I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news – the days are getting longer. The bad news – they’re really cold! I’m ready to think about spring -- at least to think about spring travel. On my bucket list is a trip to the Netherlands to see the tulip fields. That’s not happening. But I have a Plan B. May 5 through May 13 Holland, Michigan will host the 89th annual Tulip Festival.Of course the stars of the festival area are the five million-plus tulips which grace city parks, tree-lined streets and anyplace there’s a square foot of soil along downtown sidewalks. More highlights of the festival include concerts with artists ranging from the Beach Boys and Texas Tenors to FiddleFire, Liverpool Legends and a combo dinner and concert by high energy New Odyssey. And that’s just the beginning of the special events.
Hollanders celebrate their Dutch heritage with groups of Dutch dancers performing daily. A Dutch Marktplaats offers Dutch-inspired food and wares. A Kinderplaats attracts families to learn more about the mother country, Netherlands. Quilts, crafts, theater, city tours and 5, 10 and 15k and a Kids’ Run add to the activities.
Tulip Festival may be the most exciting time to visit Holland, but this pretty little town is attractive any time. (Well, maybe not this week when it’s deep in snow and even colder than we are)
Jack and I visited Holland in early June last year. There were still a few tulips hanging on but were being supplanted by early summer blossoms.
The downtown is easily walk-able with the main streets lined with interesting stores, eateries and public art.
Jack and I had brought a picnic lunch and parked on 10th Street by the 5.6 acre Centennial Park. Originally the site of the town market, it was dedicated as a park in 1876. Just two blocks south of the main drag – which, unlike many towns is not called Main or Broadway but 8th Street – the park’s towering maples and 1907 bandstand made a picturesque setting for our al fresco lunch.
After lunch we meandered up to 8th and enjoyed window shopping, eyeing the food of sidewalk diners and admiring the sculptures. We didn’t really intend to shop – until we spotted the Warner Vineyards Tasting Room.
One of Michigan’s oldest wineries, Warner makes a number of varietals and blends but we couldn’t resist a sweetheart wine called Grapes of Love. We came home with two bottles – one for us and one for our son and the love of his life’s anniversary.
A stop at the Holland Visitor Center supplied us with brochures and maps for many more stops than we had time for. After admiring what might be the world’s largest wooden shoe, we walked back toward the car – passing the beautiful Ninth Street Christian Reformed Church. Dedicated in 1856, the church features a copper rooster atop its belfry. This symbol of Peter’s pride and denial of Christ is a common sight on Calvinist churches in the Netherlands.
The city of Holland was founded in 1847 by a hardy group of immigrants from the Netherlands who came to seek religious freedom and economic opportunity.
The Holland Museum across from Centennial Park houses artifacts and art that tell the history of the town. The collection of fine and decorative arts spans 400 years. My favorite item was a tall bronze clock made in the Netherlands for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. At the end of the exhibition, it was deemed too dangerous to ship it back to Europe because of the war and the clock and other objects were sent instead to Holland, Michigan where they remain.
We had only planned a day in Holland so we didn’t have time to take advantage of the driving tour of historic sites. Instead we headed for the most iconic sight in Holland – De Zwaan – the only authentic, working, Dutch windmill in the United States. Built in 1761, the mill is operated by Alisa Crawford, the only Dutch-certified professional miller in the nation.
A tour of the mill – from top to bottom – is a must. And flour milled here is available in the Windmill Island gift shop.
The gardens are a big attraction on Windmill Island, whose visitor center is a replica of a 14th century Dutch inn. An introductory film is shown here.
Other spots of interest include the beautiful gardens, a street organ donated by the city of Amsterdam as a “thank you” for gifts sent to the Netherlands following World War II, a replica of a drawbridge across the Amstel River in the province of Noord Holland and shops and exhibits in buildings replicating the Gelderland Royal Orphanage and buildings from the Zaan region.
On the way out of town we stopped at the DeKlomp Woodenshoe and Delftware Factory. Delft pottery both made in the Netherlands and here in the factory are on sale. Windows allow visitors to watch painters creating the classic blue and white designs and shoemaker Randy Kool was more than happy to talk about his craft.
Reliving our trip makes me want to go back to Holland – although I won’t make it this year. But you could go. It’s a two-long-day drive – just over 15 hours or you could break it into three days like we did. There are lots of things to see on the way. You won’t be lonely – about half a million people are expected for Festival this year. So now’s the time to reserve a place to stay. Then just sit back and wait for the spring thaw!