A group of five women journeyed to Pella for the 2012 Tuliptime Festival. We were aware that most of the tulips would be done blooming, but we decided we would still enjoy the festivities and spending time together.
When we started planning our trip, we learned that most of the lodging facilities in Pella require a three night stay Festival weekend. We didn't have that amount of time, so chose to stay in Des Moines. It was a good choice.
We arrived in Pella about 3:30 p.m. on Friday. The parade was under way. We were able to secure a parking space on Business Highway 163 . . . decent walking distance from the town square.
We checked out the town and searched for the location of the city trolley tours so that we could get on the first post-parade tour. I have to say that we had some difficulty finding some of the attractions throughout the festival. A street vendor told us where she had seen the trolleys parked . . . that's the only way we found it.
When we visit towns that have city tours, that's generally how we start our stay there. We find that it gives us a good "lay of the land" and we are able to learn some history about the city. We felt that was important to really enjoy this Dutch festival.
This city trolley tour was a great disappointment. The tour guides were high school girls with sketchy information, poor grammar and giggly dispositions. They spent much of the tour telling us about themselves rather than the city and calling out to their friends along the street. We later drove through the city and learned that the tour had passed one block from Pella Windows . . . and didn't include seeing it!?!
After the tour we did some browsing through local shops, happened upon the Klokkenspeil, and visited the craft sale areas. We found interesting and unusual crafts and foods.
Just before 7 p.m. we purchased tickets to the pre-parade show and easily found seats in the grandstand area. We totally enjoyed this show and the lighted parade that followed. The show included Dutch singers and dancers, a big-band era performer and the Dutch street cleaning.
During the performer, we walked over to Smokey Joe's and picked up sandwiches to go and took them back to the grandstand area to enjoy while watching the rest of the show.
The lighted parade features units that you don't find at other parades. The lighted floats are very well done and it was of a nice length. After the parade we returned to Des Moines for the night.
On Saturday we returned to Pella, arriving about 10:30 a.m. We drove through the city, checking out the architecture and sights that had not been part of the city tour. We again found on-street parking and spent the next two hours browsing in more shops and trying to find the street performers/musicians . . . with no success. We sampled some more of the Dutch foods and made a final stop at the Vander Ploeg Bakery to pick up tasty treats to take home with us.
A word about the bakeries. Jaarsma Bakery is much more highly advertised and had long, long lines both days. To their credit, they handle the crowd very well, having several workers available to assist customers. Vander Ploeg Bakery, however, also has excellent Dutch pastries and other baked goods. There were generally no line there. Vander Ploeg is our choice :)
The meat markets also had long, long lines. We had not brought a cooler, so we passed on trying take any meats home with us.
We felt the 8 hours we spent in Pella was sufficient. Had we been able to more easily find the attractions and had we had an interest in visiting the museums, etc. more time would have been helpful.
As we left Pella we drove out to Red Rock and did some sight seeing on our way back to Des Moines.
We found areas of interest and bars/restaurants to enjoy in Des Moines during the rest of our stay in the area.
I'm sure we would have enjoyed our visit more had the tulips been in bloom. However, we knew going in that they would be about finished. As it turned out, the only tulips remaining were beyond their bloom time and probably should have been cut before guests arrived. Few annuals had been planted as I understand is done.
This is not a trip we we are likely to make again, but we had a good time and learned a fair amount about Dutch culture.