How to Spend the Day at Nelis’ Dutch Village
As June approaches, I start thinking ahead to how I’m going to spend the summer with my kids. Every year, I ask my kids what things they want to do over the summer.
The first place they request? Nelis’ Dutch Village in Holland, MI.
Dutch Village is a fun place for everyone, not just families with young kids. Their season begins at the end of April with a “preview” weekend and then officially kicks off to coincide with Tulip Time at the beginning of May.
The season wraps up after Labor Day and officially closes at the end of September.
There are so many things to love about Dutch Village, from an immersive Dutch experience to fun on the Ferris wheel and carousel. Almost everything is included with the cost of admission.
When we want a more laid-back and unscheduled day, we do our own thing and play on the playground and slide, enjoy the rides, and race on the plasma cars and pedal pumper cars.
For a full Dutch experience, we watch the dancers, see how wooden shoes are made, learn about Delftware pottery, and listen to the presentations at the schoolhouse, weighhouse and family home.
Read on to learn about my family’s nine favorite things about Nelis’ Dutch Village!
9 Favorite Things About Nelis’ Dutch Village
My family has visited Dutch Village every summer for years, starting from the time my oldest was one year old.
This year, my kids are ten, seven, and four and they all love Dutch Village and have their own favorite things.
But it’s not just for young kids! My sister’s family visits from Rhode Island some summers. This year, her kids are 16, 15 and 13. Where’s the one place they want for sure want to visit? Dutch Village!
|COVID restrictions and guidelines may mean your Dutch Village experience doesn’t look the same as mine. Be sure to visit their website for the latest COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions.|
1) The Immersive Dutch Culture Experience Tops the List for Adults and Older Kids
Everyone who works at Dutch Village dresses in the traditional clothing of the Netherlands – right down to the wooden shoes – and they all wear something different.
When we arrive, we always make sure we get a map and schedule of events for the day. My son loves to decide what route we’re going to take through the park that day.
The Dutch dancers – all local high school and college students – usually perform at 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM. (But be sure to check your schedule for that day’s times.)
Watching them dance is my favorite thing to do. Some dancers wear up to 10 pairs of socks inside their wooden shoes! They also warn you to watch for flying shoes – and I have witnessed more than one sail off the foot of a high-kicking dancer.
In addition to dancers, there are several presentations throughout the park.
Like the dancing, presentation times are always noted in the schedule of events and there are signs outside each building that indicate the next presentation time. Each presentation is usually about 20 minutes long and runs at least three times during the day.
The wooden shoe carving presentation is fascinating.
I’ve also seen the Delftware pottery demo, though they don’t actually make anything in that.
Other presentations include cheese-making and tasting, a walk through a museum and more.
When we visit Dutch Village with my extended family, my sisters and I like to have our kids dress up in Dutch costumes and watch them dance in front of the organ with each other.
Be sure to pick up a scavenger hunt from the bell tower (best for older kids) when you first come in to make sure you really get the full Dutch experience. It asks you questions that you can only get answered at the various presentations or by reading the signs by the statues throughout the park.
2) “I Love All the Rides!”
My kids’ favorite part of Dutch Village is the five rides.
While I do enjoy riding the carousel with them, I have to come up with an excuse each year about why we can’t go on the Ferris wheel.
Being pregnant and having a baby worked pretty well for a while. But I have to come up with something new this year that doesn’t reveal my fear of Ferris wheels.
The Dutch Chair Swing Ride is my daughter’s favorite.
“I love to fly through the air and sometimes they spray you with water!”
I can handle the flying swings better than the Ferris wheel, but my heart still pounds in my chest the whole time.
3) The Plasma Race Car Track
A plasma car “race track” is a recent addition to the park.
Kids can choose from about eight different plasma cars to ride around a small track.
My oldest has always loved the pedal pumper cars – or the “real train,” as he called it in preschool.
The pump cars ride on rails, just like trains. Kids have to be strong enough to pump their own car. My kids usually take their first ride on the pedal pumper cars when they are about three years old.
Note that parents are not allowed inside, but the worker will give kids a push if they get stuck. I also have my oldest take a car behind my youngest so that he can gently nudge his younger siblings along the track.
4 – “The Water Balloon Pirate Ship is My Favorite!”
Dutch Village added a pair of pirate ships in 2019.
These are life-size fronts of two ships, aimed at each other. When we first saw them, we thought it was a new play area. But my kids were so thrilled to discover that it’s actually a water balloon battle!
Players purchase a pail of balloons (each pail has 5 balloons) and then take the balloons to opposing ships.
Each ship has a huge slingshot in it. Players use their slingshots to try to launch balloons up through the hole in their ship and aim it to land in the hole of the other ship.
It takes some serious skill to get the balloons to land precisely enough to drench your opponent, but even if you miss, it’s still seriously fun. No matter what, you will get wet!
There are a couple of other fun play spots at Dutch Village.
A large play structure is one of the newer options. My kids love running around it and climbing through the many different nooks and crannies.
The wooden shoe slide is a long-time favorite and an awesome picture opportunity. The slide was renovated in 2019.
5) Fun for Animal Lovers
We always spend quite a while in the petting zoo area inside the barn at Dutch Village. My daughter loves to put a bunny in a basket and snuggle with it on a hay bale. Sometimes the basket option is closed so don’t count on it being available for your visit.
We also pet pigs, goats and chickens through their enclosures. Kids can actually go inside the chicken coop with an adult – one tidbit I haven’t shared with my kids.
Every now and then, I agree to buy a feed cone.
My kids are thrilled by how much the animals all love it and come right up to the fence for their turn.
6) Pack a Picnic Lunch
One thing I appreciate most about Dutch Village is that you can bring in your own food.
We always pack a picnic lunch and eat at one of the many tables available. We usually eat at the stone tables near the shoe slide.
As long as the space isn’t rented, you can also eat at one of the dozens of picnic tables underneath the covered pavilion.
If you don’t bring lunch, check out the Hungry Dutchman Cafe, the restaurant on-site, with lots of kid-friendly options and a nice selection for adults.
Adults may enjoy trying traditional Dutch foods like Metworst (pork sausage) or Kroketten (Fried pork & beef roll). Plus super cute high chairs for the littles!
Adults will also like stopping at the Thirsty Dutchman to sample some of the region’s best beers, wines, and ciders.
Or try Dutch Village wine, bottled locally from grapes and fruit of southern Michigan.
7) Photo Opportunities Galore
Of the many options throughout the park, the stork is my favorite photo opp.
I love having my kids sit inside his sling and document their growth through the years.
My kids enjoy posing with the many statues throughout the park, including a horse-drawn carriage.
Make sure to stop by the shoe carving demonstration area and get a picture of the family in wooden shoes.
Of course, there are also plenty of gorgeous flowers to stand near for truly beautiful pictures.
8) Dutch Village Has You Covered in Case of Rain
There are plenty of indoor options if it starts to rain – something that’s happened to us more than once with this finicky Michigan weather.
In the kids’ area, you can play Sjoelen, a Dutch shuffleboard game, and kids can color a picture, glue it onto a paper plate and make their own Delftware.
Nearly all of the demonstrations throughout Dutch Village are indoors.
The kids’ area, Delftware pottery and wooden shoe carving are all in the same building.
Everyone should watch a wooden shoe carving demonstration at least once. It’s so fascinating to see the process and hear about the history of wooden shoes in the Netherlands.
You can make a run for it to other buildings for the other presentations. (They are all fairly close together, except for the schoolhouse.)
Indoor options include cheese-making and tasting, weighhouse, schoolhouse, traditional home, shopping stores and an ice cream shop.
9) Don’t Forget the Cookie!
Even though this really is part of the full Dutch experience, I’m mentioning it separately because my kids love it so much.
Every paid child admission gets a coupon to make a stroopwafel cookie.
If you don’t get a coupon, it’s only 75 cents to make one.
Kids get to drop a roll of dough onto the waffle iron and hold it closed. After it’s cooked, cut and separated, kids add syrup to the middle and then enjoy a delicious, warm, sticky treat. My son doesn’t like condiments of any kind so he insists on leaving the syrup out of his cookie which really confuses the workers.
Money-Saving Tips for Your Visit to Nelis’ Dutch Village
There are a couple ways to save money on admission to Dutch Village.
- Free child’s admission is often a prize at area summer reading programs and they are good through the end of the next season
- Watch for buy one, get one free discounts on Groupon. These are usually available in mid-winter
- A special rate is available for active duty military families
- Purchase your tickets in advance online and save $1 per ticket
- Memberships are also available
I haven’t even covered everything there is to do at Nelis’ Dutch Village.
We could easily spend a full day here and not get bored. (Don’t forget the sunscreen because most of the park is in full sun!)
Your family will love it and beg to go back year after year!
About Nelis’ Dutch Village
Nelis’ Dutch Village, located on James St. off US-31 in Holland, is open daily from the last weekend in April until Labor Day.
They are open weekends in September and then close for the season.
Check their website for daily hours and special events.