Sure signs of spring are making their way across Seattle, but the surest one of all is the return of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in 2021. We’ve got the need-to-know details so parents can make the most of this year’s festival with kids in tow. From how to get tickets (a big change this year) to where to fill hungry tummies after you’ve filled your phone with quintessential kid-among-the-flower pics. Make plans to visit Skagit’s fields of dreams!
Editor’s note: Please remember to follow local and state health and safety guidelines regarding masks, group size and social distancing measures when you visit the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in 2021.
photo: Beth Grotelueschen
What’s Different This Year
As with everything else, the Tulip Festival will be different in 2021. The biggest change will be the advanced tickets required to visit the farms. If you’re planning a trip, don’t wait to get yours; ticket sales opened at Tulip Town and RoozenGaarde in early March, and will limit the number of daily visitors allowed. Although many of the events families look forward to aren’t happening this year, many have been reimagined. We’ve got details on those below.
When to Go
The festival officially kicks off on April 1 and runs through April 30, when the flower fields in the Skagit Valley will be in bloom. You should see color in the fields by the first week of April and fields fully blooming by the second week, give or take. Tulip Town will open on April 1 and RoozenGaarde, open year-round, will start charging for admission March 26. Since blooms can change in a short amount of time, check the bloom status or bloom map so you know what to expect, or call the bloom hotline at 360-428-5959. You’ll get the most flower power if you book tickets between April 7 and 25.
photo: Tanya Hayes
Where to Find the Flowers
Tulip Town will be open everyday in April, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and offers three different ticketed experiences. For families with young kids, the General Admission tickets should do the trick. It includes parking, entry to the fields and indoor exhibits and a ride on the tulip trolley. It’s all you need to get the kids in the field for those heart-melting photos on a beautiful spring day. General admission tickets are $10 for anyone over the age of 12, $5 for kids ages six through 11 and free for kiddos five and under. If you have older kids, you might consider the Experience Pass that includes the same perks as general admission but adds a mini tulip workshop to your outing. To book either, simply choose your date and a three-hour window (arrive anytime in between). Sorry, no 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. 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. This year they’ll be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and advanced tickets are a must to get in. It’s $15 per person and kids two and under are free. They ask that you limit your stay to two hours and remain in your car if you arrive early for your window. Sorry, no pets permitted in the garden.
If driving isn’t in your plan, 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. The tours run April 3-25, 2021 and have limited availability.
photo: Allison Sutcliffe
Possible Lunch Spots
The waterfront town of La Conner has all the charm of a small town, and although it’s usually super busy during tulip season, things may be quieter this year. There are lots of restaurants to check out, including Calico Cupboard Cafe & Bakery (now with a limited menu), La Conner Brewing Company, Waterfront Cafe (watch the boats go by from this dockside location) or Seeds Bistro & Bar. You’ll find outdoor seating at Calico Cupboard and the Waterfront Cafe and heated patio seating at La Conner Brewing.
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, and a local favorite, Whidbey Island Bagel Factory, will soon open a location there. 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.
Sadly, the popular Kiwanis Salmon BBQ at Hillcrest Park is cancelled this year. Typically the organization raises around $80,000 annually to support local youth and charitable causes. If you’re interested in making a donation, you can find information online about doing so.
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 rainfall, the fields may 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 the Littles busy in the car. Since the photo ops are endless, you’ll also want to bring along your fully charged smartphone (and maybe 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!
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.
Events & Activities
Although there will be fewer events this year, families can still plan for some stellar weekend activities when they visit. Saturday, April 10 is the 35th annual Tulip Run that includes a quick two-miler (or a longer 10K) and virtual race option. Then April 16-18 (Fri.-Sun.) is the 37th annual Downtown Mount Vernon Street Fair (on S. First St.) featuring juried arts and crafts, unique gifts, gourmet food and more. Open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m on Sunday.
If your kids are older or they just love being fancy, consider booking Tea and Tulips at Willowbrook Manor. Reservations are available every Friday and Saturday in April, from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. for $35 per person.
There’s also one you don’t have to drive for. On April 24, from noon to 12:30 p.m. kids can join the “Practically Perfect” Nanny on Facebook Live for a tulip-themed craft project, designed by A Dash of Adorable. A kit will be sent in advance. Tickets are $39 at eventbrite.
photo: Eric Riddle
Travel Time & Getting There
Depending on traffic, it should take you 60 minutes from Seattle. If possible, try to go during the week. The traffic can be a bit of a zoo on the weekends, although that may not be the case this year with reduced crowds. Whenever you travel, bring along some car activities and a dose of patience for the adventure.
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.
—Allison Sutcliffe & Kristina Moy