The Skagit Valley is famous for its flower fields that are awash with color every spring. Each year over a million people from around the world flock to our tiny valley to see the amazing daffodil and tulip fields in full rolling bloom. There’s nothing quite like standing on the edge of a field filled with long rainbow rows of flowers as far as the eye can see. Even after living here for 20 years, I still can’t get over how beautiful it is.
Most visitors come in the spring, but there is an abundance of things to do in this beautiful corner of Washington State any time of the year. If you’re planning to visit our area, we’ve put together this visitors’ guide full of recommendations.
While our farm is closed to the public, I’m happy to share my favorite restaurants, shops, and other places of interest. There are so many wonderful things to do in this incredible area and you could easily spend a few days exploring and having fun.
The Skagit Valley is located in the northwestern corner of Washington State between Seattle and the Canadian border and is one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the United States. The winding Skagit River runs through the valley, separating the Cascade mountains from the Pacific ocean.
In the winter months, the migratory birds return to the valley to rest and feed and the neighboring farmland is filled with thousands of snow geese and trumpeter swans. One of my very favorite places to go for bird watching is Craft Island. It’s also a nice little hike that’s kid friendly. If you head east, bald eagles can be spotted on the upper Skagit River during the month of January.
Spring brings 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 hundreds of acres of daffodils and tulips in bloom, art shows, concerts, street fairs, bike rides, and more.
A few things to take note of when visiting the Skagit Valley during March and April:
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 gridlock. 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 walk 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.
If you want to tour the flower fields, RoozenGaarde has a beautiful 5-acre display garden and a 25-acre tulip field that you can walk through. Tickets are $15 per person and children under 2 get in free. During the Tulip Festival, they are open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to sunset. You can find tickets and more information here.
Summer offers no shortage of outdoor activities when it comes to hiking, camping, and beach-going. It’s also a great time to jump on a ferry and head out to the neighboring San Juan Islands. If you plan on driving your car onto the ferry, I highly recommend making a reservation online, otherwise, you risk waiting for hours to get the next boat.
Fall brings in the harvest and showcases the abundance of our agriculturally rich region. During the month of October, a visit to Gordon Skagit Farms is a must. They have a gigantic u-pick pumpkin field, a corn maze, apples and fresh cider from their orchard, dried florals, and more specialty squash, pumpkins, and gourds than you can wrap your mind around. It’s a yearly ritual for all Skagit Valley locals.
The Festival of Family Farms is held during the first weekend of October and provides an opportunity for anyone to experience first-hand what life is like on a working farm. Each year, participating local farms open their doors and fields to the public for tours, kid-friendly activities, classes, and more. It’s a great opportunity for children to connect more closely to where their food comes from and how it’s raised.
For detailed information about other activities happening in the Skagit Valley, be sure to visit this website.
A few must-dos when visiting the Skagit Valley
One of my all-time top favorite places, Christianson’s Nursery, 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 for a couple of hours!
The Red Door Antique Mall located in historic downtown Mount Vernon 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 photo shoots come from the Red Door. If you get a chance to visit, tell the ladies we sent you!
Snow Goose Produce is a seasonal, family-run, country market located on Fir Island. They are most famous for their “Immodest Ice Cream Cones,” which draw lines of people down the road every weekend from spring through autumn. They offer a wide selection of local produce, fresh and smoked seafood, baked bread, artisan cheeses, and carefully selected wines. When you stop by, be sure to tell the owner Vico hello! He’s such a nice guy.
Places to eat
If you’re in the mood for Mexican food, COA Mexican Eatery is a great spot. Everything is super fresh and the margaritas are excellent.
Calico Cupboard is a local staple and is best known for its fresh-baked pastries, pies, and cinnamon rolls. They serve breakfast and lunch, and if you find yourself waiting for a table, you can pop around the corner to The Red Door Antique Mall.
During our busy season, we order takeout from Taste of India more than I’d like to admit. This tiny, family-run restaurant has amazing food and great service. If you go, tell them Mr. Chris sent you—it’ll be sure to give them a laugh.
If you’re looking for a sustainably-sourced deli or some wonderful grocery items, be sure to visit the Skagit Valley Food Co-op. This is the natural marketplace for our community and it features something perfect for everyone. They also have a great selection of gift items upstairs in the Mercantile.
Places to visit
In Burlington, which is a little town just north of Mount Vernon, there are two of my favorite shops worth visiting. Stowes is a wonderful family-owned shoe store that’s filled with high-quality footwear (including a huge selection of Danskos, Keens, and Haflinger slippers) and gear that we absolutely love.
If you love treasure hunting, Pam’s Past Time Antiques located in Sedro Woolley is a must-visit. This store is packed full of pottery, antique vases, artwork, jewelry, and so much more. If you like antiquing, you’ll love this place!
This historic waterfront town is the gateway to the San Juan Islands and Canada. It has a very charming feel and lots of places to eat, shops to peruse, and outdoor activities for the whole family.
Places to visit
One of our personal favorite places in this area is Rosario Beach near Deception Pass. My grandfather was a biologist and taught there, so I’ve been visiting this amazing place for as long as I can remember. It’s worth planning to spend at least a few hours exploring the park and the beaches. If you enjoy camping, there’s a beautiful campground with waterfront views. It’s such a special place. Please note that you’ll need to pay a day rate or have a Discover Pass to access state recreation areas.
Mount Erie is a favorite local spot and you can either drive or hike to the top. The viewpoint area offers a beautiful vantage point of Fidalgo Bay and the surrounding islands.
From Anacortes, you can park your car and walk on the ferry for a fun day trip to the San Juan Islands. The ride is beautiful and relaxing and you might even see some whales. If you plan to drive on, be sure to make a reservation to ensure your spot.
Washington Park is a beautiful 220-acre city park located right on the water. You can watch the boats go in and out, walk the 2.2-mile paved loop, or enjoy a picnic. There’s also a playground for kids.
Pelican Bay Books & Coffeehouse is a darling family-owned used bookstore and is the perfect place to escape for an afternoon of quiet reading. They have a wonderful selection of books and a cozy atmosphere, and all of the baked goods served in the cafe are made from scratch. It’s a must-stop if you’re in the area.
This charming waterfront town is located along the Swinomish slough in the heart of the Skagit Valley. Most of the houses and shops were built around the turn of the century and when you’re walking down the street, it feels like you’ve stepped back in time. If you’re coming to this area for a vacation, La Conner would be the perfect home base for exploring. Main street is lined with all kinds of little shops and restaurants.
Places to visit
Nasty Jack’s Antiques is a local landmark that has been family operated for more than 50 years and is one of the largest antique stores in the region. They have a wonderful selection of antiques, and the way the store is arranged, it feels more like a historic museum than a shop. It’s easy to get lost in there for hours. If you happen to visit, tell Marlow we sent you.
Seaport Books is an independent bookstore 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 works by local artists and offer a rotating calendar of special events year-round.
Go Outside is a tiny treasure of a gift and garden shop nestled in the heart of town. They offer cookbooks, gardening books, tools, gear, and home goods. I’ve never gotten out of there empty-handed.
Whenever we visit a new place, Chris and I love to go to their local history museum to better understand the area. If you love museums or are interested in local history, The Skagit County Historical Museum is a must-visit when you’re in town. Located on the top of the hill in La Conner, this strange little museum is a treasure trove of local agricultural history. I can get lost in there for hours studying the old photographs and displays of old artifacts, and imagining what the valley looked like a hundred years ago.
Places to eat
For the best fish and chips and a beautiful view while you enjoy your meal, La Conner Pub & Eatery is the place to go. Call ahead of time and have them save you a spot right on the water.
A little jewel of the Pacific Northwest, Nell Thorn offers a fresh, daily menu of artisan-made, sustainable, farm-to-table fare. The food and the views are incredible.
Nestled in the heart of the Skagit flats you’ll find the tiniest, most magical little town that everyone who’s ever visited absolutely loves. It’s so small that if you blink when you’re driving through, you might miss it. Despite its size, this little town is overflowing with great food and comes alive on the weekends. If you’re traveling from the Skagit Valley to Bellingham, be sure to take the long way through this little artist community—it’s well worth the extra miles. In the winter months, this little area is a haven for bird watchers.
Places to eat
Breadfarm is an artisan bakery focusing on naturally-leavened bread, rustic pastry, and pantry staples. Every item is beautifully handcrafted.
If you’re looking for delicious food, especially breakfast and ice cream, Tweets Cafe is a great choice. This artisan cafe features organic coffee and farm-to-table Northwest cuisine. Cash or check only!
If you’re looking to pick up something for a picnic, Slough Food has an awesome selection of meats, cheeses, and wine. Our good friend John owns it—tell him we sent you!
Terramar Brewing and Distilling is located on a historic property where the land meets the sea. They focus on sourcing hyper-local ingredients and offer delicious food and a family-friendly atmosphere.
Places to visit
When our kids were younger, we spent a great deal of time at Padilla Bay Reserve and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you have nature-loving children, it’s a must-visit. Their education center includes an indoor aquarium room and exhibits on the estuary ecosystem and local marine birds and waterfowl. You’ll also find lots of wonderful nature trails around the reserve where you can see many local birds, including eagles and herons.
If you want to take a stroll, the Padilla Bay Trail offers a beautiful and flat walk along the bay where the Skagit River meets the Salish Sea. It’s also stroller- and bike-friendly.
If you’re heading north to Bellingham or the Canadian border, you can bypass the freeway, and instead, take scenic Chuckanut Drive. This 24-mile curvy route winds along the Chuckanut mountains overlooking Samish Bay and offers gorgeous views of the San Juan Islands and the bay.
If you like oysters, be sure to stop at Taylor Shellfish Farms. Since the 1890s, they have been farming high-quality, sustainable shellfish. You can eat right on the beach or take your fresh seafood to go.
Larrabee State Park is a great place to get out and stretch your legs. It’s a short walk down to the water and tide pools and the view is breathtaking.
If you’re going all the way to Bellingham, the historic district of Fairhaven is a great place to stop for lunch. Village Books is a fantastic independent bookstore and they have a great cafe and gift shop attached.
As you enjoy the beauty of Skagit Valley and the surrounding areas, I hope these ideas help you to feel welcomed, and a little bit more like a local.
If you’re from around here and you have other favorite places you’d like to share, please post them in the comments below!
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