Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
Spring – The city feels fresh, the weather is warming up, the winter rains are easing off, and the days are getting longer. You can see summer on the horizon as the flowers and trees stir to life. Every year, Skagit Valley welcomes spring with fields full of tulips blooming. The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival runs from April 1 to the 30th. The time window is wide because tulips bloom according to their own schedule. This year they were early, already in bloom during my Easter weekend visit on April 3-5th. Other years the blooming doesn’t start until the second week of April. This year’s bloom may only last another couple of weeks, so if you can’t make it in time, put it on your calendar now for next year; you shouldn’t miss the chance to stroll along the beds, admiring the incredible variety of colours and hues.
We visited Tulip Town (15002 Bradshaw Rd) and RoozenGaard (15867 Beaver Marsh Rd). It’s a $5 admission for each place and both are worth checking out as each offers its own take on tulips, along with unique views.
While exploring Tulip Town, we met with one of the owners, Jeannette DeGoede, a French Canadian, who is a total sweetheart. You might say she and her husband, Anthony, have their passion for petals bred into their DNA; they came here from Holland in 1957. Their love for each other is equally strong; they’ve been married for 55 years, and even spend their working days together, operating Skagit Valley Bulb Farm. The farm fills 15 acres of bulbs (think about that the next time you’re tired from spending a hour weeding your garden!) Jeannette’s passion for and knowledge about tulips are obvious as she explains why this area produces some of the best bulbs around, “Go north to Lynden and it’s too cold. Go south to Everett and it’s too hot. The marine air here is the key.”
If you think of tulips as being only monochrome yellow or red, prepare to have your palette vastly expanded. The variety we saw included everything from the Black Diamond, which transforms from near black in bud to mahogany and purple in bloom, to the Flying Dragon, whose mahogany petals are trimmed with yellow edges as though a skilled painter had applied delicate brushwork. Being new to tulips, I was dazzled by these and the hundreds of other varieties as I explored the fields and the manicured garden which features a tribute to international peace gardens.
If the weather isn’t cooperating and you need a break from the rain, there is a covered area with tulips, featuring murals as a backdrop. One side features Skagit Valley and the other side showcases Holland. If you get tired while exploring the vast fields or if you have limited mobility, you can jump on one of the passenger trolleys to take in the view from a slightly higher ground. And if you see Jeannette, do ask if she can spare a minute or two; she’s as much a highlight of a visit as any of her flowers.
After Tulip Town, we visited RoozenGaarde, owned by Washington Bulb Co., which also operates other fields in the valley. As you walk through the garden and fields, Mount Baker and local mountains loom imposingly in the distance. Where the charm of Tulip Town comes from its huge variety of flowers and the warmth of its owners, RoozenGaarde impresses with its sheer size, the number of its gardens, and their wide range of layouts.
(A tulip viewing tip: If it has rained or looks like it might, don’t forget your rubber boots; walking muddy fields in good footwear isn’t fun.)
Beside visiting the beautiful fields, there’s a full calendar of events to take in. Check out the schedule at Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.
If you go:
- Weekdays are less busy than weekends. If you go on a weekend, try to head out early. When we went, they did a great job at managing the crowds but it can get packed.
- Bring cash for admission fees, food, face painting and tulips. They have ATMs, but you’ll be dinged by fees.
- Check the festival website and Facebook pages to see when the tulips are in bloom. It changes every year.
- Download a brochure from the festival website or pick up at their office.
- Make a weekend out of it by staying close by. We stayed at Angel of the Winds Casino and Hotel in Arlington, WA, approximately twenty minutes away from tulip central in the Skagit Valley and close enough to pop over Seattle for a quick visit. They have a tulip package that you can take advantage of to make the most of a relaxing weekend. We ended up gambling till the wee hours. It made such a difference being able to climb into a comfy bed, dual head showers and a buffet breakfast to enjoy. Our visit was complimentary, but my winnings at the casino and expenses weren’t.