Saturday, March 17, 2012

Tulip Festival - Holland, Michigan

Yes, It is that time of the year (esp in US and the rest of north west of western hemisphere) when spring arrives. Roses, Tulips and Cherry Blossoms decorate the streets and gardens all over the towns and homes and for flower lovers like me, it is just the most beautiful and a happy sight to watch.
While searching for a destination for a weekend, I discovered the "Tulip Time Festival", which is the best tulip festival in the mid west and largest in USA, held from early to mid May around. It is held in an incredibly beautiful town of Holland, Michigan, not very far away from where I used to live
Visiting this festival is a day's affair and it is advisable to put the walking shoes on, so that the legs don't hurt later in the night. True to it's name, the place is a small scale replica of the very famous Holland in Europe. The distinctive architecture, names, culture and food - its all Dutch. 
You can start the trip from any point and as you go ahead, you will realize it's all a round about, but the central garden in the downtown is where usually people start. The whole circle is lined with up various colorful tulips and a beautiful fountain in between. There are approximately 6 million tulips planted all over the town. There is no dearth of photographers here, as you would have imagined. And if you go early in the season, you might as well have to stand up in the queue to get some photos. 
Tulips adorning the downtown garden in very beautiful patterns and colors
A street in the Downtown of the city, where in a couple of minutes, the parade is going to pass. 

Our next destination was towards the main street of the downtown where the parade was about to begin. The highlight of the parade is their Dutch costumes and dances. The are some amazing instrumental performances and I saw a cycle which I had only heard about before, with a very big front tyre and a tiny back one.
Scenes and performances from the volksparade (or people's parade) in the downtown. 

A small walk away from the downtown takes you to Windmill Island Garden (I do not remember the directions, but the good thing is they have put it all through the way, so you will definitely reach there!). While you can drive, it is suggested to walk, because the charm of the downtown and neatly laid out gardens are not to be missed for anything. Windmill Gardens have a great picturesque windmill in the middle, which stands out as a star attraction in the garden. The backside of the garden also features a lake, ducks and a canal, which we somehow skipped it as it started to rain (and also, with all the walking we did for the past 3 hours, we were very tired and needed a coffee, which we got from a nice little coffee joint in the downtown, a non Starbucks one!)Our next stop was the Dutch village. 
More colorful tulip beds near downtown in the Windmill Island Garden, approximately a 20 minutes walk away.

Neil's Dutch Village is a small ride away, can't resort to walk here. The place offers an exceptional insight to a traditional Dutch village, its shopping centers and the wooden show factories. The people are very friendly here and are always dressed in their native wear. The Dutch village offers a lot of valuable information on how the Dutch lived, their crafts, farming methods, their food and best of all, every evening, they have cultural music and dance shows, performed by the employees. We spent approximately an hour here (while we wanted to do more, but there was one last destination we wanted to cover!) and tried absorbing as much Dutch culture as we could, but it was also closing time, so we moved on to the final place - the tulip farms of Veldheer. 
Pictures from the traditional Dutch village, with the shopping centre, homes, architecture, their famous wooden dolls and shoes and very beautiful walkways.  

Veldheer's tulip gardens are a very familiar sight in every Indian movie watcher's eyes, picture Amitabh and Rekha singing Dekha ek Khwab from the movie Silsila, while it was shot in Amsterdam, we could at least catch the glimpse of a minuscule version of the same, and boy! you will be amazed with the beauty - that is for sure. Tulips are beautiful, but if that is all you see in an open space, in different colors, arranged in a pattern, you know a photographer has struck gold. This farm has nothing new to see, it has a windmill, it has some awesome cherry blossom trees and beautifully patterned tulips. However, in the middle of the farm, there are some chairs where you can just sit and relax. After a long day, we did relax in the middle of the fields for sometime, watching people enjoying themselves losing in the beauty of these farms. Its surprising how these shrubs that hardly grow a feet from the ground can take away your stress and leave you happy and smiling!
Veldheer Tulip gardens - entrance, windmill, cherry blossom trees and the tulip rows
PS - Please go early in the morning, if you intend to visit the place, there is a lot more to do and see than what we did in 6 hours, while that was less time spent, it was surely worthy of the visit.