You’re headed to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival this weekend. Here’s what to expect

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.

Tulips are starting to bloom in Skagit County fields, offering patches of white, purple, yellow, pink and red for visitors to the 36th Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.

The dates for the annual festival are April 1 through April 30.

“The early varieties are out. All the fields are showing color — some just hints of color, some ready to burst into full bloom,” said Cindy Verge, executive director for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.

If you want an eyeful of tulips in full bloom now, head to the display gardens at RoozenGaarde or Tulip Town, at 15867 Beaver Marsh Road and 15002 Bradshaw Road, respectively.

Daffodils, which bloomed first, are on their way out.

“Daffodils are past their prime,” Verge said. “There are still some that look good, but many are done blooming.”

If you’re heading out this weekend, expect rain.

“Come prepared with shoes that can withstand mud and water, wear layers, and know it will likely rain, so have a rain jacket,” Verge said. “Umbrellas are an option as well, but often we have wind with the rain. Most of the time rain comes and goes, so even though it is in the forecast, it may not be raining while you are here.”

There’s some upside to the wet weather, according to Verge.

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival visitors walk through tulip fields south of Mount Vernon in 2018. Staff The Bellingham Herald file

“Come and see the tulips and enjoy one of our events and activities. The tulips don’t mind the rain,” she said. “I’ve taken very striking pictures of the flowers during rain. Also, many people decide they don’t want to get wet, so they delay coming. If you come during a rain forecast, likely there will be fewer people.”

Here are some tips for your visit.

The tulip festival draws hundreds of thousands of people from the region, around the U.S. and parts of 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 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 flowers are growing in fields that are spread miles apart on narrow county roads, WSDOT said, adding that a walking tour isn’t a good idea.

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

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.

Access to the tulip farms and their parking requires an admission fee of $5, $7 or $10 per person. Children 5 and younger get in for free.

Be a good visitor. Obey “no parking” signs. Don’t stop in the middle of the road to gawk at the tulips or for photos of the pretty blooms. Don’t park in or block private driveways.

There are no public restrooms in the tulip fields. There are bathrooms 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. See what’s blooming by going to the “bloom map” at tulips.com/bloommap.

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

Want more tulips?

The Abbotsford Tulip Festival opens Saturday, April 13, starting at 11 a.m. in British Columbia.

Called Bloom, the festival in the Fraser Valley is entering its fourth year. It’s at 36737 N. Parallel Road, about an hour from Bellingham.

It’s opening a couple of days early.

Buy tickets online now at abbotsfordtulipfestival.ca.

Details: Send an email to info@abbotsfordtulipfestival.ca.

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.