Holland, Michigan is only 3 hours from Naperville, Illinois and after some research on this Lake Michigan beach town, we decided this would make a fun family road trip this summer. Forbes Magazine has rated it one of the “Prettiest Towns” and the city is known for it’s Dutch heritage and Tulip Time Festival.
Being so close to Chicago and the ‘burbs, we decided to stay three nights. There are so many fun things to explore here as a family. Holland, Michigan is known for its’ Tulip Time festival in May and it is world famous. We were too late for this stunning festival (as we made our journey to Holland over the 4th of July week) but there are many other things to do in the summer months in this adorable, pet and kid-friendly town.
Where to Stay
The Beach House at Lake Street: We originally started planning this trip as a group trip with another family with kids. There is a clear distinction between staying downtown Holland and staying at the beach. When you stay downtown you will be close to all the shops and restaurants but not close to the beach. There is definitely a different vibe downtown vs. at the beach.
I found these newer, multi-bedroom units with up to 5 bedrooms with full kitchens. They book up fast though and these were sold out by the time we started looking for June or July.
City Flats Hotel: This is where we ultimately decided to stay as it’s in the historic, downtown Holland area and their rates are very reasonable. They still had availability and King sized beds. One thing to note if traveling with young children is- they don’t have bathtubs. Olivia is scared of showers still and this can be difficult when you have young kids.
Next trip to Holland I would stay at the Holland Courtyard Marriott – their rooms look nicer than City Flats and they have an indoor pool for the kids.
Things to do
Saugatauk Dunes Rides: If you do one thing when visiting Holland and Saugatuck – book a dune ride in advance. The Lake Michigan Dunes are so much fun to run up and down and play in. When I stumbled across this company, I knew we had to book this. Children are allowed as long as they are 1 years old. The dune ride is 40 minutes long, with rides from 10am-7pm. Adults are $20 each, children 2 and under are free and kids 3-11 years old are $11. We booked online.
Windmill Island Garden: This was very close to downtown and near City Flats Hotel. You probably only need about an hour here as it is small. There is admission to get into Windmill Island Garden. Adults are $10 each and children ages 3-15 are $5 each. The garden is pet friendly. There is a playground and carousel for the kids. The shops have the same cute tulip and wooden shoe gifts that Neli’s Dutch Village has.
Nelli’s Dutch Garden: This adorable theme park celebrates the Netherlands with a wooden shoe factory, cheese-making & a petting zoo. There is dining, shopping and rides. The zip line and the swings were Olivia’s favs. We loved this mini theme park and spent almost half our day here. The location is a little odd being that it is off a highway and in a strip mall but it was so unique and fun. We really enjoyed feeding the baby goats and holding the baby bunnies. We found it clever that they put their animal feed inside ice cream cones so that feeding the goats is easier and less messy than using just your hands.
Take a day Trip to Saugatuck! Basically Saugatuck needs it’s entirely own post. After our dune buggy ride we explored downtown Saguatuck and all their stores and boutiques. We will surely be returning for a long weekend as we were all very impressed and loved the beach town feel.
Bookmarked for our next trip are the Retro boat rentals which are electric boats for rent in Saugatuck. These electric boats are meant for cruising and sight seeing. A rental for 1.5 hours is $95 for two adults and any passenger over the age of 16 years old is $10/each.
We found really unique bikes to rent called Bucket Bikes in Douglas which is a 5 minute drive from Saugatuck. Just Add Water is where we rented them and they have a 4 hour minimum but it’s worth it to ride along Lakeshore Drive and see all the beautiful houses and scenery.
Holland State Park is where you can view the Big Red Lighthouse. Holland State Park features two large campgrounds, picnic tables, fire pits and grills, beach volleyball courts, and a beach house. The pier and walkway along the harbor channel is a popular spot for fishing and for beautiful views of sailboats, sunsets and the Big Red lighthouse.
Tunnel Park is a tunnel that goes through an actual dune. This park has a children’s playground complete with a dune climb and a dune stairway with scenic views of Lake Michigan, and picnic areas.
Downtown Holland has amazing, unique shops to browse through and stroll around. The Holland Clock Company has many handmade Coo Coo Clocks, Steins and Nut Crackers for your German relatives and your knick knack collection.
Sandcastle is the main toy store downtown and we had so much fun taking Olivia here. They have so many toys that I’ve never seen before and the slap bracelet watches were genius for busy toddlers who want to do things themselves.
We also made a pit stop in Fabiano’s since we can’t visit any new town without a pit stop into their local candy store!
Where to Eat
Boatwerks is located on the water and has an awesome view of the Big Red Lighthouse. The Culture Trip blog has done a nice job of putting together a list of the top 10 places to eat in Holland, Michigan.
Hands down our favorite meal of the trip was at Seventy Six in downtown Holland. Kevin was our server and the food, wine and service was exactly what we needed after a long day of exploring. Their Crab Louie Salad was outta this world and their caramel bread pudding for desert is a must try.
DeBoer’s Bakery is not located in the heart of downtown but their food looks delicious and they have great yelp reviews.
Butch’s Dry Dock has been awarded Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence’. They have a wine list that has over 800 bottles of wine from around the world.
Alpenrose is also in the heart of downtown and walkable from City Flats Hotel. We had lunch there on our second day in Holland, Michigan. While I’d rate the food and service we had a C+, the decor is really pretty and quaint.
Pure Michigan is purely beautiful and kid-friendly. We can’t wait to come back next summer!