How to have the Pella tulips all to yourself

Have you ever wanted the Pella tulips all to yourself?  No crowds, no other visitors… just you and the tulips?

I’ve been to Pella many times.  During the festival, before, as well as after the festival.  Weekends.  Weekdays.  You name it.  But this time, I’m going to have them to myself.

So I set the alarm for 2:30 am.   Yes, 2:30 am on a Sunday morning.

I left the house at 3:00 am and started the forty-five-minute drive to Pella.  Upon arrival, I found an empty Central Park, which is what I wanted and expected.  I wandered the park getting various photos of the tulips and enjoying the quiet and calmness.  The only person who I came close to was a local police car, driving around the town square on their normal patrol. 

Otherwise, I had the place to myself until just before sunrise at 6 am.   Of course, when I first posted these photos online, the most frequent question was “So you were first in line at the bakery, right?”  Unfortunately, no –   I didn’t even stop at the bakery this time. I was focused on the tulips for as long as I could.  Besides, the bakery is closed on Sundays.

Other guides related to Pella:

When is the next Tulip Festival in Pella, Iowa?

May 2, 3, and 4th, 2024

Check out the Visit Pella Tulip Time Page for all the details, schedules, and maps.

What’s the best way to know the progress of the tulips in Pella, Iowa?

  1. The City of Pella provides weekly updates to its Bloom Status Map. It shows you where the flower beds are located and what the status of each bed is, noting if they are showing color or in bloom.
  2. Follow the Facebook page for Pella Community Services. Starting April 13th, they will have Facebook live sessions called “Coffee Time with Tulips” once a week where they take you on live tours of the flower beds to see the progress

When did the Tulip Festival start in Pella, Iowa?

Pella first started celebrating their annual tulip festival in 1935. The original festival didn’t feature any tulips (other than some four-foot-tall wooden tulips. The next year, they began planting thousands of tulips and have continued each year.

Tulips during the night at Central Park in Pella, Iowa.

Tulips at Central Park in Pella, Iowa.

Tulips at Central Park, looking towards the Scholte House in Pella, Iowa.
The main walkway through Central Park features a different type of tulip about every three feet – and there are even labels letting you know what variety.

The fountain on the north side of Central Park in Pella, Iowa.

This windmill at Central Park serves as a tourism/welcome building.

My next stop was across the street at the Scholte House and Gardens
The Scholte House was the home of the family that lead the immigrants from the Netherlands to Pella, Iowa.

There’s no line at the bakery! Of course, not only was it 4:30 am, it was also a Sunday, when they are closed.

The Molengracht Plaza was built to replicate an authentic Dutch square and is over 100,000 square feet.  Running through the plaza is a canal and pedestrian bridge. 
The Plaza is a great place to visit any time of year. In fact, we ran a post on a winter walk through Pella , Iowa last year.
Tulips within the Molengracht Plaza in Pella, Iowa.

My last stop before sunrise was just a few blocks over to the sunken gardens, which have additional tulips and another great windmill.   In fact, the small pond next to the windmill is in the shape of a wooden shoe.


The Sunken Gardens are also decorated during the Christmas season, check out our post showing a winter walk in the Sunken Gardens in Pella.

A long exposure photo (30 seconds) which shows the windmill in motion. Taken in 2023.
Another long exposure photo showing the motion of the informational windmill in Central Park in Pella, Iowa. Taken in 2023
The Avenue of Tulips waits quietly for the crowds. Taken in 2023.

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