When the beginning of May rolls around, residents of the Midwest and beyond make their way to Holland, Mich., for the annual Tulip Time Festival. This year’s event is May 5-13. What started as a flower festival 89 years ago is now an international event that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors during a two-week period. Here are five not-to-miss stops graced by tulips that every newcomer should see — and repeat visitors might remember.
1Parades! Three outstanding parades march for two miles through downtown Holland. There’s the People’s Parade, the Children’s Parade and the popular Muziekparade. What they have in common is live marching bands — the Holland High School Marching Band kicks its heels in wooden shoes. Costumed Dutch dancers and lots of floats plus mascots usually show up from Michigan State. There is a “Dutch,” who marches to his own tune. P.S. Visitors can snare tickets for grandstand seating or bring their own chairs; spots on the sidewalk and street can be saved after 6 a.m. the morning of any of the parades.
2Marktplaatz & Dutch Food Court set up at The Commons at Evergreen. Inside, artisans demonstrate traditional Dutch crafts from 19th-century Holland from painting to the carving of wooden shoes. There are food vendors sampling Dutch treats such as Gouda cheese to take home. P.S. Stay for stage events that include Dutch Dance performances, heritage presentations and Tulip Master Gardener lectures. Good news: Admission is free.
38th Street shopping opportunities line both sides of the street in an award-winning downtown known for integrating green space in commercial areas, sculptures, street musicians and sidewalk cafes. An abundance of locally owned shops and boutiques, restaurants from sushi to pizza and Michigan wine tasting and a locally owned bookstore offer plenty of window shopping opportunities. Yes, you can shop for wooden shoes, but there is a lot more 5th Avenue style inside the retail stores. P.S. Hope College’s Knickerbocker Theater specializes in fine art films such as a recent and exclusive viewing of “Lucky” to honor the career of the late Harry Dean Stanton. During Tulip Time, the stage acquiesces to live performances such as those teed up for this year’s festival: River City Improv, Joshua Davis and Jake Kershaw.
4Windmill Gardens provides an oasis of 36 acres of gardens replete with dikes, canals and walking paths. There are tulips, too — more than 150,000 of them. The authentic working Dutch windmill is the draw. Coming in a close second? An Antique Children’s Carousel, plus an Amsterdam Street Organ. Be sure to see the authentic Historic Dutch Trade Fair and sample wares from Tante Nellie’s Kitchen. P.S. Runners in your party? For a refreshing start to the day, take off for a run along the Windows on the Waterfront trail — it leads to Windmill Gardens.
5Centennial Park plays an integral role in the history of Holland. There’s a statue honoring Holland’s founder, Albertus Van Raalte. It was the town’s original marketplace and follows the style of the Victorian era. For Tulip Time, the Artisan Market sets up bright white tents in the park, and Dutch Dance performances are scheduled for adults and for Kinder/Middel Dutch dancers. All in costume. P.S. Central Wesleyan Church opens its doors to headliners during Tulip Time. This year? The Beach Boys will be in town. So will The Texas Tenors and the Liverpool Legends.