5 Ways to Experience Europe in Holland, Michigan

CloseUpTulips

Photo courtesy of Holland Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

You don’t need a passport to enjoy a true Dutch experience in Holland, Michigan! Immerse yourself in historic art and artifacts at the Holland Museum, tiptoe through the tulips in a city park, or kayak in the shadow of a 270-year-old working Dutch windmill.  Here are 5 favorite ways to experience historic and hip Holland without traveling overseas! 

5. History right here! Holland, Michigan was founded in 1847 by Dutch settlers, and you’ll find their stories woven into Holland’s rich historic fabric at the Holland Museum. A curated collection of Dutch history and artifacts tell the story of the immigrants and settlers who now call Holland home, while the 2nd floor Dutch Galleries showcase paintings by influential Dutch artists. The Cappon and Settlers Houses, restored homes of early Holland residents, depict contrasting lifestyles of our Dutch ancestors.

Windmill

Photo courtesy of Holland Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

4. Windmill Island Gardens is home to DeZwaan Windmill, the only authentic working Dutch windmill in the United States. Stroll along the dikes, canals, and flower beds overflowing with more than 100,000 tulips. Tour
DeZwaan, and learn how our Dutch-certified miller grinds the local winter wheat into flour; enjoy performances of costumed-dancers in wooden shoes or take a spin on a hand-painted Dutch carousel.   2015 marks the 50th anniversary of DeZwaan in Holland, MI, and we’re celebrating with special events throughout the spring and summer.

3. “Klomping” in the streets! You won’t want to miss a performance by Holland’s famous “Dutch Dancers”! During the Tulip Time Festival over 1000 dancers hit the streets numerous times clad in authentic Dutch costumes and wooden “klompen” to entertain visitors and locals alike.  At Nelis’ Dutch Village, one of Holland’s popular Dutch attractions, you and your family can join in the fun and learn a few steps. And this year, during the Tulip Time festival, join the community at “Klomp the Record”, where we vie for the title of ‘Most People Dancing in Wooden Shoes at One Time’. More info here: TulipTime.com/Klomp.

2. The food! Savor a taste of the Netherlands with delicious Dutch pastries handcrafted at DeBoer Dutch Brothers Cafe & Bakkerij, a fifth-generation Dutch bakery. Try the krakalingen, a figure-8 shaped butter cookie covered with a sprinkle of sugar or the banket, flaky pastry filled with a rich almond paste. And don’t forget to stop by the Thirsty Dutchman Pub for an imported Dutch bier (or a local microbrew!) at Nelis’ Dutch Village also home of the Hungry Dutchman Café, which serves traditional Dutch food.

1. Check out the tulips! More than 6 million tulips bloom in Holland each spring as we celebrate our annual Tulip Time Festival. This year’s festival is May 2 – 9. Drive the 6 miles of Tulip Lanes, stroll through Window on the Waterfront Park, city-owned growing fields with 80,000 tulips, or stop at Veldheer Tulip Gardens ablaze with 4,000,000 tulips. And remember…you don’t need a passport!

Behind-the-Scenes of Tulip Time in Holland

From May 4-11, more than 500,000 people from around the world will travel to Holland, Michigan to experience the 2013 Tulip Time Festival. The festival features Dutch dance performances, concerts, theatre, food, parades and more – all of which take a lot of time and dedication to produce by a team of more than 800 people.

Gwen Auwerda, Executive Director of the festival, gives us a sneak peek at what goes into the making of Tulip Time.

In Holland, Michigan, it rained for 13 days in a row this month and the tulips are loving it! The town is being spruced up from a long winter and the Tulip Time Festival staff and interns are busy with the finishing touches on all the great events, entertainment and parades.

Here are just some of the many things that happen behind-the-scenes in Holland as we prepare for the festival.

Prepping Pigs-in-a-Blanket

500 dozen pigs-in-a-blanket – a traditional Dutch food – were made by a group of volunteers from First United Methodist Church.  “Pigs” as we call them are a sausage roll covered with pastry dough and served to thousands of visitors at Dutch Marketplaats lunch in our Civic Center.  This is quite a time honored tradition for the church.

Marching Band Practice

Thirty bands are practicing their marching skills and will be marching in the Saturday GMB Muziekparade, the longest parade in Michigan at 2.4 miles. The Columbia Central High School Golden Eagle Marching Band from Brooklyn, Michigan is anticipating its 69th year marching in the Tulip Time Festival GMB Muziekparade! Starting in 1941, this band has traveled nearly 300 miles round trip each year to participate in the Tulip Time Festival parades. Some of the group’s favorite memories of the Festival include the inconsistent weather conditions our lovely Lake Michigan provides each year, the thrill of the crowds’ response to the band’s performances and the seemingly timeless experience the festival provides. 

This year, May 11th is the day of the GMB Muziekparade, but also another important day in the lives of CCHS students: it’s Prom night! This important celebration of high school is not deterring the band from making its appearance at Tulip Time. Director Joe Folts lends this dedication to tradition and loyalty. He says that “Kids wouldn’t think of not going to the festival – it’s not a question, it’s a treasured tradition.”

Some band members are second generation marchers making participating even more important and special for the Golden Eagles.

Dutch Dance Rehearsals

Dutch Dancing is another signature event during the festival.  The dancers typically learn the dance in high school and can continue dancing as an “alumni dancer” after graduation.  This year, we have over 900 dancers who wear clothing representing the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Practices begin in January and the dancers spend 30 hours over the next 4 months learning the dance. This event is a visitor favorite and free! 

We couldn’t put together an internationally known flower festival without our beloved volunteers.  It takes over 800 volunteers over an 8 day period to help with trash pickup, ushering at the shows, set-up, deliver potted tulips to the venues around the city, assist with the Tulip Time run, Queen’s Day Bike Criterium and the three parades.  It is because of the dedication of these volunteers that our city can invite over 500,000 guests to Join the Dance!  We hope to see you in beautiful Holland for the 84th Tulip Time Festival.

Gwen Auwerda is the Executive Director of the Tulip Time Festival in Holland.

Are you heading to Tulip Time this year? Share with us below!