Insider's Guide to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival With Kids
Flower fun, play stops. scoop shops. small towns and how to limit crowd exposure
Nothing says spring quite like Skagit Valley flowers in bloom — daffodils in March and tulips in April. Well, except for this year: Though the Tulip Festival officially opens on April 1 and runs through April 30, the tulip gardens are likely to open early this year. Tulip Town opens March 19; aim for early-mid April for maximum bloomage before the weather warms up further. Here's your guide:
Find the flowers
Daffodils in La Conner
Last year, La Conner — a quaint waterfront town southwest 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 are in full bloom as I write, so you’ll need to move quickly.
The Daffodil Festival wraps up with the “Dandy Daffodil Tweed Ride” on Saturday March 26, 10 a.m. Don your tweed (or other vintage clothing) if you wish and cycle a 13-mile course with lots of stops. Register online or arrive early.
Info: Check for bloom updates at tulips.com or call the La Conner Visitor Center at 360-466-4778. Of course, if you’ve missed the daffodils you’re just in time for tulips.
Tulips in Skagit
Skagit Valley’s two primary tulip growers, Tulip Town and Roozengaarde, are already geared up for visitors. Tulip Town opens on March 19. Roozengaarde is open year-round and tulips are just starting to bloom.
Tulip Town offers a variety of display gardens including a windmill garden, a stunning 10-acre field planted in rainbow stripes of color, and a host of kid-friendly activities, such as trolley rides around the fields — a great way to get an elevated panoramic view. There’s also kite flying (purchase kites for as little as $3), face painting, children’s art activities, 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: Be aware picnics are not allowed in, but you’re welcome to eat in your car. The garden operates 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily. Admission is $6, and children 6 and under are free (cash only for admission fee). Parking is free. Pets aren’t allowed at either location, nor are people supposed to walk through tulip fields — around them is fine.
Roozengaarde 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: The garden operates 9 a.m.–7 p.m. daily. Admission is $5, and children 6 and under are free. The admission fee earns you free parking at Roozengaarde’s other fields.
Where to nosh in Skagit
Dessert first, right? The classic tulip treat stop is at Snow Goose Produce Market, located on Fir Island Road in Mount Vernon, 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).
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 minute 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.
Slightly off the beaten path, my personal favorite is 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 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.
- Mt. Vernon also has 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 La Conner’s Tulip Frolic on April 9 includes entertainment, crafts, and exhibits from 10 a.m.–2 p.m.; and Mount Vernon’s Downtown Street Fair, April 15–17, offers small-town fun with a juried arts and crafts fair, food vendors, children’s activities and live entertainment.Google+