tulip Time -- or perhaps even the charming city of Holland -- consider booking seats on the Tulip City Trolley Tour. The hour-long narrated tour will take you down some of the city’s most colorful tulip lanes, through Holland’s historic district, and downtown. It’s a great way to get to know the town, get your bearings, and decide what spots you’d like to revisit.
Tickets are only available at the festival, and the trolleys run daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets cost $25 per adult and $10 per child.
Admire The Art Exhibits
Celebrating the arts has long been central to the Tulip Time Festival. The Klompen Garden features 20 pairs of colorfully decorated Dutch clogs fashioned by artists from a variety of media, including glass, metal, and acrylic. Most of the pairs are strategically positioned among tulips near Waterfront Park, where locals and tourists alike stroll for the stunning views and cool breezes.
There’s also a festival artwork exhibit where much of the art features -- you guessed it -- tulips. The top 20 pieces are displayed at the Hollard Area Arts Council. If you’re really into art, consider purchasing a $10 pass that will get you into the top 20 exhibit, a quilt show, a viewing of the Klompen Garden award-winning shoes, and a Dutch dance exhibit, all at the Arts Council.
Hike To A Windmill
To experience Holland’s tulips in a truly Dutch setting, walk the 20 minutes from downtown to Windmill Island Gardens. The focal point of this beautiful spot is DeZwaan, the only authentic Dutch windmill operating in the United States. When we say operating, we really mean it: The mill grinds wheat flour and cornmeal that you can purchase on-site.
Climb to the fourth-floor deck for a gorgeous view of the grounds and gardens, which are perfect for strolling when the 100,000 tulips scattered across the three lush fields are in full bloom. As you can imagine, the gardens are bustling during Tulip Time, and for good reason. Tickets cost $10.
Spend A Few Hours At The Carnival
If you’d like a bit more adventure during your trip to Tulip Time, head to the Holland Civic Center and take in the carnival, which runs for the duration of the festival. Here, you’ll find rides, food, games, and fun for visitors of all ages.
One-day unlimited ride passes will only set you back $25 to $30, and there are plenty of carnival concessions available for purchase, from elephant ears to cotton candy. Whether you stroll the midway, take a spin on the Ferris wheel, or try your luck at a carnival game or two, this is an old-fashioned, fun way to spend a few hours.
Make Time For The Parades
You’ll want to make time for at least one of the several parades that take place during Tulip Time. At the Volksparade, a traditional Dutch march that encourages crowd participation, and the Muziekparade, which concludes the Tulip Time pageantry and features 4,000 participants and more than 170 floats, you can expect plenty of spectators lining the parade routes.
If the bigger bashes aren’t your scene, the pet parade is a favorite featuring adorable four-legged friends.
Be sure to head downtown early to claim a spot for whatever parade you choose to view.
Take In The Nightlife
The Tulip Time party doesn’t end when the sun goes down -- far from it!
You can attend a number of concerts, many of which take place at the Central Wesleyan Church, that feature rock acts, chamber orchestras, and even R&B favorites. Tickets for these musical events vary in price.
There’s also a large fireworks display that takes place on last Saturday of Tulip Time. It’s free to the public and worth checking out.
Eating In Holland
During the Tulip Time Festival, Dutch cuisine takes center stage.
DeBoer Bakery is locally owned, and the people who live in Holland know that its two locations are the best places to go for pastries sweet and savory, including buttery krakelingen filled with almond paste and saucijzenbroodjes, or Dutch pigs in a blanket. Russ’, another locally owned favorite, features Tulip Time’s favorite Dutch pea soup.
Of course, you can enjoy Dutch cheese, beer, and sausage from vendors in and around downtown. And if you feel like mashing up your Dutch and Italian food faves, head to Hops at 84 East. Located downtown, this spot bakes up wood-fired pizzas with crusts made by DeBoer Bakery from flour milled at the local windmill. It’s truly full-circle cuisine!
Shopping In Holland
The shopping scene in Holland during Tulip Time tends to focus on all things floral, with artwork, textiles, and other home goods emblazoned with the bright spring blooms the festival celebrates. You’ll find tulip-themed gifts in nearly every downtown Holland boutique. You can also take home some tulip bulbs to plant in your own yard or garden once fall comes around.
Decorated wooden shoes and blue-and-white Delftware also make special souvenirs. You’ll find these, and much more, at the Dutch Marktplaats at the Holland Civic Center. It’s the place to go for authentic take-home items and gifts -- plus there’s a Dutch food court on-site in case you work up an appetite on your shopping spree!
Where To Stay In Holland
There are three downtown hotels in Holland, which tend to book up fairly quickly for Tulip Time: the newly revamped Haworth Inn on the campus of Hope College, a Courtyard by Marriott property conveniently located along the main parade route, and the modern, chic CityFlatsHotel.
If you can’t snag a room downtown, don’t worry: There are 2,000 additional hotel rooms within 3 to 4 miles of downtown, with accommodations to fit every budget. Homesharing sites like Airbnb and Vrbo are other options to consider, especially if you’re traveling with a larger group.
What To Know Before You Go
There’s no getting around the fact that there will be crowds at Tulip Time, especially on the weekends. Saturdays tend to be the busiest. Taking the offsite parking shuttles will make things a lot easier.
Also, this should go without saying, but we’ll go ahead and mention it: Although it might be quite tempting to do so, do not pick or cut any of the tulips on display in Holland, unless you have express permission. It’s the only way to keep the blooms beautiful for everyone who visits during this special event.