Why go now: There’s something about rows upon rows of brightly-colored tulips that screams: Goodbye winter, hello spring! The time is now to catch the flower fireworks show that blankets Skagit Valley farmland each April.
Festival of flowers: The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival runs April 1-30, 2016. Sprawling fields of technicolor bulbs dot the landscape from Mt. Vernon west to La Conner and north to Burlington, with two main hubs for flower-seeking tourists–Tulip Town ($6 admission) and Roozengaarde ($5 to park a car). Viewing the tulips is free. See the tulip map. The tulip fields are about 65 miles north of Seattle via I-5.
Keepin’ it local: Your visit contributes to a thriving local agricultural economy–the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is one of the top destination events for the Pacific Northwest and brings in about $14 million to local businesses. Plus these tulips fields aren’t just for a pretty show–they yield around 100 million cut flowers each year and provide 75% of the nation’s commercially-sold tulips.
Photo op: Pack your camera! Pro and novice photographers alike flock to the blooming tulip fields that frame unique family portraits and provide for artistic compositions. For the most pop! in your photos, hit the fields well before the midday bright sunshine washes out the bloom’s bright hues; early mornings, the waning light of dusk, and overcast days provide the best filtered light for saturated petals.
Parade this way: The annual “Not So Impromptu Kiwanis Tulip Parade” is great fun for kids, 2pm April 9 in La Conner. See more special events during tulip season.
A most scenic drive: Stretch the springtime scenery into a whole day with a motor up Chuckanut Drive; plan your route and stops with our handy Chuckanut Drive itinerary.
Tour de bike: Rent a bike (from Skagit Cycle in Burlington, $40 per day) or bring your own for a self-guided two-wheel tour through the tulip fields. Got a large group? Country Cycling offers fully-supported guided tours to see the tulips.
Best breakfast: Fuel up for a day of petal-peeping with a made-from-scratch giant cinnamon roll or tasty plate of morning hash at Calico Cupboard Cafe & Bakery (choose from their two tulip-country locations – La Conner or Mt. Vernon)
Lively local lunch: Follow the signs to the popular Kiwanis Salmon BBQ in Hillcrest Park (every day from April 2-24, 11am-7pm, $12). Your plate will be piled high with generous portions of wild salmon barbecued over alder, baked potato, slaw, and garlic bread, plus ice cream for desert. This is a must-stop for our family and should be for yours, too!
Make it a weekend: The cute, budget-friendly rooms at Hotel Planter are in an historic downtown building within walking distance to all of La Conner’s great restaurants, shops and art galleries. The inn gets bonus points for its private gazebo hot tub set in a sprawling, beautifully-landscaped garden, the perfect place to unwind after a day of sight-seeing.
In Oregon? Head to the Willamette Valley for the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival. It runs March 20-May 1, 2016.