PHOTOGRAPH BY GREG VAUGHN, VWPICS/REDUX
By Maryellen Kennedy Duckett
DESTINATION: Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, Washington State
PERFECT FOR: Families
WHY: While parents focus on the millions of tulips in bloom, kids will delight in marching in the wacky Not So Impromptu Kiwanis Tulip Parade (April 9), visiting an alpaca farm, and participating in other hands-on activities at the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. “There’s a lot for families to do in Skagit County, not just go to the tulip fields,” says Stephanie Lynn, a local mom and owner of the Skagit Kid Insider family event and activity guide. “Kids love the tulip fields because they’re farms and there’s dirt. Several farms, including Tulip Town, let kids get out in the fields, even if it’s raining. I have the greatest pictures of my kids with their colorful umbrellas, raincoats, and boots surrounded by the blooming tulips. Give your kids a camera so they can take photos in the tulip fields, and you’ll end up with some fun photos from different angles.”
WHERE: Skagit Valley is in western Washington State, about 75 miles north of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, or Sea-Tac. Burlington, one of the biggest communities in the area, is billed as “the crossroads of Skagit Valley.” Blooming tulip fields can be seen in Mount Vernon (at I-5) west to La Conner, a waterfront village on Skagit Bay.
HOW: Tulip fields and other festival and kid-focused events and activities are spread across the valley. If you’re not driving to the area, rent a car at the airport. Plan your daily itinerary using the maps (including a real-time map of tulip fields in bloom) and calendar of events on the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival website. For local kid-favorite activities and destinations, including Burlington Bike Park (the first all-dirt indoor bike park in the Pacific Northwest) and the Skagit Skate roller rink, check the Skagit Kid Insider.
STAY: Burlington has a large concentration of modern chain hotels—including Hampton Inn & Suites—with family-friendly amenities such as a free breakfast buffet and indoor pool. Historic La Conner is home to several charming bed-and-breakfasts, which could be suitable for parents traveling with one child or teens.
EAT: The festival’s best meal deal is the Kiwanis Salmon Barbecue, held 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. daily (April 2-24) at the lodge in Hillcrest Park. Plates include a drink, wood-grilled wild salmon, baked potato, garlic bread, coleslaw, and a dessert for $12 (small) or $15 (large). There are two playgrounds (toddler and big-kid) in the park, as well as walking paths, picnic tables, and grassy areas. And when you’re out touring the fields, buy picnic supplies or stop for a scoop of ice cream (cash only) served in a fresh-baked waffle cone at the Snow Goose Produce Market on Fir Island Road.
BEST BET: Tulip Town has a designated kite-flying field open during the festival. There are kites for sale in the Tulip Town shop, or you can bring your own. On weekends, watch professional kite flyers perform aerial tricks in the skies above the field.
DON’T MISS: No experience is required to take a guided trail ride at Lang’s Horse and Pony Farm in Mount Vernon. Both private rides and group rides for four to ten people are available. Options range from a 15-minute pony ride for kids to a two-hour trail ride. All ages are welcome, and reservations are required.
FUN FACT: Skagit County produces more tulip, iris, and daffodil bulbs than any other county in the United States. County farmers produce 95 percent of the red potatoes grown in Washington State. The bulbs and spuds are among more than 90 different crops—including blueberries, green peas, and Jonagold apples—that come from Skagit farms.