Michigan’s western border boasts some of the most incredible lakeshore stretches in the United States, and the small city of Holland -- just a 3-hour drive from Detroit -- is among the best-loved beachfront getaways in the region. It’s a terrific combination of natural beauty, old-world charm, and a fun-loving spirit all year round, but especially in the late spring, when its legendary tulips burst into bloom.
Here are our favorite things to see, do, taste, and experience during a perfect weekend in Holland.
Things To Do In Holland
From outdoor outings to art and culture, history, and Dutch heritage (the name gave that away, right?) there’s truly something for everyone who visits this town. Whether you want to kick back and just enjoy lake life or be a bit more adventurous, here are a few things to consider adding to your Holland weekend itinerary.
Tiptoe Through The Tulips
Holland is best known for its annual Tulip Time, a weeklong festival that celebrates the city’s millions of tulips in full bloom during the first week of May. While we love the event and all the terrific food, fun, and festivities that go along with the celebration of Holland’s favorite flower, you might prefer to visit on a less-crowded weekend.
Consider a trip in late April or even immediately after the festival. The blooms might be budded up or a bit faded, but they will likely still be gorgeous then, and you’ll see them everywhere you go in Holland!
See The Windmill And Gardens
To get your steps in and enjoy another Dutch-themed highlight, take the 20-minute walk from downtown to Windmill Island Gardens. The park is dominated by the towering DeZwaan, the only authentic Dutch windmill in operation in the U.S. Cornmeal and wheat flour are both ground here and are available for purchase.
During a guided tour of the mill, you can climb to the fourth floor for a commanding view of the surrounding gardens, park, and canals. Costumed guides stroll the gorgeous grounds, ready to answer any questions you might have. It’s as if you’ve been transported straight to Amsterdam when you visit this special and unique spot.
Experience The History
To really get to know Dutch culture and learn more about how it took root in this corner of Michigan, plan a visit to the Holland Museum. Located in a historic post office, the museum tells the story of the town, explains how it was founded by Dutch immigrants in 1847, and also features an array of Dutch art and artifacts from around the world.
To get a feel for what life was like in the city’s early days, head to the Cappon House. This is where Holland’s first mayor, Isaac Cappon, lived with his large family. The gorgeous house has been lovingly maintained and is open for tours.
For another view of life in early Holland, head to the Settlers House, a small family cottage where a number of working-class Holland families lived from the 1860s onward. It’s been restored to resemble what it looked like in 1871.
Take In The Art
The culture scene is strong in Holland; this small city is blessed with an abundance of galleries and museums where you can get your art fix! At Holland’s Hope College, you’ll find the Kruizenga Art Museum. This sleek, modern structure was built in 2015 to house the college’s art collection, and it is open to visitors. The art here comes from all over the world, and some of it dates to the 1600s.
Art galleries dot Holland’s downtown, so if you’re looking to take home a handcrafted object as a souvenir, you’re in luck. Lake Effect Gallery offers lovely paintings, sculptures, and jewelry.
Holland even has its own symphony orchestra -- the ensemble performs at Hope College’s Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts and at smaller venues throughout the community.
Hit The Beach
With its enviable position right on the Lake Michigan shore, Holland is a great place to spend some time in the sand. Whether you’re wanting a simple stroll or a whole day under an umbrella with a good book, Holland State Park is the perfect stop. It’s one of the state’s most popular beach areas, with sandy shores along Lakes Michigan and Macatawa. The park is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and getting out on the water -- there are paddle rentals on-site. Bring a picnic basket, or buy snacks from the park’s concession stand. Also, be sure to check out Big Red, Holland’s iconic lighthouse.
Tunnel Park, named for the concrete structure that cuts through a sand dune, provides access to a gorgeous beach equipped with a children’s playground, volleyball courts, picnic tables, and grills, making it a favorite family beach destination.
And Laketown Beach, a bit farther afield between Holland and nearby Saugatuck, offers incredible vistas from a wooden stairway that climbs over the dunes down to the pristine -- and quiet -- beach.
Hike The Dunes
For a stunning, sandswept view -- not to mention a terrific hike -- head to nearby Saugatuck Dunes State Park. This magical spot is known for its shimmering, sparkling lake views and freshwater coastal sand dunes that can be as tall as 200 feet. A network of trails ranging in length from 2 to 5 miles will take you past the park’s highlights. Saugatuck Dunes is tucked away, quiet, and pristine. You’ll enjoy the space with only a few other beachcombers, hikers, and bird-watchers.
Reserve a bit of time to explore Holland’s charming downtown. Victorian-era buildings line the streets, and the brick sidewalks lead to an assortment of cafes, shops, and boutiques. Whimsical sculptures are scattered about, and every Thursday evening in the summer, street performers delight the crowds. Grab a glass of wine, go window shopping, and perhaps get a spa treatment, but above all, just soak up the sweet atmosphere.
And if you visit during the winter, no worries. Downtown Holland is still a terrific destination, and here’s why: The city maintains the largest snowmelt system in the country, which keeps its streets and sidewalks free and clear of any pesky ice or snow.
Best Restaurants In Holland
Of course, Dutch cuisine is a must-try while you’re in Holland. To get your first taste, head straight to one of DeBoer Bakery’s two locations. Locals know that this is the best spot in town to pick up traditional sweet and savory Dutch pastries, including decadent krakelingen, buttery layers stuffed with almond paste, and saucijzenbroodjes, Dutch pigs in a blanket.
The Wooden Shoe, a Holland staple for more than 50 years, serves up breakfast and lunch, including giant cinnamon rolls and terrific omelets.
For a fine meal, Seventy-Six Restaurant serves modern American fare including steaks, chops, and local perch and whitefish, all paired perfectly with wines.
Where To Shop In Holland
You’ll find a lot of floral-themed gifts and home goods -- specifically featuring tulips -- in downtown Holland’s many shops and boutiques. Soaps, artwork, textiles, and other home goods all sport bright spring blooms. Traditional Dutch handicrafts are also easy to find, including delft, the blue-and-white glazed earthenware fashioned into plates, trivets, vases, and figurines.
Best Hotels In Holland
That said, you can’t go wrong staying at one of Holland’s many quaint inns or bed and breakfasts. The historic Centennial Inn is just a 4-minute walk from downtown and features eight private rooms with ensuite bathrooms. If you’re looking for something shoreside, perhaps with direct beach access, consider a homesharing site to find anything from a cozy cottage or bungalow to a sprawling suite.
What To Know Before You Go
This might seem like a no-brainer, but the locals will tell you to keep it in mind: There is nothing quite as spectacular as a sunset over Lake Michigan. As the sun blazes to bed in the west, the sky lights up with the deepest orange, yellow, and crimson you’ve ever seen. Be sure to take it in each night you’re visiting Holland. You’ll thank me later!