Looking for fun things to do in Holland, Michigan? This little town on the west side of the state is a popular tourist destination, particularly in the spring when its famous tulips bloom with a burst of color. Holland is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway and is an absolute joy to visit every time whether you’re coming for a weekend or just taking a day trip.
Top things to do in Holland, Michigan
Most of the top Holland, Michigan attractions revolve around the Dutch history in the area. The first Europeans in the area were Dutch Calvinist separatists, who settled in Holland (and named it after their homeland) in the 1840s. Even today, more than a quarter of the city’s population is of Dutch descent, so it’s no surprise that many of the top things to do in Holland, Michigan focus on that history. It’s consistently ranked as one of the best small towns in the United States, so there’s more than tulips here.
Tulip Time Festival
Holland’s biggest annual festival draws thousands of visitors from around the Midwest each spring. Tulip Time lasts for eight days in early May every year and coincides with millions of tulips bursting into colorful bloom around the city, and it’s ranked as one of the top springtime activities in Michigan. Several of the spots mentioned in this article participate, with visitors flocking to places like the Windmill Island Gardens and Veldheer’s Tulip Farm, as well as city parks and areas downtown with gardens. Parades, Dutch dance performances, and other events round out the schedule. Learn more here.
Windmill Island Gardens
This city-owned park ranks among the top things to do in Holland, Michigan because of its beautiful gardens and – most notably – the De Zwaan windmill that towers above them. This is the only authentic Dutch windmill in operation in the United States and it’s still used to grind grain today (you can pick some up in the gift shop if you’re so inclined). The city purchased the windmill from a small town in the Netherlands and had it shipped all the way to a port on Lake Michigan. Visitors can climb the stairs to the outdoor deck on the upper level and learn a bit about the milling process inside.
Elsewhere around the grounds, you’ll find a Dutch street organ from Amsterdam and a Dutch carousel. There is also a mini-Netherlands display that gives a glimpse of life among the canals. Though it receives its peak visitation during the Tulip Time festival, the staff replaces the tulips with longer-lasting flowers once they’ve lost their petals though, so the gardens remain beautiful all summer long.
Nelis’ Dutch Village
Next on the list of top things to do in Holland is Nelis’ Dutch Village. This replica Dutch village is a great place to have fun and learn a thing or two about the culture. As you wander through the village, you’ll find dancers performing Klompen dances, and they’ll even teach you a few moves. In other areas, you can watch a wooden shoe carver creating the footwear and learn about their history. For a tasty touch, kids can learn to make their own stroopwafel cookies. If you’ve never had one, they’re delicious! You’ll also be able to view historic clothing or watch a demonstration of the famous blue and white delftware pottery. Kids will love the petting zoo, variety of kiddie rides, and over-the-top photo ops like the one pictured here.
If you want to learn more about the city’s Dutch heritage, look no further than the Holland Museum, located right in the beautiful downtown area. You’ll learn about local history from the original Dutch settlers to the creation of the Tulip Time festival and on to the present. The museum also hosts plenty of artifacts from actual Holland, with artwork, delftware pottery, furniture, and Dutch clothing that span more than 400 years.
Cappon and Settlers Houses
Just down the road from the Holland Museum, you’ll find additional buildings where you can learn about the early days of the town. The Cappon House is a restored Victorian-style home that was home to the first mayor and his family. The house remained in the family for over 100 years and many original furnishings remain. This house gives you a peek into the life of a wealthy family in the area.
Just down the road, you’ll find the much smaller Settlers House. This little cottage is an example of the way a more typical working-class resident would have lived in the past. This home was occupied as recently as the 1990s, but it has been restored to the 1870s era for exhibition. Visiting both one after the other really shows off the contrast between lifestyles. Note that tours are by appointment early, so check the schedule ahead of time.
Veldheer’s Tulip Farm
Each spring, 6 million tulips burst into bloom at Veldheer’s Tulip Farm. Visitors can walk through the gardens and admire the varied colors and styles of blooms – and do a little bit of “shopping.” Orders can be placed for bulbs to be planted in the fall for gardens at home. The varieties are stunning, and include the world’s largest blooming tulip, which is enormous compared to the normal sized ones. Numerous tulips crossed with peonies have a unique look that isn’t commonly seen elsewhere.
If you can’t make it during the tulip blooming season, don’t worry. Longer-lasting perennials can be enjoyed in the gardens from June through October each year. The De Klomp factory produces wooden shoes and the famous Dutch delftware pottery. You can watch artisans creating both through large windows and can even request personalized products. Also on site, you can view the small herd of bison.
Holland State Park
Holland State Park is absolutely one of the top things to do in Holland, Michigan. It’s one of the most popular state parks, and it’s easy to see why. The beach area is huge, with perfect gentle waves rolling in off of Lake Michigan, crashing against sugary sand. Late summer is the best time for swimming as the water is at its warmest, but visitors flock to the shores year round. There are bathrooms and concessions at the beach house, as well as plenty of benches, picnic tables, and grills. From the beach area closest to the canal, you can get great views of the Big Red Lighthouse as boats pass by. Ottawa Beach is the perfect spot for sunsets. There is also a small swimming area on Lake Macatawa.
In addition to the day use beach area, Holland State Park has two separate campgrounds. These are among the most popular spots in Michigan and reservations book up very early for summer weekends so plan ahead if you want to stay here. The Beach Campground has some sights right off Lake Michigan and offers electrical hookups, but no built-in fire pits. The Lake Macatawa Campground is further from the beach, but also more wooded. A small number of cabins are available as well.
The 22-acre Tunnel Park right on Lake Michigan is named for a tunnel that was drilled through one of the sand dunes to offer easy access to one of the dreamy beaches you’ll find all over this side of the state. In addition to the swimming and picnic areas, you’ll find a playground and an area to climb the dunes – it’s harder than it sounds on sand! A stairway offers easier access to an elevated view of the lake. Admission to the park is free, but there is a parking fee. Like Holland State Park, this is also an excellent spot for watching sunsets over Lake Michigan.
DeGraaf Nature Center
If you’ve had too many stroopwafels and want to get outdoors to walk some of them off, check out the DeGraaf Nature Center. This 18-acre nature preserve has several short trails that pass through woodland areas and over streams and ponds. Many of the trails are wheelchair accessible. The trails are open year round for walking, running, cross-country skiing, and showshoeing – and they’re pet-friendly as long as you keep your dogs on a leash. You’ll also want to try the Geology Walk, which features different types of rock samples with educational signs at each stop. At the visitor center, you can browse some wildlife exhibits and watch birds through the large glass windows overlooking bird feeders.
Outdoor Discovery Center
Part of the same network as the DeGraaf Nature Center, the Outdoor Discovery Center offers a chance to try several short trails. None of them exceeds 3/4 of a mile in length and there are several sections of boardwalk that make some of them wheelchair accessible. There are several outdoor play areas and two fishing ponds (catch and release) on the grounds.
The De Witt Birds of Prey Center is home to various large birds that have injuries preventing them from being returned to the wild. You’ll see hawks, eagles, falcons, owls, and a vulture here. The Birds of Prey Center has indoor and outdoor programming where visitors can learn about the various birds.
Van Raalte Farm Park
The Van Raalte Farm Park is located on a historic farm with a beautiful home that was built by the son of the city’s founder as its centerpiece. The former farmlands are now open for recreation and outdoor activities. The park is accessible year round with hiking in the summer and cross-country skiing and sledding in the winter. You’ll also find picnic areas, grills, and playgrounds.
If you want to get out on the water in Holland, hop a ride on the Holland Princess, a 65-foot paddle-wheel riverboat. Cruises start in Holland on Lake Macatawa before heading out to Lake Michigan. Along the way, you’ll get a close-up look at the striking Big Red Lighthouse as well as views of the dunes along the shore and beach houses that’ll make you green with envy. You can book lunch or dinner cruises and enjoy a meal with a view. Note that public cruises are limited, so check the schedule when planning your trip.