Destination Michigan: Holland's Tulip Festival
Winter isn’t entirely done with us, but the Tulip Festival isn’t far away!
As I woke up this morning to the cold weather and the promise of another snowy drive to work, I was reminded winter wasn’t entirely done with the state of Michigan. It was a rather unpleasant feeling, and I couldn’t help but think of how nice it would be to experience a nice amount of warmer weather right about now. As I wrote in an earlier article, I know that the promise of summer is not too far away when my Hibiscus flowers bloom.
From there, my thoughts traveled, as they often do, to another flower that signals winter is behind us, and rising temperatures are ahead. I refer to the tulip and a little town in Michigan called Holland.
Holland is located in the eastern part of the state, and if it isn’t evident in the name, it is home to a tremendous amount of Dutch heritage. This Dutch influence comprises a large part of the city’s ethnic identity, which you can experience throughout the historic downtown.
One of our first stops when visiting Holland for the May Tulip Festival is Windmill Island. After visiting the Windmill Island Gardens and seeing the De Zwaan windmill, it will give you the feeling of being transported to Europe. This is the only working Dutch windmill in the States, and it was transported from the Netherlands to Holland, Michigan, in 1964. Also of note, this beautiful piece of history was built in 1761.
Today this windmill is a pretty stellar backdrop to many blooming tulips in May, and yes, you can tour the inside of this great attraction. I tend to shy away from long lines.
You can expect to see no less than 120,000 tulips on Windmill Island Garden in various colors (I believe this number increases each year). Windmill Island Gardens encompasses roughly 36 acres of property, and there is no shortage of things to see. Word to the wise, weather and other fellow visitors can affect the tulips depending on when you visit. For every 1000 tulips, you may get a few hundred trampled. Earlier in the eight-day event is often best for prime pictures.
You might have been lucky to catch a Tulip parade in past years, but the pandemic has since put a damper on this annual tradition. We can only hope this returns in the future. If you are so inclined, they have daily walking tours discussing the town's history and the lovely tulip tradition.
Keeping up with the Netherland tradition, you can dance with the Dutch, shop for wooden shoes, or even buy your Tulip bulbs to bring home to plant.
Let’s face it, the real star of the Festival is the tulip. You can expect to see tulips everywhere throughout the town. I always marvel at the ones that have been planted on the frontmost portion of resident’s lawns. As stated on Michigan.org, there are in excess of 5,000,000 tulips planted throughout Holland ready to bloom in early May.
I learned last year no “True Blue” tulip has ever existed, and this year I learned a “True Black” is non-existent. Tulip breeders have come close in both cases and you can find different shades of both.
Holland, Michigan has a Tulip Dig after the event is finished. You can pay a small stipend and dig up the tulip bulbs to bring home for next year. While the flowers have since died, the bulbs lay dormant until next year.
There are over 3500 varieties of tulips, where Holland, Netherlands is still the number one exporter of the tulip bulbs. They export no less than three billion bulbs annually.
The largest tulip garden in the world is in Holland at Keukendorf. Every year tourists come the world over to see 7,000,000 blooming tulips in the months of April and May. I have to say this is one item I will have to put on my bucket list.