I have been stuck in Los Angeles rush hour traffic. I’ve driven an SUV through Times Square. Driving through the streets of Dublin at 5:00 on a Friday is no joke! But nothing prepared me for the madness that was the mass of humanity descending upon the sleepy town of Mount Vernon, Washington that springs to life for one month out of the year for the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. Since I first heard about this living work of art, I knew I had to see it for myself. Too bad about 20,000 other people had the same idea. What was supposed to be an hour and a half drive from Surrey, BC, Canada, turned into a four-hour, exhausting journey during which road rage just about got the better of me and I almost wet myself standing in line with other weary travelers, for the bathroom at a roadside gas station.
By the time we arrived at the Roozengaarde bloom fields and display gardens, my muscles were stiff, my nerves were shot and I seriously began to question my decision-making paradigm for having done this sprint of a weekend just to spend half a day of it stuck in traffic trying to get to see a bunch of dumb flowers. I grumbled all the way from the car as we crossed the road. Then I saw them….a few tulips by the entrance. A hint of a smile tugged at the corners of my mouth as I, just like the stream of people in front of me, knelt for closer examination and photos, holding up the crowds behind.
The reasons for the crowds and the traffic jam were quickly becoming apparent. Never have I seen so many flowers in so many beautiful colors in all my life! And we weren’t even past the entrance gate yet.
Looking at the breath-taking surroundings, any ounce of irritation and anger that I had felt moments before, simply melted away. I couldn’t believe that for a measly $7, they were going to allow me to enter into a place that had to resemble the Garden of Eden. Disneyland has hiked the price to $109 and it doesn’t even come close! I was awestruck. It far exceeded my expectations. Every single minute of the trip was more than worth it.
And that was just the gardens. Then there were the fields. Rows and rows of tulips for as far as the eye could see.
Sure it’s pretty and of course, it’s worth it, but there are a few things to remember if you decide to go.
- The Skagit Valley website tells you an alternate route to avoid traffic. The fact of the matter is, everywhere that we went, there was traffic. Tons of cars, tons of people. There is no avoiding it. The festival only goes from April 1-30, so for anyone who wants to see this thing, the window is narrow, hence, the crowd. To avoid it, maybe plan on visiting on a weekday. Other than that, just get an early start and be prepared to exercise some patience.
- Once you arrive at the fields, there are only porta potties, so make a pit stop in town before you get out there or be willing to brave what they’ve got.
- We didn’t eat at Roozengaarde, the line was too massive. But to be fair, the barbecue did smell amazing. I have no doubt that the food was good, but again, just plan on a wait.
- There is no guarantee that there will be tulips. We went the second weekend of the festival and the fields still were not completely in bloom. The area has been chilly with a lot of rain recently, so the blooms are a bit late. So, if you are traveling from far away, as I was, then maybe plan your trip closer to the end of the festival so as not to be disappointed.
- We only had one day. Plan on spending more time in the Skagit Valley. The downtown area looked adorable when we drove through. So sad that we didn’t get to spend time there. The Tulip Valley Winery is worth a stop and if you’re staying stateside, not flying or not worried about check bag fees, take home a bottle of their Merlot. It is fantastic!
This was a great trip that started out rocky, but in the end, ended up being one of my favorites. Maybe I’ll see you there next year! 😉