June 20, 2018

Where To Stay Near Adventureland

Our long weekend in Des Moines, Iowa this summer included a day at Adventureland. Since the theme park was the main reason we were making this trip, it made sense to stay at a place nearby like Fairfield Inn & Suites. If you’re looking for a hotel near Adventureland, here’s what our stay was like.

Disclosure: Our weekend in Des Moines was hosted by Catch Des Moines. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Near Adventureland

This Fairfield Inn & Suites is technically in Altoona, Iowa, but simplicity’s sake, we’ll say it’s in Des Moines, since most of us out-of-towners think Adventureland is in Des Moines. The important thing is that it’s super close to Adventureland, right?

If you’ve stayed at a Fairfield Inn & Suites before, you are familiar with this Marriott brand hotel. It’s comfy and family-friendly and affordable. The bonus with this particular location is that it’s new, so everything is pristine and fresh.

The lobby of the Fairfield Inn and Suite near Adventureland.

The amenities I expect from a Fairfield are consistent the Marriott brand line of hotels: Complimentary hot breakfast, comfortable beds, small pool, and a hip, modern-looking lobby. This location also had a hot tub and a lake view. There’s an outdoor patio by the lake that will be nice eventually, but since this is such a new hotel, there still is some landscaping to do. There’s a door to the patio from the pool area.

This hotel had a nice touch for those who’ve spent a day outdoors in the summer: Cucumber-infused ice water in the lobby. If you’ve sweated your way through Adventureland in June, this is a refreshing and pleasant surprise to arrive to.

What I liked about the hotel

As a parent, I liked the convenience of walking down to the lobby for a hot breakfast, as well as having a variety of food to choose from. Fresh fruit is always a welcomed option at these breakfasts.

The view from the dining area in the Fairfield Inn & Suites.

I also liked the proximity to Adventureland. It wasn’t as near our other destinations that weekend, like Blank Park Zoo or downtown Des Moines, though. We’ve stayed at a hotel in West Des Moines on our last visit, and if you know the area, that’s even further from Adventureland. Anyway, after a long day at Adventureland, it was great to drive just about a mile to get back to our room.

The rooms themselves are great for families, spacious enough for a family of four. We had two queen beds, plus a pull-out couch. The “suite” area of the room consisted of that couch, plus a desk and TV.

This is what happens when your 6-year-old art directs the photo of a hotel room. You can see the suite area with the pull-out bed couch in the background.

There’s a small toiletry and snack store located in the lobby, in case you forgot necessities. I opted to head to the nearby Target, though, for things I had forgotten.

What the kids liked

As usual, the pool was the biggest hit with the kids. It’s not very deep, so it was good for my little ones. The hot tub was their second favorite area.

What’s near the hotel

The Fairfield Inn & Suites is in a new commercial development in Altoona. It includes the Outlets of Des Moines and the Bass Pro Shop, plus a few restaurants. You could feasibly walk to all of them, but we did not. It looked like there could be a walking path constructed down the road, connecting the hotel to the nearest restaurant, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse.

If you’re wondering about nearby restaurants, I was more satisfied with the variety and unique dining experiences in downtown Des Moines. The restaurants closest to this hotel are all chains, which may or may not be what you’re looking for. We tried to go to Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse one night since they had provided some coupons to hotel guests, but the wait was too long for our kids to stand patiently.

Here are some distances to note:

Outlets of Des Moines – Walkable

Adventureland – Less than 2 miles

Target – Less than 2 miles

Nearest movie theater (Cinemark) – 2 miles

Downtown Des Moines (includes Science Center of Iowa, Fongs Pizza, Des Moines Farmers Market, Pappajohn Sculpture Park, Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, state capitol building and more attractions) – About 10 miles

Blank Park Zoo – About 16 miles

Living History Farms – 18 miles

 

If you go

Fairfield Inn & Suites Altoona

 

Where: 460 Bass Pro Drive NW, Altoona, Iowa

Website

 

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June 14, 2018

How To Stay Cool At Adventureland

Adventureland in Iowa is a quintessential summer destination for families. We planned a whole day at the park during a recent weekend in Des Moines. Before we left, I asked Oh My! Omaha readers on Facebook for their cool-off tips (see the post here). Those tips helped when we visited on a 95-degree day!

Disclosure: Our visit to Des Moines was hosted by Catch Des Moines. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Ways to stay cool at Adventureland

Start early – Get there when the park opens, since mornings are going to be the coolest part of the day. You get the added bonus of short lines for the popular rides. Many recommend arriving about half-hour before the park opens to get a good parking spot and get to the front of the line of your favorite ride.

See a magic show – This was, by far, the most useful tip from a reader. The theater is in Sheriff Sam’s Saloon, and the A/C is a hit of relief in the middle of the day. It doesn’t hurt that the kids find this show highly entertaining. Shows were held on the hour starting at noon, and they rotated shows.

The A/C is cranked on high at the magic show venue in Adventureland. It doesn’t hurt that the show itself is very entertaining for kids. The magic show is held in Sheriff Sam’s Saloon.

Coolest bathroom – I’m using cool literally here. Head to the penny arcade for bathrooms with the A/C cranked on.

Browse the stores – Several stores had signs on the door to “Come in and cool off.” Take that as your cue to go in and browse for as long as it takes to lowery our body temperature. My kids were particularly fine with browsing the toy store.

The look says it all – TOYS. The toy store at Adventureland is a great place to cool off, but if you have kids in tow, good luck leaving without a new stuffed animal friend.

Don’t sweat the old time photos – Two readers recommended doing the souvenir old time photo first thing in the morning. Can you imagine how hot it would be putting on one of those Victorian gowns at 3 p.m. on a July afternoon?

Swim up bar – Shanon K. pointed out that there’s a swim up bar for adults in the waterpark area. It’s called the Sand Bar. That sounds like one of the best ways to cool off in the summer. And by the way, they’ve thought of the kids, too – there’s the Pint Sized Pub with a kid-size stools to sit on in the water. They serve icees, smoothies, non-alcoholic cocktails and a variety of food.

Consider a cabana – Reader Sara U. had some great tips regarding cabanas at the Adventureland water park. First off, if you rent one, it comes with a safe to store supplies. The island cabana not only keeps you covered in the sun, but it also comes with towels, a waitress and a $25 food and beverage credit. “Well worth it as the food was very good and delivered right to you,” she said.

A giant bucket of water to cool you off at Adventure Bay at Adventureland. Photo courtesy Catch Des Moines

Ride the water rides – I’ll have to take everyone’s word for this one. We visited on a week day in early summer, so the water park was closed, and unfortunately, so were the few water rides inside Adventureland. I was really looking forward to being splashed on the Raging River, but it was undergoing some maintenance all day during our visit.

Know when to ride the water rides – Timing is everything with water rides, since everyone wants to ride them during the hottest part of the day. Raging River’s line can be longer than an hour. And tip for the family who gets soaked on the Raging River, there are family drivers for $5 at the end.

Bring water bottles – Most outside food and drink are not allowed, but we could bring in water bottles and refill them throughout the day. Look for water bottle stations in the park. We were able to add ice cubes to our bottles at the Oktoberfest tent (might help that the adults in our group also bought beer).

Find the shade – The park has a lot of trees making it very easy to find a shaded spot to sit. Lisa C. recommended heading toward The Dragon rollercoaster or The Outlaw for shady spots.

Find this shade tent near The Monster at Adventureland.

Park & waterpark in one day tip – Since you get two parks for the price of admission, many fit in both in one day. One reader, Sharice S., shared her family’s itinerary: “We usually enter the park and do the rides all along the left side (ferris wheel, swinging pirate ship, Raging River, Dragon, Saw Mill, etc.) of the park and usually reach the waterpark by mid-afternoon. Then we spend a couple hours swimming and cooling off, and then make our way back to the front on the other side of the park (Monster, Tornado, Storm Chaser). We usually eat at River City Food for lunch and smoothies from the pint size pub in the back of the water park in the late afternoon.”

If you go to Adventureland

Where: 3200 Adventureland Drive, Altoona, Iowa

Calendar of hours

Tip: Do some online investigating before you go and you can score tickets at a discount in advance. If you do show up without pre-purchased tickets, you may get a AAA or military discount if you qualify. I’ve also spotted discount coupons at Hy-Vee.

Related post: Get more Des Moines travel ideas on the post My Des Moines Bucket List.

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June 11, 2018

My Little Traverse Bay Bucket List

There’s a big Michigan road trip in the works and one of our stops will be in the Little Traverse Bay Region. There are so many things to do and places to see, I’ve started a Little Traverse Bay bucket list. Given the itinerary of the road trip this summer, I get about 24 hours in the bay area – so this is a big wish list that will have to be checked off over additional trips. Here’s my Little Traverse Bucket List, featuring things to do in Petoskey, Charlevoix and other nearby cities.

Find a Petoskey stone – I’ll fess up, these stones were the reason I looked into visiting Little Traverse in the first place. They’re so intriguing! The stones are actually fossilized coral that have a pretty distinct pattern on them. We can head to the beach of Petoskey State Park to hunt for them.

Petoskey stones are actually fossils. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Taste local brews – I can’t resist a good microbrewery, and in Petoskey, there’s Petoskey Brewing Co. You know what sounds good on the menu (besides beer)? The Ultimate Fries: beer-batter fries topped with a melted three-cheese blend, chopped bacon and served with ranch dressing. The building has an interesting history. The building was opened in 1898 and was once known as the Old Brewery, serving Petoskey Sparkle beer until 1915.

Petoskey Brewing Co. is home to the Ultimate Fries, beer-battered fires topped with three cheeses, bacon and served with ranch dressing. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Do as Hemingway did – Petoskey has some legit Ernest Hemingway haunts. The historic City Park Grill dates back to the 1800s. Sit at the bar (second seat from the front) and you can have a drink where Papa Bear once sat. You can order the Hemingway Martini to complete the experience. Here’s a full tour of Hemingway’s Michigan.

Pond Hill Farm – This sounds like a place that caters to everyone in my family: There’s a farm to feed animals, a hayrack ride to a trout pond, and a winery and brewery.

Pond Hill Farm is guaranteed animal encounters. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Shop the Gaslight District – Petoskey’s six-block Historic Gaslight District looks like a charming area to spend an afternoon shopping. American Spoon is located in the Gaslight District, where they sell artisan jams. A visit to Mclean and Eakin will be great too. It’s one of the top independently-owned bookstores in the U.S.

The historic Gaslight District in Petoskey, Mich., features quaint shops and trendy restaurants, as well as one of the top independently-owned bookstores in the U.S. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Look for the Mushroom Homes – In Charlevoix, there are 26 homes that look like they’re straight out of a fairytale. Designed by Earl Young, these Mushroom Homes are privately-owned, but you can get a self-guided driving tour brochure from the chamber of commerce.

There’s a self-guided tour of the “Mushroom Houses” of Charlevoix. Photo courtesy Visit Charlevoix

See a show – If my road trip started a little later in the summer, I could catch a performance at Great Lakes Center for the Arts. The first show of the summer season is July 7, 2018. Since it’s a bucket list, I can wish for the impossible (my rules), so I’d have tickets to the already sold-out performance of Pink Martini. Love that band!

Drive the Tunnel of Trees – M-119 got the nickname for obvious reasons, this well-known 20-mile route ends at a state park said to have beautifully-colored stones to discover.

One of the most scenic drives in Michigan is along M-119, also known as the Tunnel of Trees. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Stargaze – Skies don’t get all-too-dark in a city, so rare is the chance to find something like stargazing like I could at Headlands International Dark Sky Park (the ninth in the world!). Located in nearby Mackinaw City, it’s free to visit, day or night.

Northern Michigan nights are meant for stargazing. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Maple syrup tour – The Little Traverse Conservancy offers a variety of events year-round, including a chance to visit Parsons Farm and taste the Hardwood Gold Maple Syrup. The Parson family opens the taps during the event, and just maybe, those on the tour get to taste the maple.

Tapping a maple tree at Maple Moon Sugarbush & Winery in Petoskey. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

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Need more ideas? Start with Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau and then check out head over to Pinterest and see all the great stuff I’ve pinned:

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June 7, 2018

Best Family Getaway To Des Moines

A weekend in Des Moines, Iowa, was the perfect way to start summer for my family this year. Over the course of three days, our getaway to Des Moines included thrill rides, feeding giraffes, and visiting a few downtown attractions. Here’s how you can have an affordable and fun weekend in Des Moines.

Disclosure: Our trip was hosted by Catch Des Moines. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Things to do in Des Moines with kids

Adventureland – We arrived first thing in the morning to Adventureland and enjoyed super short waits for the roller coasters and other rides. It turns out, having near 100-degree weather was a benefit, and meant we had close to no waits all day.

We arrived at Adventureland right when it opened to enjoy no waits for rides like The Dragon. Adventureland is in Altoona, Iowa, and near Des Moines.

We didn’t go to the waterpark attached to Adentureland—it wasn’t open. But, what’s good for you to know is that it’s included with admission and looks like the oasis you need on a crazy hot summer day.

Top rides for the kids were the Galleon and the Dragon. Top show was the magic show. I rather liked the magic show, too, but more because the A/C was full blast.

Blank Park Zoo – This charming zoo isn’t near any of the others on this list, but will be a highlight for your family, especially if you have little ones. It’s easy to fit in a visit under three hours. There is a lot of shade there, and plenty of opportunities to get up close to animals. They also had frequent animal feedings and keeper talks. There are some extras that you can add to make the visit extra special. We fed giraffes and rode a camel.

Feeding giraffes at Blank Park Zoo was an additional fee but definitely a memorable experience.

Science Center of Iowa – In the heart of downtown Des Moines, the Science Center of Iowa is a wonderful, indoor place to explore. It was a rainy morning, making it a perfect spot for us to retreat to. My kids are at the ideal age to really begin to dive into activities at the science center.

The science center is located in downtown Des Moines. Families can easily spend several hours there.

Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market – We timed our visit to the science center to coincide with the Saturday morning farmers market (it’s pretty much right in front of the science center). This is a giant farmers market, and we didn’t see it all. We sampled some food (and wine), as well as tried fresh watermelon.

The Des Moines Farmers Market in downtown Des Moines was the largest I’d ever been to. There were vendors selling produce, clothing, wine and more.

Pappajohn Sculpture Garden – We first visited this sculpture garden during the Des Moines Summer Arts Festival a few years ago. It was nice to return without the crowd. My kids enjoyed the wide open space to run, and I liked seeing some impressive works of art. It’s fairly close to the Science Center of Iowa. We walked it, but it wasn’t without a fair amount of complaining, so I’d recommend driving.

Not far from the sculpture garden are some water features that kids enjoy dipping their feet in. It’s good to know about if you’re there on a hot summer day.

Playing in the water feature in downtown Des Moines is not a bad idea when it’s nearing 100 degrees.

Additional ideas: We visited Des Moines two years ago, and enjoyed visiting Living History Farms. It wasn’t near our hotel this time around. If you’re looking for a FREE option with the kids, the Iowa capitol building is a good one. The law library is impressive, with spiral staircases you’ll want to get a picture of.

An interactive exhibit at Living History Farms in Des Moines.

Kid-friendly restaurants in Des Moines

Fong’s Pizza – This was, by far, the star restaurant for our family. Try their legendary crab rangoon pizza. The kids ordered from the kid’s menu and stuck to the familiar. Parents, there are some tasty mixed drinks served in kitchy glasses.

Fongs Pizza’s most well-known pie is the crab rangoon pizza. It’s delicious and lives up to the hype.

Zombie Burger – This is one we went to on our last visit. The food is also delicious the menu is funny, and you can pretty much expect a wait. The only drawback is that the zombies may not appeal to some younger kids.

I tried the Dead Moines Burger from Zombie Burger in Des Moines, Iowa.

Iowa Tap Room – I wanted to like this place more than I did, but I’m chalking it up to bad timing on a busy Friday night. It is kid-friendly, though, and there was one bartender who was phenomenal with our kids while we waited to be seated.

Drake Diner – On this trip, we enjoyed the hot, complimentary breakfast at our hotel. But on our last visit, the Drake Diner was a great breakfast spot.

Where to stay in Des Moines

Fairfield Inn & Suites – We stayed at a new Fairfield Inn & Suites in Altoona, very near Adventureland and the Des Moines Outlets. It also put us within about 10 minutes of downtown Des Moines.

The view from the dining area in the Fairfield Inn & Suites. The hotel is near Adventureland and Des Moines Outlets, as well as the interstate.

As mentioned earlier, it had a hot, complimentary breakfast each morning, so it’s a good option for families. There’s a pool, workout center, and it’s facing a nice pond. The area is still be developed, and I imagine the pond is going to eventually have a walking path around it.

Des Moines family vacation

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Driving to Des Moines? Plan stops along the way! Here’s my Pinterest board with things to do in Des Moines with kids:

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May 30, 2018

My Traverse City Bucket List

This summer, my family is visiting Michigan for the first time for an amazing road trip. I’ve already started my epic Michigan bucket list. We’ll stay a few nights in the beautiful coastal community, Traverse City, exploring the area, and of course, getting some beach time in. Some people know Traverse City for its proximity to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Shore, but it turns out, this little city is a cultural destination. USA Today named Traverse City one of the top 10 great places to combine “big-city art and small town feel,” and it was the only Michigan city to rank in a study by the National Center for Arts Research about the U.S.’s “most art-loving cities.”

Wish list of things to do in Traverse City

I’ve started dreaming up what all we could do in Traverse City (and nearby) if time and money were unlimited. So, here’s my Traverse City Bucket List:

Hit the dunes – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is technically not in Traverse City, but it’s close enough you’d better visit while you’re in the area. These incredible dunes and gorgeous blue water defy the visions of what others must think the Midwest looks like. If we ever return to the area in the winter, there’s the option of snowshoeing the park’s trails.

beach near Traverse City

The view from Empire Bluff at Sleeping Bear National Seashore. Photo courtesy Traverse City Tourism

Hit the beach – There are six city beaches to choose from in Traverse City, as well as a ton of others nearby. I wish we could try them all. If we’re staying downtown, there’s even a beach there (Clinch Park).

Cruise on two wheels – I’m working getting the kids steadier on their bikes, so we could rent some bikes in Traverse City. There are several trails to check out, especially some easy, paved trails for families. The Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) Trail is in-town, while the Little Traverse Wheelway links Charlevoix, Petoskey and Harbor Springs, with pretty views of the gorgeous Lake Michigan.

bike ride in Traverse City

The trails around Traverse City wind through cherry blossom orchards, which bloom in May and are harvested in July. Photo courtesy Traverse City Tourism

Try something with cherries in it/on it – If there’s one fruit I’ve come to associate with Michigan, it’s the cherry. Traverse City seems to their cherries. Most likely, I’ll just have a cherry pie or some sort of dessert. If I feel crazy, there’s the TC Cherry Burger at Slabtown Burgers, some sort of magical burger with cherries and blue cheese on top. Traverse City is also home to the National Cherry Festival, held each year in at the end of June and early July.

The National Cherry Festival is held in Traverse City, Mich, every June and July. Photo courtesy Pure Michigan

Eat all the foods – Beyond cherries, though, there’s a ton of food to try there. Traverse City is one of those places that I sorta, kinda, really wish I was visiting without the kids. There are so many wonderful farm-to-table, European-inspired eateries in Traverse City and nearby. And I know my kids will not enjoy them. I’ve heard marvelous things about Martha’s Leelanau Table, Alliance, Boathouse, The Cooks’ House and Trattoria Stella. And the views some of the have! These will probably wait until my kids are older and tolerate longer meals. We may have to try The Little Fleet, where there are food trucks to suit most any taste. I’ve heard there are good kids menus at Sleder’s Family Tavern, one of Michigan’s oldest, continuously-operated taverns since 1882, and Jolly Pumpkin, a restaurant and brewery. There’s even a burger stand that has carhops: Don’s Drive-In, which dates back to 1938.

The Little Fleet is a collection of food trucks in Traverse City. Photo courtesy Traverse City Tourism

Have a maritime adventure – My son has a vast knowledge of ships. Like startlingly vast. No doubt a sailing experience would be epic for him. We could try sailing (and even hoisting the sails) on the 114-foot replica double-masted schooner, Manitou. The cruise is offered by Traverse Tall Ship Co., who has a float bed and breakfast as well that sounds perfect for a couple’s getaway.

Traverse Tall Ship Co. offers sailing excursions on the double-masted schooner, Manitou. Photo courtesy Traverse City Tourism

Try the Riesling – There are more than 50 wineries in the area, and is considered by many to be the “signature grape” of the Traverse Wine Coast. The winery that’s been around for decades, Chateau Grand Traverse, sells a lot of it. Side note for future trips sans kids: Chateau Grand Traverse was named one of the best coastal wine vacations!

See the Traverse City Film Festival – If it were just Mr. Wonderful and I, and we were in Traverse City at the end of the summer, we’d definitely attend a screening during the Traverse City Film Festival. The State Theatre, connected to the festival, has been named one of the top 10 movie theaters in the world by Motion Picture Association of America. The restored 1918 building looks beautiful inside. And, bonus, it has 25-cent weekly kids and classic matinee shows.

State Theatre is a restored, state-of-the-art cinema in Traverse City and ranked one of the best in the world. Photo courtesy Traverse City Tourism

Night ski – Skiing in the moonlight has a charming ring to it, doesn’t it? Of course, first, I need to learn to cross-country ski, but then, once I do that, I can try it out at one of the ski resorts near Traverse City.

Try one of the world’s best vodkas – How could you resist a vodka that’s ranked among the Top 6 in the world. True North Vodka can be found at Grand Traverse Distillery. My husband’s partial to whiskey, he can try one of the whiskey varieties.

Grand Traverse Distillery has a variety of whiskeys as well as one of the top ranked vodkas in the world. Photo courtesy Traverse City Tourism

More Traverse City bucket list inspiration

Need more ideas? Start at the Traverse City Visitors Bureau. Plus, return to the blog in July to read all about the trip and what we did there!

Get more Michigan road trip ideas that are great for families on my Pinterest board:

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May 24, 2018

Orange City Tulip Festival

Orange City Tulip Festival is an annual event occurring on the third weekend in May in Orange City, Iowa. Orange City is a charming small town, I discovered, and it turns out, I’m not the only one who noticed. Orange City has been identified as “where the small town American dream lives on” by The New Yorker and Country Living published a story in 2017 analyzing if Orange City was America’s happiest small town.

Disclosure: Our stay was hosted by the Orange City Visitors Bureau

Orange City Tulip Festival Tips

But let’s talk about the Tulip Festival.The charm of this festival is, obviously, the abundance of tulips, the very “Dutch-ness” of everything, and seeing people dressed in traditional Dutch cost

Held over a few days, there are a number of special events, performances and parades to see. 2018 was the 78th year of this showcase of Dutch traditions. I took the family to it for the first time this year. If you want to plan a trip next year, the next Orange City Tulip Festival will be May 16-18, 2019.

Orange City Tulip Festival Traditions

Having seven decades to establish things, there are many great traditions to see while you’re attending the festival.

The Dutch Dozen performed during the Straatfeest, bringing spectators out onto the street to join in. Photo courtesy Kevin Reiner

The Straatfeest and Street Scrubbing were my favorites. These occur, parade-like, one after another along Central Street. They are twice a day during the festival.

Tip: The paid, reserved bleacher seats are worth it. We sat in the shade and didn’t have to stake out a spot along the route long before it all started.

The Straatfeest is a chance to see and learn about the different traditional costumes from various Dutch villages, as well as a few performances. They invited kids to join in one of the dances. My daughter looked very serious learning the dances, but I suspect she loved it.

Dancers and spectators line Central Street in Orange City, Iowa during the Tulip Festival. Photo courtesy Kevin Reiner

The Street Scrubbing was one-of-a-kind. It was exactly what it sounded like. There were quite a few little boys dumping water on each other, so that was fun to watch. I learned that this tradition comes from Holland when homeowners were required to not only care for their property but for the street in front of their property.

Dozens of families walked along Central Street for the traditional street scrubbing during the Tulip Festival.

The Volksparade follows the Street Scrubbing, and it’s more of a typical Midwest parade, with the added bonus of nifty Dutch-themed floats and beautiful traditional costumes.

If you’re taking young kids, note the festival organizers have added a family comfort station with baby-changing stations, extra diapers, chairs for nursing, and snacks/refreshments.

Since 1948, The Dutch Dozen have been performing during the Tulip Festival. It consists of 12 to 14 girls on stage singing and dancing, while their teenage male counterparts add some humor into the show. My son was a particular fan of the boys’ goofiness.

The Dutch Dozen troupe has performed at the Tulip Festival for 70 years. Photo courtesy Kevin Reiner

What to eat in Orange City

There are typical carnival food vendors at Tulip Festival, but when in Rome–I mean, in Holland?–you eat Dutch treats. I headed to the Dutch Bakery to try Dutch Letters, a flaky pastry.

Dutch letter pastries can be purchased at the Dutch Bakery in Orange City. Photo courtesy Kevin Reiner

And while probably not super traditional, I bought a box of chocolate clogs because, why not? I heard the Little White Store was the place to go for poffertjes, but I didn’t make it to there.

There were plenty of options for fair food at the Tulip Festival, as well as traditional Dutch food options. Photo courtesy Kevin Reiner

I did make it to Nederlander’s Cafe for a little Dutch dinner. The dinner itself wasn’t super special (though, I can now say I had “snert,” or split pea soup). However, the dessert at Nderlander’s was absolutely worth the visit. We tried their famous bread pudding, a huge treat that was enough for four.

Best photo opps at the Tulip Festival

For cute photos of the family with a beautiful backdrop, head to Windmill Park. There are a variety of tulips in the garden, as well as a bridge and windmills for great family photos.

Windmill Park in Orange City is a good spot to snap photos. Photo courtesy Kevin Reiner

There are the silly photo opps, too, like sitting in a huge wooden clog and sticking your head in a cutout.

If you’re interested in photos of people in their traditional costumes, we found people cheerfully gave us permission to snap a photo. Just ask! While we were at Windmill Park, we found several photogenic families.

Photos courtesy Kevin Reiner

The Straatfeest and Street Scrubbing were my favorite events for more action photos that capture the atmosphere of the day. If you’re not bashful, hop out into the street and get a photo of the performers with the carnival rides in the background.

A father and son walk in Orange City during the Tulip Festival. Photo courtesy Kevin Reiner

Can the festival done in a day?

Sure, we did it in a day…and nope, not really.

We spent Saturday afternoon at Tulip Festival and felt like we had as good as an experience as you can with two little kids. In addition to seeing the Straatfeest, Street Scrubbing and part of the Volksparade, petted animals in the petting zoo, tried one of the Dutch games, browsed art vendors, peeked in a store, and watched The Dutch Dozen performance.

Tulip Festival vendors

There were a few tents of vendors at Tulip Festival selling everything from paintings and pottery to jewelry and unique wind chimes. Photo courtesy Kevin Reiner

We also fit in a little time to we played at Windmill Park and jump in a bounce house.

My daughter’s favorite part of the Tulip Festival was the petting zoo.

However, we missed a lot. We had value books of coupons that allowed for things like a free Dutch game, attendance to the Dutch Dozen and carriage rides & pedicab rides). I wanted to do it all, but a mix of rain and tired kids cut our evening short.

My kids will be first to tell you some of the “biggies” we didn’t do, that they wanted to do. We did none of the rides at the Midway and did not take a pedicab nor horse-drawn trolley ride.

horse-drawn trolley Orange City

Horse-drawn trolley rides were an additional cost, but tickets were available in the value books.

The things I had on my to-see list that we missed included: Wooden shoe carving demo, tours of the Vogel Old Mill and the Century Home, and the Fietsen Zangers and puppet show performances. (And if you look at the full schedule, you’ll see even MORE that wasn’t on my list and yes, we missed them all.)

You can purchase clogs or watch clog making demonstrations during the Orange City Tulip Festival.

So, yeah, we missed a lot.

If I could do it again, I think we would attend Friday and Saturday (or maybe just Friday night and the full day Saturday). I think it would be fun to attend the fly-in breakfast held really early on the Saturday morning of the festival.

But I don’t regret just going one day this year.

Where to stay during the Tulip Festival

We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Orange City. While it’s not quite within walking distance of the festivities, Orange City is not a huge city, so it was conveniently near it.

The hotel had the required essentials for traveling families: A pool and a complimentary hot breakfast.

Check back for a review of Hampton Inn & Suites soon, plus details on what families can do in Orange City when it’s not the Tulip Festival.

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