Here’s a pro tip for enjoying the Tulip Festival, Skagit County’s month-long celebration of the colorful perennials.
Come early or come late — just don’t come at midday.
For one thing, the light is much better for tulip photography in the early morning and late afternoon.
Even better, you’ll avoid traffic gridlock on the Skagit Valley’s two-lane blacktops that, on weekends, can be as maddening as Everett’s 41st Street on-ramp at rush hour after multiple fender-benders.
Oh, and here’s another tip: Weekday traffic is way less intense. If you visit early or late on a weekday, you’ll have the roads pretty much all to yourself.
As of Thursday, tulips were starting to turn from green to full bloom. Daffodils have been in bloom for several weeks.
Ground Zero for tulip-gazing is fertile farmland roughly bounded by Highway 20 to the north, Calhoun Road to the south, Kamb Road to the east and La Conner-Whitney Road to the west. Signs guide drivers along a tulip route that wends its way through the fields of bloom. Sadly, this is a car-dependent outing, as the fields are too far apart for walking to be feasible — although it is well-suited to bicycle-riding.
More or less smack-dab in the middle of tulip Ground Zero are the display gardens at Washington Bulb Co.’s RoozenGarde, 15867 Beaver Marsh Road, and Skagit Valley Bulb Farm’s Tulip Town, 15002 Bradshaw Road. You’ll see dozens of varieties of blooming tulips, and there’s stuff for the kids to do. Both places charge admission ($7 weekdays, $10 weekends), but parking is free.
After you’ve had your fill of tulips, feast your eyes on fine art at one or more of the shows taking place during the festival. The Stanwood Camano Arts Guild will hold its annual “Art at the Schoolhouse” exhibit in a historic building on the grounds of Christianson Nursery (itself a destination for gardeners, at 15806 Best Road) all month. The Skagit Art Association’s Art in a Pickle Barn will feature work in many mediums by local artists and artisans. It’s taking place at Schuh Farms, 15565 S.R. 536.
The annual Rexville Grange Art Show, 19299 Rexville Grange Road, between Conway and La Conner, continues through April 14. See work by artists including Janet Hamilton of Everett, Marguerite Goff of Stanwood, Lucinda VanValkenburg of Arlington and Susan McManamen of Snohomish from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Museum of Northwest Art, 121 N. First St., La Conner, plans an exhibit called “continuum …”, which it describes as an edited visual history of the Northwest from 1930 to the present. Included are works from the museum’s permanent collection by the legendary Northwest Mystics: Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan and Guy Anderson.
The Skagit Historical Museum, 501 S. Fourth St. on the hill in La Conner, plans exhibits called “Who Are We?” and “This Skagit Life” beginning April 11. Also worth checking out in La Conner is the Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, in stately Gaches Manor, 703 S. Second St.
They may be 15 or so minutes away from the tulips, but the neighboring cities of Anacortes and Mount Vernon plan events associated with the festival. The Anacortes Quilt Walk will display traditional and contemporary quilts at businesses in the port city’s downtown. On April 13, enjoy wine-tasting and appetizers from local restaurants at the Anacortes Spring Wine Festival at the Port of Anacortes Event Center at the foot of Commercial Avenue.
In Mount Vernon, chow down on grilled salmon at the Kiwanis Salmon Barbecue from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 6-28 at Hillcrest Park, 1717 S. 13th St. A street fair takes over the riverfront city’s downtown all day April 19-21. Vendors will offer fine art, crafts, food and more.
There’s a lot more going on that we can list here, so for a complete rundown of what’s happening during the Tulip Festival, including where the tulips are blooming, go to tulipfestival.org. You can download a map and a brochure there.
Just remember — don’t arrive at high noon on Saturday.
Tips for surviving a trip to Tulip Town
Leave dogs at home.
Leave drones at home, too.
Park only where it’s clearly allowed. Illegal parkers face fines.
Don’t block driveways or stop in the middle of the road — the locals get grumpy when that happens.
Dress for the weather. Hint: It probably will be raining. Expect muddy feet.
Don’t pick the flowers — that’s theft. Buy them at the display gardens or at a roadside stand.
Stay on the paths through the fields.
There are no public restrooms in the fields. You’ll find facilities on Morris Street and First Street in La Conner, and Lions Park, 501 Freeway Drive, Mount Vernon.