Monday, April 6, 2015

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Nestled between beautiful mountains, is the picturesque Skagit Valley. Mt. Vernon and Burlington are the main cities in this area and are the perfect hosts for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. This area is full of cultural events and historic buildings, along with modern amenities, but what brings people to this area more than of these other attractions are fields and fields of colorful tulips.

To give you an idea of the amount and high quality of the tulips here, the tulips from this area are exported to Holland, the tulip capital of the world. There are fields of pink, purple, red, yellow and other vibrant colors. People from all over the world converge on the area just for this event. It really is a must-see for flower lovers and anyone who lives within driving distance.

If you're visiting the Skagit Valley in spring expect to see hoards of and people, long lines of cars and lots and lots of tulips. It is best to plan ahead and reserve a hotel room well in advance, as they book-up quickly during this time of the year.  We stayed at Best Western Skagit Valley Inn and I would highly recommend. this establishment. The staff was very friendly and helpful and made us feel right at home, right from the moment we checked-in.  The rooms were very clean, which is very important to me. It was also well appointed and gave us time to relax during the down-time between our various activities. Its central location was also helpful as it was never far away from us as we traveled to and from the fields, dinner and other activities.

The hotel doesn't have a pool, but registered guests are given day passes to the Riverside Health Club which is in the same parking lot as the hotel. The kids loved going there to swim. In fact, I think they enjoyed the concept of leaving the hotel to swim. It made them feel "important" when they could "brag" to their friends that they swam at a "club"after they got home. The facility was clean and offered two pools, a lifeguard and some pool toys that are not typically offered with a hotel pool. The dressing rooms were also really large and had showers, hair-dryers and plenty of room.  There is also a nice sitting area with flat screen televisions for those who are waiting for their party in the swimming pool.

I would recommend hiring a limousine or sedan service to transport you to and from the tulip festival, particularly if you are not familiar with the area. Three are many short-cuts and back alleys that will help you get around the crowds and a local driver will know these short-cuts, greatly reducing your wait time. I recommend Best Limousines  & Sedans out of Bellingham, WA. They have tulip tour packages that will get you discounts and save you money in the long-run. We rented one of their vans for our tulip tour and found our diver to be exceptionally friendly and professional. He knew some great short-cuts that allowed us to get into some of the more popular attractions and also some stand-alone fields without having to deal with the crowds.

Two of the most popular spots are the growers.

  • The Roozen family's Washington Bulb Co. - Roozengarde at 15867 Beaver Marsh Road 
  • The DeGoede family's Skagit Valley Bulb Farm/Tulip Town at 15002 Bradshaw Road
The cost for both are around $5 for adults and free for children. Don't discount the free fields too. You are not allowed to go through the rows of the fields, but some of my favorite photos have come from the fields outside of the gardens.  There are large rows between the colorful fields which allow you to get some great shops.

Here are a few more tips to help you enjoy your tulip time:

  • Wear comfortable shoes and assume you'll get dirty. As you'd expect, there are a lot of dirt paths and even some mud. Don't wear your finest shoes. Even if you are going to be taking photos, its likely that you will be surrounded by flowers and your feet won't show. Rain boots are perfect footwear for this event.
  • Bring a nice camera so you can get some amazing shots. There aren't many places in the world where you can see this many tulips in one place, so don't miss your chance at getting some great shots.
  • Plan to go two days if possible. Spend one day dressed in casual clothes, leaving your camera at home and capturing moments with a camera phone and then go back a second day to the areas you liked best and this time bring your nice camera and dressier clothes.
  • Visit in the morning or evening if possible. There will be fewer people and the lighting will be better for photographs.
  • Go on a weekday when possible. Again, there will be fewer people during these days. The weekends tend to be very busy. 
  • Be careful where you park and walk. A lot of the fields are along roads with a 50 mph speed limit. Be sure to watch children closely and obey the parking rules. 
  • Bring a snack and water, which is particularly important if visiting with children. You may be out in a field, far from your car when a little gets the munchies. Pre-packaged crackers or Gold Fish crackers in your purse or backpack might be just what is needed. 
  • Obey the rules of the field. Don't walk between the rows or touch the tulips. You will likely be confronted if you don't obey the rules spelled out on signs. You don't want to ruin your day with a confrontation.
The tulip festival is one of the highlights of my spring and something I look forward to every year. Still not convinced? Don't just take my word for it. This event is number 4 on Buzzfeed's  "29 Surreal Places in America You Need to Visit Before You Die." 

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