If you only cross off one item on your Michigan Spring Bucket List this year, make sure it’s the Tulip Time festival in Holland Michigan. With beautiful tulip gardens and Dutch cultural experiences, Tulip Time is a springtime delight for the whole family!
Having lived on the fresh west coast of Michigan for more than a decade, I’ve visited my share of Holland’s Tulip Time festivals over the years, and I’m excited to share some “tips from a local” for making the most of your tulip festival experience!
While there are plenty of fun activities to choose from, here are 7 of my favorite ways to experience the Tulip Time festival…
1. Take a Free Walking Tour to See the Tulips
The tulip gardens are the star of Tulip Time, of course, and there are plenty of free displays to enjoy throughout Holland. If you want to experience the Tulip Time festival for free, take this easy 2-mile Downtown Holland walking tour.
Window on the Waterfront
Start your free tulip gardening walking tour at Window on the Waterfront. The nearby 7th Street parking structure is usually a great place to park.
Situated along the Macatawa River, Window on the Waterfront features a nice paved trail and gorgeous rows of tulips. There’s even the new Sally Smoly Nature Playscape for kids to enjoy.
After exploring the Window on the Waterfront gardens, take College Ave. south to 8th Street and stroll through the downtown district.
There are several lovely tulip displays near the downtown businesses with lots of great places to shop and eat.
From 8th Street take Central Avenue south to Centennial Park for even more flower fun. With cobblestone paths, a coral rock fountain, and a charming gazebo, Centennial Park is a lovely spot for some Tulip Time pictures.
If you can, try to plan your visit to Centennial Park during some Dutch dancing performances. More on that below!
2. Run or Walk the Tulip Time 5K or 10K
For a more vigorous way to tour the tulip lanes, sign up for the Tulip Time Run. The races start bright and early, so it’s a great way to begin the festivities first thing in the morning.
One year, several family members and I ran (and walked) the Tulip Time 5K. It was quite fun to run through neighborhoods with tulip-lined streets. Plus, we were able to get a head start on other Tulip Time activities that day.
3. Tour an Authentic and Active Dutch Windmill
Did you know that downtown Holland’s Windmill Island hosts the oldest, working Dutch windmill in the United States?
In fact, you can even take a self-guided tour of the De Zwaan (“The Swan”) Windmill and might catch it in action, making flour from locally grown wheat. For the full experience, purchase some windmill ground flour to take home with you.
4. Learn How Traditional Dutch Wooden Shoes are Crafted
At the De Klomp Wooden Shoe and Delft Factory, you can watch the traditional Dutch wooden shoes being crafted right in front of you by a master shoemaker.
If you are looking for a unique souvenir, the wooden shoes are sold in all sizes from tiny doll shoes to adult sizes!
5. Buy Tulip Bulbs to Plant Your Own Tulip Garden
If you love Tulip Time, take the fun home with you in the form of tulip bulbs to enjoy in your own garden!
In addition to its lovely tulip fields, Veldheer’s Tulip Garden is the perfect local spot to purchase a wide selection of tulip bulbs.
6. Watch a Dutch Dance Performance
Wearing traditional Dutch costumes, hundreds of local performers grace the streets with Dutch dances throughout the festival. Definitely one of the most memorable parts of Tulip Time!
The Dutch dance performances are typically 5-15 minutes long. Plan on arriving early so you don’t miss the show.
7. Visit the Tulip Time Artisan Market
For a unique shopping experience, the Tulip Time Artisan Market features handmade items from hundreds of vendors. While exact vendors can change from year to year, expect to find hand-crafted jewelry, art, apparel, food items, and more.
The Artisan Market is a great spot to pick up a souvenir from the festival too. My favorite find one year was a handmade metal cat crafted from repurposed materials we use as a garden decoration. Lots of unique treasures here!
A Local’s Tips for Visiting Holland’s Tulip Time Festival
When you’re visiting a festival as popular as Holland’s Tulip Time, it’s helpful to get a few tips from a local who knows the best times to visit, where to park, and what areas won’t be as busy. Here are a few of my favorite Tulip Time tips…
Tip 1: Consider visiting the week before or the week after the official festival.
Since Michigan weather is often unpredictable, the brilliant Tulip Time designers plant tulips that bloom at different times. With early and late blooming varieties, typically the week before, the week during, and the week after the festival will all have plenty of tulips to appreciate.
While you may miss out on some specific Tulip Time activities, there will still be lots to see and do before and after the actual festival. Plus, the crowds will be much thinner!
Tip 2: Utilize the City of Holland’s Tulip Tracker.
For the most up-to-date information on tulip blooms, check the City of Holland’s online Tulip Tracker. With daily updates and a live camera, you can plan ahead to see peak tulip blooms.
Tip 3: Plan extra time to find parking.
Especially if you are visiting Tulip Time on the weekends, allow extra time to park and navigate crowds. At various times some streets may be closed for parades or Dutch dancing, so be prepared for that as well.