Nothing screams spring like a trip to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. This month-long celebration has miles of tulip farms to explore and tons of special events, making it not only fun, but totally kid-friendly. And despite our cold temps and snow in February, this year’s tulips are scheduled to be in bloom throughout the month of April, right through the heart of the festival. So gas up the family roadster, scroll down and plan to spend the day smack dab in the middle of tulip country, aglow in rich color.
photo: Kalyn Gustafson
When to Go
The festival officially kicks off on April 1 and runs through April 30 and that’s when the flower fields in the Skagit Valley will be open for the season. According to festival organizers, our cold February temperatures are making for a slow growth in March which means the tulips will be on target for an April bloom. You should see color in the fields by the first week of April and fields in full bloom by the second week of April. And unlike 2015 and 2016, there will be tulips to see throughout the entire month of April. Tulip Town will open on March 30 and RoozenGaarde, open year-round, will start charging at the same time. Since blooms can change in a short amount of time, check the bloom status or bloom map before you go or call the bloom hotline at 360-428-5959.
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. Note: The festival is designed as a driving tour as many events and attractions are miles apart, scattered throughout the lower Skagit Valley.
photo: Beth Grotelueschen
Where to Find the Flowers
Tulip Town not only offers over 80 varieties of tulips growing in the fields, but loads of kid-friendly activities too. From daily trolley rides (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) for $1-$2 and kite-flying areas (if you want to bring your own) to cool kite flying demonstrations by professional kite fliers, face-painting and children’s art activities. Plus, there’s espresso, snacks and ice cream for that much-needed pick-me-up, and a flag garden and indoor flower and garden show. Tulip Town operates daily from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. (later weather permitting) from March 30, 2019 through bloom season (May 6, 2019). Parking is free; $7 to $10 admission for adults and children ages 6 & under are free. Sorry, not pets.
RoozenGaarde has a colorful five-acre display garden (including a 25-acre tulip field and a 22-acre daffodil field) with nearly a half a million bulbs and an authentic Dutch windmill. Stroll the garden and see your favorite flowers, including over 150 varieties of tulips. Psst…each year, RoozenGaarde redesigns and replants its garden with a new layout featuring brilliant color combinations, spectacular floral designs and flowering rivers of deep blue muscari. Admission is $7 to $10 for adults; children ages 5 & under are free. Parking is also free with admission. RoozenGaarde is open daily from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Sorry, no pets permitted in the garden. Check the bloom map for a daily bloom update.
photo: Lindsay Engler
Possible Lunch Spots
Kiwanis Salmon BBQ at Hillcrest Park is a famous BBQ and wildly popular with Seattle families. Located at Mount Vernon’s historic and scenic Hillcrest Park Lodge (1717 S. 13th St., Mt Vernon, Wa 98273), this annual event not only offers a delicious meal (think: Alder grilled salmon with a baked potato, coleslaw, garlic bread, beverage and dessert), but an opportunity for the kids to run around at the park playground and burn off some steam before heading back home. BBQ hours are daily from 11 a.m.–7 p.m. starting on April 6 and running through April 28, 2019. $15 for adults and $12 for kids and seniors –Visa and MasterCard are accepted.
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, 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 & Bar with a delish menu kids love.
You’ll also find plenty of options in Mt. Vernon, no matter what you’re in the mood for. Check out the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce 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 & Restaurant, 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. Note: Remember to bring cash if you plan to stop at Snow Goose Produce; they do not accept debit, credit or checks for ice cream.
photo: Kalyn Gustafson
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. Most likely, the fields are going to be mucky and uneven, especially with the March rain, 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 the Littles 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 and put those cute rain boots to use!
photo: Beth Grotelueschen
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, Shutter Tours offers a motor coach tour that departs from the Downtown Seattle Sheraton 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.
photo: Melinda Wong
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 inside the Cascade Mall in Burlington and has lots of fun exhibits to explore. The Museum is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday, noon–5 p.m. Admission is only $6.25 for kids and adults and $5.75 for military and seniors; babes under 12 months are free.
There are all kinds of special events in honor of the festival. Saturday, April 6 is the 34th annual Tulip Run. On April 13, Washington Federal will be sponsoring the 33rd Annual Kiwanis Club of La Conner Not So Impromptu Tulip Parade 33rd Annual Kiwanis Club of La Conner Not So Impromptu Kiwanis Tulip Parade at 2 p.m. starting at the Port of Skagit complex in LaConer. Grab a curbside seat and expect to see lots of wacky, impromptu participants—from farm animals and mascots to your favorite pets.
Also on April 13, the PACCAR Technical Center will hold its Annual Open House from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. with free admission. The 242-acre 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 35th annual Downtown Mount Vernon Street Fair (on S. First St.) with hundreds of juried arts and crafts, unique gifts, live music, gourmet 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.
photo: Beth Grotelueschen
Cost of the Trip
Depending on whether you pack your own snacks and lunch, the trip is inexpensive to moderate.