Here’s when tulips should be at their peak for the 2019 Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Traffic tips for viewing Skagit Valley tulip fields

The Washington State Department of Transportation offers tips on planning your trip to Skagit Valley's tulip fields. Be prepared for lots of traffic, little parking and no public bathrooms.
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The Washington State Department of Transportation offers tips on planning your trip to Skagit Valley's tulip fields. Be prepared for lots of traffic, little parking and no public bathrooms.

If you head to the 36th Skagit Valley Tulip Festival this weekend, you’ll get an eyeful of bright yellow daffodils in their full glory.

Regular visitors to the spring festival know that the daffodils bloom first. The tulips, which are the star attraction, follow.

So what about the tulips? The flowers are starting to add some pink and orange color to the fields around Mount Vernon, but they’re still days away from fully blooming in field after field.

“Indeed, the tulips are starting to bloom and each day there will be more blossoms to see,” said Cindy Verge, executive director of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.

If you want to catch them at what’s called peak bloom — when, together, they blanket the fields with colors so bright it’s almost dizzying — shoot for mid-April.

“We are letting people know that the best time to come and see the tulips is between April 8 and 22, aka the middle of the month,” she said to The Bellingham Herald.

And if you can’t get there until the end of April?

“There still should be tulips in bloom the weekend of the 27th and 28th,” Verge said, “but they will likely be waning by that time.”

The annual festival began on the 1st and runs through April.

Scenes from the first day of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival at RoozenGaarde on April 1, 2016 in Mount Vernon, Wash. Music is "Brooks" by Kai Engel.

Here are some tips for your visit.

A lot of people love the tulip festival. We mean a lot, and not just from the region. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of people come from throughout the U.S. and from around the world.

It might be even busier this year since Conde Nast Traveler has named the festival’s views as one of the “most insanely beautiful fields of spring flowers around the world.”

So the Washington State Department of Transportation wants to remind people to expect peak festival traffic on weekends and at the State Route 536/Kincaid Street exit from Interstate 5.

At its busiest on the weekend, especially when the weather is sunny, traffic can clog up Mount Vernon and back up onto I-5. So consider these alternate exits:

Exit 230 (SR 20/Burlington/Anacortes): State Route 20 is good for drivers traveling from the north or those from the south who want to avoid the congested traffic in town.

Exit 221 (SR 534/Conway/La Conner): Northbound travelers can avoid backups farther up I-5 by taking this exit and going west toward Conway.

Trying to beat the crowds? Go on weekdays, when there’s less traffic.

The daffodils and tulips are growing in a number of fields that are spread miles apart in the Skagit Valley on narrow county roads, WSDOT said, adding that a walking tour isn’t advised.

Visitors should drive, carpool or bicycle along the designated Tulip Route, which is marked with green signs.

There also are guided tours.

If you want to take photos, don’t do it while you’re driving. If everyone in your vehicle wants to get out to admire tulips, go to the display gardens at RoozenGaarde or Tulip Town where there’s designated parking. But access to the tulip farms and their parking requires an admission fee of $5, $7 or $10 per person.

Shoulder parking is very limited. You will be ticketed.

There are no public restrooms in the tulip fields. There are in the display gardens, but you need to buy tickets to enter the gardens.

More details are online at tulipfestival.org and on the festival’s Facebook page. Find a “bloom map” at tulips.com/bloommap.

Or go to the Tulip Festival cffice and store: 311 W. Kincaid St. in Mount Vernon. 360-428-5959.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.