After three months and over $100, my passport arrived with my lovely photograph taken in a Walgreen’s photo department. My sheepish grin and favorite t-shirt looked simply stunning against the plain background and Gatorade bottles at the store. I have been eager to use my passport for nearly two years now, and even more eager to see new countries, new cultures, and what the world has to offer. My passport is still stamp-less and barren, yet I have been able to see a bit of culture right here in west Michigan. Holland, on the coast of Lake Michigan offers a bit of Dutch heritage, a bit of flair, and a bit of fun.
I realize that not everyone is interested in the culture of the Dutch. As a Dutch descendant, I love to embrace stereotypes and inform others that my odd habits are indeed hereditary. The Dutch are consistently made fun of for our excessive windmills, flourishing tulips, bulky wooden shoes, and irresistible desire to pick up loose change. While Holland does not hide its Dutch influence, it certainly has found a unique way to combine old traditions with new American values.
Holland advertises on their website that “You don’t need a passport,” and this is true. Holland is a short drive down I-196 from Grand Rapids, a far cry from The Netherlands in Europe. The Dutch heritage is evident in Holland, from the Tulip Time Festival in May, to Windmill Island near downtown. Even the local shops and major retailers such as Target have adopted the look of a traditional Dutch village. The Dutch elements are prevalent in the quaint downtown and the bustling commercialized area, located off of US-31. Holland has made a point to accept and embrace the Dutch culture, without allowing it to overwhelm all aspects of the community. In fact, Holland has many great attractions to make a quality day trip for anyone and everyone.
A great morning to start your Holland adventure consists of a visit to Eighth Street in downtown Holland. The Holland Farmer’s Market offers an excellent selection of fruits, vegetables, breads, flowers, and other treats for the bargain hunter. Every Wednesday and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. over 50 vendors fill Eighth Street and take part in one of the largest Farmer’s Markets in the area. Make sure to get there early so that you don’t miss out on excellent produce, tasty treats, and a wonderful community atmosphere.
Produce and flowers are not the only great things downtown Holland has to offer. After your journey to the Farmer’s Market, it only makes sense to take a stroll up Eighth Street to the city’s wonderful collection of shops, restaurants, and eclectic stores. The downtown shops include apparel stores, art galleries, and bookstores. You can also find shops to pick up small crafts and nick-knacks, ice cream stores, and many others to keep you looking for more. A personal favorite is the Holland Peanut Store located at 46 E. Eighth Street, which offers a great selection of candies, nuts, and other treats to satisfy any sweet tooth.
After a long morning of shopping and moving around you will likely want to grab a bite to eat. Downtown Holland offers many great dining options from coffee shops, to fine dining. Lemonjello’s is an excellent coffee shop that offers live music on Fridays. The New Holland Brewing Company is a great choice for good pub food and excellent beers. Butch’s Dry Dock is a fine choice for exquisite dining. Boatwerks is a wonderful restaurant located just outside the downtown area on Lake Macatawa. The menu is ever-changing and includes a great amount of freshly prepared meals with unique tastes. The restaurant also offers a great view of Lake Macatawa and docks for the boater enthusiast to tie up and chow down.
The water is an excellent place to spend the rest of your afternoon, especially in the hot summer sun. Holland State Park located at the end of Ottawa Beach Road is one of the most popular state parks in Michigan. The park does require a Motor Vehicle Permit, which can be purchased upon entrance for six dollars. The park is one of the most beautiful stretches of beach in the lower part of the Michigan lakeshore and includes several great amenities such as beach volleyball, many cookout places, and a view of ‘Big Red,’ the Holland lighthouse.
Holland State Park is not the only beach in the Holland area though. Several other beaches are available for public use near Holland including Tunnel Park, just north of the Holland State Park. Tunnel Park is located on Lakeshore Drive, just south of Lakewood Boulevard and offers many great places to cookout, relax, and enjoy west Michigan. The park also includes a great dune to climb when you have extra energy to burn. For those less adventurous, the park includes a tunnel through the dune in keeping to its namesake.
After a day at the beach you can stick around to enjoy a meal on the beach, or venture back to town, making sure to stop at Captain Sundaes on the way back for some ice cream. Depending on how tired you are from the summer sun, you can find your way back to the beach for an excellent Lake Michigan sunset or simply hit the road for your journey home.
Holland is a great adventure for anyone in the west Michigan area and beyond. The city attracts people from all across the country and is always finding new and exciting ways to satisfy the average traveler. The Dutch influence in Holland is strong, but the city is certainly not cheap on its entertainment. If you find that you could not pack everything into one day the city offers many great hotels and camping areas for any overnight stay. If you have not found your way to Holland, it is certainly worth the trip.
For more information about planning a trip to Holland visit .holland.org.