Holland was the fist little town on our list, a quick two hour drive from home. The town is known for it's Dutch heritage and annual spring Tulip Time Festival. We decided to visit Windmill Island Park first, one of Holland's main attractions.
We listened to an antique Amsterdam street organ, visited the Dutch cottage shops, took a tour through the five-story 18th century windmill (it still grinds flour, which you can buy in the gift shop) and watched the traditional Dutch dancing that happens hourly at the base of the windmill.
Apparently, Holland school children learn these dances at a very young age and perform them in festivals and parades every year until they graduate high school. We were expecting to see a large group of dancers, but instead found four high school girls in folk costumes, who clomped around in wooden shoes for about 20 minutes. I'll be real: it was awkward. The girls knew it, too, although the older couple sitting next to us loved it.
After Windmill Island Park, we made our way over to Nelis Dutch Village, which is described as a "Dutch amusement park" on the village's website. The village was built in the late 1950s, and the quirky park doesn't seem like much has changed.
We visited the Dutch barn petting zoo, toured a typical 1800s Dutch home, sampled tasty cheeses in the Cheese Shop, and wandered around the museum buildings. The park also had several demonstrations, including wooden shoe carving, candlestick making, Delftware pottery glazing, and traditional dutch dancing (which, because of our last experience, we avoided.) Chris was also publicly tried as a witch in the Weighhouse. He was found to be innocent, if you're curious, and has the certificate to prove it.
Can I be honest? Holland in general was really disappointing, especially for the amount of money we spent on the park and village admission. If you're ever planning a trip to Holland, I would recommend going in the spring for the Tulip festival, when a lot more events are going on. Otherwise, it's just not worth it.
Other Holland attractions we didn't make it to: Veldheer De Klomp wooden shoe factory, Holland State Park and beach, and the Big Red Lighthouse.
Grand Rapids was our next stop on the map. The city is only about 30 minutes from Holland, so it was an easy drive over. We decided to skip out on the GRAM and UICA art museums this time around, since we plan on returning in October for ArtPrize, and headed straight to the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.
How had we not visited this place before?! It was one of my highlights of the trip, for sure. Exotic plants and interesting sculptures in a beautiful setting... we spent almost all of our afternoon here, wandering around the greenhouse and acres of gardens.
The whole place reminded us of a zoo, only instead of looking at animals we were viewing artwork. We also had our own little Five For Fighting concert as we strolled the grounds... he was practicing for his set that evening (accompanied by the GR Symphony, no less) as part of garden's Summer Concert Series. We'll definitely be returning for a concert or two next summer.
By the time we were done with the gardens (and we didn't even see everything!) it was pretty late. We finished our day with dinner at Marie Catribs, ice cream at Jersey Junction and a stroll around the Gaslight District before checking in to our hotel. We didn't get a chance to take in a lot that Grand Rapids had to offer, like the Public Museum or the Meyer May house, but the city is pretty close to home so we can visit those another time. If you are visiting the GR area, though, we highly recommend a stop at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.
Next up: day two's adventures in Benzonia and Traverse City.