Pella Tulip Time

Pella Historical Village
Tulips.  Thousands of colorful tulips.  That's what we found when we visited Pella, Iowa on Saturday. It's a charming town where nearly every building has a Dutch architectural influence. It is also the place where Pella windows are made. There are a few other great places that still celebrate Dutch heritage in the USA.  This is the best time to go because there are massive plantings of tulips, wooden shoed dancers, along with the usual windmills and delicious bakeries.

I am half Dutch.  I love tulips.  I was looking for a place to feel like it was really spring, because it seems like it's taking a very long time to get warm weather here in Wisconsin.  We originally planned a weekend road trip to Pella Iowa's Tulip Time, which is actually celebrated this coming weekend, but the tulips came earlier than the festival, so we changed our plans to be sure we could see all the beautiful flowers. We didn't get to see a parade, and probably avoided some crowds, though there were definitely more people than usually live there.  The tulips were wonderful, though maybe not as many as you might see in cities where tulip companies exist.  You won't see fields of tulips, but they have planted the parks and local streets en masse, and it's lovely.  All of the tulips are shipped here from Holland and planted every fall to ensure the biggest blooms and showy displays.
The trees are in bloom too

Though you'll see tulips planted in nearly every yard and park area, there are five distinct plantings I think you should definitely see.
1. Main Street through town on both sides of the street.  As you drive into town from I-80, you will see plenty.  These are planted by the parks department.  What a job! Each one is a bit different.
2. Central Park has a windmill and this is the place where you'll find the huge tulip time stage and tower.  We saw dancers here and there are lots of photo ops.
3. The sunken gardens at Main & Lincoln.  You probably passed this on your way into town.  It has a wooden shoe shaped pond and a small windmill.
4. Scholte House at 728 Washington St. Even if the house is not open or you're not interested in the historic home, you can go into the gardens for free. There are grand old trees and 32,000 tulips! You'll find Dutch clad statues here too.
5. Pella Historical Village.  You'll know this place by the largest mill that is visible from all points in town.  With many buildings, including Wyatt Earp's home, you'll have fun looking at history and seeing tulips.  Be sure to visit Heritage Hall to see memorabilia from previous parades and festivals. This also has a room for playing dress up and doing puppet shows.  Children can color pictures here to take home. Admission was $10 for adults.  There are sometimes guided tours of the windmill, or you can just walk through.  This is an active mill which still grinds wheat, which is used at the local Jaarsma bakery. We spent about 2 hours here.  If wooden shoes were being made or if there were costumed characters, we may have stayed longer.  On the second floor of the main building, there's an (enormous) miniature village that is super fun to see.  A train drives through the village and you'll find lots of interesting details.

There are other wonderful sights, including the Klokkespel, which is a clock that plays music while dolls circle through windows at certain times of day.  Be sure to check out at least one of the bakeries and taste authentic Dutch letters- a type of pastry filled with almond paste.  The line was half a block long at Jaarsma, but we got in a bit quicker at Vander Ploeg.  If you're in a pinch, go to Brew Coffee House and get a pastry (and free wifi). The Opera House is  beautiful and hosts a quilt show as well as performances during the festival. We found some cool souvenirs in a gift shop called Silver Lining.   The Quilted Windmill is a great place for people who enjoy quilts or sewing.  Most shops are closed on Sundays, and nearly everything closes by 5 on a Saturday.

If you have a smart phone, download Pella Now from the app store and it will help you find everything you need to know about the food, tulip beds, entertainment and shopping.  You can view photos and upload your photos too. If you're visiting during the tulip season, pick up a Tulip Time magazine at one of the local businesses for more information about the festival, its history, and many other interesting tidbits.
Be sure to get a photo here at the Historical Village

This mill was made in Holland, shipped
here and put together by Dutchmen
A lovely courtyard with tiled walls and the klokkespel

A montage of pretty flowers and wooden shoes 
Line to the Jaarsma Bakery!!!


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