Having grown up in a major city and continuing to live in another one, I find visits to small towns idyllic since they’re such a contrast to my daily life (specifically many of the negatives like traffic, noise, panhandling). While I couldn’t imagine living in one (i.e. permanent), visiting one for a short stay is just about perfect. Although I’m sure that people who grow up in small towns feel the same when visiting large cities.
Holland, Michigan as its name suggests was founded by Dutch Calvinists separatists who were escaping from persecution in the Netherlands. It’s located on the western side of the state and is one of Michigan’s coastal cities (it’s right on Lake Michigan). While we didn’t stay in the downtown, we were still only a five minute drive from it. One of the things that impressed me the most about Holland was its abundance of FREE parking right in the downtown. I’ve been to enough areas where unless it’s a Sunday or after a certain time, parking is not free, costing anywhere from .25 for 30 minutes to .25 for 15 minutes, But here was a city that simply wanted to make its offerings more accessible to both locals and visitors. Our first night there was a Friday and while spaces directly outside of the businesses were taken, if you ventured away from 8th Street (the main drag in Holland’s downtown), spaces could be found. And as Michigan is flat (extremely so) and it was May and not January, walking around was most enjoyable. Not to mention, drivers in Holland actually yielded to pedestrians at crosswalks unlike in other cities (ahem Pittsburgh).
I visited Holland Memorial Day weekend and so many of the storefronts featured historic patriotic posters in their windows. There were a lot that I recognized (Howard Chandler Christy’s “Gee!! I Wish I were a man, I’d join the Navy”) and some that were unfamiliar, but many that I absolutely loved including those of the Vietnam and Korean Wars (the forgotten wars) in addition to one that depicted the soldiers of the American Revolution with those who fought on D-Day as in the struggle to win continued. The downtown advertised Holland’s annual Memorial Day parade and it’s something I would have loved to see. Although parades in major cities are fun, I think to witness one in a small town where there is such a deeper sense of pride and community due to many people knowing each other, would have been extremely meaningful.
While the downtown did feature some chain entities (Coldstone Creamery and JoS A. Banks for starters), there were still plenty of unique ones including a vast array of restaurants, cafes, and shops. The downtown was a delight for just about everything-eating, shopping, walking. It’s easy to see why it is such a popular destination for tourists and a place that locals are most proud of.