Sometimes a city lands on your radar (thanks Pinterest!), and after one visit, you know it’s your new home away from home. Holland, Michigan put its special place in our family’s heart during our first stunning sunset on Lake Michigan.
A short 5.5 hour drive from Cincinnati will put you in the heart of Holland, MI; wooden shoes and tulips galore!
Holland, Michigan is a quaint city snuck between Saugatuck and Grand Haven with the famous Big Red Lighthouse and Lake Macatawa that feeds into Lake Michigan. Family-friendly fun is found in all four corners of the small town with Dutch heritage sprinkled about.
A gorgeous garden-filled park is the backdrop to Windmill Island Garden’s historic windmill, brought from the Netherlands to America as a one-of-a-kind protected monument. Families get to go inside the working windmill to see how wheat was processed and packaged on the mills (the windmill is not always operating but still open for visitors).
Around the gardens you might bump into the resident Parisian horses who love a good pet. Surrounded by tall trees, fresh flowers, a community garden, tulips carved out of trees and a working organ, Windmill Island Gardens is a must-see for families. Kids will love running through the property before a ride on the carousel and playtime on the canal’s playset.
The dutch village looks like it was literally carved out of… well, Holland! Each building is designed to replicate a village in the Netherlands. Kids get to slide down a huge wooden shoe, sling water balloons in the pirate ship, pick up and pet chickens, ride the swings, carousel or windmill ride before snacking on yummy stroopwafels that kids get to make themselves! Watch the dutch dancers or a wooden shoe carving demonstration before purchasing your own dutch souvenirs like wooden tulips and blue & white pottery.
Fully accessible, WOW Nature Play Park is newly designed to encourage kids out into nature. Little ones get to climb over logs, boulders and nets on the huge nature playscape. Steps away from downtown Holland, take a walk down to the park after dinner at Hops at 84 East.
Tunnel Park got its name from the tunnel that transports visitors from the playground/park side to Lake Michigan! Kids can run through the tunnel or try climbing the huge sand dune hill by the playground. Either way, Tunnel Park is a quieter beach with far less beach-goers than the State Park. A hidden gem, this county park requires a daily entrance fee payable at the kiosk near restrooms and soda machines.
Famous for their Tommy Turtle, Captain Sundae’s is a fun spot for ice cream and mini-golf. The Tommy Turtle is everything you’ve dreamed of: vanilla ice cream, hot caramel, rich dark chocolate fudge, buttered pecans, whipped cream and a cherry on top. Kids three and under play for free at Pirate’s Landing mini-golf.
Michigan is a pro at growing blueberries! The conditions are just right in Michigan for big, juicy berries that you can purchase right from the market or U-Pick during summer months (typically middle of July). Bowerman has a newly opened market cafe in downtown Holland or visit the farm picking fields to pick your own berries.
A short drive south to Saugatuck is another beautiful lake town with stunning beaches and sand dunes all around. The dune rides were the highlight of our family’s first trip to Holland! Start out your ride on the jeeps where you bounce around and feel like you’re flying through the sand dunes. The entire family will love how fast the jeep goes through the winding back roads before making a stop at the peak to view Lake Michigan’s endless waters.
Reservations must be made online, ride schedules go live two weeks in advance. Book your trip here!
Lake Michigan Swimming + Boating
The beach in Holland is always clean and has the softest golden sand to lay out on or build big sand castles. At the State Park, there is a fee to enter but a yearly $39 non-resident Michigan Recreation Passport will cover each visit. Kids will love grabbing an ice cream from the beach shop where they have all the essentials like sunscreen and beach toys in case you forgot yours at home.
Holland loves its biking trails and is very accessible across the entire city! From the State Park to the beach, families will have a blast biking down the trails and wide sidewalks, making stops along the way to Dune Dogz and the Ottawa Beach General Store. For a map of biking the lakeshore, visit here.
Holland has an adorable downtown with the cutest boutiques that mom, dad and kids will love. On Thursdays during the summer, street performers take over downtown with free shows by family bands, jugglers, violinists, break dancers, balloon animals, face paint and more.
The heated sidewalks in downtown Holland makes the western Michigan town a popular destination year-round. With an ice cream shop, kids boutique, candy store, brewery, book store and tons of shops for mom– you just might not leave downtown. And if you do, Window on the Water NaturePlay Park is just a short walk away!
With a diverse menu that kids will love, Hops is home to american-fare like brick oven pizza, spaghetti pie, fish & chips, and cheese curds. Kids will have a hard time choosing between pizza, chicken, steak, spaghetti pie, mac and cheese or cheeseburger. Each month, a purchase of the Community Pizza will include a donation from Hops to a local organization- gluten free options available!
The New Holland Brew Pub has daily specials of their home-brewed suds and a delicious menu of pepperoni pinwheels, elote corn dip, fresh berry salad, smoked pulled pork and a kids menu of grilled cheese, chicken strips, mac and cheese and pizza.
A gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan lover’s dream! Walk into a huge cafe of nothing but diet-sensitive treats and warm meals. The bakery cases are packed to the brim with gluten free bagels, focaccia loaves, soft pretzels, scones, pound cake, chocolate tarts and so, so much more!
“A Taste of the Old Country” is one of many menu highlights at deBoer’s restaurant. deBoer’s is home to two locations; a bakery and a restaurant/bakery combo. Both are absolutely amazing but the restaurant is something from a Netherlands dream. A Taste of the Old Country serves up one croquette, one pig in a blanket, a cup of pea soup, Dutch mild gouda, bakery bread and a Kracklingen (so, so good) for dessert.
“Beach food at its best.” Dune Dogz is a super short walk from Holland State Park, on the way to the beach of Lake Michigan. A perfect stop for ice cream and a corn dog, Dune Dogz has plenty of outdoor seating under umbrellas and water bowls out for pups to enjoy. The ice cream menu has everything you can imagine from flavor burst cones, flurries, smoothies, sundaes, shaved ice, dole whip and hand-dipped scoops.
Where to Stay in Holland, MI
Camping: If you’re towing the camper or packing tents, Holland State Park has three gorgeous loops; the beach, woodstock and pines. Our family always tries to stay in the Pines loop, surrounded by nothing but– Pine trees! The Pines loop is home to a brand new bathroom/shower facility which is easily the nicest camp restrooms we’ve ever been to.
On the beach side, campers park on a designated beach parking lot just steps away from Lake Michigan. Fall asleep to the most gorgeous sunsets on Lake Michigan right from your site. Holland State Park camping requires a $39 non-resident Michigan State Parks Passport that you can purchase online weeks before (plan for time in the mail) or from the camp store. HSP is an alcohol-free park, you must sign and acknowledge you will have no alcohol.
Hotels: Throughout the city, families will find popular hotels like SpringHill Suites, Hilton Home2, Avid Hotel, Country Inn and many more. Or, check out Lake Ranch Resort as the only lodging accommodations directly on the water in Holland.
If you come from a Dutch heritage, you know the only thing that goes better with a warm stroopwafel on your coffee mug is a bouquet of fresh tulips on the table. Millions of tulips are in bloom during Holland, Michigan’s Tulip Time Festival around the city and area attractions. Immerse yourself in dutch culture at the once-dubbed Best Flower Festival, America’s Best Small Town Festival.