A spring weekend at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
written by Charyn Pfeuffer | featured photo by Ron Jones
Throughout April, hundreds of acres of fields within a fifteen-mile triangle in Washington come alive with bright primary colors. Bordered by the north fork of the Skagit River, Highway 20 and the Swinomish Channel, the technicolor display reveals itself in color blocks. Visitors can soak up miles and miles of vibrant blooms at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, a month-long spring tradition.
Like other widely-attended Seattle area events (think Sounders games and Glassybaby sample sales), it’s best to go armed with a plan. Otherwise, you’ll spend half a Saturday stuck in gridlock on an I-5 off-ramp.
Timing is everything. Go first thing in the morning or later in the evening. Your photos will thank you, since mid-day lighting isn’t the prettiest for flowers. Traffic becomes tangible after 11 a.m. on weekends. If you can swing a weekday visit—do it. It’s well worth using a vacation day to enjoy the festival without the weekend masses. There are several organized tours (visitskagitvalley.com), and biking and carpooling are also options. Leave Fido at home—pets aren’t allowed in the gardens.
Fashion probably isn’t top of mind for a tulip festival, but boots are a must in the often muddy fields. April averages fourteen days of rain in the Puget Sound area.
The floral affair is designed as a driving tour—farms and fields are scattered throughout Skagit Valley. Make RoozenGaarde your first stop. The Roozen family (which means “roses” in Dutch) first started growing tulips in Holland in the mid-1770s. Gardening enthusiasts can order from more than 150 varieties of bulbs, then grab a field tour map. Set aside some time to explore the four-acre display garden, which includes an authentic Dutch windmill. Admission is five-dollars per person and includes parking. Children 5 and younger are free.
Tulip Town is a requisite stop with a one-dollar admission. The show garden here alternates color every ten rows or so, making it a multi-hued spectacle. Between RoozenGaarde and Tulip Town, the farms plant more than one million bulbs.
Be sure to check out other events and activities taking place in the area during the festival, including many art shows, Anacortes Spring Wine Festival and the Kiwanis Salmon Barbecue.
For more information on the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, visit tulipfestival.org. The event takes place April 1-30, with events in Mount Vernon, Burlington, Sedro-Woolley, La Conner, Edison and Anacortes. You can request an Official Tulip Festival brochure in advance on the website.
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