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Windmill Island Gardens in downtown Holland, Michigan
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Big Red Lighthouse on the beach in Holland, Michigan
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Enjoying the views in Holland, Michigan
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Exploring the outdoors in Holland, Michigan
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Ottawa Beach General Store in Holland, Michigan
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Quaint village at Windmill Island Gardens in Holland, Michigan
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Dam at Windmill Island Gardens in Holland, Michigan
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If you’re looking for a beautiful waterfront getaway, there’s no better place than Holland, Michigan, on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan.

Along with its unique Dutch culture and heritage, the area’s pristine beaches make Holland the perfect holiday relaxation retreat. Although the most popular time to visit Holland is springtime, when 6 million tulips are in bloom during the annual Tulip Time Festival, which includes music, parades and more than 1,000 Klompen dancers, this town has something to offer everyone year-round.

Expansive Outdoors and the History of Holland

My first stop was Holland State Park, which has an expansive, sandy beach along both Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa. In fine weather, visitors can enjoy camping and splashing around at the water’s edge or taking to the open water for a wide selection of water sports.

Next, I headed downtown to the Holland Museum to learn about the Dutch history of the city, which was settled in 1847 by the Rev. Albertus van Raalte. He arrived from the Netherlands with his family during a harsh winter, seeking freedom from the religious and economic hardships they had experienced in the Netherlands.

Today, the residents of Holland embrace their Dutch heritage, which can be seen in much of the architecture throughout the city, as well as at the museum, which is home to a diverse collection of Dutch art and other exhibits dating back 400 years.

Scenic Lake Macatawa in Holland

Scenic Lake Macatawa in Holland
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Anton Fresco/James McGaw

Windmill Island Gardens

A short drive from downtown is Windmill Island Gardens with its 14.6 hectares of manicured lawns, canals and dikes. Under blue skies, I took a guided tour of the gardens and the DeZwaan windmill, the only working Dutch windmill in the USA today. More than 250 years old, it’s surrounded by gorgeous flowers in bloom, and the staff who take you on the tour are all authentically dressed in historical costumes, right down to the eight or so pairs of socks to ensure clog-wearing comfort.

I was very interested to learn that the miller at the windmill, Alisa Crawford, is the USA’s first Dutch-certified miller. She graduated in 2007 from school in the Netherlands and today continues to utilize her skill at the DeZwaan windmill.

Bridge and 250-year-old working windmill at Windmill Island Gardens

Bridge and 250-year-old working windmill at Windmill Island Gardens
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Anton Fresco/James McGaw

Downtown Holland

If you have the shopping bug, a brilliant place to while away a few hours is historic – and hip – downtown Holland.

My favorite, and seriously delicious, shop on Eighth Street was the Holland Peanut Store, a family-run business that opened in 1902. Great-grandfather Joseph Fabiano emigrated from Italy to Holland and started selling sweets and nuts. Today, five generations later, the Fabiano family is still hand-dipping their signature chocolates and satisfying the sweet tooth cravings of many.

To balance out my diet a little, I had dinner at the New Holland Brewing, where they also have a wide selection of local beers to try.

At day’s end, under clear skies, I grabbed a jumper and drove back out to Holland State Park. I pulled up a piece of driftwood, sat back, relaxed and watched the beautiful sunset disappear over the horizon into an amber and orange glow. The Holland Harbor Light, known as the Big Red Lighthouse, stood on the north pier and kept me company.

What a trip. There’s plenty to keep the whole family occupied here. Be sure to include beautiful Holland, Michigan, on your next U.S.-bound holiday.

Dining at Dune Dogz in Holland

Dining at Dune Dogz in Holland
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