I have lived in the greater Seattle area my entire life, yet I had never been to the famous Skagit Valley Tulip Festival before this year. Zach’s parent’s came to visit us this past weekend, while the tulips were in peak bloom, so we decided it would be the perfect time to go.
Many of the tulip fields are set up as a driving tour; you drive around the area and see fields of rainbow colors set against the backdrop of beautiful farmland with towering snow-capped mountains in the distance. Quite breathtaking, even without the tulips. At least two of the farms, Roozengaarde and Tulip Town, have also set up tourist hot-spots to get out of your car, pay an admission fee, and walk around viewing tulips, snapping selfies, and spending money on things like kites, artwork, lattes and face-painting.
We opted for Tulip Town as it had lower admission fees and seemed child-friendly. I had heard that traffic getting to the tulip festival can be quite bad, especially on the weekend, so we got ourselves up and ready to be out the door in time to get there when they opened at 9am. The drive is a little more than an hour from Seattle with no traffic. Zach and I piled the kids and his mom into our van, and Kelsie and John took Zach’s dad in their car. About an hour later, we pulled our van into one of the last remaining parking spots in the front lot of Tulip Town. We had seen the traffic piling up behind us on the freeway and the off-ramp, and were glad to have made it just ahead of all the other tourists.
Unfortunately, our other vehicle wasn’t so lucky. They made a pit stop at a drive-thru, and then accidentally went to Roozengaarde instead of Tulip Town. We were literally just ahead of all the other traffic, which meant we ended up waiting for about an hour and a half for the other members of our group to arrive. The girls were amazing about it though. After being stuck in the van for over an hour they were happy to run about in the open fields, looking at the enormous professional kites and picking out their favorite types of tulips from all the displays.
Once Kelsie, John and Brett joined us we walked out to the tulip fields for pictures. They have about an acre set up with a rainbow of tulips growing that people can take pictures in front of. There are signs everywhere telling people to stay out of the rows of tulips. Not only can it damage the flowers, but it means everyone else trying to take pictures gets photobombed by you in the background. Unfortunately, there are a lot of entitled people who think their right to a tulip selfie in the middle of the field trumps the rights of everyone else to take a picture without a stranger in it. They are above the rules, it would seem. Still, the majority of people were well-behaved and we got some gorgeous photos.
Our unplanned waiting period meant we were now long overdue for lunch and Alden’s nap (not to mention risking sunburn, as it had been overcast when we’d started and we hadn’t prepared for being there long enough for the sun to come out). We hopped in our cars and headed over to the own of Mount Vernon, where we went to a little diner called the Chuck Wagon Drive-In. If you’re ever in the area (especially with kids) I highly recommend this as a place to stop. Fast, friendly and delicious food, decent prices and (best of all!) amazing model trains that run along tracks overhead throughout the entire restaurant. It was quite fun to watch for them as they went by, and I wish I’d taken a picture to share with you.
In summary, here are my tips if you’re going to visit the tulip festival next year:
- Go on a weekday if you can. If you can’t, leave early enough to be there when they open or plan to spend a LOT of time waiting in traffic. We’re talking up to an extra hour.
- Take cash for admission fees or use the ATMs provided (which will probably have a service fee).
- Wear boots! The fields were still fairly muddy, even though it had been dry and sunny the previous few days.
- Stop at the Chuck Wagon for lunch or dinner and get a milkshake, burger and curly fries. You’ll be glad you did!