Just 30 minutes south of Western, thousands of springtime blooms await visitors at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.
The festival welcomes approximately 350,000 visitors annually to enjoy the millions of colorful blooms throughout the month of April, according to Cindy Verge, the festival’s executive director.
Included in the festival are two neighboring display gardens, RoozenGaarde and Tulip Town. For just $7, visitors can explore the fields, ride on a trolley or stop by the gift shop to bring home a fresh-cut bouquet.
There is a wide range of activities for all ages throughout the month-long festival, like the two and five-mile Tulip Run, the Fine Art Gallery at Tulip Town, princess parties and a weekly photo contest.
Visitors can submit their photographs of this year’s tulips to the 2018 North Coast Credit Union photo contest. Winners will be announced in early May and their photo will be printed in the 2019 festival brochure and more, according to their website.
The festival celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. Verge said coming up with new and exciting events is key to ensuring people return each year.
“That’s always a challenge when you have an organization that’s been around for a while,” Verge said. “How do you get people so they don’t just say, ‘oh, it’s the same old, same old?’”
Other events, like Skagit Beer Week, which was held the week of April 7, have taken advantage of the extra traffic the festival creates."
The event slogan is “Come for the tulips, stay for the beer.” Breweries from Skagit County held activities all week, including a malting showcase, beer dinners, tastings and educational events, according to the event's website.
Verge said that although college-age students are not typically the highest demographic in attendance, they are the festival’s best fans. Whatcom Community College freshman Emily Johnson can attest to this.
“I’d actually never even heard of the festival before my friends decided to come today. I had no idea what to expect,” Johnson said. “I am definitely blown away by the amount of tulips and all the different colors. I definitely recommend making the trip.”
Along with Johnson, Western freshman Hayley Hagen and sophomore Brooks Jansen also visited the tulips over the weekend. Both students said their favorite part of the festival each year is the fields.
Verge, who has spoken about the festival events as a guest lecturer at Western, said she knows how busy college students’ lives can be but encourages students to make the trip down Interstate 5.
“You guys have the opportunity to head down here at 4 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon, get out in the middle of a 20-acre field of blooming tulips and enjoy,” Verge said. “It’s really a thing of beauty, and I think it’s something everybody should come and appreciate.”
The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival runs through April 30 with many events still scheduled for all ages to enjoy.
For more information, visit the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival website at www. tulipfestival.org/.
Make it a Day:
1. Get up early to avoid traffic and head south on scenic Chuckanut Drive.
Stop for breakfast at Tweet's Cafe in the quaint town of Edison on Samish Bay.
2. Stop at the Oyster Dome trailhead for a challenging hike with a rewarding view of Padilla Bay.
3. On the way back to Chuckanut Drive, drive east toward Interstate 5 and stop at Samish Bay Cheese for free samples and a chance to meet some of the cows behind it all.
4. Head south on I-5 to Mt. Vernon, where 14 different fields and tulip displays are ready to be enjoyed.
6. Those with more time and energy (and room to bring bikes) can head east along Padilla Bay to Anacortes. From there, ferries can be taken to the Guemes Island and the San Juan Islands for an overnight stay.
7. To be home in time for bed, head back north on Chuckanut Drive and stop at Taylor Shellfish, a restaurant overlooking Samish Bay. Early diners can take a short walk down to the oyster farm to see firsthand where their food is coming from.
8. As the day nears an end, continue north back up Chuckanut Drive and stop at Clark's Point lookout. Slightly south of Fairhaven, panoramic views of Bellingham Bay can be seen. Bring along a hammock too for added relaxation.
9. Drive north back into downtown Bellingham and take a final pit-stop at Mallard Ice Cream on Railroad Avenue for a scoop of ice cream to end the day.