There's still time to organize a quick spring vacation getaway, and it doesn't have to be on some crowded tropical beach at the far end of an hours-long airline flight.
The blooms you think of as symbolizing spring may have already faded in many places, but in western Michigan the Tulip Time Festival is coming up on May 2-9, and where else but a city named Holland. They're serious about the seasonal flower, proclaiming more than 6 million tulips planted around the city. Along with flowers, they have parades, Dutch folk dancing and concerts (Bobby Vinton, Oak Ridge Boys). And you'll want to take along some extra money for the Dutch markets featuring food, Dutch lace and arts and crafts.
Whether or not any of your ancestors came from the Netherlands, you'll want to keep up the theme of the festivities by visiting the Holland Museum with exhibits about early Dutch settlers in the area. And look under "Links" on the left side of the page for tips on growing better tulips in your own gardens.
Holland's first Dutch settlers arrived in 1847, according to the town's official visitors' Web site where local history is grouped under "All About Holland" with maps, weather and other details. And since you're going to be in town for a festival with a Dutch them, click on "Play" for directions to the DeKlomp Wooden Shoe & Delft Factory. The town Web site also has what you need to know about finding places to stay, from campgrounds to hotels, and a survey of restaurants. And follow the Tulip parade downtown for a little shopping.
Along with the Tulip Festival, Holland is a great jumping-off point for side trips in the region.
The Holland area is on the shore of Lake Michigan, and it's part of a tourism promotion group called Michigan's West Coast along with Muskegon, Grand Haven and the inland city of Grand Rapids. Michigan's shore on that member of the Great lakes features miles of sandy beach. Grand Haven boasts waterfront restaurants, along with fishing, boating and hiking. Click on "Attractions" at Muskegon and you'll find a fat guide to beaches, trails, parks and sand dunes, along with wineries, sailing and museums.
That broad blue expanse of Lake Michigan offers opportunities for more side trips. On the "Attractions" page of Muskegon's Web site, look for the link to the Lake Express Ferry which sails to Milwaukee. Click on "Visit Wisconsin" to see what you can do when you get there.
There's also a lot more Michigan coast to explore. Lake Michigan Beachtowns provides links to cities and tourism regions along a stretch of about 150 miles of sandy shore from Harbor Country on the state's southwest corner up to Ludington, site of the Big Sable Point Lighthouse. Harbor Country a relatively short drive from Chicago, has inns and cottages, wineries and more beaches. Silver Lake has huge, picturesque sand dunes
Michigan isn't the only place to enjoy a big spread of tulips in May.
Iowa, another destination of Dutch settlers, has Pella Tulip Time on May 7-9 in the town just southeast of Des Moines. Pella features tulip gardens, Dutch-inspired architecture and a historic village complex of buildings that date back as much as 150 years. For history buffs, Pella also was the boyhood home of frontier lawman Wyatt Earp.
Visit Iowa a week later for the Orange City Tulip Festival in a town in the state's northwest corner named for the Netherlands' William of Orange.
Head north of the border into Ontario for the Canadian Tulip Festival at Ottawa which stems from a gift of the bulbs given to the city in 1945 in appreciation for the Dutch royal family's safe residence there during World War II. The city touts this as the world's largest tulip festival, a celebration that includes an array of entertainment along with spreads of flowers in city parks. Look to the menu on the left for a gallery of photos.