I'm a Zeeland native—and while it may not be Holland, I was still raised on the tulips, elephant ears and wooden shoes of Tulip Time. Not to boast, but I even got half days of school because half of the student body was performing in the festivities anyway. (That's probably why we all spell "welkom" with a "k.")
Yet, time off school isn't the only reason I have fond memories of Tulip Time. With flowers, food, entertainment and so much more, Tulip Time is one of the most magical times of the year.
So, mark your calendars! Tulip Time is May 6–14 this year. Whether you faithfully attend the festival every year, have never been, or have distant memories of tulips and wooden shoes, here's your guide to attending (and loving) Tulip Time 2017.
Each spring, Holland boasts nearly 5 million tulips in full bloom. To be fair: Michigan weather doesn't always cooperate, and then everyone starts calling Tulip Time "Stem Fest." But the tulips are right on time this year, and you can find them nearly everywhere!
The City of Holland plants over 200,000 tulips in City Parks and Downtown areas, including Waterfront Park, Tulip Lanes and 8th Street. If you're looking for a serene garden stroll, Windmill Island Gardens plants over 100,000 bulbs each year.
Whatever you do, don't pick the tulips. "It's better to ask for forgiveness than permission" doesn't apply, unless you want to be paying for forgiveness, $50 per stem.
VELDHEER'S TULIP FARM
Veldheer's plants over 5 million tulips, and you can also find De Klomp Wooden Shoe and Delft Factory—a store for all your Dutch needs.
Don't have any Dutch needs?
Wooden shoes are very practical. Check out how the shoemaker produces wooden shoes with authentic Dutch machinery, and then slip on a few extra pairs of socks (five or six should do), and bring home your own pair. De Klomp is also the only production facility of Delftware in North America. They offer over 400 different items of the world-famous Dutch pottery, hand painted by artists in the store.
And did I mention the bison? A herd of American Buffalo lives on this farm, and you can purchase USDA-quality bison meat that is grass-fed, hormone-free and antibiotic-free. Or, you know ... just admire the bison.
Thousands of spectators line the streets of Downtown Holland to watch dazzling floats, marching bands, Dutch Dancers and area organizations present their finest. Parades commandeer downtown streets on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday each year (weather permitting). Just pick a spot on 8th Street, sit back and enjoy! Reserved grandstand seating is also available near Kollen Park.
Wherever you sit, keep your eyes (and ears) peeled for the Holland High School Band. They march in wooden shoes and play the famous "Tip Toe Through the Tulips." You'll never get it out of your head.
Festival entertainment is always in full swing during Tulip Time. The Knickerbocker Theatre is hosting three great nights of performances this year, including an evening show with award-winning guitarist Duffy King on Thursday, May 11.
Friday, Andy Beningo will dish out some clean comedy, and Chicago's legendary improv group, The Second City, will have you laughing Saturday night.
Tickets for these shows and other festival events can be purchased online at www.tuliptime.com or by phone at 616.396.4221.
THE FOOD (and drink)
You definitely won't go hungry. You can find food trucks throughout downtown Holland, offering sweet fair delicacies including elephant ears, cotton candy, pizza and so much more. However, if you're looking for something a little less ... greasy ... check out deBoer Bakery and the Windmill Restaurant. Both are rumored to have the best breakfast food around, so you might have to try both and decide for yourself.
And did you know Tulip Time has its own beer? Check out The Hollander at New Holland Brewing on 8th Street.
THE DUTCH DANCERS
The Klompen Dancers are my favorite Tulip Time tradition. Nearly 1,000 locals dress in costumes patterned after traditional wear of Dutch provinces and perform a 5- to 15-minute dance to Dutch Folk music. Yes, it's a bit odd—but when you get the opportunity to wear wooden shoes and walk around in public with a funny hat, you take it.
Dancers perform daily. Check Tulip Time's master schedule online for times and locations—and watch out for flying wooden shoes.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for West Michigan Woman magazine.
Photo courtesy of Tulip Time Festival.