As tough as it can be to get through a Seattle Winter, as soon as Spring hits we’re all reminded of why this area is so special. One of the great ways to truly experience all that the pacific northwest has to offer is to take a day trip up to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. You’ll see the mountains to the East, ocean to the west, and field after field of incredibly gorgeous flowers that grow so perfectly because of the rain we always complain about!
About The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
The Skagit Valley is a collection of small towns in the Northern part of Washington State near the coast. With an abundance of fields, and agriculture being a main function of the area, the farmers discovered that they had the perfect conditions for growing flowers. Tulips can be tricky but somehow they have all the requirements needed.
This festival is put on by Tulip Town & RoozenGaarde, but the cool thing is that there isn’t simply one location. The flowers are spread across a large area of land, rotating where the crops go, so that a visit requires driving around to see all the different fields. Although there is one main garden with a gift shop and ‘test garden’, you can usually avoid major crowds because it’s spread out so widely.
While visiting in person is the the most public part of the festival, they also sell flowers & bulbs year-round!
Best Time To Visit
The official Skagit Valley Tulip Festival runs from April 1st-April 30th. But the best time to see the blooms vary depending on all kinds of outside factors. The year I went the weather made it so the tulip bloom didn’t really get going until the middle of the month. However there have also been years where the exact opposite happened and a bloom happened early.
I know this makes trying to plan a trip sound kind of terrible, but it’s not that bad! There is also the La Conner Daffodil Festival in March-which is in the exact same area. Like, the daffodil fields literally touch the tulip fields. (That first picture at the top of this post, that’s how close they are!!) So, if you plan for April and the tulips are still in the starting stages, there will be gorgeous fields of daffodils in full bloom at that point!
You’re not going to go without flowers. Plus the test garden at the main RoozenGaarde garden tends to be on it’s own schedule since it’s different breeds of tulips they’re just trying out.
If you’re local, or have flexibility in making the trip, the official website has the COOLEST ‘Bloom Map’ that marks out all the fields and is updated every single day during the festivals with the status of each individual field. I started tracking it in March to follow along and see when the blooms were really going to get going.
It’s not too hard to get to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, but you do really need a car. Like I mentioned earlier to really experience it you have to drive around to all the different fields. They’re only a few minutes apart but there are so many that it adds up.
From Seattle it’s about an hour and a half drive-factoring in the inevitable traffic. But it’s pretty much just North on a major freeway with a lot of signs once you get to the exit.
From Vancouver it’s about 2 hours south-factoring in the border crossing. This too is just South on the same freeway so it’s not a difficult drive.
One thing I ABSOLUTELY recommend is wearing rain boots!!! It is the ‘Seattle’ area which means rain is just a part of life. Even if it isn’t raining the day you’re visiting, the ground is probably going to still have remnants of rains past. I visited on a gorgeous sunny day but the ground in every single field was saturated and muddy. I saw soo many people getting stuck and having their clothes get so dirty because they were sinking and kicking up mud.
It’s also Spring so there will always be the potential for cold, wind, and rain. Have an umbrella and rain jacket in your car so your day won’t be ruined if it does rain.
Ah food, the important part. Since this is a trip that will take a good chunk of your day, you’ll want to get lunch at some point. One option is to just pick something up at the stand at RoozenGaarde. If you have kids, simple things like hot chocolate and hot dogs will probably go over well.
But I personally recommend you check out a restaurant called Seeds. It’s in downtown La Conner, about a ten minute drive from the fields. When I say ‘downtown’ I mean like one street with a couple shops. It tiny and adorable!!
Seeds is a farm to table restaurant which means the food is incredibly fresh. With an ocean nearby and farm fields surrounding it there is an abundance of options. Trust me, you’ll want to try everything. But the portions are huge so you probably won’t make it through too many choices.
I ordered one of the best fish and chips I’ve ever had, and had enough for a second full meal when I got home that evening.
More To Do Nearby
If you want to make this more than a solo destination day trip, there’s plenty more to do in this part of the state!
If you head over to the ocean you’ll find this state park. It’s located on one of the many islands in the area. There’s lots of hiking and camping, but first you’ll have to get over the main bridge.
Anacortes is a nearby town that has the most options in the area for lodging and a ‘city’ experience. It is also a main hub for ferries. This is where you’ll want to go to explore any of the San Juan Islands or head over to Victoria, BC.
Washington is known for it’s mountains, but people tend to not realize just how far that goes. The northern mountains get ignored, making this one of the least visited National Parks in the entire country. That means no crowds!! If you want all aspects of an outdoor experience with little contact to the outside world, this is your place to play. I adore this whole area and love spending time tucked away in the forests and mountains.