Skagit Valley's annual Tulip Festival in Mount Vernon, Washington is one of the top three tulip festivals in the world. The festival runs from April 1 to April 30 each year and draws thousands of visitors from all over the country.
It's actually quite funny, because I literally grew up in Mount Vernon and have only visited the tulip festival a few times in my life. I just moved back to Washington state after spending 10+ years in Idaho and Utah, so I had to check out the tulip festival now that I'm older and can appreciate the beauty of my own backyard.
As I mentioned, the festival runs from April 1 to April 30. However, the bloom can begin earlier and extend later than those calendar dates, depending on Mother Nature. In general, cooler temperatures keep the bloom lasting longer and warmer temperatures push the bloom along. So, the best time to visit the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival varies from year to year.
If you're planning your trip in advance (i.e., booking flights and/or hotels), I recommend going earlier in the month rather than later. If you visit in early April, you might be able to catch the end of the Daffodil Festival (March) and the first blooms of the Tulip Festival at the same time. On the other hand, if you visit too late, many of the tulip fields will have already been topped.
Why do the fields get topped, you ask? The bulbs planted in the Skagit Valley fields are an agricultural crop rather than a tourist attraction. The growers who plant these bulbs actually harvest, sell, and ship them around the world. By removing the “flowers” from the plants, more energy is directed into the bulb so that it can grow big and strong and sprout healthier tulips once it's purchased and replanted.
The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is designed as a driving tour, with no one location being the epicenter of the festival. The fields are centrally located between La Conner and Mount Vernon, while other events are scattered around Skagit County. Check out TulipFestival.org for a full list of events by week.
Roozengaarde // 15867 Beaver Marsh Rd, Mt Vernon, WA 98273
Admission: $7 weekdays / $10 weekends
Admission to Roozengaarde also gives you free parking at RoozenGaarde’s other fields for the day of purchase
Tulip Town // 15002 Bradshaw Rd, Mt Vernon, WA 98273
Admission: $7 weekdays, $10 weekends (cash only)
Fields // locations change each year — check the bloom map
Parking: $7 unless you have a valid Roozengaarde ticket stub (see above)
Skagit County locals (un)lovingly refer to this as "Tulip Traffic" and the struggle is real on the weekend. If your schedule allows, I highly recommend visiting the Tulip Festival mid-week when there's less vehicle and foot traffic. If you are visiting on the weekend, be sure to hit up the display gardens first thing in the morning before the roads get too jammed. This year, I drove by Roozengaarde around 9:30AM and the traffic was already backed up for miles.
The bloom map is the most up-to-date resource for where to find tulips. Roozengaarde and Tulip Town are pretty dependable — you can almost guarantee they'll have a beautiful array of flowers on display throughout the entire month of April. The fields, however, are "here today, gone tomorrow" as the fields get topped.
The bloom map tells you:
Field numbers and directions
Which fields are currently in bloom and which have already been topped
Roozengaarde daily hours
Two things, here: 1) Fields can be wet, muddy, and slick after a rain shower and 2) walking between the rows of tulips puts pressure on the ground which can harm the bulbs that are planted beneath the ground and also damage the flowers. Healthy bulbs and flowers are vitally important to the growers who depend on them, so please, be respectful and watch your step.
April is not a warm month in Washington (unless you get really lucky) and the weather can be unpredictable. Here's what you should bring:
Warm puffy jacket
Let's clear up any weather-related confusion with an "instagram vs. reality" disclaimer: If you search for the tulip festival on Instagram, you'll likely find photos of girls in beautiful sundresses, basking in the spring sun amidst hundreds of vivid tulips. These photos look idyllic, but those girls are actually freezing their butts off and doin' it for the 'gram.
If your travel dates sync up with the Mount Vernon Street Fair, you should absolutely go because it's super fun! The main street downtown Mount Vernon is shut down and lined with vendors selling everything from roasted nuts to unique arts and crafts. It's also a very kid-friendly street fair with balloon animals, face painting, frisbee art, and more.