You’ve waited for the best blooms at the Tulip Festival. Your patience has paid off

180 degrees of color at RoozenGaarde’s tulip field

The RoozenGaarde's tulip display fields at the beginning of peak bloom in Mount Vernon, Wash., on Wednesday, April 17, 2019.
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The RoozenGaarde's tulip display fields at the beginning of peak bloom in Mount Vernon, Wash., on Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

If you’ve been waiting for the perfect day — sunny skies and nearly 1 million tulips at their prettiest — before heading to the 2019 Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, your patience is about to be rewarded, starting this weekend.

“I would say the peak bloom time is over the next seven days,” Cindy Verge, executive director of the tulip festival, told The Bellingham Herald on Thursday.

The annual festival continues through April 30.

If you’re heading to the festival in Mount Vernon this weekend, here’s what you need to know:

The forecast for Mount Vernon is sunny skies on Saturday and Sunday, and daytime temps of up to 63 degrees.

Nice weather will bring out the crowds. Plus, there are many festival events this weekend.

“There are tulips in full bloom, the street fair is going on in downtown Mount Vernon, we have a pop-up wine tasting as part of the street fair, and the Tulip Pedal bike ride is going on. Plus, our lineup of art shows (and) the salmon barbecue,” Verge said, urging people to go online to tulipfestival.org for details.

Drink in this sumptuous drone footage of the Skagit Valley tulip fields in full bloom recently. Lucky KIRO 7 photographer Dan King Lopez had permission to photograph this ravishing scene, one of Washington's most popular signs of spring.

Go early to beat the crowds. You can see the blooms by car or bike anytime, but there will be a lot less traffic early in the day.

The RoozenGaarde and Tulip Town display gardens both open at 9 a.m., and it’s worth it to be there then. During a visit on Wednesday, we found that crowds were starting to amass as we left RoozenGaarde at 11 a.m.

So the best of all worlds is to go early in the day on a weekday, if you can.

Check a map to optimize tulip time

Download or print out this map. It’s helpful, especially if you’re planning on a driving or bicycling tour.

The tulip fields are west of the Skagit River and miles apart and while there are signs designating a tulip route, it’s a little confusing without a map.

Roadside parking is limited on the roads by two of RoozenGaarde's tulip fields at the beginning of peak bloom in Mount Vernon, Wash., on Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

If you’re going to do a driving or riding tour, don’t go expecting the whole Skagit Valley to be awash in bright colors right up to the edge of the road. Some fields are like that — one at Beaver Marsh Road and the other at Jungquist Road come to mind — but others are set back from the road.

Bright blooms a distance away are still beautiful, but adjust your expectations.

“I tell them they can drive by and see the fields that are in bloom, but there are hundreds of acres of tulips and thousands of acres of farmland in the Skagit Valley,” Verge explained.

“The location of the fields is a farming consideration. The tulips can only come back to the same spot every six years, so crop rotation dictates the location of the fields,” she said.

Which, by the way, is why you don’t want to use an old map of the blooms.

If you’re driving, be patient and keep your eyes open for pedestrians, bicyclists and other vehicles. You’ll be on two-lane country roads and sometimes there will be farm equipment trundling in front of you or people besotted by the flowers’ bright colors and possibly inching into your lane.

The best experience, we think, is at The RoozenGaarde or Tulip Town display gardens.

Yes, you have to pay an entry fee to get into the gardens, but once you’re inside you can wander down rows and through acres of dazzlingly bright tulips in bloom without worrying that you’re going to wander into traffic.

On Wednesday at RoozenGaarde, we saw deep purples, bright yellow-oranges, electric reds, salmon, peachy-orange and elegant white.

Plus, there’s food, art and parking at both locations and just a lot to see and do in general.

Admission at both businesses is $5-$10 per person. Children 5 and younger get in for free.

Festival traffic tips

Speaking of traffic, 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.

From State Route 20, turn south on Best Road and then at the McLean Road roundabout, decide where to go to see tulips —RoozenGaarde, Tulip Town or one of the fields.

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.

Leave your drones at home. They’re not allowed in the display gardens or the tulip fields, and neither are pets.

More details are online at tulipfestival.org, including where to find bathrooms, 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.

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.