Your Guide to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
Nothing screams “spring” like a day trip to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. This month-long celebration has miles of tulip farms to explore and a variety of special events making it not only fun, but totally kid-friendly! So pack some snacks and plan to spend the day smack in the middle of tulip country, aglow in rich color throughout the month of April.
The festival runs April 1-30. According to officials, you should see color in the fields by the first week of April 2014 and fields in full bloom during the second week.
Approximate travel time
Depending on traffic, it should take you 60 minutes from Seattle.
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. Good to Know: 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, face-painting, and children’s art activities. Plus, there’s espresso and snacks for that much-needed pick-me-up. Tulip Town operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Parking is free; $5 admission for adults, children ages 10 and under 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 ages 10 and under are free; parking is free with admission. Check the bloom map for a Daily Bloom update.
Possible lunch spots
Kiwanis Salmon BBQ at Hillcrest Park is a wildly popular BBQ. Located at the lodge at Hillcrest Park in Mt. Vernon, this annual 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 a.m.–7 p.m. from April 5 through April 27. 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 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; and for an extra special treat, stop by Snow Goose Produce for a scoop of specialty ice cream from Lopez Island Creamery. Served in a homemade waffle cone, these generous scoops will fill the kiddies up for the car ride home. Insider Tip: Remember to bring cash; Snow Goose Produce does not accept debit, credit or checks for ice cream.
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 those 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.
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: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m.–5 p.m.
There are all kinds of special events in honor of the festival. Saturday, April 12th is a big day in the land of the tulips! The Tulip Frolic takes place in the nearby town of La Conner from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. Check out the free entertainment under the tent on the big stage along with crafts, exhibits and more.
Also, on the 12th, the PACCAR Technical Center has its Annual Open House from 11a.m.–3 p.m. 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 25th through April 27th (Fri.-Sun.) is the Downtown Mount Vernon Street Fair (on First St.) with hundreds of artists, craft vendors, live music, food, and children’s activities. Open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m on Sunday.
Cost of trip
Depending on whether you pack your own snacks and lunch, the trip is 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
Photo credits: Skagit Valley Tulip Festival Facebook page, Beth Grotelueschen, Nicole Grubbs & Kalyn Gustafson