My Winter Getaway: The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
I live in the Midwest where winters are long and gray. Each February, I plan my escape to find some much needed sunshine and warm breezes. I usually head south. Last year, I must have been missing the color more than the heat and decided what I really needed was tulips. Yes, tulips. I could not hold out any longer without significant color.
My first thought was to visit the Keukenhof outside of Lisse, Netherlands. I have been there several times, and I have never been disappointed in the gardens and beautiful displays. This time I was not able to make the time investment of a trip to Europe and started to look for something closer to home.
I discovered that in northern Washington State, Skagit Valley has its own tulip fields and festivals. Since Seattle had long been on my wish list of cities that I wanted to visit, I jumped at the opportunity to combine my first visit to the city with a fun local festival. I like to layer my travel experiences. Seeing how the local community spends its free time gives me a depth that the regular tourists will never get as they check off their top ten sights from their guidebooks.
This time I was not able to make the time investment of a trip to Europe and started to look for something closer to home.
The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival takes place during the whole month of April, but you may need to second guess Mother Nature for the best dates to go. The website offers a handy tool to help you pick your dates! This farming community is also known for its wineries, micro-breweries, quilts and dairy specialties. There are many events planned during the month at several small towns in the area. Mt. Vernon, the main town, was having a street fair the weekend I visited.
Skagit Valley lies about midway between Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British
Columbia. It was an easy, direct drive from the Seattle airport, and not as crowded as I expected. Until that is, I made it to the street festival. Mt. Vernon is one of those small sleepy towns from the 1800s that has retained its charm. Still, on a weekend with a light drizzle, thousands of people were drawn to the music, crafts, food and general cheery atmosphere. I always enjoy watching the local people interact at these events: the children in their bright rain boots splashing in puddles to their hearts content, neighbors chatting in casual conversations, and townspeople giving directions or advice to the visitors. I could have stayed longer, but the main reason for my visit was the tulips.
I particularly enjoyed watching one couple and their two Golden Retriever dogs pose for a family photo between the rows of flowers.
You can see the tulip fields from quite a distance. When I was there, the bright carpets of color more than made up for clouds. The first tulips I found were ribbons of yellow and red. Further on, it was all shades of purples to pinks. People were parked everywhere on the sides of these rural roads that for most of the year probably see minimal traffic.
There were no big parking lots, no traffic police, and no vendors selling cheap tokens. There were just locals and the lucky few of us that came for the limited seasonal view. Families were out walking in the fields and taking photos. Some people were obviously taking photos for their annual holiday cards. I particularly enjoyed watching one couple and their two Golden Retriever dogs pose for a family photo between the rows of flowers.
At the end of the day I drove back to Seattle to begin my adventure there. I am happy I had the chance to see a slice of another area during its special time. The stories I brought home are nothing at all like those of my friends’ who visited Seattle as tourists.
Karla Fritz runs Pink Carry On, a Facebook page that seeks to inspire women travelers. My Winter Getaway: The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival