In addition to our visit to the New Holland Brewery and our time spent at Saugatuck Dunes State Park, we also checked out Nelis’ Dutch Village. Luckily for us it was on the same road as our hotel, making it less than a five minute drive to get to.
For anyone who has not visited (or even heard of it), Nelis’ Dutch Village is what I would call a Disney World junior, comprising nothing but Dutch culture and history. Some of the attractions looked slightly past their prime (the Village opened in 1958), not to mention that others were solely just for children, so if you were sans children like myself, it was a tad disappointing. However, overall it was a fun time. Entrance costs are as follows-adults ($10), seniors 59+ ($9), and children ages 3-15 ($7).
Like a lot of places in Holland over Memorial Day Weekend, the Village was not at all crowded. Although we did visit later in the afternoon, I thought it would still be busy but it wasn’t. However, I’m sure a week or so prior when the Tulip Festival was going on, the site was probably packed with visitors.
The Village is a “go at your pace” kind of attraction. It comprises numerous photo opportunities, including statues of Pieter and the Dyke (also known as the Boy Who Saved Holland) and the Poldermolen (windmill for pumping water), as well as demonstrations on Delftware making (the historically famous Dutch blue pottery), wooden shoe carving (i.e. clogs!), Dutch dancing, and of course, cheese making (one word-Gouda). Although we missed out on some of the presentations (admittedly we didn’t really glance at the schedule too much when there, although you are given a paper schedule listing the times and locations for all of the demonstrations taking place that day), nothing was cooler than seeing clogs before they are clogs, just pieces of wood. (What’s funny is that all of the workers at the Village are dressed in traditional Dutch fashion including clogs-I can’t imagine having to work wearing wooden shoes…).
There are a couple of kiddie rides (swings, a carousel, and a self-propelled train car ride) as well as a zip-line and apparently a Gouda cheese maze (we didn’t walk far enough to see the maze which I am still disappointed about). As I said, if you do have children with you, they will have a marvelous time here. We did enjoy the animals as they had a pony, a pig (this was slightly frightening for how large it was), a hen house, a llama which was magnificent to look at even if it stayed away from people the whole time, rabbits, and best of all, very friendly and apparently very hungry goats. For a quarter you could get food bits from a dispenser to feed them. I didn’t necessarily want to get that up close and personal with the goats because once one saw you had food, the rest quickly came over and pushed rather greedily.
And then there were the ducks…and one animal I still have no idea what it was. (Edit-a kind reader informed me that it is a Toulouse goose! As there are only Canadian geese where I live, this was definitely a new animal.)
If you remember, I did call the Village Disney World junior so of course there were shops. Some were a bit “tourist junky,” but other wares were extremely nice and of good quality. We walked away with a clog magnet, a Deflt Christmas ornament in the shape of a windmill, Dutch coco fudge that was recently made (it was literally still giving off heat) from the De Zoete Haan Dutch fudge shop, Dutch peppermint coffee, and my favorite-Speculaas (Dutch spice) cookies.
There are also a couple of cafes on site including the Thirsty Dutchman Pub which lets adults have a good time and the Hungry Dutchman Cafe, where we split a plate lunch that featured split pea soup, a sausage style sandwich and a slice of apple pie. (Just a note about some of the eateries and shops-they are located “outside” of the Village so you don’t need to pay admittance to dine or shop there. Should you decide you do want to venture into the actual village, you’ll be able to do so as well.)
Like I said, it wasn’t a rousing or spectacular attraction, and yet I can’t think of anywhere else that allows you to experience as much Dutch history and culture. Although I would have loved to have seen the tulips in bloom (all that remained were the green stalks as the petals had long since fallen off), it was still a neat time. As a consolation I brought home a pamphlet to order tulips from the Village as opposed to just getting the Home Depot variety.