How to Make the Most of 24 Hours at Holland’s Tulip Time Festival

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How to Make the Most of 24 Hours at Holland’s Tulip Time Festival

I am one of the lucky locals who has lived in and around Holland for the past twenty years.  Because of my proximity to downtown, I’ve had many years of experience with the Holland Tulip Festival, officially called “Tulip Time,” and have even volunteered in years past.  This itinerary is perfect if you are stopping in for a quick visit.  You’ll get a full taste of all the fun and won’t need to move your car once you’ve parked for your stay!

A Little Info on Holland’s Tulip Festival / Tulip Time

If you’ve never been to the city of Holland, you’re missing out.  Holland, Michigan, is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan on the west side of the Lower Peninsula of the United States.  It is about 30 miles southwest of Grand Rapids.  It is known for its Dutch heritage and its annual Tulip Time festival, which takes place the first full week of May.  The festival features parades, live music, dancing, and millions of tulips.

Holland is a beautiful city to visit any time of year, but Tulip Time is a particularly special time to experience its charm.  The Tulip Time Festival does not have an admission fee to come and enjoy the tulips.  Of course, you should bring some spending money because you’ll want to sample some delicious Dutch foods and experiences.

Tulip Time takes over the whole city for that first week of May, and much to my husband’s annoyance, the traffic can be challenging, with hundreds of thousands of visitors flooding in for the week.  So, this itinerary is unique because it allows you to park your car where you stay and not have to use it for your entire visit!

That’s because everything we will discuss today is within walking distance of your hotel in downtown Holland.

Where to Stay

City Flats

Of course, you may want to spend a second-day exploring options outside of our downtown area, so you’ll need a great place to stay if you’re lucky enough to be in Holland for more than a day trip.  Let me tell you about my favorite place to stay, and undoubtedly one of the best places to stay any time you are in Holland!

City Flats Hotel Holland is a boutique hotel in downtown Holland, Michigan.  A part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton, the hotel is within walking distance of many of Holland’s attractions, including the Holland Museum, Windmill Island Gardens, and the entire downtown shopping district.  City Flats Hotel Holland offers a variety of amenities, including a fitness center, a rooftop terrace, EV charging, and free parking!  You can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the in-house CitySēn Lounge Restaurant.

Once you park and check in, you’ll be in the heart of the action for the downtown Tulip Time excitement!

61 E. 7th Street, Holland, MI

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Where to Eat


Windmill Restaurant

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and you will want to start your day with this local favorite.  The Windmill Restaurant is located right on 8th Street in downtown Holland.  Be ready to mingle with some locals while you wait for your table, as the Windmill has a small dining area and a lot of love!  The line is outdoors, so you can enjoy the fresh spring air and the foot traffic in our gorgeous downtown area.

“West Michigan friendly” is real here, so don’t be surprised if you make a new friend or two while waiting for your table to open up.  But no worries – the wait is worth it.  You’ll want to try the hashbrown omelet.  This breakfast treasure comes with your choice of meat, egg, veggies, and cheese wrapped in a hefty portion of crispy hashbrowns. 

This small, family-owned restaurant is well-known and well-loved in Holland, and you’ll be glad you stopped in!

28 W. 8th Street #220, Holland, MI

An exterior view of Holland's Windmill Restaurant with a white sign out front.
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The Good Earth Café

You will find the Good Earth Café tucked away on 7th Street, right across from City Flats, which makes it the perfect place to grab a bite of lunch and then make a quick stop back at your room to prepare for your afternoon of Tulip Time fun!

The husband-and-wife team responsible for Good Earth knows what it means to serve good quality and good-for-you dishes.  They make their baked goods, even the bagels, from scratch and use all-natural ingredients.  I am extra fond of their pistachio muffins.  Yum!  They are the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of made-from-scratch soup at lunchtime.

Sandwich lovers will love the selection of Bagel sandwiches, paninis, and wraps.  Salad lovers need not feel left out, as Good Earth has several yummy options.  My favorite is the Greek salad with feta, tomatoes, and kalamata olives, served with a delicious Mediterranean feta dressing.  The only problem you’ll have here is choosing what to eat!

14 E. 7th St, Holland MI


Waverly Stone Pub

The beautiful stone exterior is the first thing you’ll notice about the Waverly Stone Gastropub.  The historic building in downtown Holland is faced with waverly stone initially sourced from a (now retired) local quarry.  The interior is lovely, with exposed brick and wood beams.  The building is striking, but you’ll especially love the food, service, and atmosphere.

This gastropub serves a wide selection of American comfort foods such as burgers, salads, sandwiches, and pasta.  After a busy day exploring the town, you’ll want to treat yourself to a drink, and you will have no problem doing that with the full selection of beer, wine, and cocktails.  Not sure what you like?  No worries!  The staff at Waverly Stone is very accommodating and loves to answer questions about the food and the drinks!

20 W. 8th Street, Holland, MI

An exterior view of Holland's Waverly Pub showing the black exterior and the sign
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What to do at Tulip Time

Daytime Activities

Now that we’ve covered the food portion of your stay let’s talk about all the fun you’ll have on a day in downtown Holland during the Tulip Time festivities.

First, you will find tulips EVERYWHERE:  on the streets, in the shops, and beautiful Centennial Park (one of 23 city parks) in downtown Holland.  Enjoy them, photograph them, and pose with them.  The tulips love it, and you’ll be in good company.  The Window on the Waterfront is a favorite place to view an assortment of tulips planted in large beds of all shapes and sizes.  This park is located on 6th Street and is also where you’ll meet for the Tulip Time walking tours.  So, let’s talk about those walking tours.

Pink background with "Hip Grandma Merch" available on front

Walking tours are led by a Dutch costume-bedecked local guide who will give you a glimpse into the fascinating history of Holland and the tulips.  While enjoying your tour through the downtown area, watch one of the Dutch Dance performances that occur on schedule every day during the festival.  Catch one of the dancers walking around in one of the various traditional Dutch costumes, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Dutch Dancers are all volunteers and are there because they love the dance. 

Take a minute to visit Dutch Village Downtown, a darling Dutch gift shop, and pick up a snack, a chunk of cheese, a Delft souvenir, or a pair of wooden shoes to bring home with you. 

If you are in Holland on Thursday or Saturday of Tulip Time, you can enjoy one of our two epic Tulip Time parades.  The Kinderparade, a children’s parade with elementary school children dressed in Dutch costumes, is on Thursday, and the Volksparade is on Saturday.  For either parade, consider purchasing a Grandstand seat ticket.

Bleachers line the parade route near the West end of 8th Street next to the Civic Center.  You will be close to restrooms and food trucks and won’t have to squeeze between others to find a seat. 

Exterior View of Dutch Village Downtown with signs and windows showing on the front of the store.

Evening Activity

After you’ve enjoyed your dinner and a cocktail, one of my favorite ways to enjoy Tulip Time is by attending one of the Tulip Time Photo Walks. This unique experience lets you see one of Holland’s most amazing beauties without the daytime Tulip Time crowds.

A pair of professional photographers will lead the Photo Walk and help you get the best photos with the camera you have in your hand.  Because this event takes place at Holland’s Windmill Island Gardens, you’ll have time to see, smell, and walk between the rows of beautiful tulips.  You’ll also be one of the lucky ones to watch the sunset behind DeZwaan, the only authentic Dutch windmill that is still working.

De Zwaan came to Holland in 1964 and was the last windmill to leave the Netherlands before they stopped exporting them.  And yes, she still works and is overseen by the world’s only female Miller.

But I digress.  Windmill Island Gardens and its 36 acres of gardens is a fantastic destination all on its own, so the opportunity to see it as the sun sets and have limited people in your photographs is worth its weight in gold!

Wrapping it All Up

After your whirlwind of a day in Holland, I bet you’ll feel like you’ve seen it all.  But wait!  There’s more!  You’ve barely scratched the surface of attractions and sites in our beautiful Holland at Tulip Time.  On your second day in Holland, check out Veldheer Tulip Gardens, where you can purchase tulip bulbs, check out the wooden shoe factory, and take home a piece of genuine Dutch pottery from the on-site delft factory.

Stop in at Nelis’ Dutch Village, where you can ride the Ferris wheel, take a spin on the carousel, check out the petting zoo, and have a great time learning about Dutch Culture.  Tulip Time has also added a tulip immersion garden and the Tulip Time quilt show at the local Beechwood Church’s campus.  And don’t leave town without visiting Holland State Park, home of Big Red Lighthouse.

Be careful.  Many folks have fallen in love with Holland in just one short visit.  But come on back!  We love the visitors, and there’s always something happening here in our great town!

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