500K expected to visit Tulip Time Festival in Holland

Greg Tasker
Special to The Detroit News

Holland’s Tulip Time Festival, the longest-running tulip festival in the United States, is in full swing this week, returning after a two-year hiatus because of the pandemic.

More than 500,000 people are expected to visit the colorful festival, which celebrates Holland’s Dutch heritage and culture every May. The pandemic marks the only time the festival was canceled (the 2021 festival was held virtually). 

Visitors view tulip plantings in Holland on the first day of the annual Tulip Time festival in this file photo.

“This year is shaping up to be our biggest yet, and we couldn’t be more excited to have such a good showing for our comeback festival,” says Ben DeVries, who handles marketing and communications for Tulip Time Festival. 

While the 6 million tulips planted throughout the small west Michigan city are the stars, there’s plenty of other activities and attractions to entertain. You’ll find blooming tulips in fields, parks, gardens and along the curbs of Holland’s streets. A carnival, dancers performing in wooden shoes, and parades are all part of the fun. The Volksparade is from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in downtown Holland (kicks off with the traditional street scrubbing).

The festival runs through Sunday. Early, mid and late varieties of tulips have been planted around the city, and the festival is planned around peak bloom when 80% of the tulips are in bloom.  The tulips are expected to last until the end of the month.


Some things to know before you go

Tulip viewing: Among the best locations to see tulips (all of them are free except Windmill Island):

Centennial Park: Tulips are planted along brick pathways through this 5.6-acre park between 10th and 12th streets and River and Central avenues. Once the city’s marketplace, the Victorian-era park features a fountain in its center. The park is also the site to see costumed dancers perform during the festival. 

Downtown Holland: Thousands of tulips bloom in the heart of the city’s downtown, with flower beds and planters, prominent along 8th Street, between Columbia and Pine.

Window on the Waterfront Park: You’ll find more than 100,000 tulips at this 30-acre park. Walking paths wind through tulip fields and past tulip beds. You’ll also find photo stands, life-size statues in traditional Dutch attire, scenic overlooks and open spaces. The park is located at 110 Columbia Ave.

Tulip Lanes: Some 250,000 tulips are planted along six miles of streets through Holland’s neighborhoods, including the city’s historic district, where many of the commercial buildings were constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Perhaps the most stunning stretches are along Washington Avenue and 12th Street, where flowering Kwanzan cherry, crab and plum trees add to the scenery. 

Windmill Island Gardens: Located at the edge of downtown Holland, the gardens are home to De Zwaan, a centuries-old working Dutch windmill transported from the Netherlands. The windmill towers over acres of gardens, dikes, canals and picnic areas. More than 100,000 tulips will be in bloom. For kids, there’s an antique Dutch Carousel, featuring hand-carved and painted wooden horses, a playground and children’s gardens. The gardens are located at 1 Lincoln Ave.

Short history lesson: The festival evolved from a suggestion made at a Woman’s Literary Club meeting in 1927. Lida Rogers, a local high school biology teacher, suggested the city adopt the tulip as its flower because of the city’s close ties to the Netherlands and set aside a day for a festival. As part of the initial event in 1929, the city planted more than 100,000 tulips. Tulip Time continued through World War II but was scaled back significantly to accommodate rationed materials and the many men and women serving in the war effort.

Now in its 93rd year, the festival has evolved to include entertainment, events and activities and parades.

Not-to-miss: New this year are the Tulip Immersion Garden and the Zeeland Girl Exhibit, both first-of-their-kind events in the United States. The Tulip Immersion Garden takes tulip viewing to a new level — eye level. Dutch horticulturist Ibo Gulsen has created raised gardens packed with more than 50,000 tulips of all varieties and colors. The Zeeland Girl Exhibit is a photographic series by Dutch photographer Rem van den Bosch. The collaborative project features hand-sewn traditional dresses with modern spins, meant to inspire discussions about mutual respect, solidarity and care for the environment.


Attractions 

Veldheer's Tulip Gardens & DeKlomp Wooden Shoe & Delft Factoryory: Here’s a one-stop shop for all things Dutch. Veldheer is Holland’s only tulip farm and perennial garden. Veldeer plants more than 5.5 million tulips for visitors to see in the garden. At the shoe factory, you can see wooden shoes made from a block of poplar wood using Dutch machinery still in use in Europe. Sizes are available from small doll size to size 14 adult. 

Nelis’ Dutch Village: Celebrating all things Dutch, this family-owned theme park has something for everyone. There are farm animals and rides — including a giant wooden shoe slide and 1924 carousel — for the kids, and craft demonstrations, wood shoe carving and Dutch Dancing for everyone. The park is a re-creation of a Dutch village from another century. 

Downtown Holland: Besides tulips, this city on Lake Macatawa boasts plenty of shopping, restaurants, breweries and small museums. For more information, go here.

If you go

Tulip Time Festival

Through Sunday, May 15

Holland

800-822-2770

www.tuliptime.com

For maps, parking and transportation, go here.