Spring is finally here, and you may notice your Instagram feed filled with beautiful pictures of daffodils and tulips. That’s because the PNW has a major case of spring fever after a long and cold winter. BUT, good things can come from those frosty nights. Underground, tulip and daffodil bulbs are doing their thing and getting ready for an epic show come March and April.
I remember my first spring in Boise, walking out my front door one day and seeing these little green plants in my garden. A few weeks later alas my garden was filled with bloomed daffodils and budding tulips! When I moved into my home everything was covered in 6 inches of snow, I had no idea I had flowers (let alone ones that I didn’t even have to try and keep alive). California has kick ass weather pretty much year round, but what we don’t have are tulips and that’s because they need those cold winters to thrive.
For years I had seen photos of these colorful fields that seemed to go on for miles and this year Thomas, Butters and I decided to take some time off of work and check another item off the bucket list, and take a road trip to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Skagit Valley, WA. This year, the fields are experiencing a later bloom than normal (due to the crazy winter) , so we saw mostly daffodils and some tulips beginning to blossom, but oh man was it still a sight to see that yellow flower in perfect rows that stretched as far as the eye could see!
What to see and do:
Well, flowers of course! But the absolute must see display of flowers is that of the RoozenGaarde. This is the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival’s crown jewel. The Display Garden alone has over 250,000 bulbs! You can spend hours wandering through the garden and be amazed at just how many varieties of flowers can be in one location.
- RoozenGaarde is NOT dog friendly compared to say the grounds of the tulip festival to the south (Woodburn Tulip Festival, OR), so since it was a cool morning, Butters napped in the car, but obviously use EXTREME caution when making this decision.
- There will be crowds, tour buses of people, and you will spend a good amount of time kindly waiting for the family in front of you to finish taking their selfie.
- You will have to work really hard, and get creative with your camera angles to try and get that “all-natural no human in the shot” type of photo.
- Speaking of which, you will have serious camera envy here. All of the top PNW photographers flock to these gardens and you will probably see cameras that cost more than the car you drove to get there.
I definitely suggest bringing your rain coat and best rain boots (and oh yes ladies, you best believe I busted out my trendy Hunter boots), and prepare to get muddy. Daffodils and flowers require a good amount of water, and it’s Washington so naturally everything is wet. But let’s be honest your inner child will be thanking you when you’re walking though the rows of flowers and splashing in a puddle or two.
Take the time to drive the Tulip Tour Route. There’s something special about looking out your car window and seeing the colors change as you drive by the fields. Please be respectful of the signs that are posted in these fields. If they say private property, that probably means they don’t want you and your kids taking your next family portrait in the middle of the field (save that stuff for the RoozenGaarde). This is marked “pet friendly” because you can respectfully walk your dog along the farm service roads and take your pooch’s photo without breaking any rules.
By now you’re probably starving and have convinced yourself that you’ve burned enough calories walking around the fields that you deserve a “treat yo’self meal”, and that means you should make the quick and scenic drive to the quaint little town of La Conner. It’s an adorable town situated on the mouth of the Skagit River that flows into the ocean, so this former California girl instantly picked up on that familiar salty aroma. Mmmmm … Anyways, the downtown is filled with fun boutiques with welcoming and cheerful shop owners and plenty of restaurants to choose from.
My Aunt-in-law was the “tour guide” of this trip, and as a local Washingtonian she has visited La Conner often, so she knew just where I’d like to eat for lunch: La Conner Waterfront Cafe. Oh yes, with a dog-friendly patio that overlooked the river you can’t go wrong. Shortly after we were seated, Butters was given her own personal water bowl and the friendly waitress took our drink orders. As we sipped on local wine and craft beer we watched the bald eagles soar over the river and soaked in the rare Washington sunshine. I was snapped out of my euphoric trance only be the sight and smell of our food being delivered. You burned off those calories right, so you deserve the good stuff. Our party of 3 1/2 dined on homemade clam chowder, perfectly fried shrimp, famous fish n’ chips, and even the special of salmon fish n’ chips (which according to Aunt Renee was quite tasty). The staff was wonderful, the food was amazing, and the location was perfect, put it all together and it made for a perfect lunch experience!
After lunch allow yourself to wander from store to store and you’ll find a surprising amount of local goods (not just the usual tourist trap stuff). Another surprising tidbit is quite a few of the shops were dog-friendly. Of course, every responsible fur-parent will politely ask before entering a shop first, and every parent knows their pup’s behavior. So if you have that excited pup that just can’t keep still, a glass art shop may not be the best place for him. But, we had a blast at one particular candle shop, Reclamation Candle Company , where the owners were so friendly they even included Butters in their aromatherapy experience, and yes we totally bought the bacon candle and my husband and Butters love it.
Now that your belly is full and you’ve stocked up on local treasures, how about a little scenic mini-road trip? Oh come on, you knew I was going to not stay in just one place?! If it’s a sunny day you have to take the side trip to Deception Pass Bridge. When the sun is shining the water turns the most beautiful color you could imagine aside from a day in the Caribbean (and some may argue that it’s even more spectacular). The drive from La Conner to Deception Pass State Park is about a half hour and it is a beautiful drive! If it’s sunny, again be prepared for crowds, but there are several trails that you can access from the main highway and pullouts to help escape the busyness of the highway. Crowds, wind and all, it was incredibly worth it to see this work of art created by man back-dropped against nature’s own beauty.
Where to stay
La Conner offers some beautiful, yet pricey places to rest your head. So, the nearest city to the tulip fields with more reasonable accommodations is Mount Vernon. Hotels tend to book up and prices rise in tulip festival season, so be prepared to pay a bit more than you would expect. Aunt Renee happened to find a dog-friendly room at the Comfort Inn that wasn’t booked up … yes, after arriving we quickly found out why. It was definitely not the cleanest carpet we’ve seen, or the quietest room in the world but it was cheap and had complimentary breakfast. Sometimes travel isn’t all glamour and luxurious linens. Sometimes it’s a cheap mattress, a bottle of rum and Tampico in hotel paper cups, and swapping world travel stories with loved ones and sssshing the dog every time the side-exit door slams closed!
Hungry for dinner in Mount Vernon?
Good, because Skagit River Brewery is sure to stop those tummy grumbles. The patio is dog-friendly (weather and season permitting) and there’s a decent selection of their own beer along with a good selection of other local craft beer and ciders (because, Washington). We dined on Dungeness crab cakes (mmm … crab), salad and clam chowder, and nachos. But oh man, did those nachos steal the show. Rarely, do you find nachos that have mastered the art of the goodness being on just about every chip, but Skagit River Brewery has done it! Get them, they’re massive and delicious.
You may not have sunny skies, you may not have the most expensive camera, you may not get that Insta worthy shot you had dreamed of, you may not get to bring your dog with you EVERYWHERE, you may want to shove the next tourist who shoulder checks you into a puddle … but I can guarantee you that you may just have a wonderful weekend among the flowers of Washington if you hit the road and make it happen.
Kerisa & the Tulip Festival crew
= dog friendly