Holland Tulip Festival: Everything You Need to Know about Tulip Time

Holland, Michigan Welcome Sign

Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan, is where you can find over 5 million colorful tulips every year. The tulips bloom between mid-April to mid-May. And to promote this color infusion of spring, the city of Holland celebrates the Holland Tulip Festival generally in the first two weeks of May. Although the 91st annual Tulip Time has been canceled this year for obvious reasons, there is no reason not to enjoy these tulip photos and make plans to attend next year.

Lily-Flowered Tulips

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History of Holland’s Tulip Time FestivalRows of colorful tulips at the Holland Tulip Festival

In 1928, the Holland City Council purchased 100,000 tulip bulbs from the Netherlands. These bulbs were planted in city parks and other areas. And tulip bulbs were made available to Holland residents for a penny apiece. In 1929, with thousands of tulips blooming, Holland invited people to come and visit for a week in May. Tulip Time became an annual event after that and emphasized Dutch costumes and wooden shoes along with the tulips. Because of the festival’s popularity and national attention, the revival of old Netherlands customs and traditions was generated, making the Holland Tulip Festival a world-renowned cultural celebration.

Red tulips in front of Ben Franklin statue

What You Need to Know about the Holland Tulip FestivalDark purple, yellow, and red tulips

The Holland Tulip Festival lasts for eight days, usually at the beginning of May, to coincide with tulip blooming schedules. The festival has great activities throughout the whole week, but the more significant events like parades happen Wednesday through Saturday. Most of the larger events are clustered on the final weekend, including the fireworks display.

Try to get there early in the morning as parking can be a challenge as it does get super busy for the last weekend. Most of the events are easily reachable and within walking distance in the downtown area. There are many events that you can attend free of charge, but others, such as visiting Windmill Island Gardens, have an entrance fee. Bright Orange Tulips

What to Do During the Holland Tulip FestivalColorful Lily-flowered Tulips at the Holland Tulip Festival

Windmill Island Gardens250 year old windmill at Windmill Island Gardens

The Windmill Island Gardens is 36-acres of beautiful gardens, dikes, bridges, windmills, and canals that you can explore. These gardens also have one of the most extensive collections of tulips in one spot in downtown Holland. There are over 100,000 tulips planted throughout the island, and over 60,000 of them are clustered in rows by the DeZwaan. At 251 years old, the DeZwaan is the only authentic Dutch windmill working in the United States.

Expect to spend at least two hours wandering through the gardens. The cost to explore the grounds and a replica of a Dutch Inn, tour the windmill with costumed guides, listen to a street organ from Amsterdam, and browse the gift shops and cafes is $10 for adults. If you would like to see how they plant all the tulips at Windmill Island Gardens in hours, check out this video.Rows of colorful tulips at Windmill Island Gardens

Centennial ParkRows of White and Red Tulips

Centennial Park was originally designed to be the village market place. Now it has a Veteran’s Memorial, brick pathways, tulip flowerbeds, a gazebo, a traditional Dutch fountain, and a fish pond. This is where you can take tons of selfies around your favorite color of tulips. And if you have any questions about the tulips, you can find costumed guides around the park that can answer your questions during the festival. Madison posing with orange cream tulips

Dutch MarktplaatsMaking Dutch wooden shoes at Veldheer Tulip Gardens

The Dutch Marktplaats is where you can find Dutch-themed gifts such as the blue and white delftware, Dutch Souvenirs, hand-carved wooden shoes, and many other Dutch gifts. The photo above is of the wooden shoe making equipment at Veldheer Tulip Gardens. You can see many of these shoes on the Dutch dancers in the parades throughout the week during the festival.

ParadesDutch dancers in the Parade

There are three different parades to see during Tulip Time and are some of the longest parade routes in Michigan. The Muziekparade, on the last Saturday of the festival, is one of the most spectacular three hours of parade watching you can have. You will be able to see Dutch dances by the Klompen Dancers, fire engines, clowns, bands, and floats from every fruit and vegetable festival in Michigan. Make sure you show up early to claim your spot on the sidewalk to get the best views of the parade.Dutch dancing at the Holland Tulip Festival ParadeCouples dancing in Dutch wooden shoes in the Tulip Time Parade

Carnival and Entertainment

During the week of the Holland Tulip Festival, there are many other fun activities for you to partake in. There is a vintage baseball game, animal shows, performance art shows, music concerts, art, and quilt shows. For the younger kids or the young at heart, there is the carnival. You can pick up traditional carnival treats before you head off to see more tulips.

Veldheer Tulip GardenRows of Tulips at Veldheer Tulip Gardens

A side trip you have to make while in Holland for Tulip Time is to stop at Veldheer Tulip Gardens. Walking around the garden is like stepping into a rainbow of vibrant and fragrant tulips. There are over 6 million tulips and 800 different varieties in this garden. The key to figuring out this garden is to get a map, and then you can match it with corresponding numbers in the flower beds to help you determine which tulip is your favorite. Then you can order them for delivery in October to have your tulip garden. And don’t forget to stop and see the Buffalo that are on site.

If you can’t make it here in person, you can order online.

Group of Peach Tulips at the Holland Tulip Festival

Nelis’ Dutch VillageBright red tulips after rain

For more family fun, you can take another side trip to Nelis’ Dutch Village. This village is a reproduction of an 1800’s Dutch village that has a wooden shoe factory, cheese-making, and a petting zoo. The family-owned theme park is a full day activity all in itself with Dutch Dancing, wooden shoe carving, rides, games, friendly farm animals, photo ops along with plenty of options for food and drinks. The admission fee is $14 for adults.

How to get around the Holland Tulip FestivalMulti-colored tulips at the Holland Tulip Festival

The easiest way to get around the Holland Tulip Festival is to drive your car to each area, whether it is downtown, Windmill Island Gardens, or Veldheer Tulip Gardens. There is city parking downtown so you can park and then walk around the town. There is also a Tulip Trolley that can take you through Tulip Lanes, Holland’s Historic District, and the award-winning downtown with a friendly Dutch-costumed guide! Everything is close enough that you could see everything over a weekend.

Is Tulip Time Worth Visiting?Madison smelling Orange and yellow Fosteriana Tulips

Absolutely! I have visited the Holland Tulip Festival a couple of times, and each has been wonderful. On the last trip, I flew my niece to Michigan from St.Louis, and we had a great time taking each other’s photos with the tulips. It was a fun weekend even though the weather didn’t cooperate the entire time. But, the rain didn’t stop us from seeing and smelling the tulips!Bright Purple Tulips

Tulip TrackerRows of Red and Yellow Tulips

If you are interested in seeing the status of the tulips at the Windmill Island Gardens or other spots around Holland from the comfort of your home, check out their Live Cam. This is a great way to track the tulip’s progress for planning your trip. Or you can watch the flowers bloom from your home.Bright and colorful tulips at the Holland Tulip Festival

Where to Stay in Holland, MichiganHoliday Inn Express

There are quite a few places for you to stay in when you come to Holland for the Tulip Festival. I have stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, which is a little out of the downtown area, but close to Veldheer Tulip Gardens and the Nelis’ Dutch Village. If you are looking for other places to stay, check out these Booking.com options.

Booking.com

How to Photograph the TulipsRed and Yellow Tulips

Photographing flowers are one of my passions. Over the years, I have learned different techniques to get more creative while taking pictures of flowers. Here are some tips for you to get some amazing photos of tulips and any flower.

  • Photograph flowers on an overcast day
  • The backlight will make your flowers glow
  • Watch out for wind – you can use a piece of cardboard to block the wind
  • Get closer – Use a telephoto lens to zoom in, extension tubes, close-up filter, or macro lens
  • The shade will make light softer
  • Use a reflector for shade – fills light in the shadows
  • Avoid a cluttered background
  • Use a shallow depth of field (f/4 or f/2.8)
  • Make it sharp – use a tripod
  • Change your point of view/perspective – Shoot flowers from underneath or behind
  • Focus through another flower
  • Use a fast & close-focusing lens – try a 50mm lens
  • Have fun with the sun – sunburst (put flower between camera and sun)

Try a couple of these or just one at a time. On the trip, I took my niece we focused on shooting the flowers from the ground looking up. I set my camera down close to the ground and just shot. Not knowing what I took added to the excitement, but we both got some amazing tulip photos.

SummaryBunch of Bright Orange and Yellow Tipped Tulips

The Holland Tulip Festival is one of my favorite spring festivals. And the last time I went, I purchased quite a few different types of tulips for planting in my flower garden and gave some to my sister and mom. If you get a chance to visit Tulip Time, take some time to smell, photograph, and maybe buy some tulips to plant later.Deep red and white tulips

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Further Reading

If you are coming to Michigan for a visit, check out these posts for further travel inspiration:

10 Comments

  • Krystianna 2May2020 at 12:57 PM Reply

    Wow, your photos are amazing! I’ve never been to the Netherlands but it is definitely at the top of my list. 🙂

    • Heather 2May2020 at 1:02 PM Reply

      Thank you, Krystianna! I’m so glad you like them. But, this isn’t the Netherlands. It is in Michigan.

  • Sarah 1May2020 at 8:37 PM Reply

    I never heard about this – you learn something new everyday! Those tulip fields are the dream!

    • Heather 1May2020 at 8:39 PM Reply

      They are beautiful aren’t they! Just as good as the ones in the Netherlands!

  • Elena 1May2020 at 8:32 PM Reply

    These flowers are so beautiful and I absolutely loved your photo tips! Thanks for inspiring me to visit 🙂

    • Heather 1May2020 at 8:38 PM Reply

      You are very welcome, Elena! Let me know if you try out the tips!

  • Alexandra Booze 1May2020 at 7:58 PM Reply

    This post just made my day! I was supposed to go to Amsterdam last month for the tulip festival, but as you know… perhaps one day I can go back and take pictures as beautiful as these 🙂

    • Heather 1May2020 at 8:06 PM Reply

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Alexandra! I love tulip time and am missing it as well this year. We’ll definitely have to make plans to make up for it next year! Good luck with the photos and hopefully the tips help!

  • Kooky Loves to Travel 1May2020 at 7:41 PM Reply

    Beautful photos! I was living in Amsterdam for 4 years but still haven’t been to tulips fields. 🙁

    • Heather 1May2020 at 8:17 PM Reply

      Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed the photos! Shocking that you haven’t seen them, but it has been proven that people don’t even travel around their homes that much. I’m jealous of you living in Amsterdam. Such a beautiful country and town!

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