Exploring Downtown Holland MI: Fun Things to Do

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Holland Michigan is home to millions of tulips, celebrated each spring in the Tulip Time Festival. Photo credit: Holland Michigan

The City of Holland is a unique small town in west Michigan on the shore of Lake Michigan, a short drive from Saugatuck. Here you’ll find beautiful beaches, plenty to explore and see and a quaint downtown focused on authentic Dutch culture. Not to mention a wide variety of shopping and dining options! Visit in springtime to enjoy their annual Tulip Time festival, held the first week of May. But Holland has much to offer during any time of year for plenty of family fun and it makes a great Michigan weekend getaway.

Read More: Best Midwest Road Trips for Families

Downtown Holland

Joy of Music sculpture in downtown Holland MI
Called ‘Joy of Music’ this sculpture can be found at Alpenrose Park in downtown Holland. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

Located on the south shore of Lake Macatawa, Holland’s downtown is a unique mix of culture and opportunity. It’s not just the attractive brick architecture of adjoining Hope College. There’s something different about what at first glance appears to be a rather stereotypical Michigan small-town downtown area. Maybe it’s the outdoor brick fireplace that’s kept burning every day where locals and tourists can gather to rest and relax for a few minutes.

Perhaps it’s the many statues you can find along the tulip-adorned streets or in local parks.

Or the snowmelt system that keeps downtown street and sidewalks clear of snow and ice in the wintertime.

Or the block after block of shops along 8th Street where you can find something for just about everyone, of all ages. Check out the Tip Toes baby boutique, the Holland Clock CompanyVelo City Cycles and a lot more.

The downtown has a good wayfinder signage program that provides several outdoor guides and maps to the area so you can find where you want to go easily. There is on-street, angled parking available along 8th Street, and just about everything in the downtown is within easy walking distance.

Read More: Best Family Vacation Destinations in Northern Michigan

Holland Michigan Restaurants

Windmill Restaurant in downtown Holland MI
The Windmill Restaurant is located right in the heart of downtown Holland. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

Whether you’re looking for fine dining, a quick snack or sweet treat, Holland’s dining options have you covered.

Ethnic Cuisine

If you love ethnic cuisine, check out Mizu Sushi or their sister restaurant, OI Asian Bistro. Plus Mr. Kozak’s II offers authentic Greek gyros and more. The Curragh Irish Pub takes you from the feel of the Netherlands over to Ireland. And if you prefer more of a Mexican or Latin American flavor, don’t miss PoquitoTaco + Bar or Taqueria Vallarta.

Beer and Brewing

New Holland Brewing Company in downtown Holland MI.
The New Holland Brewing Company in downtown Holland. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

The craft beer scene in Holland has plenty to offer as well, from the comfort food of Hopcat to the Waverly Stone GastropubBig Lake Brewing, Butch’s Dry Dock and Obstacle No 1. Local breweries include Our Brewing CompanyCoppercraft Distillery and New Holland Brewing.

Hops at 84 East in Holland, MI
Hops at 84 East offers indoor and outdoor dining in downtown Holland. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

On a recent girlfriend getaway to Holland, our group of four ate at Hops at 84 East, enjoying their outdoor seating. We’re not drinkers so can’t speak to the beer quality, but the food was excellent. Between us, we tried a salad, salmon dinner and one of their specialties, the brick oven pizza. I would happily eat there again and look forward to my next visit to do just that.

Brick oven fired pizza at Hops at 84 East in Holland, MI
The brick oven pizza was amazing! Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

Local Specialties

Market Zero is an urban market with specialty grocery items as well as sandwiches, smoothies and more. You can also check out Seventy-Six, a farm-to-table destination.

Enjoy a beautiful view of Lake Macatawa while dining at Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant.

And in a town called Holland, you just have to stop in to the Windmill Restaurant for a true diner experience.

Sweets and Treats

Holland Peanut Store in downtown Holland, MI
Stop in the Holland Peanut Store for a sweet treat! Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

While walking through downtown Holland, don’t forget to duck into the local Kilwin’s. Any Michigander can tell you that here you’ll find incredible sweets like fudge and ice cream. I can personally vouch for that – as well as for the chocolate shakes, which I have discovered are divine.

More into healthier treats? Check out Peachwave Frozen Yogurt & Gelato which offers vegan Dole soft-serve among other options.

Whit’s Frozen Custard and the Saunders Family Bakery are a couple of other great options to satisfy your sweet tooth. Not to mention the Holland Peanut Store, which sells much more than peanuts. Their yummy chocolates are a must-try.

Shopping in Holland

Outdoor fireplace and storefronts in downtown Holland, MI
Downtown Holland’s outdoor fireplace is located just outside the Tip Toes Baby Boutique. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

Walking around downtown Holland is a lot of fun both with a group or on your own. Some (not all) of the stores stay open into the evening, so whether you prefer to window shop or spend that hard-earned cash, you’re covered.

I always love walking through the Tip Toes baby boutique, where I mourn the fact that I no longer have any babies or toddlers in the house. As an avid knitter and sewist, I never miss a chance to stop in to Field’s Fabrics or the Garen Huis Yarn Studio.

Reader’s World is an independent bookstore, something that’s not easy to find anymore.

Inside the Apothecary Gift Shop in downtown Holland MI.
Inside the Apothecary Gift Shop in downtown Holland. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

Looking for unique gifts? I always love wandering through Carolyn Stitch Studio and Seedling’s Boutique. They offer so many fun options. However, I think my favorite shop to browse is The Apothecary Gift Shop. Here you’ll find jewelry, toys, fun stickers and so much more.

I know that my aunts used to enjoy shopping in downtown Holland on their annual summer visits to the area, and I certainly understand why.

Other Things to Do in Holland, MI

Holland State Park and Big Red Lighthouse

The Big Red lighthouse in Holland, MI.
The Big Red lighthouse is located at the channel where Lake Macatawa connects to Lake Michigan. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

Although much more than just a ‘beach town’, you can’t miss the fact that the beach is a huge part of life here. Holland State Park offers a beautiful sandy beach, camping, playground and more. Plus, it’s the home of the iconic Big Red Lighthouse, on the channel connecting Lake Macatawa to Lake Michigan. Big Red is an icon that is an absolute must-see when you visit.

Wooden shoes are sold at Nelis' Dutch Village in Holland, MI
Wood shoes and wooden tulips are just a few of the things you can buy at Nelis’ Dutch Village. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

Nelis’ Dutch Village

If you’re looking for authentic Dutch culture, this is the place! It’s been a little while since I’ve visited Nelis’ Dutch Village, and they’ve definitely added to their offerings since then. This is where you’ll find authentic (wearable!) wooden shoes to try on and purchase, along with many other Dutch and European handcrafts. The village also contains several food stores with everything from sweets and ice cream to cheese.

Nelis' Dutch Village in Holland, MI
Nelis’ Dutch Village offers family fun like a carousel and swing ride, plus authentic Dutch architecture. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

The village is perfect for families with plenty for kids to do. They have a petting farm with goats, sheep, bunnies and more that you can pet and feed. There is also a playground, giant wooden shoe slide and a theme park with Dutch-themed carousel, petal cars, a windmill ride and more.

Veldheer Tulip Garden and De Klomp Wooden shoe and Delft Factory

Veldheer’s tulip farm is a must-see in the spring, when millions of tulip bloom. But there is plenty to see and do during the other times of year as well. Their perennial garden is open June-mid October. You can also tour a real wooden shoe factory and talk to artists as they work on the only authentic delftware made in the US.

Windmill Island Gardens

The De Zwaan windmill at Windmill Island Gardens in Holland, MI.
The De Zwaan windmill at Windmill Island Gardens. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

This city park offers beautiful grounds with over 100,000 tulips that bloom every spring. The park also is home to “De Zwaan”, a 250-year-old working Dutch windmill. You can take tours of the windmill, visit their Little Netherlands Village display and kids will love the antique Dutch Carousel.

Mt. Pisgah Dune Climb and Boardwalk

Climb the stairs and boardwalk here up to amazing views of Lake Michigan, Lake Macatawa and the Big Red Lighthouse.

Tunnel Park in Holland, MI
This tunnel leads from the Tunnel Park parking lot to the beautiful Lake Michigan beach. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

Tunnel Park

Along with Holland State Park, this is one of the most popular Lake Michigan beaches for both locals and visitors to enjoy. There is also a playground, picnic areas, sand dunes to climb (including a dune stairway) and a unique tunnel through a dune.

sunset view at Tunnel Park in Holland, MI
Enjoying a beautiful sunset at the top of the beach at Tunnel Park. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

Once you make your way through the tunnel, you’re rewarded with a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan and beautiful sandy beach at the bottom of the stairs. It’s a perfect spot for sunset viewing!

Tulip Time

Geertje & Cornelis statues in downtown Holland.
The Geertje & Cornelis statues in traditional Dutch costumes honor the Tulip Time festival. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

Every spring West Michigan comes alive with spring blooms, as the Tulip Time Festival begins in Holland. For over 80 years, the community has celebrated its Dutch heritage with hundreds of thousands of tulips, parades, concerts and much more.

You don’t have to be Dutch in heritage to enjoy this festival, however! There’s plenty to do for people of all ethnicities, genders and ages.

Parades and Dutch Dancing

One of the truly Dutch events during Tulip Time is the annual Volksparade. And afterward, you can stay to watch hundreds of people in Dutch costumes take to the streets to scrub them clean with brooms as well. Then don’t forget to come back for the Kinderparade, with over 7,000 area schoolkids and marching bands.

You can find Dutch Dance performances taking place during every day of Tulip Time, including Kinder Dutch Dance which involves local children in the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades. The dancers’ costumes are handmade locally and each one is inspected before it can be worn – the costumes are patterned after traditional Dutch dress.

Tulip Time 2022 Dates and Events

Tulips blooming in downtown Holland,MI
Beautiful tulips bloom all over Holland during the annual Tulip Time Festival. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

Tulip Time will return in 2022 with live events, starting on May 7 and ending on May 15, 2022. There are dance performances, photo walks, tall ships and more. There is so much to see and do as I discovered on my recent visit. Even just walking through the downtown area and seeing the many beautiful tulip blooms is a wonderful experience during Tulip Time.

I also walked down to the Window on the Waterfront park, which has come alive with tulips in so many different colors and varieties. Everywhere you look there is color. Plus the scenic overlook lets you get a beautiful view of Lake Macatawa.

Also, don’t miss the virtual Tulip Tracker, where you can see live views and virtual tours of the local tulip beds and displays.

Tulips in bloom at the Window on the Waterfront park in downtown Holland.
Tulips in bloom at the Window on the Waterfront park in downtown Holland. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

Getting to Holland MI

Holland is located about 30 miles west of Grand Rapids, the second-largest city in Michigan. This makes it a perfect day trip if you’re already visiting Grand Rapids. By car, it’s easily accessible via I-196 or I-96, coming from Chicago or Detroit. Other nearby lakeshore communities to check out include Grand Haven, Saugatuck and Muskegon. Each of these has much to see and do along with gorgeous lakefront beaches and sand dunes.

West Michigan is definitely well-situated for traveling by plane, with commercial flights available at airports in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo/Battle Creek, Muskegon and Traverse City. Any of these are easily drivable to Holland. Plus with Detroit’s Metro Airport and Chicago’s O’Hare each only a 2-3 hour drive away, there are always options to compare flights to get the best possible fares.

Deb Steenhagen Avatar
Deb is Director of Operations for SheBuysTravel.com and the mom of 3 teenagers and young adults. She lives in the greater Grand Rapids area in West Michigan, and is a former city planner and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Analyst who loves gadgets, maps, writing, and traveling both within and outside of Michigan. She also enjoys reading, sewing, running and knitting.
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