Spring is nowhere more vibrant than in Skagit County.
Having lived nearly 30 years on the route to the nearby tulip fields, I offer the following tips and recommendations for a day in Skagit Valley during this year's Tulip Festival.
For starters, don't go this weekend.
A quick look around my neighborhood in the past few days revealed not one field tulip in bloom.
Wait at least a week, unless you are interested in the tail end of the daffodil displays, which actually look pretty great against gray skies.
The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival runs April 1 through 30 with activities in Mount Vernon, Burlington, Sedro-Woolley, La Conner, Edison and Anacortes. Tons of information, including a listing of events, is available at www.tulipfestival.org.
Hundreds of acres of spectacular tulip fields will be yours to enjoy.
You won't want to miss out.
For the best experience, however, here are some suggestions:
Bring your boots. The rain will be with us for a while and the fields can be muddy.
Visit the bulb growers first. Stop at the Roozen family's Washington Bulb Co./ Roozengarde at 15867 Beaver Marsh Road or the DeGoede family's Skagit Valley Bulb Farm/Tulip Town at 15002 Bradshaw Road. Admission is $5 for adults but free for children at both places. Order bulbs, buy a bouquet, pick up a free field tour map and check out the display gardens.
Go in the morning or in the evening. You'll encounter less traffic and your tulip photographs will be better. High-noon photos tend to wash out the amazing floral color.
Visit on a weekday if you can. Weekends after 11 a.m. get crazy with traffic. Local people are mostly kind, helpful and patient unless you forget that all this is happening in their front yards.
The tulip fields are located primarily within a 15-mile triangle bordered by the north fork of the Skagit River, the Swinomish Channel and Highway 20. The tulips won't all bloom at once. You can count on about two full weeks of color once the individual fields start showing. Farmers have to behead the flowers at some point in order to keep the bulbs healthy, and that is after all, why they are growing them.
A few of the roads have 50 mph speed limits and that's how fast the locals tend to drive. Keep your children safe by keeping them in the car on these roads.
Shoulder parking is very limited. Obey the no-parking signs or expect a visit from a deputy with his ticket book. Parking should be ample at most fields. If you visit Roozengarde first, you will have a ticket stub to show for free parking near the various Washington Bulb Co. tulip fields.
La Conner isn't home base for the festival. If the town is crowded, remember that you can enjoy plenty of festival activities in the other cities.
Finally, check the Skagit Valley Tulips off your list from Buzzfeed's "29 Surreal Places in America You Need to Visit Before You Die." It's No. 4.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
More than tulips
If the roads around the fields are packed, check out these festival activities:
- Anacortes Quilt Walk, on now throughout downtown Anacortes
- Art in a Pickle Barn, celebrating its 25th year, on now at Azusa Farm, 14904 Highway 20, west of Mount Vernon
- Art Bash at the Farmhouse restaurant, 13724 La Conner-Whitney Road
- WSU Extension and Research Station Discovery Garden, 16650 Highway 536, west of Mount Vernon
- Beginning April 5, see the Anacortes Arts Festival show, 611 R Ave., Anacortes.
- Art in the Schoolhouse at Christianson's Nursery, 15806 Best Road, west of Mount Vernon
- Art Walk along Fairhaven Avenue in downtown Burlington
- Woodfest, 1235 Third St., Sedro-Woolley
- Skagit County has many fine restaurants and little eateries, but you will do yourself a favor to hit the Kiwanis salmon barbecue, beginning April 5 at Hillcrest Lodge 1717 S. 13th St., Mount Vernon.
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Our to-do list full of ideas for your weekend
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