Nelis’ Dutch Village
- 12350 James Street
- Holland, MI 49424
- (616) 396-1475
Our plan was just to go to the Gap Outlet. We left Saugatuck pretty early on our last day of vacation and J suggested we head to Holland to do a little shopping. We got to Holland before Gap opened and L looked across the pond from the parking lot and saw a carousel. We were screwed at that point. She saw a carousel and wouldn’t let it go until she got to ride it.
Nelis’ Dutch Village is a small theme park on the corner of US 31 and James Street in Holland. The park got it’s start in the 1950’s as a retail outlet for the Nelis family and it just sort of grew over time.
Like Gap, Dutch Village didn’t open until 10 and we were a little early. The lady working the admission counter suggested we check out some of the shops which open at 9:00.
Just outside the gates of Dutch Village is a small row of shops selling wooden shoes and other classic Dutch wares. You don’t need to pay admission to the park if you’re just going to shop. The shops are accessible from outside and there is parking right in front of them.
After almost buying L a pair of wooden shoes, we headed back to the park entrance. The admission is $10 for adults and there were three of us. L was still free due to her age, so it cost us $30 to get in.
The park from the road doesn’t look like much, but inside, it actually has a pretty nice layout to it. There’s a small stream that runs through the park which is home to some of the ducks that also use the pond between the park and the shopping center. There are a number of flower gardens and places just to sit an enjoy the serene environment.
The park is full of buildings built in the style of classic Dutch buildings. Each building houses a mini museum and in a lot of cases, demonstrations of various trades that were common in The Netherlands many years ago. Of course there is a shop that makes wooden shoes, but there are also cheese making shops, a petting barn, and a candle shop amongst other things.
Without fail, our route took us right to the carousel. L was pretty excited and ran up to the lady in full Dutch dress anxious to get on a horse. The carousel is a little on the older side and the ride is a little rough, but L didn’t care at all. The ride is a little over three minutes and she ended up riding it FIVE times. The rides are free with admission so there’s really no need to get off and I think at one point, she rode it at least twice if not three times without getting off the ride.
We tried to get her to head over to the petting barn after one of the rides, but she just sort of said, “Hi goats.” and moved on. We wanted to take her on the Ferris Wheel, but they said she didn’t meet the height requirement. She was probably only off by an inch or less, but they err on the side of caution and that’s totally understandable, so we weren’t able to take a Ferris Wheel ride.
Fortunately, she wasn’t too upset about the Ferris Wheel because she noticed a big slide. There were a few other kids running up and down the Giant Wooden Shoe slide in the middle of the park and once L figured out how to get up, she became one of those kids. J’s mom squeezed up to the top of the shoe with her and watched her go down while I stood at the bottom and helped her get back up.
That took up about fifteen minutes then it was back to the carousel….after a quick stop at the Old Dutch Cheese Making shop. There were a number of ladies making fresh cheese and they offered up some samples. L liked it so much we ended up buying a bag to snack on .
After a couple more carousel rides, we had spent about an hour at Dutch Village which means it was time for Dutch dancing. We were sort of letting L do what she wanted just to make it up to this point. We wanted to see how she would react to the dancing.
There is a small theater like set up in the middle of the park with bleachers and the Golden Angel Street Organ, which is one of the largest street organs in the world. The dancers are employees who stop what they’re doing and gather in the dance area to put on a little show. They even cook up some popcorn and hand out bags, for free, to everyone sitting in the bleachers.
There’s an emcee who sort of walks you through what you’re seeing and a couple of dancers in traditional dress who go through a couple different dances. Once they get done, they invite the audience up to learn a dance. L and Nana got up to learn the dance while J and I watched. L followed along pretty well for a two year old, but, as she typically does, sort of did her own thing.
The dancing took about fifteen minutes or so and by that point, we were ready to go find something for lunch. They do have a couple restaurants on site, but there was a place down the street that I’ve been itching to try, so we called it a day.
I work in Holland quite a bit and drive by Nelis’ Dutch Village quite a bit. I never really knew what the place was and I was really surprised by what we found. It’s a neat little touristy place that is both a living museum and a place for the kids to play.