During March and April when I’m too broke to travel, it often feels like torture that I once “liked” the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival page on Facebook, with all their reminders that more colourful places exist. I have been to the Festival at least four times, maybe five. It takes place for the whole month of April on a fertile floodplain in western Washington state, almost exactly halfway between Vancouver, BC and Seattle, WA. And, of course, the tulip growers are Dutch immigrants.
There are hundreds of activities, shops and sights to do and see, but if you’re from another climate, you’re definitely there for the tulips. The two major growers in the valley provide very different tulip viewing experiences. Tulip Town showcases easily accessible fields of tulips, while Roozengaarde is an extensive garden featuring tulips. I have no idea how many photos I’ve made of tulips over the years, but I feel like I’ve run out of ideas for field photos, so I usually spend more time at Roozengaarde.
When your winter-weary vision has been sufficiently seared by all the vibrant colour, you can rest your eyes on the blue-grey ocean just minutes away from the tulip fields. At low tide, Bay View State Park will likely be peppered with hundreds (yes, I counted them once) of great blue herons. The tiny town of Edison has more foodie shops and eateries than can be eaten at in one day (if it’s still there, the Farm-to-Market Bakery has lime-soaked polenta cakes that are one of the tastiest non-chocolate delights my tastebuds have ever encountered). La Conner is a touristy little town for shopping, and Anacortes, just across a bridge, features a quilt show and is a jumping off point to the San Juan Islands. Just driving around (I once brought my bicycle, but the weather was inclement my whole visit and I only rode a very windy hour along the dyke keeping Padilla Bay at bay) will provide further feasts for the eyes, with verdant fields, impeccably kept farmhouses, decrepit barns, baby donkeys, furry alpacas, art shows, daffodils (earlier than tulips) or irises (later than tulips).
And when it’s time to tear yourself away from this pastoral Shangri-La, make one last stop at a tulip sales kiosk for some fresh-cut tulips (Roozengaarde typically has more than a dozen varieties available for purchase in their sales tent). Yes, they are allowed through customs into Canada. There’s nothing like an armful of tulips for which you’ve only paid $20 to ease the sting of going home.
And someday, I hope to visit in summer when all the berries and veggies are being harvested. And to bring my kayak along and visit the island her manufacturer, Necky, named her after, Eliza.
Oh wait, I haven’t even mentioned Chuckanut Drive and my favourite place to camp in the area, Larrabee State Park…