Here in the Skagit Valley, the tulip fields are about to burst into the most phenomenal show of color. Even after living in this area for nearly 20 years, I still can’t get over how beautiful it is. No wonder every year over a million people come from all over the world to experience the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. This annual event started as a three day festival and has grown into a month long celebration that now features art shows, concerts, street fairs, bike rides and more.
Today I’m excited to share our guide for visiting this incredible area. As our farm is closed to the public, I’m happy to share some of our favorite restaurants, shops, and other places of interest. There are so many wonderful things to do in this area! You could easily spend a few days exploring and having fun. If you can’t make it for the Tulip Festival, not to worry since all of these spots are great any time of the year.
A few things to take note of when visiting the Skagit Valley during tulip season:
- Weekdays are best! We’ve found that the traffic can be pretty bad on the weekends, so try to plan for a mid-week adventure if you don’t want to spend hours in grid lock. If you brave the weekend crowds be sure to pack snacks and note that there are limited restroom facilities along the way.
- Respect the signs, farms and notices around the tulip fields. There are designated areas to stop and enjoy the beauty. Please don’t go walking into any fields that are marked “No Trespassing” just for a photo. The tulip fields are a photographer’s dream, just be sure to enjoy them in the designated areas. Information for seeing the tulips can be found here.
- Check ahead. As always, hours of operation are subject to change so before you head out, verify your plans with the businesses you intend to visit.
Places to visit with your kids
Padilla Bay Research Reserve: As a living field laboratory with support facilities and professional staff, Padilla Bay Reserve has a free indoor aquarium with lots of opportunities for kids to see what plants and animals are native to this area. Be sure to call (360) 428-1558 for their hours of operation. You’ll also find lots of wonderful nature trails and places to explore.
Drive or hike up Mount Erie: Either drive to the top, or enjoy a hike. Mount Erie is a favorite for the locals and the views at the top are incredible! If you’re in the Anacortes area, you’ll enjoy this spot.
Visit Deception Pass: One of our personal favorite places in the park is Rosario Beach. My grandfather was a biologist and taught there, so I’ve been visiting this amazing place as long as I can remember. It’s worth planning to spend at least a few hours exploring the park and the beaches. If your family enjoys camping, you’ll want to come back in the summer.
Please note that you’ll need a Discover Pass to access the Washington state recreation lands.
Storvik Park, Anacortes: This playground has a huge place for the kids to run, climb and get all their energy out. During the summer it’s a favorite, as there’s also a splash pad for the little guys.
Washington Park, Anacortes: Located along the water, this is a beautiful place to bring your picnic. Enjoy views of the boats going in and out, while the kids play on the playground.
Places to go for a walk or enjoy views of the valley
Padilla Bay Trail: Stroller and bike friendly, you’ll enjoy a beautiful and flat walk along the bay, where the Skagit River meets the Salish Sea.
Little Mountain Park: A covered viewpoint provides a spectacular look at the Skagit Valley, San Juan Islands, Olympic Mountains, and the tulip fields. The park also provides miles and miles of hiking trails.
A few must-dos when you visit this area
Christianson’s Nursery: One of my all time top favorite places, this is the ultimate stop for every gardener. In addition to having an amazing selection of plants, they have a beautiful garden themed gift shop, vintage glass greenhouses and the largest selection of potted garden roses in the state. Bring your checkbook and plan to stay a couple of hours!
Enjoy Chuckanut drive: This 24 mile curvy route hugs the Chuckanut mountains. Chuckanut Drive overlooks Samish Bay and offers gorgeous views of the San Juan Islands and Chuckanut Bay.
Take a ride into the San Juan Islands on a ferry: From Anacortes you can park your car and walk on the ferry for a fun day trip. Enjoy a relaxing ride, while watching for whales. You can also drive on and then spend the day or take a longer vacation exploring one of the islands.
The Red Door Antique Mall: Located in historic downtown Mount Vernon, this is one of the best places to look for unique treasures. The gals who own it are a riot and I always find so many wonderful things to take home. With 20 vendors under one roof, inventory changes on a daily basis and the selection is unmatched. Many of the props and vases that we use in our studio and photoshoots come from the Red Door. If you get a chance to visit tell the ladies we sent you!
Seaport Books: This independent bookstore is housed in the historic Seaport Landing Building on the beautiful Swinomish Channel in La Conner. In addition to new books for readers of all ages, they feature creative efforts by local artists and offer a rotating calendar of special events year round. They’re open 10 to 6 every day except Tuesday.
Recommended places to eat
LaConner Pub and Eatery: For the best fish and chips and a beautiful view while you enjoy your meal, LaConner Pub and Eatery is the place to be. Call ahead of time and have them save you a spot right on the water.
Nell Thorn in LaConner: A little jewel of northwest! They offer a fresh, daily menu of artisan made, sustainable, farm to table NW fare, craft cocktails, fine wines, & microbrews on tap. Awesome food with incredible views!
COA Mexican Eatery: We love this place! Everything is super fresh and they have awesome margaritas. Locations are in LaConner and Mt. Vernon.
Il Granaio: If you’re craving amazing Italian food, this is your place. Having earned the reputation as the Skagit Valley’s best authentic Italian restaurant, Il Granaio incorporates the flavors of fresh, local ingredients into traditional Italian recipes. The bonus is that it’s located in the old grainary building of Mount Vernon. A true beauty!
Skagit Valley Food Co-Op: If you’re looking for a sustainably sourced deli or some wonderful grocery items, go here. This is the natural marketplace for our community and it features something perfect for everyone.
Valley Shine Distillery: Valley Shine Distillery provides an inviting atmosphere to enjoy small batch spirits, craft cocktails and unique tapas. They offer a delicious lunch and dinner menu that they refer to as “Farm to Market Classic Comfort Food with a Twist.” All ages are welcome.
Snow Goose Produce Market: Known for their “Immodest Ice Cream Cones” Snow Goose Produce Market is a seasonal, family run, country market located in the Skagit Valley. They offer incredible organic produce and local fare such as fresh and smoked seafood, baked breads, artisan cheeses and carefully selected wines. When you stop by be sure to tell the owner Vico hello! He’s such a nice guy.
The Donut House, Anacortes: A fun little stop before heading to a park or onto one of the San Juan Island ferries. This shop has a huge selection of fresh baked goodies and very affordable prices.
Taylor Shellfish: If you like oysters, you’ll love this spot. Since the 1890’s Taylor Shellfish has been farming high quality, sustainable shellfish. Feast in the waterfront picnic area, or take your goodies to go.
Slough Foods, Edison: Awesome for wine, fancy meat and cheese. Our good friend John owns it—tell him we sent you!
Breadfarm, Edison: Located in the small village of Edison, Washington, just off of scenic Chuckanut Drive in beautiful Skagit Valley. Breadfarm is an artisan bakery focusing on naturally leavened breads, rustic pastry and pantry staples. Every item is beautifully handcrafted.
Tweets Cafe, Edison: Tweets has great food, especially breakfast and ice cream. Featuring an artisan cafe, organic coffee, and farm to table northwest cuisine. Cash or check only!
As you enjoy the beauty of Skagit Valley, I hope these ideas help you feel welcomed, and a little bit more like a local.
And if you’re from around here, and you have a few favorite places you’d like to share, please post them in the comments below!