Tulip Time is a lovely festival that takes place each spring in Holland, which celebrates Dutch heritage, Dutch dancing, Dutch fashion, and of course iconic Dutch tulips. There’s even an authentic windmill imported from the Netherlands in 1964 that sits in Windmill Island Gardens, surrounded by fields of beautiful, blooming tulips. Millions of tulip bulbs are planted every fall by volunteers and city staff, and they burst into colorful bloom late April to early May, and it’s definitely a bucket-list worthy site! There are hundreds of varieties and dozens of colors ranging from whites and pastel pinks and yellows to deep purples, reds, and oranges, colors that look neon, and some that are very pastel, and everything in between!
Date: May 5th-13th, 2018
Location: Holland, Michigan
Cost: No Admission Fee
Parking: Plentiful Free Parking Around the City
Age Range: All Ages
Family Friendly: Yes
Handicap Accessible: Yes (except for carnival rides)
Events: Dutch Dancing, Fireworks, Tulip Tours, Artisan Markets, 5k or 10k Races, Live Music, Carnival, Parades, City Tours, Dutch Cultural Exhibits, Dutch Food & Crafts, Dutch Brunches & Traditional Foods, Yoga in the Tulips, Flower Arranging & Cooking Classes, Dinner Shows, Tall Ship Tours, Art Exhibits, Dancing & Dance Lessons, Street Food & Food Trucks, Tulip Bulb & Wooden Shoe Sales, and lots more. See full list of events and schedule here.
I’ve visited Holland’s Tulip Time Festival every year since I was a child, and it’s always been one of my favorite things to do in the state. To me, the festival is the sign that winer is over, spring is here, warmer weather is on the horizon, and the plants and flowers would be coming back to life after a long winter. If you’ve never been to the festival before, I recommend checking out the festival’s website for a list of activities that will be going on during your stay, because each day is jam packed with fun cultural events, great shopping, performances, incredible food, and of course tons of tulips!
I highly recommend seeing the Dutch dancing performances that happen multiple times a day, walking through the artisan market, trying Dutch traditional food either in one of the meal events, or at Alpine Rose Restaurant, and of course exploring the tulips in Centennial Park and Windmill Island. While on Windmill Island (which is accessible by car and a footbridge), be sure to tour the famous De Zwaan windmill, walk through the Tulip Fields, explore the artisans selling traditional crafts, visit the Dutch style buildings where you can pick up a pair of wooden shoes, and dance to organ music in the gardens. This year, I ran the Tulip Time 5k for the first time, and had a wonderful time at the after party at Boat Werks Restaurant (they even handed out Halo Top ice cream, fruit, bagels, Boxed Water, and Bai Drinks after the race). Along with entrance to the race, food, and a race shirt, entrants also got a free drink at Boat Werks, and lots of goodies from local businesses at the finish line. In addition to the race, the Tulip Time Event Coordinates set up yoga amongst the tulips, a carnival complete with rides and carnival food, and a number of live performances throughout the week, so there’s something for everyone!
The last weekend of the festival, there are fireworks that are some of the best in the state (I recommend watching them along the water in Kollen Park), and you can even book a sail down the river during the fireworks, and watch the flowers bloom in the sky while sipping on champagne and sailing into the sunset, quite literally. There’s also a photo tour on the last Saturday of the festival from 6:30-8am, where you can see the blooms before the streets are crowded with visitors, and get some incredible shots of the flowers, and Dutch heritage sites. The complete schedule of events can be found here.
Best Time to Visit
The festival planners stagger the tulips in some places, so no matter when you visit, you’ll be treated to millions of stunning tulips!
Where to Park
We always park along residential streets and walk into town, but if you get in to the city early, you can find free parking in a number of the lots downtown, but they fill up fast. Parking near Windmill Island is also free, but fills up quickly later in the afternoon. If a tour is more your speed, you can arrange to be bussed down to the island and explore it with a tour group, which means you don’t have to worry about parking or walking the distance down. This is one of the loveliest places to see the tulips.
Where to Stay
If you’re coming in from out of town, you’re going to want a place to stay! In town there are a number of lovely hotels and B&Bs including DoubleTree by Hilton, Dutch Colonial Inn Bed & Breakfast, Centennial Inn Bed & Breakfast, Hawthorn Inn, CityFlatsHotel (the only LEED/sustainable hotel in Holland), Courtyard by Marriott (Downtown), Residence Inn by Marriott Holland, Best Western Plus Holland Inn & Suites, a Hampton Inn, and a few others. All of these hotels surround themselves with tulips during this time!
What to Eat
Holland has FANTASTIC food! I love getting up early and heading to the Windmill restaurant which is right downtown. There’s even parking right out behind the restaurant. I recommend getting here early, because the place is very small, very popular, and very much worth the 30+ minute waits. Give their cinnamon rolls a try, you can even order them gluten-free or deep fried! Alpenrose Restaurant is a great place for brunch, lunch, and dinner, and they even have a great lunch buffett. I always get their Michigan Cherry Salad and Wild Mushroom Soup here, it’s delicious, plus their staff is extremely helpful. If you’re in the mood for Italian, Pereddies is a great choice. Beechwood Grill, Mizu Sushi, Crust 54, The Curragh Irish Pub (featured on my list of 50 of the Best Places to Eat in Michigan) and Russ’s are all great spots for a quick bite to eat. Orange Leaf and Peachwave both serve great frozen yogurt, and I always try to stop in each at least once a year.
There are lots of food trucks scattered around the city, and the carnival serves standard carnival fare like elephant ears, walking tacos, cotton candy, and other tasty, greasy foods. You could also pop into a cooking class, or enjoy dinner and a show, brunch and a show, or a hors d’oeuvres and drinks under the fireworks on a tall ship.
What to Wear
Weather in Michigan can be very unpredictable, so if you’re coming from out of state, pack for a range of weather from rain or a light snow to warm weather. This past weekend was in the 80s and sunny every day, but two years ago I was bundled up in a winter coat, hat, and gloves, so be ready for anything. I recommend dressing in layers, because you can always take off or add more clothing to be comfortable.
Have you ever been to Holland’s Tulip Time Festival? What keeps you coming back year after year? What’s your favorite part of the festival? What’s your favorite variety of tulips? Let me know in the comments below, and see more of my posts on Tulip Time’s Instagram account later this week as I do a “takeover” and show some more photos of the festival. To see more of my photography, click here.
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