Nothing says spring quite like Skagit Valley flowers in bloom — first daffodils then tulips in April. While changing weather can make the timing of a flower festival tricky to pinpoint, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival and its star attractions are opening just about on queue this year, in line with scheduled annual timing of April 1–30. Here's your guide to seeing the beautiful show with kids:
Find the flowers
Daffodils in La Conner
A few years ago, the town of La Conner — a quaint riverfront spot west of Mount Vernon — launched an official Daffodil Festival for the month of March. It’s a casual thing, inviting visitors to appreciate the cheerful blooms against the backdrop of beautiful Mount Baker. Find a field in bloom, discover a gift shop, have lunch at a local eatery. The daffodils blooming now, so seize the moment.
Info: Check for bloom updates at the La Conner Visitor Center at 360-466-4778. Of course, if you’ve on the tail end of the daffodils, you’re just in time for tulips.
Tulips in the Skagit Valley
Skagit Valley’s two primary tulip growers, Tulip Town and RoozenGaarde, are already geared up for visitors. According to the Tulip Festival website, Tulip Town opens on March 30 and Roozengaarde's website notes late March is the expectation for the kick-off of tulip season. You can always check their handy bloom map to be sure.
Tulip Town, opening Friday, March 30, offers a variety of display gardens including a windmill garden, a stunning 10-acre field planted in rainbow stripes of color, and kid-friendly activities, such as trolley rides around the fields — a great way to get an elevated panoramic view ($2/adult, $1/child). There are also kite flying demonstrations, face painting, a gift shop, plus espresso and snacks (ice cream!), as well as an indoor flower and garden show, particularly welcome on rainy days.
Tulip Town tips: Admission is $7, and children 6 and under are free (cash only for admission fee). Tulip Town is open daily, 9 a.m.–5 p.m., and parking is free. Be aware that picnics are not allowed in, but you’re welcome to eat in your car. Pets (and drones!) are not allowed, nor are people allowed to walk through tulip fields — around the fields is fine.
RoozenGaarde, open year-round, features a 4-acre display garden filled with more than 250,000 bulbs, alongside a 30-acre field of tulips. Roozengaarde plants 1,000 acres of tulips, daffodils and iris around the valley. I recommend starting at the display garden and then driving to the less-manicured fields if you want more, but kids will have more fun at the display gardens that include an authentic windmill and activities such as kite-flying and bubbles for purchase, a gift shop, food vendors and a covered area for picnicking (your own fare is fine). Good photo ops, too.
RoozenGarde tips: RoozenGarde's website indicates that due to late-March cool weather, the tulips are just beginning to open. The garden operates 9 a.m.–7 p.m. daily. Admission is $7, and children age 5 and under are free. The admission fee earns you free parking at RoozenGaarde’s other fields (look for signs). Pets are not allowed, nor is walking in the fields.
Where to nosh in Skagit County
Dessert first, right? The classic tulip treat stop is at Snow Goose Produce Market, located on Fir Island Road between Conway and La Conner, for specialty ice cream in a homemade waffle cone from Lopez Island Creamery and other local products such as Golden Glen Creamery cheese and Bread Farm bread (cash only).
The Skagit Valley offers a variety of family-friendly options and nothing is far from the tulip gardens. If weather allows, picnicking might be just the thing. Stop in downtown Mount Vernon at Skagit Valley Food Co-op for hearty, healthy deli items and baked goods; or the all-ages Skagit River Brewery for kid-friendly wood-fired pizzas, burgers and pub fare. Or, just a couple minutes north up I-5 in Burlington, locals love Taqueria Los Jarritos for Mexican food.
Even if it's past daffodil peak season, artsy La Conner makes for a fun stop for walking the waterfront and spotting seals and eagles. Try Seeds Bistro for its “Seedlings” kids’ menu or popular Calico Cupboard for lunch or scrumptious baked goods. (Calico Cupboard also has locations in Mount Vernon and Anacortes.)
Slightly off the beaten path, my personal favorite is the town of Edison (population 133), a quaint, postage-stamp sized hamlet northwest of Mount Vernon. It abounds with good food — but be sure to bring plenty of cash to pick up baked goods at the Breadfarm Bakery (cash or check only). A block away, The Edison Café offers country flair and a breakfast/lunch menu that will appeal to all ages (open every day except Monday). If you happen here on a weekend, try eclectic Mariposa for tacos and burritos with a foodie twist (cash only).
Top tips for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
- Top tip: If schedules allow, plan on a weekday morning visit to avoid jammed roads.
- Plan to dress in layers for changeable weather, and pack waterproof clothing and rain boots — those fields can be muddy! — and extra clothing for wobbly toddlers.
- Bring a baby backpack or carrier rather than a stroller for easier walking.
- Ensure your camera battery and your phones are charged for photo ops (cloudy days make the best pictures; have kiddos wear bright colors).
- Also plan for patience with other drivers on country roads, and pack extra snacks and car entertainment for the kids. It gets crowded — weekends can be downright jammed — and cars do goofy parking jobs on the roads.
- Download a map of the fields or pick one up at Mount Vernon’s visitor center.
- If you need a playground to burn off energy, head to Mount Vernon’s Edgewater Park or to Skagit River Park Playfields in Burlington for a playground and sports fields to kick a ball around.
- If the weather dictates you need an indoor play stop, head to the Children's Museum of Skagit County located in Burlington's Cascade Mall.
- Mount Vernon also a toy store that will be popular with kids, KidsStuff. Mount Vernon’s downtown is cute, compact and walkable if your family is up for exploring beyond the tulip fields.
- The festival schedules a variety of events throughout April for extra fun, including Mount Vernon’s Downtown Street Fair, April 20–22, which offers small-town fun with a juried arts and crafts fair, food vendors, children’s activities and live entertainment. Check the Facebook page for details and updates.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2015 and updated for 2018.