Exploring Holland’s Tulip Time with Kids
Tulip Time in Holland, MI is the unofficial start to festival season for many Michigan residents. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate spring and the Dutch heritage that has shaped Holland over the years.
What will you find at Tulip Time? Six million tulips, concerts, carnivals, arts, food, fireworks and of course…parades!
This big festival can be daunting for families visiting for the first time, we’re hoping we can equip you with some tips to make your visit to Tulip Time a success!
Tulip Time is May 4 – 12, 2019
For up-to-date Tulip Time info, follow their Facebook page.
Tulip Time for Kids – Highlights
Tulip Time is full of old fashioned fun, which is perfect for kids. They will equally enjoy any of their three different parades and also delight in the Dutch dancers at Centennial Park.
After the spectator sports they can have hands-on fun at Kinderplaats at Kollen Park or check out the carnival at the Civic Center. And everything is surrounded by a riot of color as acres and acres of brightly-colored tulips carpet the entire town. This may be the most cheerful festival in the state!
It all goes out with a flash with fireworks on Saturday over Lake Macatawa near Kollen Park after dusk.
Tip #1 – Choose Your Parade
The festival features three very different parades. The parades vary in length and time of day and many parents opt for parades that suit their kids’ interests and attention span.
Wednesday May 8, 1 PM, 1:30 PM and 2:00 PM. The 2 PM parade kicks off with Street Scrubbing featuring hundreds of residents and dignitaries dressed in Dutch costume and armed with brooms and pails, set to clean the streets before floats, bands and other entertainment rolls through. The whole parade, with beautifully handcrafted floats and incredible bands, including Princess Lida and her friends, and lasts about 1-2 hours.
Thursday, May 9, 2:00 pm. It features over 7,000 local school children dressed in Dutch costumes.
Saturday, May 11, 2:00 PM – This parade features 4,000 participants including Dutch Dancers, floats and marching bands from throughout Michigan as well as neighboring states. This parade is the big finale parade!
Tip #2 – Sprinkle in Dutch Dancing
Dutch dancing is performed throughout the festival. Dances are 5-15 minutes long and are either performed by adult or child (kinder) groups. Kids are invited into the street at the end of each dance.
FREE Dutch Dance lessons are offered to all on Sat, May 4 at 6:30p and Wed, May 8 at 7:15pm. Most Dutch Dances are at Centennial Park, but a few are held elsewhere Here’s a list of Dutch Dancing times and locations.
Tip #3 – Two Flavors of Kid Fun: Kinderplaats and Carnival
Kinderplaats, held in the new Civic Center the first weekend of Tulip Time, is designed for kids. This year, kids get a “passport” and will travel to the 12 different Provinces of the Netherlands. At each location they will have the chance to do hands-on activities and learn Dutch culture and history along the way.
Carnival is just what you probably expect: rides, food and carnival attractions. Carnival is at the Holland Civic Center and runs the length of the festival.
Innovation Lab at Kinderplaats is a must-stop spot with kids. It showcases local First Robotics team creations and more!
Tip #4 – Shop the Marktplaats (Save the Art & Craft Fair for adult time)
Kids don’t usually like shopping. That’s why we suggest bringing the kids to the Marktplaats over the Arts & Crafts fair.
Marktplaats brings 19th century Holland to life with wooden shoe carving demonstrations, Dutch Dance performances, shopping, food and more. Admission is free. Marktplaats is located at the newly remodeled Civic Center.
Tip #5 – Where to See Great Tulip Displays
Great swaths of tulips can be found if you know where to look; both Window on the Waterfront and Centennial Park feature masses of tulip plantings. You’ll also find grand Tulip displays at Nelis’ Dutch Village and Windmill Island.
Tip #6 – Extend Your Fun with Special Tulip Time Tours and Destinations
Windmill Island Gardens – An authentic, working Dutch windmill (that you can climb inside) is the centerpiece of 36 acres of gardens. You’ll also find replicas of historical buildings found in the Netherlands filled with costumed guides.
Kids will want to visit the children’s garden and playground and take a ride on the Dutch carousel.
Admission to Windmill Island is $5 kids 3-15 years old and $10 for adults. Windmill Island Gardens welcomes Meijer Gardens members (and other members of the American Horticultural Society), for free.
Nelis’ Dutch Village – This Dutch-themed park has fun rides for younger kids, a petting zoo, and a mini zip line. With over 25,000 tulips, they are a great place to take pictures. Admission starts at $10.
Tulip City Trolley Tour – Dutch-costumed guide narrates an hour-long tour including Tulip Lanes, Holland’s Historic District, city parks, and downtown.
Tip #7 – Go On a Weekday
Call it a personal field trip and pull the kids out of school for the day (if you’re comfortable with that).
Many events happen during the week, such as the Children’s Parade. As a result, some parents take their kids out of school and visit Tulip Time on a weekday because crowd size is smaller during the week.
TIP #8 – Save Your Seats
There are three reserved seating options to make sitting down for all the fun a breeze.
- Parade Patio seating – $30/person (Indoor/outdoor seating, bar service, access to Dutch/American buffet and indoor restrooms)
- Grandstands Regular – $12 bleacher seats.
- Grandstands Premium – $16 flip seats.
TIP #9 – Parking and Getting Around
You shouldn’t stay home just because Holland’s size balloons during Tulip Time. Rather, come prepared for walking and use a few of these strategies to make getting around a little more palatable:
- Max Transit is providing $5 unlimited rides all week with their park-and-ride shuttle.
- Walking is standard. Plan to walk and walk a lot. Comfortable shoes are a must.
- Park at the first spot you find. Don’t wait to find a better spot- it probably doesn’t exist.
- Tag Team It. Have one adult drop off the rest of the family close to the action and use cell phones to meet up. This saves little legs and can extend your time at the festival.
Tip #10 – Where to Find Restrooms and Baby Changing Stations
It’s a guarentee that you’ll be searching for a bathroom at some or multiple times during your Tulip Time trip. Portable “potties” are placed throughout the downtown area but if you’re looking for a place to change your little one or a modern restroom here are two great places.
- Visitors Bureau: located at 9th St and Central Ave
- Civic Center: private nursing rooms, changing tables and family restrooms can all be found here.
Tip #11 – What to Bring to Tulip Time with Kids
Every parent knows that bringing the right gear can make or break an outing. Since Tulip Time is in the spring when Michigan weather changes on a dime, you do need to be prepared for anything.
Here are items to consider packing for your Tulip Time trip:
- Towels/blankets to set alongside curb for parade seating. Folding chairs can work well if you get there early enough.
- If it’s sunny, bring sunscreen and water bottles.
- Bring a stroller if you must: there’s a lot of walking, and it’s nice for kids to have a place to sit and a place where you know they won’t get separated from you. But…the crowds. Do you want to navigate a stroller through the masses? Parents suggest a baby carrier if your child is small enough for it.
- Bring snacks unless you want to buy good eats from the many vendors available.
- Rain coats. Hopefully, this won’t be a factor this year, but be prepared just in case.
What did we miss?
What’s your favorite part of the Tulip Time Festival?