Tiptoe through the Tulips of Washington’s Skagit Valley

In Destinations, North America by Shannon Leigh Acton

Tulipfest_5Who hasn’t heard that quirky yet infamous Tiny Tim ukulele anthem and fantasized about channeling their inner child in a field of multi-colored Dutch perennials? Add a blue skyline dotted with puffy white clouds. Throw in a landscape of winding canal ways and a handful of quintessential windmills. You now have the makings of a popularly romanticized holiday guaranteed to make your Instagram and Facebook community green with envy. The best part? You don’t have to travel halfway across the planet to get your selfie fix. Skip the transatlantic flight and head to a much lesser known destination here on the left coast that has successfully cultivated the clichéd (yet unofficial) national flower of the Netherlands. For 32 years, Washington State has been creating a slice of Holland (minus the wooden shoes) via its Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, where tens of MILLIONS of tulips bloom each spring.

Getting There

Located just 60 miles north of Seattle, the festival is designed to be a driving tour. Take in the views along scenic country roads that span for miles, painting varying hues of yellows, reds, whites, pinks and purples along the way. The Cascade mountain range acts as a dramatic backdrop, juxtaposed against a rainbow of fertile fields. You could opt to take in this splendor solely by car, but visiting one of the two celebrated show gardens will ensure an up close and personal experience.

Tulipfest_3Roozengaarde

With 50,000+ bulbs in an impressive 150 varieties planted over 4 acres; Roozengaarde is not to be missed. Wander both fields as well as manicured gardens with artful layouts that differ in pattern and color every year. An imported antique windmill adds a touch of authenticity. Enjoy gift shopping, food and espresso, and meet celebrated poster artists. Roozengaarde is available year round for private events. Imagine saying vows in quite possibly the most scenic venue ever! Who needs to hold a bouquet when you can stand in the middle of one?

Tulip Town

Similar to Roozengaarde in size and diversity, Tulip Town boasts specialty gardens including the Veteran’s Memorial, World Tulip Summit Society and the windmill garden. A trolley provides a motorized experience with panoramic views, as well as an indoor bouquet display showcasing a massive mural by Artist Jennifer Bowman.

Area Attractions

Throughout the month of April, special events and activities are planned promoting the region’s unique attractions. If tulips make you yawn (or sneeze!), there are plenty of other options throughout the valley to make the trip worthwhile. Venture into the artsy riverside town of La Conner, where you’ll find a pleasing selection of galleries, boutiques, gift shops and restaurants. Perhaps the gateway gem of Anacortes is more appealing, with its vibrant old town and marina with ferry service to the San Juan Islands and Canada. If you like antiquing, this might just be the perfect place to spend a few hours (and a few Benjamins). Visit one of the many museums or historical and cultural centers scattered throughout the basin. And last, but certainly not least, there’s plenty of gambling at local casinos! No matter what your hobbies or interests, you’re sure to find something to tickle your fancy.

Insider Secrets

Up to a million people are expected to visit this year. To avoid large crowds, visit on a weekday and plan to arrive early.

The main exit from I-5 tends to be heavily delayed during festival season. Take a lesser known, even more scenic route via Hwy 534.

Don’t forget your umbrella. Pacific Northwest is synonymous with rain, especially in the spring.

Shoulder parking along the roadways is not advised. It is limited, and word is the local Sheriff’s Officers will gladly issue a citation as a pricey souvenir! You have been warned.