The Tulip Time festival in Pella, Iowa, is full of Dutch heritage and family-friendly fun every year! Keep reading for quick tips and things to do with kids at Tulip Time.
This post is sponsored by Travel Iowa.
Our family recently enjoyed a beautiful day at Tulip Time, one of Iowa’s largest festivals. Tulip Time takes place in Pella, Iowa every May and the town goes all out for the three-day event. 350,000 tulips were planted throughout the city this year! With a population of 10,279 residents, I’m blown away that they welcome 250,000+ visitors during the event.
When you arrive in Pella, you’re greeted with a colorful burst of tulips blooming along the roads, in the parks, and in yards. Tulip Time includes several parades, an array of Dutch foods, Dutch dancing in the streets, a market, authentic Dutch attire, wooden shoes, Dutch architecture, and much more.
Pella is a 45-minute drive from our home in the Des Moines metro which makes Tulip Time the perfect day trip. We loaded up the kids and enjoyed a gorgeous family day watching the parade, exploring the shops, and indulging in good food.
Pella Tulip Time Quick Facts
- Pella Tulip Time takes place annually on the first Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in May.
- Tulip Time is free to attend, though some events and attractions do require paid tickets.
- There are two parades each day of Tulip Time, one at 2:30 p.m. and a lighted parade at 8:30 p.m.
- Check out the festival schedule at pellahistorical.org/tuliptime.
Quick Tips For Tulip Time With Kids
- Arrive Early – Most of the parking is street parking so the earlier you arrive, the more likely you’ll be to find a parking spot near downtown. The streets get more crowded as the day goes on so it’s nice to be there earlier in the day with younger kids.
- Wear Walking Shoes – This is an outdoor festival so plan to do a lot of walking! You can sit down in the grass in the park or along the curb during the parade, but otherwise plan to spend the majority of the day on your feet.
- Wear Comfortable Clothes – Check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. Make sure you wear layers as the Iowa weather in May can be hard to predict. I recommend opting for casual clothing that you’re okay getting a little dirty from sitting in the grass.
- Bring The Stroller – Definitely bring the stroller or a wagon for younger kids because it can be a long day of walking. Our 4 1/2 year old walked the whole day and dad only carried her a couple of blocks on the walk back to the car. But we had beautiful weather and had it been really hot I suspect she would have struggled to walk the whole time.
- Bring A Water Bottle – I’d pack the water bottles so you have plenty of water with you for the day. Bottled water is also available from the food vendors but it’s nice to at least start the day off with your own water bottle if you want to save a little money.
- Don’t Forget Sun Protection – You’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors so don’t forget to apply sunscreen! Hats, sunglasses, and covered wagons/strollers are helpful to have for the kids.
- Pack The Essentials – If you’re visiting Tulip Time with kids, definitely bring a backpack or bag with the essentials. We have a baby so we brought the diaper bag, but even with kids a little older you might want to bring a small bag with snacks, sunscreen, water bottles, etc.
- Consider Bringing A Blanket Or Lawn Chairs – We had a smaller stroller blanket that our baby was able to play on in the park but I wished we would have packed a lightweight picnic blanket. There’s lots of green space in the park downtown and it’s a great spot to spread out a blanket and eat food or relax in the shade. Chairs or blankets are also useful for sitting on while watching the parade, though so many people set these out along the street extra early to save their spot that it was easier for us to just stand and watch. I personally wouldn’t bother with chairs but a blanket would be easy to carry along.
- Bring Cash – I think nearly all of the food vendors accepted credit cards, but it’s a good idea to have some cash along for food and snacks.
- Nursing Station – I was pleasantly surprised to find a tent in Central Park designated as a nursing station! It also doubles as a first aid/cooling station. The corners of the tent were curtained off so I had a little privacy to nurse Logan, and there was a table to use for a quick diaper change. I noticed several churches listed on the schedule as nursing stations and family rest stops so definitely check the schedule for those!
10 Things To Do With Kids At Pella Tulip Time
1. Watch The Parade
If you’re visiting Pella Tulip Time with kids, you’ll definitely want to check out the parade! There are two parades each day: an afternoon parade at 2:30 p.m. and a lighted parade at 8:30 p.m. You’ll see beautiful floats, lively marching bands, the Tulip Queen and her court, and many people wearing Dutch costumes.
2. Tour The Scholte House Gardens
With more than 35,000 tulips on display, this is the perfect spot for photos of the kids! It’s free to wander the immaculately maintained gardens behind the Scholte House, once the residence of some of the original settlers of Pella.
3. Sample Dutch Food
There are street vendors all over Tulip Time! You’ll find food booths serving up all sorts of Dutch foods including poffertjes (mini pancakes), Dutch lollipops (bolgna on a stick), stroopwafels (waffle cookies with caramel filling inside), vet bollen (friend donuts), Dutch letters, and much more. There are plenty of typical America foods as well so everyone in the family should find plenty of foods to enjoy.
4. Take In The Grandstand Show
There is a lively grandstand show at 1:00 p.m. each day of the festival. We watched from the side this year but next time I think it would be worth purchasing tickets ($5-$10) to have a good view. The show includes Dutch dancing and singing, street scrubbing, a Dutch costume show, and the presentation of the Tulip Queen and her court.
5. Relax In Central Park
All of the festivities revolve around Central Park in Pella’s downtown. There are flower beds overflowing with tulips all over the park along with plenty of open grass that makes a great spot for a picnic or for the kids to run around for a bit. The park is surrounded by shops and the parade circles around the park, too.
6. Take Pictures With The Tulips
There are hundreds of thousands of tulips planted throughout Pella and they make for beautiful photos! And make sure you take a family photo while you’re there, too.
7. Visit A Dutch Bakery
I highly recommend stopping into one of the local bakeries around the square. You’ll find Dutch letters and a large variety of Dutch pastries that make for a sweet treat to take home with you.
8. Tour The Pella Historical Village
Located on the edge of downtown, this recreation of Dutch life is so charming to walk through. The village includes 22 period buildings that cover Pella’s history beginning in the 1840s. There is a large working windmill that you can tour and many demonstrations of things like blacksmithing and wooden shoe making.
9. Check Out The Klokkenspel
Pella’s Klokkenspel is a musical performance of sorts with figures that tell about Pella’s history and heritage. It’s free to watch and takes place every 30 minutes so it’s easy to catch a performance time during your visit.
10. Stroll Through The Dutch Craft Market
If you have time, check out the market before you head home. There are 100+ booths in the park filled with crafts and fun finds. I always enjoy browsing the booths!
Learn more about Tulip Time in Pella, Iowa at pellahistorical.org/tuliptime.
Looking for more Iowa travel ideals? Take a look at these blog posts:
- 10 Things To Do At The Iowa State Fair
- A Taste Of Culture At Three Pines Farm (Northeast Iowa Travel)
- A Creative Retreat to the Scenic Boone River Valley (North Iowa Travel)
Have a fantastic day!