A Parent's Guide to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
Full April bloom in the Skagit Valley.
I have always loved the tulip fields in bloom at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, the romantic image of heading up on a misty morning, and my children running through rows of blooming color that span the rainbow.
The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, now in its 33rd year, hosts hundreds of thousands of people each spring who come to enjoy the beauty of the fields. Here is a kid-tested, mother-approved itinerary, to help make sure your tulip trip goes well. Note: Tulip festivities usually run the month of April, Tulip Town opens March 31. Check out the Bloom Map to see when the show really gets going.
8 a.m. – Depart the Seattle Area
9 a.m. – Arrive at RoozenGaarde (estimated time at attraction 2.5 hours)
If your main goal is to see tulips in a garden setting, RoozenGaarde is the cream of the crop. Its gardens are designed with European flair. You will also have the opportunity to walk through the fields of tulips and see how the farm harvests the flowers. It makes for some amazing photo opportunities.
My kids were awed by the sheer number of blooming flowers covering the landscape. Inspired by all the color, they began choosing their favorites and planning our own tulip garden. It was wonderful to see them get so excited and interested in the tulips – how they grow, the different heights of the many varieties, and their different shapes.
We arrived a little after 9 a.m. and drove directly into the main parking lot. There was no wait at the entrance and the kids had open gardens in which to wander. By 11:30 a.m. the kids were hungry and we decided to stay a bit longer and eat a picnic on the lawn. As we exited, we were witness to the long lines of traffic and people waiting to access the gardens. Arriving early is key. RoozenGaarde's beautiful gardens; its accessible, free parking; snack bar; and gift shop make it a perfect first stop.
Noon – Arrive at Schuh Farms (estimated time at attraction one hour)
After RoozenGaarde, the drive to Schuh Farms provided an opportunity for the kids to see the colorful fields from a distance. It is a quick drive up Memorial Highway to the farm, and if you haven't already picnicked at RoozenGaarde, you can pick up some fresh organic fruits and veggies and great milkshakes and ice cream there.
The kids couldn't wait to explore the play area at Schuh Farms. While playing I perused the nice selection of organic veggie starts and planted flowers. I also bought some of the biggest artichokes I have ever seen for a great price, and filled up a basket with beautiful veggies for the week.
The highlight of the farm for the kids was feeding the goats and chickens. It was so much fun watching all of the different kinds of chickens, and we made several trips back to the stand to purchase more peanuts for the goats. As well, don't miss the John Deere "tractor train" running on the weekends, weather permitting.
1 p.m. – Arrive at Golden Glen Creamery (estimated time at attraction 40 minutes)
Though the creamery was a bit out of the way, I felt it was a worthwhile trip for the kids to be able to see a real dairy and learn where milk and cheese come from. It is also a beautiful drive through rich agricultural lands, and we had fun counting how many barns we could see from the car.
Golden Glen Creamery is a family-owned dairy. It was started by Vic and Judy Jensen in 1968, but only in the last decade or so, with the help of daughter-in-law Brandy Jensen, have they been making cheese. We could see the large silo and smell the cows as we drove close. In front of the small creamery store there was a cow statue, and the kids all got on to celebrate that Kodak moment. Inside, they received coloring books, pencils and a cheese-shaped eraser. I got to purchase some fresh-from-the-farm cheeses and cream for my morning coffee; an added bonus for the day.
Before venturing on to our next destination, the kids asked if we might be able to see the cows, and Brandy Jensen kindly obliged. She gave us a quick tour of the grounds on the way to the barn where a large group of pregnant cows were enjoying their afternoon lunch. The cows watched timidly as my kids walked up with outstretched arms. Many backed away, but my son was able to win over the heart of "Francis," and all of us walked away with sweet kisses on our hands from her wet tongue. My family can't wait to revisit the creamery again during the Skagit Valley Festival of Family Farms in October.
2:15 p.m. – Arrive at Tulip Town (estimated time at attraction one hour)
Tulip Town is the other grand Skagit Valley garden and tulip nursery. "Lil Tulip Town," owned and operated by Anthony Degoede and his family, offers themed gardens and a unique indoor show (good for rainy days). The care and consideration of the Degoede family is evident in every detail of the gardens, making the tour of the grounds a rich learning experience.
Tulip Town offers lots of kid-centered activities, including face painting, kite flying and trolley rides through the tulip fields. One special activity we missed, but my kids would have loved, is the Tulip Town "Dream Walk." Fairy storyboards line the field walk sharing a story and adding a magical sense to the already beautiful landscape. We loved the apple tree-lined parking area, and the gift shop and art area had lots of fun, unique souvenirs to take home, including a keepsake copy of Tulip Fairy's Holiday.
In hindsight, because of the many fun activities for children, I would have visited Tulip Town first, or on a less busy weekday. By the time we arrived, crowds had gathered and there were long lines. We enjoyed our visit, but were not able to take advantage of all of the things that set Tulip Town ahead on the family fun meter.
3:20 p.m. – Arrive at Christianson's Nursery (estimated time at attraction one hour)
Christianson's Nursery is known for having one of the largest selections of roses, perennials and trees in Northwest Washington. It is easy to see why Christianson's is a Northwest Flower and Garden Show People's Choice Award winner.
The grounds and greenhouses were lovely, filled with plants that ranged from common ground coverings to the most unusual of flowering trees. We played a game to see how many different kinds of leaves we could find while walking the aisles, and then we discovered the crepes.
Yumm! All that walking and looking had made us hungry. When we smelled the crepes, we followed our noses directly to Judy and Annie's Philly Sandwiches & Crepes. We indulged in delicious strawberry and whipped cream crepes while basking in the afternoon sunshine in front of the Christianson's 1888 refurbished schoolhouse.
4:30 p.m. – Arrive at Snow Goose Produce (estimated time at attraction one hour)
This was our last stop. I heard Snow Goose had a great selection of organic produce and potted tulips. It is also known for giant ice cream cones, and we all thought that would be a fun end to our day.
We shopped and I picked up a few extra veggies and some lovely tulips I can't wait to get planted. We also waited 45 minutes in line for ice cream. Honestly, the ice cream was good, but not that good. Despite our little bit of suffering it was an amazing, full day, free of most lines and full of laughs and licks of all sorts. The kids were in PJs and asleep before I reached I-5, and I had an hour of peace and quiet the whole drive home.
Only have a few hours?
If your family doesn't have this much time to explore the Tulip Festival, I would recommend seeing one tulip nursery (RoozenGaarde or Tulip Town), Chistianson's Nursery and Schuh Farms.
If You Go:
Check out our 5 Tips for Tulip Trips to make sure it's a breeze!
RoozenGaarde: Open daily, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. $7 per person, children 5 and younger free. 15867 Beaver Marsh Road, Mount Vernon; 360-424-8531.
Schuh Farms: Open daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Free. 15565 State Rte. 536, Mount Vernon; 360-424-6982.
Golden Glen Creamery: Open spring and summer, daily 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Free. 15098 Field Road, Bow; 360-766-6455.
Tulip Town: Open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (and later when the weather permits). $7 per person, children younger than 5 free. 15002 Bradshaw Road, Mount Vernon; 360-424-8152.
Christianson’s Nursery: Open daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Free. 15806 Best Road, Mount Vernon; 360-466-3821.
Snow Goose Produce: Open daily, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Free. 15170 Fir Island Road, Mount Vernon; 360-445-6908.
Isabel Sanden is a marketing professional and the mother of three adventurous children.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in April of 2013 but was up-to-dated April 2, 2017.