Located on the shore of Lake Macatawa and near Lake Michigan, Holland is a picturesque lake city complete with family-friendly beaches, a state park, attractions, distinctive dining and a dedication to preserving and celebrating its Dutch heritage.
Perhaps most famous for its beautiful Tulip Time Festival in May, when the city blooms with hundreds of thousands of tulips, Holland offers beautiful scenery and family fun throughout the seasons.
Less than three hours away, Holland is located midway between Detroit and Chicago. Take I-96 West to Exit 46, and then follow signs to Holland.
What Families Love
I visited Nelis’ Dutch Village as a kid and enjoyed visiting again, recreating photos and making new memories with my own children. This nicely themed attraction, especially enjoyed by younger kids, offers a glimpse of what life was like in the Netherlands 100 years ago when a festival came to town. Families will enjoy plenty of photo ops, farm animals, wooden shoe carving, rides, games and plenty of places to explore.
If heading to Holland for the Tulip Festival, you’ll definitely want to visit DeZwaan Windmill at Windmill Islands Gardens for its outstanding and picturesque tulip fields. Even when the tulips are not in bloom, this popular spot offers windmill tours and a variety of manicured gardens. In the adjacent village, you’ll find costumed guides, an Amsterdam street organ, a hand-painted Dutch carousel, children’s playground, picnic areas, all the flags of the Netherlands, horses, a replica of a Dutch Inn, gift shops and snacks. Dogs are welcome to visit with their families.
If you’re looking for a place to enjoy tulips that does not require admission or a nice spot to burn up some energy after being in the car, check out Centennial Park. This Victorian-era park was Holland’s original marketplace and now features flowerbeds, a gazebo, fountain and fish pond. You never know what you find here as my kids were excited to interact with a pet pig being walked on a leash around the park. They also loved hanging from the park’s large trees and running in the grass.
Tunnel Park is named for the concrete tunnel that cuts through a sand dune and provides access to a Lake Michigan beach with opportunities to swim and picnic. A children’s playground complete with a dune climb and stairway to an overlook make this a fun family beach stop.
Holland State Park is one of Michigan’s most visited state parks with an expansive beach and views of the famous Big Red Lighthouse. The park offers fishing, a concession stand with restrooms and changing area, a small playground and camping. Michigan residents must buy an annual passport for $17 to enter the park. Out-of-state guests have the option to purchase a day pass.
The Holland Farmers Market has indoor and outdoor options depending on the time of year you visit. In summer, it is open 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Eighth Street Market Place in Downtown Holland. Families can find fresh fruits and vegetables, plants and flowers and enjoy a bite at the food court.
If the weather doesn’t cooperate during your stay, check out BAM! Entertainment Center, with its bowling alley, laser tag, ropes course and arcade (they even have axe throwing for us adults). Scrapyard Climbing Collective features a beginner-friendly rock climbing gym open to the public.
Where to stay
We had a nice stay at Country Inn & Suites by Carlson, but most hotel chains have a Holland location so you take your pick among Courtyard by Marriott – Holland Downtown, Fairfield Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites (pet friendly) and others.
If you prefer more local or adventurous options, there were several nice places on Airbnb as well as a campground at the state park.
Places to eat
For breakfast or lunch, head to one of the two deBoer’s Bakkerij locations. The south location, 380 W. 16th, features quick eats and its famous double fried chicken. The north location, 360 Douglas Ave., includes a full-service restaurant and bakery that features American favorites as well as Dutch fare. My kids couldn’t help but giggle as they ordered pigs in a blanket and I enjoyed trying a Dutch croquette.
Bowerman’s on 8th is an extension of Bowerman Blueberries Farm Market, where you can buy fresh blueberries in season. Both locations sell the famous Bowerman’s blueberry doughnuts in addition to seasonal fruits and veggies and Michigan specialty food products made with their berries.
On the way to Holland State Park, we stopped for lunch at Beechwood Grill, a local landmark featuring wood-grilled steaks, seafood, and burgers. Indoor and outdoor seating is available.
As you walk around downtown, grab a snack at Holland Peanut, a nostalgic candy store established in 1902 that features ice cream, chocolates and Dutch candies.
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