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Tulip Time Festival in Holland, Michigan, the town’s Dutch heritage festival that celebrates more than 5 million iconic Dutch tulips, is one of my favorite festivals. To me, Tulip Time represents the beginning of warmer weather and heralds the arrival of spring. After the long, dark, and freezing cold winters Michigan experiences every year, millions of delicate, colorful tulips unfurling is a very welcome sight for winter-weary hearts and minds.
My Guide to Tulip Time and My Guide to the Tulips of the Festival respectively explain what happens during the festival, and which varieties of tulips are showcased at Tulip Time, whereas this guide will focus on how best to enjoy and explore the festival. I’ll also be sharing some of my favorite, beautiful, “lesser known” spots around the town so that even when the festival is in full swing and crowded, you can find wonderful spots to enjoy the cultural festivities and tulips.
My husband and I have always been early risers, so it’s no trouble for us to get up before sunrise to head out to explore the tulips as the sun comes up. If you’re not someone who likes to rise with the sun, Tulip Time is the perfect time to make an exception. Grab a cup of coffee, a jacket, and walking shoes, and head out early to explore the town before most others are even awake. Seeing millions of tulips with no one else around is such a beautiful experience. I promise you it will be with the loss of sleep. It’s also the perfect way to get great shots without other people in them.
Remember that it is a crime to pick or damage the tulips in any way, so if you’re taking photos between the rows of tulips, or next to them, be very careful. We witnessed people sprawling out on top of the beds of tulips, or crushing lots of flowers when they went to squat down. This is not only incredibly disrespectful to everyone who will arrive after you, but you can get in serious trouble with the police and the city. It’s totally possible to take amazing photos with the tulips while being respectful. In fact, photos look best when the subject is NOT surrounded by broken flowers they’ve destroyed!
To take gorgeous flowers with the tulips, arrive early to get shots without people in them, or find tulips planted in front of a storefront and stand between the planted patch of tulips and the building façade. If the photographer gets low (while being mindful of street traffic and others, of course) and shoots up from the tulips towards you, you can get lots of tulips in the frame. There is no reason to ever walk, sit, stand, squat, or jump in the tulips because there are paths next to each tulip plot.
Do a little research and plan your itinerary ahead of time, and be sure to book whichever tickets you may need in advance since things tend to sell out quickly. Below are some of my favorite events that happen during the festival!
- The 5k / 10k Tulip Time Run
This year there were more than 4,000 runners! Look at this sea of orange! After the race, participants enjoyed post-workout snacks, Boxed Water, guided stretching, and an awards ceremony to celebrate the runners who finished with the fastest times.
- Yoga in the Tulips
Bring your own towel and mat, and prepare for a wonderful, tranquil experience amongst the blooms!
- Tall Ship Dockside Tours & Lindy Lou River Cruise
Explore a replica Sloop called Friends Good Will and learn about the history of the Great Lakes and how it relates to Dutch heritage during the Dockside Tours, 10 am – 4 pm daily behind Boatwerks Restaurant. The Lindy Lou River Cruise is a journey on Lake Macatawa during which the captain regales passengers with the history of the town and its rich history in maritime adventures, boat building, and the area’s contributions to wars throughout the last century.
- Tulips & Juleps Derby Party
We attended for the first time this year, and we enjoyed watching the Kentucky Derby, drinking mint juleps, and socializing at Boatwerks restaurant in our brightest derby wear. In addition to the aforementioned activities, they also had bourbon tastings around the party and a silent auction.
- Windmill Island Gardens
This is my favorite place in all of Holland. It’s home to the beautiful De Zwaan Dutch Windmill, a fields of gorgeous tulips. It’s the perfect place to have a picnic, go for a run or walk, and just enjoy the festival.
On the final Saturday of the festival, the city of Holland and Tulip Time Festival put on one of the best fireworks displays in the entire state. Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved fireworks, and I’m always so excited for the display during Tulip Time. Get a great view along Lake Macatawa!
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