Ruth attended a conference in Seattle in early April and had some extra time to spend in the area on the weekend before heading home. She found out it was the first weekend of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival — when she mentioned it, I remembered my friends in the Pacific Northwest posting beautiful pictures of endless fields of tulip blooms framed by mountains each spring. We did more research and discovered that these fields were located just an hour outside of Seattle, which made it easy to visit the area in a half day.
Ruth and I both flew into SeaTac airport (SEA), which is about one and a half hours from the festival, but you could also consider flying into Everett’s Paine Field Airport (PAE), which is a beautiful new facility that is a bit closer. The tulip festival’s epicenter is near the towns of Mount Vernon and Burlington, WA; these are good reference points if you are searching online for weather conditions or hotels. We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Burlington, which was offering great rates even though we were visiting during the festival.
Many of the fields that bloom during the tulip festival belong to Roozengaarde, the farm of the Roozen family, who has been growing tulips in Holland and the US since the 1700s! We’d recommend visiting the farm’s main 5-acre display garden as soon as they open in the morning (9AM) to get unobstructed and up-close views of the flowers before the crowds start to come in from Seattle. We arrived about 10 minutes before 9 and were some of the first people to get into the garden. Afterwards, you can drive around the rest of the valley to roadside pullouts to take in even more fields of flowers. The admission fee for the main garden gets you parking at all of the Roozengaarde fields around the area, and you can get your hand stamped to come back into the main garden if you’d like to visit again later in the day. Tulip Town also has fields in the area, but their fields were not in full bloom when we visited.
Roozengaarde has a handy map that shows the current status of their blooms. The exact status of the blooms really depends on the weather for weeks and even months leading up to the festival. If you are planning a visit to the area, a safe bet is to come in mid-April, when many of the blooms are bound to be at their peak. We visited during the first weekend in April, and although many of the fields were still green, the earliest varieties of tulips were already starting to show their colors.
There were also many unusual varieties of tulips in the display garden, including these dense double tulips.
Although often overlooked, a huge benefit of visiting early in the Spring is that the daffodil fields are in full bloom! We were surprised to see so many types of daffodils, in colors ranging from cream to citron, painting the landscape yellow against the grey skies above and the mountains in the distance.
If you’re interested in photographing the blooms, there are lots of good angles to take!
- Get up close to the flowers (but don’t tread between the rows) to get detailed shots of the petals with blurred backgrounds of color.
- Shoot down the rows of flowers to add perspective and draw attention to the mountains on the horizon.
- Shoot across the rows of flowers to create a visual effect of dense flower fields with no gaps.
After we had our fill of flowers in the fields (and before the rain started pouring down on this grey Saturday), we headed back to Mount Vernon to check out some of the many art exhibits associated with the festival. There are also a lot of food events and even a road race during this time, so you can easily turn your excursion into a lovely day in this beautiful valley.
If you can’t make it out to the Seattle area during the Spring, there are plenty of other flower festivals to look forward to!
- On the east Coast, from mid-March to mid-April, Washington’s National Mall is dappled with pink and white during the Cherry Blossom Festival. Ruth’s tip is to check out the area near the Jefferson Memorial at sunrise for some amazing vistas of the blossoms reflected in the Tidal Basin.
- In the Northwest, Portland has its own tulip festival in April at Wooden Shoe Farms, in the shadow of Mount Hood.
- In May, we’d highly recommend visiting Vijay’s home town of Ottawa, where the Canadian Tulip Festival celebrates the gift of international friendship between the Netherlands and Canada following World War II.
We’d love to hear about flower festivals near you! Please leave us a note in the comments below.