The 411 on the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
Whether you’ve lived in Seattle your whole life or just recently transplanted to the Emerald City, there’s one springtime attraction that never gets old—the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. Along with the impressive and colorful daffodil, iris and tulip farms, comes a wide variety of events (think arts festivals, street fairs, and parades) making this month-long celebration not only fun, but totally kid-friendly!
Go: The festival runs from April 1st through April 30th.
Approximate travel time: From Seattle (and depending on traffic) it should take you 60-minutes to get smack in the middle of tulip country.
Getting there: It’s easy to get to the Skagit Valley. Travel north on I-5 for approximately 60-miles. The tulips are generally grown in a 15-mile triangle bordered by Highway 20, the Skagit River, and the Swinomish River Channel. Remember: The festival is designed as a driving tour as many events and attractions are miles apart, scattered throughout the lower Skagit Valley.
Where to find the flowers: Tulip Town not only has over 80 varieties of tulips growing in the fields, but loads of kid-friendly activities too! Tulip Town offers trolley rides, kite-flying areas (if you want to bring your own) and cool kite demonstrations, daily face-painting, and children’s art activities. Enjoy espresso and snacks for that much needed energy. Tulip Town operates M-F from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. Free parking; $5 admission for adults, children under 10 are free. Sorry, not pets.
RoozenGaarde has a colorful 3-acre display garden with a shop and an authentic Dutch windmill. Admission is $5, children under 10 are free. Parking is free. Check their bloom map for a Daily Bloom update.
What else to do: It’s always fun to check out a new children’s museum. The Children’s Museum of Skagit County is located in the Cascade Mall in Burlington and has lots of fun exhibits to explore. Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10:00 am – 5:00 pm; Sun., 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm.
Possible lunch spots: Kiwanis Salmon BBQ at Hillcrest Park is a wildly popular BBQ. Located at the lodge at Hillcrest Park in Mt. Vernon, the event not only offers a delicious meal, but an opportunity for the little ones to run around at the park playground and burn off some steam before heading back home. BBQ hours are 11:00 am – 7:00 pm from April 6th through April 2t8h. Adult plates $12; child/senior plates $10.
The waterfront town of La Conner will be bustling and crowded during tulip season, but it’s so charming you won’t mind once you find somewhere to park. There are lots of restaurants to check out here, including Calico Cupboard Cafe & Bakery, La Conner Brewing Company, La Conner Waterfront Cafe (watch the boats go by from this dockside location), or Seeds Bistro with with a fun Seedlings menu for kids.
You’ll also find plenty of options in Mt. Vernon, no matter what you’re in the mood for. Check out the Chamber site for some ideas. The previously mentioned Calico Cupboard Cafe & Bakery also has a Mt. Vernon location; for a family-friendly pub try Skagit River Brewery, right near the freeway.
How to dress: It’s best to dress in layers, and wear waterproof clothing in case there are April showers. Bring a change of shoes, socks, and clothes. Depending on the weather, the fields could be mucky and uneven, making even experienced toddlers a little wobbly on their feet.
What to bring: You will definitely want to pack some snacks and items to keep little ones busy in the car. Since the photo ops are endless, you’ll also want to bring along your camera and iPhone (it’s always good to have a backup). If traveling with little ones, we’d recommend a backpack for babes and toddlers rather than a stroller. Older kids can walk the paths around some of the fields…it’s a great time to break out the cute rain boots!
Need to know: If possible, try to go during the week. The traffic can be a bit of a zoo on the weekends, but if that is your only option, bring along some car activities and a dose of patience. Bring cash — some fields may have a parking fee. Another option is to bring the bike and trailer if you are feeling adventurous. Also, Clipper Vacations offers a motor coach tour that departs from Pier 69 in Seattle with stops at the big tulip farms and downtown La Conner.
Good to know: The fields are generally not for “picking,” just admiring and taking pictures. Often there are paths around the fields, but generally they don’t want you walking in the rows of flowers, as the bulbs are fragile. Tulips are usually for sale at the entrances so you can take some home.
Bonus: There are all kinds of special events in honor of the festival. Saturday, April 13th is a big day in the land of the tulips! The Tulip Frolic takes place in the nearby town of La Conner from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm. Check out the free entertainment under the tent on the big stage.
Also, on the 13th, the PACCAR Technical Center has its Annual Open House from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm with free admission. The truck testing facility only opens to the public once a year and allows you to get up close with the big rigs (kids can even sit in them).
April 19-21 (Fri.-Sun.) is the Downtown Mount Vernon Street Fair (on First Street) with hundreds of artists, live music, food, and children’s activities.
Cost of trip: Inexpensive to moderate
Do you plan on taking your kiddos to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival this year? What’s your favorite part of the festival? Let us know in a comment below.
–Kristina Moy & Angie J. Ballas