Whether it’s frolicking around the famous tulips, enjoying a bit of Dutch culture, or taking part in some shopping on 8th Street, there are plenty of things to do in Holland for all visitors.
Forbes has named Holland one of America’s prettiest towns, and we can’t say we disagree. With windmills in the distance and Lake Michigan only steps away, it’s a place that will stay in your memories forever.
Where is Holland, Michigan?
Holland is a city in Southwestern Michigan near the shorts of Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa. It’s a super popular tourist destination and makes one of the most romantic places to visit in Michigan in the summer. Holland is only 30 minutes drive from Grand Rapids. 2.5 hours from Detroit and one hour from Lansing, meaning many Michiganders flock here for the beaches and tulips.
About Holland, Michigan?
Type in “Holland” to Google, and you’ll likely get plenty of information about Holland, The Netherlands in Europe. However, this little slice of Europe is in Michigan. Its name originates from the Dutch Americans that founded the city in 1847.
The Dutch colony settled on the land, which Ottawa Indians originally populated. Eventually, the colony purchased the land near the Black River, which led to Lake Michigan.
As a result, Holland is well known for its Dutch Heritage which you can see almost everywhere. It’s part of the cultural identity and built strongly into the tourism of Holland. There are still plenty of Dutch Americans residing in Holland today. Over 28% of the population identifies as being of Dutch descent.
Holland is also known for being the “City of Churchs,” with over 170 churches in the city. It even is home to the church that started the “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets in the late 80s.
The Best Things to Do in Holland, Michigan
1. Marvel at the Veldheer Tulip Gardens
In keeping with Holland’s Dutch theme, the Veldheer Tulip Gardens is a top city attraction and one of the best things to do in Holland, MI. What started as a hobby in 1950 is today a massive venture with a riot of color.
The only tulip garden in Holland, it’s home to several million tulips of all different shades. You can also see Dutch lilies, hyacinths, daffodils, and other types of flora. Plants are sourced from around the globe to make the garden as beautiful as it is.
Stroll along the glorious pathways as you soak up the views and get lots of Insta-worthy snaps. Call into the on-site shop to purchase fresh-cut flowers and bulbs.
2. Learn about Local History at Holland Museum
Open since 1915, Holland Museum takes visitors on a journey back in time to when Dutch settlers first arrived in Holland. Journey through the city’s history and discover significant events as you appreciate the developments and changes Holland has seen over the years.
There are numerous exhibits and displays, covering both local history and Dutch culture from across the globe. Items include toys, art, clothes, books, furnishings, and more.
3. Enter the World of Oz
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been a popular kids’ book (later movie) for many years. Almost everyone knows at least the basics of the tale, featuring Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and others. The author – L. Frank Baum – loved to spend his vacations in Holland. It was here, in Holland, that he got the inspiration to write the classic story.
The Holland Oz Project remembers the author and pays homage to the famous book through large bronze statues of characters from the tale set along an enchanting yellow brick road. You’ll find this free exhibition in downtown Holland. In Centennial Park, flowers bloom to create a gigantic story book (in season).
4. Splash around at Holland Aquatic Center
Holland Aquatic Center is the perfect place for watery fun. Swim laps or relax in the 50-meter pool, watch as kids squeal with delight on the slides and toys in the splash zone, unwind in the therapy pool, and treat yourself to a spa treatment. The center also offers water-based keep-fit classes and swimming lessons.
5. Shop ‘Till You Drop in Downtown
If you’re looking for some great retail therapy in Holland, look no further than 8th Street in Downtown Holland. At the heart of downtown, this is the city’s main shopping hub. There are more than 100 stores and eateries within the charming Victorian-style buildings. Most shops remain open until late in the evening and there’s a huge selection of goods to tempt you. Even better – the streets are heated with subterranean water pipes for a cozy winter experience!
6. Walk around Van Bragt Park
Van Bragt Park may be fairly small, but it’s well worth a quick visit to see the cute windmill. A replica of a windmill from the estate of W.K. Kellogg (a huge name associated with breakfast cereals), the structure is very photogenic. Stroll along the walkways (dogs are allowed too), take a rest on one of the benches, and go fishing in this pleasant city park.
5. Uncover Dutch Culture at The Nelis Dutch Village
Offering heaps of fun and discoveries for people of all ages, the Nelis Dutch Village is a must visit for anyone who wants to know more about Dutch traditions and heritage. Once a tulip farm, today’s visitors will find examples of typical Dutch architecture, a restaurant that serves classic Dutch fare, canals, and a store that sells Dutch-themed souvenirs.
Adventure seekers can have a go on the zip line and swings, while kids are sure to be pleased at meeting the animals in the petting zoo. See the village from above with a ride on the windmill-inspired Ferris wheel. There are lots of workshops and demonstrations too, including dance performances, cheese making, waffle making, and clog making. Take selfies as you dress up in Dutch attire and slip on a pair of sturdy wooden clogs.
6. Admire Diverse Works in Kruizenga Art Museum
Located within Hope College, Kruizenga Art Museum is a teaching museum with a variety of works from different ages, cultures, and genres. Open to the public on selected days of the week, the art museum’s collection has pieces from all around the world.
Interpret the stories as you admire the pieces and be inspired by the creative endeavors. Many pieces seek to challenge perceptions and viewpoints, while offering different ways of thinking about the world.
7. Immerse Yourself in Nature at De Graaf Nature Center
Covering 18 acres, the landscapes of De Graaf Nature Center are made up of woods, ponds, and marshes, with several trails running through the wildlife-rich preserve. Pop into the visitors’ center to learn more about the flora and fauna that thrive in the area before setting out to spot diverse nature.
8. See the Historic Old Wing Mission
The Old Wing Mission dates back to the mid-1800s and is the oldest remaining house in Holland. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was here that a Christian preacher introduced the faith to local indigenous groups.
The Greek Revival property has been developed and changed hands several times over the years. Although you cannot go inside, you can still see the property from the outside and soak up a little bit of local history.
9. Spend Time at Windmill Island
One of the top places to visit when in Holland, Windmill Island is a beautiful 36-acre artificial island surrounded by man-made canals and the Macatawa River. Crossing the narrow stretch of water seems to transport you so much further away – it’s like stepping foot in the Netherlands!
Covered in stunning gardens, a highlight of the island is the authentic De Zwaan windmill that was transported to the USA from the Netherlands. The historic windmill is more than two and a half centuries old, and it still works today, producing flour for sale.
In the summer months, tulips burst into bloom, covering the island in multi-colored hues. There’s a delightful vintage carousel that’s often popular with kids, a street organ from Amsterdam, and well-marked walking trails. In the warmer months, it’s often possible to see people performing in traditional Dutch costumes.
10. Sunbathe in Holland State Park
Holland State Park doesn’t have just one beach – it has two! Choose between relaxing on the beach along the shores of Lake Michigan or chilling out on the beach on the edge of Lake Macatawa – or hop between them both!
Stroll along the sands and soak up the views, catch some rays and top up your suntan, or take a dip in the refreshingly cool lake waters. If you’re feeling active, you can try diverse water activities, beach volleyball, or fishing. Hiking trails wind through the park and you can explore the sand dunes too.
If you stay until the evening, you can watch a picturesque sunset over the majestic Lake Michigan and, if you want to stay even longer, the park has two well-equipped campgrounds.
11. Visit Graafschap Church
Established in 1862, Graafschap Church was at the heart of the Dutch immigrant community. The quaint log building houses the Graafschap Heritage Center today, where you can learn more about immigration to the area. The center details reasons for immigration, how people traveled overseas to start a new life, how early pioneers built log homes, and the ways in which migrants dealt with challenges and hardships.
Nearby, the active Graafschap Church is a beautiful piece of architecture that still retains a strong place at the heart of the local Christian community. In the grounds you can pay your respects to early settlers, and a simple stone with a plaque marks their burial site.
12. Climb Up Mount Pisgah Dune
Mount Pisgah is a high dune that towers 157 feet in the air. Close to Holland State Park, you can follow the boardwalk or climb up the stairs to reach the top of the dune. The peak offers tremendous views over Lakes Michigan and Macatawa, Holland’s marinas, the beaches, the woodlands, and the Big Red Lighthouse.
13. Unwind in Kollen Park
Situated on the edge of Lake Macatawa, Kollen Park is a great place for leisure. Looking over the lake, there’s a long boardwalk – the Heinz Waterfront Boardwalk – that was donated by the nearby large Heinz factory. Fishing is possible right from the boardwalk, and the 24-acre park also has grassy expanses, picnic areas, and a kids’ playground.
Find the park’s two significant landmarks – a fountain and a statue. The Queretaro Fountain was gifted to Holland by its Mexican sister city, and the Immigrants Statue was given to the city by the Dutch city of Denthe.
14. Stay Indoors at BAM! Entertainment Center
One of the best things to do in Holland on rainy days or to escape hot or cold weather, BAM! is a fabulous indoor entertainment center for all members of the family. Aim for a strike with a fast-paced game of bowling; try to beat the escape rooms; sing your heart out at karaoke; or shoot some pool.
Laser tag, Atomic Rush, a high ropes course, and arcade games are just a few more of the fun activities in the center. No worries if all the excitement burns your energy – there’s a good on-site restaurant too.
15. Cruise on the Holland Princess
Board the Holland Princess for a relaxing excursion on the waters of Lakes Michigan and Macatawa. Spot wildlife, enjoy the views, and see local landmarks as you leisurely drift across the lakes. The paddlewheel boat has a sense of nostalgia, with its Victorian style, and various activities are available onboard.
16. Catch a Performance at the Knickerbocker Theater
Operated by Hope College since the late 1980s, the theater has a much longer history. Constructed in the early 1900s, it has hosted a huge variety of shows, performances and talks – Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the audience from the stage when he was Secretary of the Navy.
Today, the venue is a major cultural establishment, with plays, concerts, art films, and interesting lectures among the diverse schedule.
17. Contrast Life in the Past at the Cappon House and Settlers House
Located just a few doors from each other, Cappon House and Settlers House are two old homes from times gone by. Although inhabited at around the same period of time, they are starkly different. It’s easy to see the socio-economic divide from yesteryear.
The elegant Cappon House, constructed in 1874, has been carefully restored to show what it would have been like in its heyday. The Italianate Victorian dwelling was the home of Isaac Cappon – the first mayor of Holland and an affluent tannery owner.
The smaller Settlers House is a much simpler building, occupied in the past by working-class families. Built in the 1860s, it has been restored to show how it would have been in the 1870s.
18. Watch the Sun Go Down at Tunnel Park
Home to several sand dunes, Tunnel Park is named because of the tunnel that cuts right through one of the dunes. There’s a dune climb and a dune walk that afford great vistas, and the park has a play area for younger visitors, picnicking spots, and volleyball courts.
As well as being a terrific place for swimming, relaxing, sunbathing, and playing, it is also a top location to watch a beautiful sunset. Stick around until the late afternoon to watch the sun dipping over the shimmering lake, casting colorful reflections on the water.
19. Snap a Picture of Holland Harbor Lighthouse
One of the city’s most iconic landmarks, the Holland Harbor Lighthouse is also often referred to as the Big Red Lighthouse. Close to Holland State Park, the lighthouse was built in the 1870s. Although it’s not possible to go inside the historic structure, it’s still a great place for taking awesome photographs.
20. Attend the Tulip Time Festival
Held in Holland each May, the lively Tulip Town Festival brings a week of gaiety and revelry to the city. Celebrating Holland’s Dutch heritage, the family-friendly festival features food, dancing, music, games, and parades.
See people dressed up in Dutch attire (complete with clogs), watch concerts by big names, truly enter the spirit of Dutch-ness, and make many magical memories at one of the best small-town festivals in the USA.
21. Day Trip to Saugatuck
Saugatuck is one of those Michigan lakeside towns you can’t help but fall in love with. It’s less than a 20-minute drive away from Holland and makes for a great day trip to the beach with some wine. It’s an artsy town with plenty of boutique shops, breweries, and plenty of places to do a wine tasting. I love heading here for a fun beach day out and enjoying the many things to do in Saugatuck.
Where to Eat in Holland?
One of the best things to do in Holland is enjoy all the fabulous restaurants there are. From waterside dining to hip breweries Holland has it all. Here are a few of our favorites.
- Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant: One of the best waterfront restaurants in Holland located on the shores f beautiful Lake Macatawa. Great for special occasions.
- Seventy-Six: Modern American flair food with a unique menu and great wine selection.
- Crazy Horse Steak House-Saloon: An unassuming restaurant frequently voted the best in Holland. Southwestern-themed steakhouse with awesome decor.
- Butch’s Dry Dock: Upscale restaurant in downtown Holland. Great for date night.
- New Holland Brewing – Pub on 8th: Awesome brewery with great cocktails too. Bar food and outdoor seating make this a great spot to hit up on summer evenings.
- Tulip City Brewstillery: Great place to head for a few beers with friends!
Where to Stay in Holland?
- Staybridge Suites: One of the nicest places to stay in Holland. This has amazing reviews and it’s only 1,650 feet from Nelis’ Dutch Village.
- CityFlatsHotel: Super modern hotel located in the heart of Downtown Holland.
- Holiday Inn Express: Mid-range hotel with true Holiday Inn splendid comfort. Just a short drive from Lake Michigan beaches.
READ MORE MICHIGAN TRAVEL TIPS
I hope you enjoyed this guide on what to do in Holland. Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few relevant articles for more travel around Michigan.