Over the last few years, I've had the wonderful opportunity to go to places in Michigan that I have never been to or have thought about it and never been. Since my girlfriend Sam and I have been dating over the last two-plus years, there's one place that I've gone to more often and enjoyed every new experience. I can also tell you that you can make a day out of this short trip.

Last weekend, Sam and I made a return trip to Holland, the lakeside village more known for the Tulip Time Festival in May and visitors making their way to Windmill Island for the festivities. Although I have yet to experience Tulip Time, the time I've spent in Holland has brought something new each time. The first time of vivid memory was to Holland State Park and seeing their most noted lighthouse, Big Red.

As much as another trip to the beach would have been great (on second thought, not a chance this time of year), this journey took us to the heart of Holland. Along 8th Street, there are several tiny shops and a couple of breweries to tempt any visitor or the locals (more on the breweries later). The best part of their downtown that is very rare in Michigan in the middle of January, is that their sidewalks are heated, so the impending snow would melt instantly and keep the sidewalks dry. Sure, it may have been in the mid-20's on the day we went, but we were able to keep our feet dry with this excellent feature.

A downtown ice sculpture braves the cold!

The first stop was to Fustini's Oils and Vinegars, a store that pretty much is self-explanatory. Sam and I first visited the flagship store in downtown Traverse City a couple of summers ago, and were glad to know that the closest one for us was in Holland. After many failed attempts to stop through to pick our pairings (plus a belated Christmas gift from me), Sam and I chose to pair up Tuscan Herb and Persian Lime olive oil with Strawberry and Red Apple vinegars. It was well worth the wait, as the Strawberry and Herb mix was perfect for a delicious homemade cranberry-pecan spinach salad!

Our view from the New Holland Brewery's upper level of their bar-restaurant!

As of late, I've become more interested in the microbrews and/or craft brews in the area. I'm not a drinker by any means, but it's the Food Network part of me that has had me test my taster. Sam and I made a trek farther down 8th to the New Holland Brewery, which has been around for 17 years and has had pretty good success in national competitions. Of course, they distribute to quite a bit in our area. Both Sam and I are more keen on doing flights, or the beer sampler.

So many to try...which one to choose!

Out of the six, both Sam and I enjoyed the rich, chocolaty taste of Dragon's Milk. There were also subtle hints of vanilla, and could come off as the conclusion of a meal. According to New Holland, this beer pairs well with red meat, smoked foods and even chocolate!  We also liked Barrel of Monkeys, which is a barrel-aged version of one of their signature ales, Monkey King Saison. For me personally, I would also suggest The Poet and Sundog. New Holland's signature brew, Mad Hatter, isn't too shabby either from what I've heard. We also split a Margherita pizza, which was fresh and light to compliment the sampler. Pair everything up with the wonderful atmosphere, New Holland makes its mark downtown as a destination.

If you are looking to experience another brewery in Holland, you might be interested in visiting Our Brewing Company, a relatively new outfit just down the block. They opened in 2012, and have a vast selection that will have to wait for another trip to the Dutch Village.

Michigan has its own hidden treasures, and Holland is a great one year-round! There's so much to see and do outside of Tulip Time in Holland. If you ever get the opportunity to stop by, stay a while! I'd like to hear from you on some of the other great places in Holland that you would suggest on your next trip...