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News / Life / Lifestyles

Skagit Valley tulips in bloom: Colorful fields, festival mark height of spring season

By Sarah-Mae McCullough, The Seattle Times
Published: April 13, 2024, 6:00am
3 Photos
Workers harvest tulips Monday, MArch 31, 2003, near Mount Vernon, Wash. The farming area of Skagit County is well known for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival which starts Tuesday, April 1 and runs through April 30. Fields awash in color attract visitors annually.
Workers harvest tulips Monday, MArch 31, 2003, near Mount Vernon, Wash. The farming area of Skagit County is well known for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival which starts Tuesday, April 1 and runs through April 30. Fields awash in color attract visitors annually. (AP Photo/ Skagit Valley Herald, Scott Terrell) (Bruce Kellman/ The News Tribune) Photo Gallery

Has it sunk in for you yet that it’s spring? Though this year’s spring equinox came on March 19, one of Washingtonians’ favorite, and most visually exquisite, markers of the new season typically arrives in April: the tulips!

Each spring, crowds flock to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, one of the largest tulip celebrations in the U.S. The rainbow of blooms transforms the Mount Vernon area, about an hour’s drive north from Seattle, into “the Netherlands of the Northwest,” as festival executive director Nicole Roozen calls it.

“Outside of Holland, it’s pretty rare to be able to experience this level of color and blooms,” she said.

Tulip season is already underway. Here’s how to make the most of it.

Picking the right tulip garden(s)

There’s no one address for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. Rather, the monthlong April festival features four main tulip show gardens, each with individual tickets and unique features.

Each garden replants its displays each year, “so it’s never going to be the exact same design,” said Roozen, who’s part of the family that runs one of the gardens, Roozengaarde.

Farthest south, those driving from Seattle may first hit Garden Rosalyn (16648 Jungquist Road, Mount Vernon). A pond with ducks and geese plus, of course, several varieties of colorful tulips give the 7-acre garden a storybook feeling. With $15 tickets, the garden is open 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m., allowing guests to get an early start to the day if they’d like.

Just over a mile away is Roozengaarde (15867 Beaver Marsh Road, Mount Vernon), the festival’s largest site, with 50 acres of expansive tulip fields, allowing visitors to spread out. Tickets are $15-$18 (depending on when you go and whether you buy them online in advance), and the garden is open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Children ages 2 and younger are free.

A little farther north, Tulip Town (15002 Bradshaw Road, Mount Vernon) offers all sorts of ways to take your tulip excursion to the next level. General admission ($15 online or $20 at the gate, with senior, youth and military discounts) includes a trolley ride through the tulip fields, if weather allows, and access to a beer and wine garden and food options.

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Among other special options, you can opt for the $50 Experience Pass, featuring a workshop taking you behind the scenes at the farm and showing you how to properly handpick tulips, or the $225 date night package, which includes admission for two, a bottle of wine, a cheeseboard and after-hours access to Tulip Town, through sunset. Tulip Town is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Sunday.

Night owls and DIY florists may be particularly interested in Tulip Valley Farms (15245 Bradshaw Road, Mount Vernon), the festival’s only garden with a u-pick site and a special “Night Bloom” ticket option, allowing folks to admire the fields 7-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays when they’re illuminated with lights and lasers. General admission is $13 per person when bought online or $19.50 when bought in-person, with child, military and senior discounts.

Unique ways to experience the Tulip Festival

How much you spend on the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is up to you. You can take a self-guided driving tour past the area’s tulip growing fields for free or pay around $15 to hang out in one garden. But there are also some more structured ways to experience tulip season, if you don’t mind paying extra.

Skagit Guided Adventures offers four-hour, small-group tours to admire tulips and daffodils and learn about their origins and impact on human cultures for $233 per person. If you need a ride from Seattle, Shutter Tours will pick you up from the Downtown Seattle Hyatt Regency Hotel for an all-day, $117 tulips tour that includes a drive through Mount Vernon’s tulip fields, a visit to Roozengaarde and a dining and shopping stop in La Conner.

For a steeper price, you can avoid the crowds altogether and take in the fields from above. San Juan Airlines takes passengers for flights over the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, charging $424 for an up-to-three-person ride and $692 for an up-to-five-person ride of one hour, with pickup options available around the Skagit Valley.

Tulip travel tips

Firstly, keep track of tulip season if you want to catch the flowers in full bloom. Each garden plants early-, mid- and late-blooming tulip varieties in an effort to ensure there are colorful flowers on display throughout the season.

Visit tulipfestival.org/bloom-status to follow along with the tulips gardens’ “bloom status.”

With a mild winter and some recent warm weather, blooms have been arriving earlier than usual this year. Depending on weather patterns over the next month, it’s possible that there won’t be as many tulips to see during the last week of April, Roozen said. (So, to be safe, don’t procrastinate your tulip trip for too long!)

Once you’ve picked a date, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Pack your patience. If you plan to visit on a weekend, the participating gardens will likely be very busy and, driving from Seattle, you may hit traffic. Coming early (some gardens open as early as 8 or 9 a.m.) or late in the day (gardens close around 5-7 p.m., with the exception of Tulip Valley Farms’ Night Bloom) can let you enjoy more space to yourself and better lighting for photos.
  • It’s “always a good idea to throw in a pair of boots that you’re not afraid to get muddy,” Roozen said. “If it’s rained up here even a couple days leading up to your visit, it still might be muddy.”

For more information on the festival, visit tulipfestival.org or email info@tulipfestival.org.