6 Million Tulips in a Day: Holland, Michigan
Updated: Sep 22
See over 6 million tulips and experience Dutch culture for a day at Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan. Started by Dutch settlers in 1929, Tulip Time is the largest tulip festival in the United States. My friends and I took a day trip from Chicago (a 2.5-hour drive each way) to visit Holland during Tulip Time. Below is an itinerary with tips on how to make the most of a day trip and how to avoid crowds and traffic jams.
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Visit Windmill Island Gardens
In an effort to beat crowds and lines, start your day at Windmill Island Gardens. Lines later in the day had 45- to 60-minute wait times to enter the garden. In 2021 they are limiting the park to 1,000 visitors at a time. During a non-COVID time the lines may be less of an issue.
The park opens at 9am. The last admission is sold at 6pm and they close at 7pm. The Windmill Island Gardens parking lot will fill up fast, especially during Tulip Time. I recommend parking near the Windows on the Waterfront Park and walking to the gardens from there. It is about a mile walk each way. Start your walk at 8:30 to arrive when the gardens open. For the walk, follow signs towards the Macatawa Marsh. The trail follows along marshlands of the Macatawa River with views of the windmill in the distance.
Entrance to the Windmill Island Gardens is free. The gardens showcase 122,000 tulips and the famous 3-story tall De Zwaan Windmill. It is the oldest, authentic working Dutch windmill in the United States. The windmill was built in 1761 and brought to the United States in 1964. It was the last windmill to ever leave the Netherlands. The Netherlands stopped allowing their windmills to be sold and shipped abroad.
The gardens also have a Dutch carousel, a Dutch food truck (Tante Nellie’s Kitchen), a colorful replica Dutch village and an Amsterdam street organ.
After visiting the Windmill Island Gardens, walk back to Windows on the Waterfront Park and walk around it as well. It has another 94,000 planted tulips.
Visit Veldheer’s Tulip Farm and the DeKlomp Wooden Shoe & Delft Factory
Next, drive 5 minutes out of downtown to this 40-acre farm with 6 million colorful tulips. It is the site near Holland, Michigan that showcases the largest number of tulips. The farm has been owned by the same family for 80 years. It opens at 8am during the festival weeks and at 9am outside of the festival. After 10:30 am expect there to be a line. The line was only a 10-15 minute wait, significantly shorter than Windmill Island Gardens’ line.
Tickets to enter cost $15 and can be bought online in advance or when you arrive. At the entrance, the farm will provide you with a pencil and shopping booklet that outlines all of the types of tulips available for sale and their corresponding numbers. They sell over 800 varieties! As you walk through the fields of tulips, each section has a wooden marker with the corresponding tulip number on it. If you are interested in purchasing tulips, take notes in the booklet as you see varieties that you like.
Even if you don’t plan to purchase any bulbs, it is fun to learn the names of the tulips and to see the unique varieties. There were dozens of tulip colors, shapes, and petals that we had never seen before.
There is also a photogenic windmill on the farm.
The back section of the farm, away from the entrance, was our favorite part. This area showcases rows of mixed colors of tulips all planted together. The tulips were not only eye candy but were fun to photograph as well.
After you have finished walking through the fields (and taking pictures!), go inside to the bulb ordering store. Here they have walls lined with pictures of each tulip type. If you were so in awe of the tulips that you forgot to note down tulip numbers while outside, it’s easy to shop using the pictures in the store. The tulips roughly cost $10 for 10 tulip bulbs. The farm will ship you the bulbs in October, which is tulip planting time.. They charged $12.95 for shipping, for any size order and destination.
Beyond the bulb ordering section there is also a gift store with other plant and flower seeds as well as tulip-themed gifts.
In non-COVID years, visitors can go to the Delft Pottery and Wooden Shoe Factory that is on the farm. Artists often paint the blue and white detailed Delft pottery onsite.
I recommend eating lunch outside of the downtown area to avoid the traffic, crowds and long waits for tables. See Where to Eat for a couple dining options outside of downtown (but only a 5 minute drive away), including an authentic Dutch restaurant.
Drive Through Tulip Lanes
After lunch, my friends and I drove through Tulip Lanes. There are 12 miles of local roads with 250,000 tulips planted along them. The route also drives through Holland’s historic district. Download the Tulip Time map online to use for driving the Tulip Lanes. The lanes are marked in purple on the 2021 map below.
The streets with boulevards down the middle, Washington Ave and 12th street, were the most picturesque. They not only have stunning tulips, but also have flowering cherry and crabapple trees. We pulled over and walked through these sections to take photos.
Walk through Downtown Holland
In downtown Holland, stop at Centennial Park for more tulip viewing. This Victorian-style park has 43,400 tulips, and hosted an artisan market pre-COVID.
Then walk down the downtown shopping district on 8th Street. Not all of the stores were open (for COVID reasons or for Sunday closures) but we particularly enjoyed the two mentioned below.
Where to Shop in Holland, Michigan:
Featuring Dutch and European goods, this housewares, decor and gift shop offers unique notecards, pillows, rugs, dishtowels, plates, mugs, holiday decor, jams and more.
Tikal sells modern women’s clothing and accessories at reasonable prices.
Other Optional Tulip Time Activities:
If you are traveling with children, it’s worth considering a stop at Nelis Dutch Village. This authentic 1800’s Dutch village theme park features a wooden shoe factory, cheese-making, a petting zoo and staff dressed in traditional Dutch clothing. There are also 15,000 tulips throughout the park!
The Dutch Marktplaats
This is a gift and food market located in the Holland Civic Center Place.
In downtown Holland, you’ll find a small carnival with rides (including a ferris wheel) and fair food like elephant ears, cotton candy and more.
Notes for Future Tulip Time Festivals
There are numerous events that are typically part of the festival that were cancelled in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you visit in future years there is typically a Tulip Time Artisan Market in Centennial Park, a parade, and live music and dance performances. There also were discussions of adding an artist-created tulip immersion experience.
Parking Tips for Tulip Time
Parking was less stressful than we anticipated. The best strategy is to plan to park a few blocks away from the stop you are making, not directly next to it. Not only will it be easier to find a spot, you avoid sitting in the traffic congestion as well. We had better luck with street parking than trying for spots in the crowded lots. Look for white markings on the side of streets, they indicate car spaces and that parking is allowed.
What to Eat in Holland, Michigan During Tulip Time
Pea soup- A traditional Dutch soup made from dried peas and spices.
Pigs-in-a-blanket- Dutch flavored sausage in flaky puff pastry
Leyden cheese- A semi-hard cheese flavored with cumin and caraway seed
Frikadellen-Pan-fried meatballs of minced meat
Bitterballen- A thick meat based stew that is refrigerated and then fried in a ball shape.
Stroopwafel-Two cookies, that are the cookie version of a waffle, with caramel sandwiched in between. Stroopwafel cookies pair perfectly with a hot coffee that can melt the caramel a bit before you enjoy it. These were for sale at De Boer Bakkerij and Dutch Brothers Restaurant.
Poffertjes- Mini, fluffy pancakes
Dutch Fat Balls (Or Dutch Oliebollen, or Dutch Donuts)-A mini fried pastry ball that is considered a precursor to the American donut. It is traditionally made with flavorings of apple, cinnamon, and raisins, but now is sold with additional fillings like chocolate, cream and other fruits. There was a food stand near Centennial Park selling them.
Where to Eat in Holland, Michigan During Tulip Time
If you want to try authentic Dutch food while in Holland, I highly recommend De Boer Bakkerij and Dutch Brothers Restaurant for your lunch stop. They serve traditional Dutch dishes like pea soup, croquettes, pigs in a blanket, and Klompen cakes. We waited about 20 minutes for a table. If you are short on time they also have a bakery to buy bread, pastries and coffees to go. Their Northside location on Douglas Ave is open until 1pm and serves breakfast all day as well as lunch after 11am.
We ordered the “Taste of the Old Country” to sample many of the traditional Dutch foods they make. The pigs in a blanket was our favorite item on the plate. The Klompen cake, a fluffier version of pancake, was worth ordering too.
Boatwerks is a waterfront dining option outside of downtown that serves salads, burgers, sandwiches and pizzas.
Road Trip Stops for Drives to Holland, Michigan
If you are driving from Chicago or on a similar route, there are many options for stops along the way. It is easy to visit Indiana Dunes National Park, go riding on Dune Buggies in Michigan, wine taste near Saugatuck, Michigan or stop in the waterfront towns of South Haven or Saint Josef.
When to Go See Tulips in Holland, Michigan
The official Tulip Time Festival usually runs the first Saturday in May through the 2nd Sunday of May. Check the festival’s official site for the actual dates. During the festival, the weekdays will be significantly less crowded than the weekends. Monday through Friday they also offers some activities not available on the weekends, like photography tours, yoga in the tulips and floral arrangement classes.
If your primary reason for visiting is to see tulips, I recommend visiting Holland Michigan outside of the Tulip Time Festival weeks. The Veldheer Farm website will let you know what the exact peak blooming date is expected for the year. The majority of the tulips will be colorful the week before and the week after the festival from mid-April to mid-May. During these weeks visitors can enjoy all of the same sites and tulips, without the crowds, lines and traffic. You will miss out on any parades, dance performances, concerts or temporary carnivals. If those activities are important to you then visit during the actual festival weeks.
Trip Dates: May 2021
Article Updated: May 2021