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Dutch Hospitality Made My Day!
Jul 1, 2006 (Updated Jul 8, 2006)
by Michelle Chelledun
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Very, very friendly and helpful staff, lots of hands-on experiences, good photo ops
Cons:Lack of a full service restaurant, busy highway behind the park contributes traffic noise
The Bottom Line: Tot ziens!
Want to experience a bit of old Holland without leaving the continental U.S.? Then head to Dutch Village in Holland, Michigan. This self-proclaimed Dutch theme park may lack a little in terms of high-thrill attractions, but it more than makes up for this with its nicely maintained grounds and ridiculously friendly staff. The three and a half hours my husband and I spent there this were truly enjoyable, and I also really enjoyed visiting this park as a child.
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Holland is located in the south-western portion of Michigan, a few miles from Lake Michigan. Dutch Village is easily accessible once you enter town as signs point the way to this and the charming towns various other tourist attractions.
This park is open from April to October. Hours vary slightly depending on the month, Tulip Time in the month of May is the busiest season with the most extended hours. Our visit was a Saturday in July and the hours were 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. for the park and 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. for the surrounding shops. You can check hours for your visit at http://www.dutchvillage.com/park/hours.html.
Admission is a reasonable $10 for adults, $9.00 for seniors, and $5.00 for children. This gets you access to all buildings, shows, and films for the day as well as unlimited rides for children on the swings and carousel. We got a dollar discount on each ticket with AAA club, but you can also print out a discount ticket at http://www.dutchvillage.com/park/hours.html for each member of your party. Parking is free and available on-site.
Heres Your Information!
One thing I really loved about this park was the excellent maps and daily activity information given to us as we purchased our tickets. We received a map of the park with a description of each building, a map of other area attractions, and a schedule of daily activities. The daily schedule was particularly useful. Instead of listing the different activities and their times, it went through each fifteen minute period of the day and listed the different offerings at the park that started at that time. For example, if you found yourself free at 11:45 a.m., you could either head to a Delft Pottery Demonstration, a discussion of Life in a Dutch Farmhouse, or have an opportunity to try on wooden shoes. Each activity was also labeled with either F for family-oriented or A for adult-oriented. We never found ourselves without something to do and found it easy to catch the activities that were particularly interesting. It was great!
Highlights of the Park
This is a small, manageable park without a lot of fancy rides or high-tech exhibits. However, if you are a curious, inquisitive visitor you can learn a lot and have a lot of fun with the staff and exhibits. Guests are welcome to touch and play with things around the property, which was a nice change. The following are a few of my recommendations for a fun day.
The Petting Barn - This largish petting area offers a few more exciting experiences for kids and adults than the average petting zoo. In addition to feeding the goats and sheep corn and petting them, you can also bottle feed them and take them out for a walk. I personally walked around with a goat on a leash for about a half hour and it was so much fun I almost took her home! This was a fun and unique experience that kids would probably love even more than I did.
The Bioscoop - This cute little Dutch movie theater has a nice, cool seating area surrounded by tulips. Different films are shown throughout the day. We watched Say Cheese! upon entering the park. It was a family-oriented film providing general information about the Netherlands, and I thought it was a nice way to get in the Dutch spirit.
The Heksenwaag - One of the parks more adult-oriented offerings, this is an actual antique witch scale. Theoretically, a witchs bones are hollow, so if a person is light enough to fly she must be a witch. Both my husband and I were weighed and, as it turns out, neither of us are a witch. We each got a nifty signed and dated Certificate of Innocence to commemorate the occasion! This scale is an interesting look at a darker part of Dutch history.
Dutch Dancing - Every two hours, Dutch village employees perform klompen dancing to a series of songs played by the Golden Angel street organ. The organ is authentic from Amsterdam, and the dancers are local high school girls who perform daily as their summer job. They danced to three songs during the performance we saw, and the real entertainment came when one accidentally kicked off her wooden shoe and it flew about twenty feet away, fortunately in the opposite direction of the audience. We learned a lot more about the organ when we went behind it to view pictures and talk to the parks employees about it.
Kolean Museum - This is a very small museum but worth walking through to see authentic clothing from various parts of the Netherlands. Clearly lettered signs explain where the clothing is from and for what occasion it is worn.
Zweefmolen and Draaimolen - If you have kids, you must stop by and enjoy the Dutch swing ride and antique carousel. Both are small but ornately crafted. I remember riding the swings over and over when I visited the park with my family. When youre eight, any park with free rides is an OK place to be, even if there are only two. Also just for kids is a nice slide that shoots out of a gigantic wooden shoe.
The Hardewyk Chapel - I found this tiny church to be a nice place to sit and take a breather on a hot day. It has a couple of really beautiful little stain glass windows and is worth a stop.
Statues, Gardens, and Windmills - All around the site are various places to stop and view statues signage teaching a little about Dutch culture. For example, a statue of a fisherman is accompanied by a plaque discussing the Netherlands fishing history. A giant statue of a stork offers the information that the bird is a national symbol of Holland. And the flowers are just pretty. Many of these statues and gardens offer excellent family photo opportunities. Your child can sit right in the storks bundle as if he is being carried for delivery, or pose with a yoke and buckets over her shoulders.
Shopping and Eating
Shopping is a big part of the activities at Dutch Village. The gift stores funnel nicely into each other so you wont miss anything. Expect tons and tons of Delftware, wooden products including lots of shoes, and Precious Moments figurines. Nice souvenir choices include a pair of shoes with a name or date engraved or a Delft tile that doubles as a trivet for hot pots or plates. The selection of Christmas decorations is especially nice, and one of the stores offers some of the most attractive nativity creches Ive ever seen. On the whole, the products in these gift shops seemed to be high quality and fairly reasonably priced. Shopping for Delftware and wooden shoes in Holland, Michigan is probably as close as you can get to shopping for them in the Netherlands without actually going there.
Probably my biggest complaint about Dutch Village is the lack of a table-service restaurant. I understand the Queens Inn Buffet used to be open frequently during the summer, but now it is only available for groups and during Tulip Time. This means the only dining option at the park is the Hungry Dutchman Cafe. We had some apple pie there and it was pretty good, but I had been looking forward to a nice, relaxing meal of authentic Dutch food. If you are heading there for a meal, the menu includes pigs-in-a-blanket, pea soup, and sausage with cabbage as well as American fare such as hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken breast sandwiches.
If you are just looking for a snack, stop in at the Dutch Dip ice cream shop for a cone or De Zoete Han for some fudge. Whether youre eating a snack or a meal, be sure to sit at the river-side tables outside where you can enjoy the view of the worlds friendliest ducks.
Other Things to Do in the Area
Dutch Village will take around two and a half three hours to tour completely. We stopped for a snack and went at a very leisurely pace, part of the time while dragging a goat along, so we spent three and a half there. Dont worry, there is plenty in Holland to fill the rest of your day.
Directly adjacent to Dutch Village is the Holland Town Center outlet mall. You can literally walk there, so dont bother moving your car. The stores include GAP, Pfaltzgraff, and Reebok and the facility is very nice. If you are looking for more Dutch experiences, head to Windmill Island, Vendeer Gardens, or the DeKlomp Wooden Shoe & Delftware Factory. Downtown Holland is also very nice with its trendy shops and restaurants. The prices, however, seem to be geared toward tourists.
Its amazing the difference an excellent staff can make in a tourists experience. If not for the friendly employees, I might have been a bit disappointed in my day at Dutch Village. It is kind of a small park, after all, and is bordered on one side by a very busy road that hurts the ambience a bit. However, everyone went out of their way all day to make sure your experience in Holland was the best possible. Personal, hands-on experiences such as being allowed to rent out a goat, playing a Dutch game reminiscent of air-hockey behind the pipe organ, free childrens rides, and the opportunity to be weighed on a witch scale all added up to make a visit to Dutch Village a memorable and unique experience. If you are going to be in the area, do take a few hours out of your day and stop by this quaint and friendly theme park.
*Heading to Holland? Check out my reviews of...
DeKlomp Wooden Shoe and Delft Factory
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