If it’s April 1-30 in Washington State, it’s time to get your mud resistant shoes on so you can tip toe through the tulips like a pro – literally- in Mount Vernon, Washington. Visitors from all over the world make the journey to the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.
Of course, nowhere in the literature does it say tulips love the mud – wear appropriate shoes. The first year I attended the festival, I couldn’t figure out why people were smirking at me. About 10 feet after I got out of the car, my sparkling tennis shoes did a nosedive into a pocket of sticky icky mud. What?? I lost a great pair of designer sneakers that day. But it was worth every squish-squash to look up to see the waves of brilliant blooms. I was in love. Who cares if it killed my footwear? The tulips were worth it. From a shoe aficionado, that’s quite a concession. Just sayin’.
This year’s weather prediction is cool and rainy – a typical spring in the great northwest. Its perfect tulip viewing conditions. Time to tip toe through the tulips – literally- in Mount Vernon, Washington. Visitors from all over the world make the journey to the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. So did I.
The wild fields of color and the global weekend crowds squish- squashing their way through the fields, hanging on dearly to the cameras and IPhones makes this a one-of-a kind experience. You’ll love watching the kids stomping their feet in the mud pockets. I highly recommend it for locals and visitors alike.
As background, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is a Tulip festival in the Skagit Valley of Washington state celebrating millions of tulips bursting into bloom. It is held annually in the spring, April 1 to April 30.
The festival was officially inaugurated in 1984 by the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber people saw that people were coming by the thousands to view the tulips so they decided to add events and festivities to enhance the visitors’ trip to the Skagit Valley. In 1994 the Tulip Festival broke off from the Chamber of Commerce and became an entity of its own. Now that’s smart tourism planning.
From humble beginnings of 3 days, it expanded to 10, then 17 and now, for the past 5+ years, to 30 days. The expansion to 30 days was to ensure that the rolling fields of tulips grown in Skagit Valley would actually bloom sometime during the festival, since a shorter festival sometime missed the blooming of the fields. Again, smart tourism planning.
The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival always starts the first of April with the slogan, “Bloom dates according to Mother Nature.” This year’s chilly watery winter brought blooms a bit later than in past years. As one of the field workers told me last year, “Cooler weather lets the tulips come up gradually, as they’re meant to, bringing us a beautiful crop.”
The tulip festival is a month-long celebration. If you’re in town come enjoy the parade, street fair and a bike ride in La Conner, Mount Vernon and surrounding areas. There are many events scheduled around the tulip festival. Enjoy art shows, English Tea at Willowbrook Manor – Part of Woodfest Weekend of Activities + Other Weekends in April, a beer fest, concerts, tours of local shellfish and cheese operations are also worth a visit. Check out the official tulip website for a list of activities and information. For those of you who have visited before, keep in mind due to crop rotation, the fields are in different locations each year.
The Tulip Festival draws admirers from around the world each April. Weekends are especially busy, often slowing traffic both ways on the two-lane country roads. Parking is at a premium. Patience is a virtue. Visit on a weekday if at all possible.
Unless you bought a ticket on a bus tour, you are on your own. You will be driving from site to site.
There are two main sites to visit. RoozenGaarde: a five-acre display garden with formal plantings, snacks to eat (kettle corn, espresso, light food, etc.) and a gift shop. Please call ahead with your reservations so they know you are coming. 15867 Beaver Marsh Rd., (360) 424-8531. Admission $7 per adult. Festival Hours 9 am to 7 pm.
Tulip Town has an indoor display garden, vendors, food service, and 60 varieties of tulips in their field. Visitors can either walk thru the acres of blooming tulips or take a trolley ride out in the fields. Open April 1-30, 9 am to 5 pm. Admission adults $7. Tour buses should call ahead for reservations (360) 424-8152, 15002 Bradshaw Rd., Mount Vernon.
There are many commercial sites you can visit on your own. We paid $5 for one of the last parking spots available at a glorious stop. Depending on which fields are flowering, you might just have to do “drive-by bloom viewing.” Parking on the side of many of the roads is prohibited. The police are out in full force. Watch your P’s and Q’s.
The Tulip Festival office in downtown Mount Vernon is open daily with helpful information, brochures, maps and guides about the festival and other local attractions. 360-428-5959 / https://tulipfestival.org/
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Photos by Allan Kissam
Washington State Tulip Festival 2019