Two Awesome Mitten contributors visited Holland Michigan on a #MittenTrip and shared a great recap of their trip, including the best things to do in Holland Michigan.
Situated on the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan, Holland is a vacation destination for many Michiganders throughout the warmer months of the year. Whether it’s the draw of the sandy beaches, the annual Holland Michigan Tulip Time Festival, Dutch history and architecture, or simple the quaintness of downtown Holland, there are so many great things to do in Holland Michigan – perfect for a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or even just a short day trip to the lakeshore with friends.
About Holland Michigan
Holland Michigan was founded by Dutch settlers in the 1840s. By the 20thcentury, Holland was home to many industries where stuff ranging from pickles to pianos was being created.
Holland was, and still is, tied closely to the Netherlands. In 1910, the Nelis family first ventured to the United States. They were so in awe of the beauty that is West Michigan, they purchased land and began growing produce. During the Great Depression, the family started growing flowers, specifically tulips. This business became quite successful, and as an added feature the family began to import Dutch goods to sell in their shop. By 1952, the Nelis’ small operation was outgrowing its small beginnings, so the family purchased land on a small two-lane road that would become Dutch Village.
Things to Do in Holland Michigan’s Downtown Shopping District
Early on Saturday morning, we did some quick research to find a place that was serving breakfast and would be a good place to start adventuring.
We settled on The Biscuit in Holland’s Washington Square. It was a quaint little breakfast joint situated outside of the downtown area, where we foundseveral other newer businesses making a name for themselves. We tried the Eggs Harper Rose (named after the owner’s daughter) and the Nor’Easter Scramble with the specialty biscuit for the day. It was a delicious meal, but there was a bit of a wait since it’s a popular place on the weekends. I took the opportunity to peruse the Shoreline Visitors’ Guide to get a feel for what else Holland had to offer for the weekend.
New Holland Brewery
We meant to check out the farmers’ market following breakfast, but the rain had other plans for us. Instead, we grabbed our umbrellas and headed toward New Holland Brewery. With the intention of checking out their Bloody Mary Bar, we found a seat on the coveredpatio to enjoy being outside but with some shelter. The rain was relentless, so we made ourselves comfortable and did some beer tasting after the Bloody Mary. When the rain showers transitioned into a tornado warning, we packed up and headed indoors with a bit of urgency. Looking for a place to wait out the storm, we went into the brewery’s shop, Sidecar, where we indulged in all of the whiskey their spirit menu had to offer. It wasn’t the worst way to wait out a storm, that’s for sure!
As a life-long Michigander, the case can be made that most lakeside towns have little boutique shops, restaurants, sweet shops (as in the best fudge and ice cream), and that about ends the tour. But, for Holland, this was just the beginning.
Window on the Waterfront & Hops at 84 East
Now that the sun was out, the adventures were much easier to enjoy, so we made plans for a walk to a park, Window on the Waterfront, following some food at Hops at 84 East. The park was vibrant and green, and it was tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the tourists in Holland’s downtown area — a great place to wander, rest, and recharge.
Heading back toward our car, we stopped at Lemonjello’s for a “Buzzed Latte” made with honey and vanilla. We needed a little pick-me-up before heading over to another park, Windmill Island Gardens.
Dutch Things to Do in Holland Michigan
Windmill Island Gardens in Holland Michigan
If you haven’t had enough Dutch heritage yet, don’t worry — there is more! Our secondDutch experience was at Windmill Island Gardens – a municipal park on the edge of the city that offers the only authentic working Dutch windmill in the US. The gardens are full of flowers (especially the tulip gardens that Holland is infamous for), whimsical landscaping, a large windmill, and plenty of places to roam.
This windmill is called a DeZwaan – meaning ‘graceful bird.’ The park is quite picturesque, featuring well-kept gardens full of flowers (obviously with plenty of the signature tulips), a bridge perfect for a selfie, walking paths around the outer edge, and even a carousel for the kids. We even considered crashing a wedding taking place at the beautiful park that weekend!
DeBoer Dutch Brothers Cafe & Bakkerij
Indulging in Holland’s Dutch history, we joined the masses at deBoer Bakkerij. The place had a wait, even in the early morning hours of a late-summer Sunday, which is always a good sign. We had several other folks along our trip mention this place, including a local who explained this was the one place she desperately wanted to go for her birthday.
The restaurant and bakery was the hot spot for Dutch food in Holland, MI. Some of the flour from the DeZwaan mentioned above is used in their bakery – talk about sourcing locally! From the healthy Veggie Power Blend Skillet featuring “super foods” to Old World Biscuits and Gravy, you can find something delicious to eat no matter what you’re craving. Just looking for something sweet? Try a Klompen Cake (a buttermilk pancake) or Sugar Bread, their traditional egg bread loaded with chopped sugar cubes and cinnamon, fried with butter and served with fresh strawberries (I can’t make this kind of thing up).
Nelis Dutch Village
Wedidn’t want the Dutch experience to end, so we headed over to Nelis Dutch Villageto get a more interactive history lesson. This attraction has something to offer the whole family, and we had a great time checking out the replica village before heading back to our side of the state.
As we entered Nelis Dutch Village, a young girl dressed in traditional Dutch garb asked if we would like to hear a song. Of course, we said yes! She then placed a songbook into the street organ (that was about the size of a wall) and pressed some pedals then, as it has for many years, the very large wall of sound began to play. I couldn’t help but smile.
Dutch Village consists of 30 structures all paying homage to different parts of Dutch culture, from cheese making to candle making to the carving of wooden footwear known as clogs. We watched several demonstrations and also witnessed many families taking candid photos with horse sculptures and tulip gardens. We wandered over to the petting zoo and fed baby goats, bunnies, and even a llama. It was truly an experience for all.
Lake Michigan & Holland State Park Beach
Although the weather was not going to allow for us to spend real time at Holland State Park Beach, we still wanted to visit Lake Michigan before we left town on Sunday. A friend recommended James Street Beach, so we bypassed the more popular Tunnel Park for the hidden gem that is situated at the end of James Street. I’m not sure how much of Holland’s shoreline you’ve seen lately, but “beach” is a generous term. We had a great time following the trail to the sandy area that led straight to the water. Nothing is more exciting and magical than Lake Michigan in the morning — especially a morning after a storm.
Lake Michigan is beautiful, clean, large, obviously great (hehe), and can be enjoyed in a day trip from Metro Detroit. So, to me, Holland was a city that granted access to Lake Michigan. Most of my trips to Holland have been spent lying on the beach, eating a late lunch or early dinner Downtown, and retiring to a three-hour car ride home or a B&B for the night.
Known best for its soft and sandy Lake Michigan beaches and sand dunes, breathtaking sunsets, and iconic views of the “Big Red” Lighthouse, Holland State Park is one of the most visited Michigan State Parks. Over 142 acres, Holland State Park is home to Lake Macatawa with a channel connecting the inland lake to Lake Michigan. You can come for a day or stay the night at one of the two modern campgrounds.
Where to Stay in Holland Michigan: Lake Ranch Resort
Nestled on Lake Macatawa, Holland’s Lake Ranch Resort has a friendly staff, is located close to Holland State Park, and is convenient to the area’s many offerings of food and outdoor entertainment. As soon as we arrived, the owner, Bill Grimes, graciously welcomed us to the establishment and gave us a thorough overview of Holland’s downtown and various other spots along Ottawa Beach Road.
More Must-Visit Restaurants in Holland Michigan
Itty Bitty Bar
One of the things to do in Holland Michigan that our host suggested was visiting the Itty Bitty Bar. After we settled into our cozy room on Friday night, we decided to head to the bar for a drink to unwind from the drive. It was a lively setting with live music and a jovial crowd. We didn’t stay long since we had been on the move most of the day, but it was a great place to orient ourselves in the #MittenTrip mindset with other tourists and several locals.
We returned again on Saturday eveningto try some of their food because so many people had been raving about it. Believe me – we made the right choice. For a bar situated outside the main downtown bustle, it was sure busy because everyone knows what we were quick to discover — that menu was delicious!
Short’s Brewing Company
A scrumptious dinner wasn’t enough to keep us up much later, though, so we headed back to the resort for some Short’s Brewing Company beers on the docks before turning in for the night.
What are your favorite things to do in Holland Michigan? How do you make the most of a weekend getaway to Holland?
photos and article contributed by Amanda Brewington & Joanna Dueweke