Fun and Flowers at the Pella Tulip Time Festival 2024

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If you’re looking for an amazing spring outing, a trip to the Pella Tulip Time Festival is just the ticket! Coming up May 2 – 4, 2024 there are so many reasons to make the trip! Here’s what to do in Pella, Iowa during this amazing annual spring flower extravaganza! 

pella tulip time festival 3 people on a triple bike

What is the Pella Tulip Time Festival?

Tulip Time celebrates the central Iowa town of Pella’s Dutch heritage, with music, flowers, food, and more! With a full three days of events and activities including parades, carnival rides, live music, street scrubbing, and stunning displays of tulips – there’s something there for everyone! 

Want more things to do in Pella? Check out the festive Christmas Activities in Pella too!

baby in a dutch outfit in an antique stroller

While more than 130,000 blooming tulip bulbs (+80 different tulip varieties!) are a huge draw to the annual tulip festival, Pella natives dressed in traditional gear was a huge highlight of my visit to this amazing Tulip Festival. Pella does such a great job that this festival has been running almost nonstop since the very first festival took place in May, 1935. 

granny grandaughter sweeping the streets in pella

So dust off your wooden shoes, don your favorite Dutch costume, and head to Pella for an authentic look at Dutch Heritage in the US. No worries if dressing up in traditional Dutch clothing is not for you, you can enjoy thousands of Pella-cans dressed in Dutch garb instead. 

central park in pella

While you’re there, sample traditional Dutch cuisine, explore historic sites, and take part in cultural demonstrations and activities too! It’s no wonder this festival attracts visitors from all over the world and is one of the largest and most popular events in the state of Iowa.

pella tulip time parade

Where and When is Tulip Time Pella?

Pella Tulip Time takes place in the central Iowa town of Pella, about 40 miles southeast of Des Moines. Pella is easily accessible from I-80 or I-35. It takes about:

  • 1 ½ hours to get to Pella from Iowa City
  • 2 ½ hours from Davenport
  • 3 ½ hours from Kansas City
  • 4 ½ hours from Minneapolis
  • 5 hours from Omaha

If you’d like to fly in, the closest airport is in Des Moines.

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The first week in May is set aside every year for the Tulip Festival. Pella, Iowa improves upon this festival year after year. If you can’t make it this year, put it on your calendar for next year! You definitely need to make sure it’s on your Iowa Travel Bucket List!

tractors at Pella Tulip Time

What to do During Pella Tulip Time?

There are so many things to see and do during Tulip Time. You can spend a full three days here or just enjoy a very full one day tour. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Pella during Tulip Time!

Get the full schedule for Tulip Time on the Historical Society’s website.

Dutch parade at Tulip Time

See Thousands of Tulips 

If you’re wondering where the tulips are, you won’t have to look around too hard. They’re everywhere! Tulips are planted every fall at Central Park, Sunken Gardens Park, and throughout Pella’s downtown. You can see stunning displays at the Scholte House Gardens and also at the Pella Historical Village.

vermeer windmill one of the fun things to do in pella iowa

Tour The Vermeer Mill

Built in 2002 by Dutch craftsmen, The Vermeer Mill is the tallest working Dutch windmill in North America! It’s a must-see when you visit Pella! it Talk to the millers to learn how they use the mill to grind flour and enjoy a lovely view of Pella from the deck! We really enjoyed seeing the massive wooden gears and mechanisms that power the millstones and the kids loved seeing the Miniature Village!

kids in dutch costume sweeping the road during pella tulip's time parade

Dutch Volks Parade

My favorite part of the day was the Dutch Volks Parade. There are two parades every day during Tulip Time – an afternoon parade at 2:30 and a lighted nighttime parade at 8:30. The afternoon parade is when many Pella residents and other volunteers dress up in traditional Dutch dress and sweep the streets with water buckets and brooms.

According to the Pella Historical Society, the parade route weaves down Main Street, goes around Central Park, and ends past the Pella Historical Village on Franklin Street.

pella tulip festival

Try on the Huge Klompen

The kids had a great time trying on the Klompen – or wooden clogs. You’ll find the Klompen outside the Vermeer Windmill. We also watched craftsmen making them ~ an amazing sight! And these pictures of my kids from many years ago make me smile. I have a fourth child who needs to try on these Klompen now too!

wooden shoe making demonstration at pella historical village

Take a Stroll through Pella Historical Village

Step back in time and experience 19th-century life in Pella when you visit the Pella Historical Village. This village features 22 historic buildings that help you learn what life was like for Pella’s early Dutch settlers. There are lots of exhibits, displays, and demonstrations of traditional crafts and skills, including wooden shoe making, blacksmithing, and weaving. During Tulip Time, you’ll find even more special events, live music, food, and more!

meeting wyatt earp

Visit the Wyatt Earp House

You can also explore the childhood home of Wyatt Earp when you go to Pella! Located in the Historical Village, this house features period furniture, artifacts, and exhibits on the legendary Wyatt Earp. If you’re lucky, you might meet Wyatt Earp too! My son was thrilled to get a picture with him.

antique pella street organ

Find a Street Organ and Listen to it Play

During the festival, you can also enjoy free performances of traditional Dutch music played on street organs like this one. You’ll find them throughout the downtown area and the operators will be happy to take you around to the back and show you how they work too! Pella’s Goliath Street Organ is absolutely amazing!

These are just a few of the things my family enjoyed when we visited Pella’s Tulip Time with our homeschool group back in 2012. There are a lot more amazing things you might want to check out when you visit, including:

red clogs during pella volks parade

More Things to Do During Tulip Time

  • Enjoy Dutch Dancing & Singing demonstrations
  • See the Tulip Queen and her Court
  • Take in a Grandstand Show
  • Visit Scholte House Gardens
  • Enjoy Tea Time at Maria’s Tea Room
  • Buy lots.of Dutch goodies at the Dutch Market
Dutch parade at Tulip Time

What & Where to Eat when You Visit Pella’s Tulip Time Festival

There are so many food vendors during Tulip Time – you’ll have a hard time deciding what to eat. Bring your appetite because it’s all delicious. Make sure you try one of the most popular pastries in Pella, the Dutch Letter. Don’t miss Stroopwafes, Poffertjes, Oliebollen, Dutch sausage, and we recommend trying a Stompot too!

jaarsma bakery pella

Here are some of our favorite places to eat in Pella.

Jaarsma Bakery –

This iconic bakery is a Pella icon and a must-visit for all visitors. They are known for their Dutch letters, a flaky S-shaped pastry filled with marzipan (almond paste). You can also try their stroopwafels, a traditional Dutch cookie made with two thin waffles filled with caramel.

Address: 727 Franklin Street, Pella, IA 50219

Dutch Fix –

This delicious Dutch restaurant was one of our favorites when we visited Pella for their new annual Chritmas Market. They serve delicious Dutch food that will make you feel like you’re in Amsterdam. Try their bitterballen, a deep-fried snack filled with beef ragout, or their Dutch croquettes. They also serve poffertjes, small puffy pancakes traditionally topped with butter and powdered sugar.

Address: 815 Main Street, Pella, IA 50219

In’t Veld Meat Market –

This family-owned meat market offers delicious Dutch sausages and smoked meats. Try their Rookworst, a smoked sausage that’s a Dutch favorite. You can also order sandwiches made with their meats.

Address: 809 Franklin Street, Pella, IA 50219

Smokey Row Coffee –

If you need a break from all the Dutch food, head to Smokey Row Coffee. They serve delicious coffee and pastries that are perfect for a mid-day break. Try their raspberry white chocolate scone or their monster cookie.

Address: 639 Franklin Street, Pella, IA 50219

2 boys riding in a wooden shoe

Where to Stay in Pella

There are lots of places to stay when you visit Pella including hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rental homes too. If you plan to stay overnight, book early as places to stay in Pella sell out early. If you can’t find a place to stay in Pella, you might be able to make a reservation in Des Moines, Grinnell, or Newton.

Here are a few accommodation options we recommend in Pella:

Is there an admission fee for the Pella Tulip Time?

There is no admission fee for the festival, parking on the street is free, and you can see the parade and go to the Dutch Market for free. However, grandstand shows, museum tours, and city tours do require paid tickets, ranging from $5-$20. Day of tickets are available in Pella or you can buy them in advance online.

Are dogs allowed at Tulip Time Pella?

Yes, you can bring your dog. Just be aware that they won’t be allowed in restaurants, museums, or most stores.

Can I purchase tulip bulbs during the festival?

Yes, you can order tulip bulbs from the Pella Garden Club! They’ll be shipped to you in time for fall planting.

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2 girls sitting beside a painted cow

Who knew you can visit Holland in Iowa? I have found memories Keukenhof Tulip Gardens, the Anne Frank House, canals cruises in Amsterdam and I’m so glad to have found Pella where you can get an authentic taste of the Netherlands without crossing the Atlantic Ocean!

Have you been to Pella Tulip Time? What are you waiting for?

Looking for more fun places to visit in Iowa? Here are a few places to consider:

Visiting Buddy Holly Crash Site & More in Clear Lake, Iowa

7 Beautiful Eastern Iowa State Parks

Active, Outdoor Adventure Awaits in Fort Dodge, Iowa

American Gothic House Museum

Visiting the Madison County Bridges & More Fun in Winterset Iowa!

What to do in Oskaloosa, Iowa

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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12 Comments

  1. I live two hours away, too. I’ve not been there either. But, I think I may need to put it on my radar. I’d heard about the tulip issue. My friend’s son lives there. She said the tulip bloom was gorgeous way too early. She wondered what they’d do. So, looks like they went on with the show. Good for them.

  2. I grew up in Pella, so for me to see this brings back SO many good memories!! Wearing my Dutch costume, scrubbing streets, playing under the Tulip Toren, the food….I miss it!!!!

  3. Fun post! I am of Dutch descent as is my husband. We lived in Michigan before Oregon which has a pretty large Dutch population. Unfortunately all my years living there I never went to Tulip Time in Holland, MI. Their tulips all bloomed in March this year! Here in Oregon the tulips are late due to a cold rainy winter and spring.

  4. What a great synopsis of the event! I have never been there but would love to take my family someday!

    1. They have some traditional dutch foods, Jeni, but I can’t remember any real details. Looking forward to finding out!

  5. I live a 10 minute bikeride from Keukenhof in the Netherlands. Our house is along a canal in the mid of the tulipfields. It is beautifull now. Saturday we had the “bloemencorso” a big parade with floats all covered with our springflowers. It is so interesting for me to read your blog. It makes me proud and I wish I could send you all a bunch of tulips:)

    1. How lovely, Wendy! I would certainly take those tulips! 😀 A friend whose living in Istanbul says the sultan originally sent tulip bulbs to the Netherlands and that’s how they came to be there?! I had no idea. She shared a gorgeous picture of all the tulips blooming in Istanbul right now. I can only imagine how pretty it is.