It’s that time of year again - festival season! Which means I’m reporting to you (not) live from the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. Look, I know if you follow bloggers on Instagram, you probably feel like you’ve seen enough festival content to last you a lifetime already, but this is different! I mean sure, maybe it’s like Coachella, but without the celebrities, music, drinks, body glitter, or mesh outfits. And you’ll probably be in a lot of trouble if you try to harvest the tulips for a flower crown. Ok, so it’s nothing like Coachella, except that it’s considered a festival and you can get some bangin’ Instagram pics while you’re at this one too. OH, and it will only cost you $10 (and not your soul) to get in! So really, Coachella WHO?
Here’s the deal. Every year for the month of April and into the first week of May, millions of tulips bloom in Skagit Valley, Washington (just over an hour north of Seattle). There are two growers, Roozengaarde and Tulip Town, and they both have their own display gardens, as well as multiple fields that can be found along the festival driving route. You can choose to simply drive along the route, which is free, or you can visit the display gardens and walk through the fields and gardens for $7 on weekdays, or $10 on weekends. Unfortunately admission into one does not grant admission into the other, so you would need to buy tickets to each one if you planned to visit both. Luckily parking is free in both and they also have overflow lots for busy days. We chose to go to Roozengaarde because I’d read online that it was slightly bigger and had more uniformly colored fields, which is more up my alley. Plus it sounded kind of like Isengard, so I figured it was probably the one tulip field to rule them all (yes, I know it’s the ring that rules all, not Isengard - just let me have this one). If you’re more about rainbow colors though, definitely check out Tulip Town. If the display gardens don’t appeal to you, and you just want to drive the field route, in some areas you can still stop for photos in front of them, but be mindful of the “No Trespassing” signs. I’m all for sneaking into places you shouldn’t be when you have a good reason, like Harry Potter sneaking into the Department of Mysteries in The Order of Phoenix. Except in this particular situation you’d be less like Harry and more like Lucius Malfoy. Let’s also remember what happened to all of the prophecies and other peculiar items in that trespassing scenario… THEY WERE DESTROYED. Like the tulips could be if you don’t listen to the signs. Your Instagram picture is not worth the damage you could inflict by wandering into the fields.
When should you go? Mother nature is on her own schedule, and like any woman, she will be ready when she damn well pleases. There is no guarantee exactly when the tulips will be at peak bloom, but you can keep on eye on the Tulip Festival bloom map to see how many of the fields are currently blooming. I thought mid-month was likely a safe bet and when we went on April 14th, I would say most of the tulips were in bloom (though not necessarily all at peak), with the exception of a few varieties that still hadn’t quite started to bloom yet. The daffodils, however, were already on their way out in the Roozengaarde display gardens. I think we hit a pretty good time. Had we gone the weekend before, we would have had better daffodils, but perhaps fewer tulips. Later, and we might have missed the daffodils entirely. If you want to check out the Mount Vernon street fair though, that happens a little later in the month. And if you wait until the end of April, then it’s not too hot, not too cold, and all you’ll need is a light jacket (but clearly Miss Rhode Island has never been to Seattle, because you may also need a rain jacket). I should mention, however, that we took the highway through the area on the weekend of the street fair and it definitely slowed things down. I would expect much heavier traffic that weekend.
The website recommends going on a weekday and NOT a weekend to beat the crowds (it can get HELLA busy), but if that’s not option for you (like it wasn’t for us), then I do have some tips for you. Your best bet at beating the crowds is to go right when it opens at 9am. We got there right as it opened and had no issues with traffic or parking. It also meant we were able to get photos without really anyone in the background, which was a plus. Tip number two is to go on a less-than-perfect day weather-wise. I know strolling through the fields on a gorgeous sunny day is probably the visit and photo-op most people envision, but just hear me out. For one, we went on a weekend when it was a little chilly and a little rainy, and I’m fairly certain that was one of the reasons it wasn’t super crazy in the area. You’ll probably (ok definitely) need rain boots, and maybe an umbrella (I am aware that Seattle locals do not use umbrellas, but I didn’t want to wear my rain jacket for my ~aesthetic~ so it was a necessary evil, ok?), BUT I actually think the color of the fields POPS against cloudy skies so it’s actually quite striking. Also this is Washington, so the chances of it being rainy on a weekend in April are also pretty good (and probably one of the reasons we’re able to grow tulips in the first place). Sometimes you just have to make the most of it. It took less than an hour to walk all throughout the gardens so we were back on the road before it even got busy. Apparently the road back to the highway can get EXTREMELY congested on your way back out on busy days. Some TripAdvisor reviews cite wait times of 2-3 hours just to get back on the highway. I can imagine this is particularly true during the weekend of the street fair. Luckily we had zero issues getting out, and my marriage is very thankful for that. We didn’t head directly back to the highway though, and neither should you! Unless you hate delicious food, then carry on.
GO TO TWEETS CAFE ON YOUR WAY OUT. Well, as long as it’s either Fri, Sat, or Sun and between the hours of 9-4. If it’s during the week, you’re on your own. I knew we’d want to catch some brunch after the tulip fields, so I did a bit of research and came across this cafe. It’s in the tiny little town of Edison (seriously, it has a population of 133), which is 10-15mins north of the fields. It’s a really nice little scenic drive up there past all of the farms. We even passed a farm with miniature donkeys, and I’m not going to lie, that was a highlight for me. It was pretty busy when we got to Tweets a little after 10, but we managed to snag a spot at the counter to enjoy our brunch. Even though there isn’t a ton of seating, there’s also a patio (which obviously if you choose a rainy weekend is not helpful). The interior is super cute and made up of a lot of wood paneling and also features a bird chandelier and a wall full of vintage mirrors. It’s a very small-town-rustic kind of vibe. Unfortunately I didn’t really get any pictures of the seating because it was close quarters and I’m not out here trying to be a creep, ok? They have a rotating menu and we both ordered a croissant sandwich that came with a heaping portion of scrambled eggs, bacon, and gruyere. It also came with a side of greens, which I wasn’t super psyched about initially (I’m more of a hashbrowns kind of girl), but you know what? The dressing was delightful. $11 is more than I’d normally care to pay for a breakfast sandwich and greens (the coffee, at least, was cheap), but we were both very satisfied with our meals and surprisingly full after. Not too full for dessert though, obviously. Plus we just ate a bunch of greens, so ~balance~, right? They have a display case full of baked goods just begging to be eaten. Honestly, they all looked so good that it was hard to choose. I really wanted the lemon bar and Chris wanted the peanut butter cookie, so naturally we compromised and got the lemon bar. It was also a bit pricey, but also very worth it. Besides, the staff is great and everything is made fresh in-house, so I was happy to spend a few extra $$ supporting a local business. If you’re hitting up the tulip fields on a weekend (or happen to be in the area on any given weekend really), you should definitely check out Tweets! Plus it means you’ll take a different way back to the highway, so you’re less likely to get stuck in any potential traffic jams leaving the fields… I think (maybe don’t quote me on that, but at the very least you won’t be hungry if you are??)
Side note: They only accept cash, so make sure you bring some (and make sure you have enough for dessert, too)
Overall thoughts - it’s a Washington staple and definitely worth a visit, if you can make it without getting stuck in one of those 3 hour traffic jams. I’m not sure I would have felt the same way if we had been stuck in the car for and extra few hours, on top of the 2 hours of driving the trip already entailed. I’d probably come prepared with snacks and a good podcast and stick to just one cup of coffee, just in case. The tulips, however, are truly beautiful and it’s a great way to get in the spring spirit. I never get tired of the Pacific Northwest landscape and when you throw some tulip fields amongst it, well, the result is something else. I would definitely go back if I had visitors in town who wanted to see it, but I don’t think Chris and I will repeat the process ourselves again - at least not for a few years. I kind of feel like it can’t possibly change that much from year to year. The reviews show that some people do make a yearly tradition though, so to each their own. I’m also very glad we stopped for brunch because a) it was, as I mentioned, delicious and b) it meant that we at least spent as much time in the Skagit Valley area as we did driving up there. We could have spent more time going to Tulip Town, but one display garden was enough for us. You’re also right close to the coast and Larabee State Park, and not too far from Deception Pass State Park and the North Cascades National Park, so there is plenty more to do and see if you’re making a full day of it. My suggestion is to do yourself a favor and take some time to stop and smell the ros-er, tulips, which apparently is more than just a cliche and is scientifically (though still kind of metaphorically) good for you. Honestly, I’m not making that up. So if you won’t listen to me, at least listen to the research team in UBC Okanagan’s psychology department. I mean, they’re known as the “Happy Team”. How can you not trust them? Ok so they don’t specifically say to go to the tulip fields, but close enough. Tulip fields = happy. If you get the chance, go!