Here in the Skagit Valley, the tulip fields are about to turn into the most phenomenal display of color. Even though I’ve lived in this area for almost 20 years, I still can’t get over how beautiful it is. No wonder more than a million people from all over the world come to experience this every year Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. This annual event began as a three-day festival and has now grown into a month-long celebration featuring art shows, concerts, street fairs, bike rides and more.
Although our farm is closed to the public, I’m happy to share our favorite restaurants, shops, and other attractions. There are so many great things to do in this incredible area and you can easily spend several days exploring and enjoying yourself. If you can’t make it to the Tulip Festival, don’t worry – all of these places are great any time of year.
A few things to keep in mind when visiting the Skagit Valley during tulip season:
- Weekdays are the best! We found that traffic can be pretty bad on the weekends, so if you don’t want to be stuck in traffic for hours, try to plan a midweek adventure. Be sure to pack snacks if you brave the weekend crowds, and remember that there are limited restroom facilities along the way.
- Respect signs, farms and notices around tulip fields. There are special places to stop and enjoy the beauty. Please do not enter areas marked ‘No Sharing’ for just one image. The tulip fields are a photographer’s dream, just be sure to enjoy them in the designated areas. You can find information on how to see tulips here.
- Check ahead. As always, opening hours are subject to change, so check your plans with the establishments you intend to visit before you leave.
Places to go with your kids
Padilla Bay Research Reserve: As a living field laboratory with supporting facilities and professional staff, Padilla Bay Reserve has a free indoor aquarium with many opportunities for children to see what plants and animals are native to the area. Be sure to call (360) 428-1558 for their hours of operation. You’ll also find plenty of beautiful nature trails and places to explore.
Drive or hike up Mount Erie: Either drive to the top or enjoy the ride. Mount Erie is a local favorite and the views from the top are incredible! If you are in the Anacortes area, you will enjoy this place.
Visit Deception Pass: One of our personal favorite spots in the park Rosario Beach. 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 beaches. If your family likes to camp, you’ll want to come back in the summer.
Note that you will need Pass Pass Accessing Washington State Recreation Lands.
Storvik Park, Anacortes: This playground has a lot of space for kids to run, climb and let off all their energy. It’s a favorite in the summer because it also has a bounce pad for the little ones.
Washington Park, Anacortes: Located along the water, this is a great place to bring your picnic. Enjoy the views of boats coming in and out while the kids play on the playground.
Places to go for a walk or enjoy the view of the valley
Map of Skagit Valley trails is a wonderful resource for local trails and offers options for the serious hiker or nature walker. Some of our favorites are:
Padilla Bay Trail: Stroller and bike friendly, you’ll enjoy a nice and flat ride along the bay where the Skagit River meets the Salish Sea.
Little Mountain Park: The covered lookout offers a spectacular view of the Skagit Valley, the San Juan Islands, the Olympic Mountains and the tulip fields. The park also provides miles and miles of hiking trails.
Sharpe Park-Sares Head trail: You can see the San Juan Islands and the Olympic Mountains from the bluff.
Here are a few things you should do while visiting this area
Christianson’s Kindergarten: An all-time favorite, this is the ultimate stop for any gardener. In addition to the amazing selection of plants, there is a beautiful garden-themed gift shop, vintage glass greenhouses, and the largest selection of potted garden flowers in the state. Bring your checkbook and plan to stay for a few hours!
Enjoy the Chuckanut drive: This 24-mile winding route hugs the Chuckanut Mountains. Chuckanut Drive overlooks Samish Bay and offers spectacular views of the San Juan Islands and Chuckanut Bay.
Take a ferry ride to the San Juan Islands: From Anacortes, you can park your car and hop on the ferry for a fun day trip. Enjoy a leisurely stroll while watching the whales. You can also drive and then spend the day or take a longer holiday exploring one of the islands.
Red Door antique mall: Located in historic downtown Mount Vernon, this is one of the best places to look for unique treasures. The girls who own it are a riot and I always find so many great things to take home. With 20 vendors under one roof, the inventory changes daily and the selection is unparalleled. Most of the props and vases we use in our studio and photoshoots come from Red Door. If you get a chance to visit, tell the ladies we sent!
Seaport books: This independent bookstore is located in the historic Seaport Launch Building on the beautiful Swinomish Canal in La Conner. Along with new books for readers of all ages, they feature works by local artists and offer a rotating calendar of special events throughout the year. They are open from 10 am to 6 pm every day except Tuesday.
Favorite shops in the area
Located in downtown Burlington, Stowes is a beautiful family store full of high quality shoes and gear that we absolutely love.
Pam’s Past Time Antiques a must-stop for anyone who enjoys treasure hunting. This shop is filled with pottery, antique vases, artwork, jewelry and much more. If you love antiques, you will love this place!
Go outside in La Conner is a unique gift and garden store offering cookbooks, gardening books, tools, hardware and home goods in the heart of historic La Conner.
Perry and Carlson is a wonderful little shop and art gallery in historic downtown Mount Vernon. They have kitchenware, plus high-quality toys, books and children’s clothing. The neighboring art gallery features a new local artist each month and is a wonderful community gathering place.
Tri Dee Arts It has the largest selection of art supplies north of Seattle, making it the perfect place to stock up. They also have a great selection of gifts. Be sure to check out their website for information on their pottery studio, live classes, paint nights and craft projects for all ages.
Recommended places to eat
La Conner Pub and Diner: For the best fish and chips and a great view while enjoying a meal, La Conner Pub and Eatery is the place to be. Call ahead and they’ll reserve you a spot on the water.
Nell Thorn, La Conner: A little gem of the Pacific Northwest! They offer a fresh, daily menu featuring artisan, sustainable, farm-to-table fare, craft cocktails, fine wines and microbrews on tap. Great food with incredible views!
COA Mexican Canteen: We love this place and highly recommend it if you’re in the mood for Mexican food! Everything is super fresh and they have awesome margaritas.
Granary: If you’re craving great Italian food, this is your place. Earning a reputation as the Skagit Valley’s best authentic Italian restaurant, Il Granaio combines the flavors of fresh, local ingredients with traditional Italian recipes. A bonus is that it’s located in Mount Vernon’s Old Town Grainary. Real beauty!
Skagit Valley Food Co-Op: If you’re looking for a sustainably sourced deli or fine dining, go here. It’s a natural market for our community and offers something perfect for everyone. They also have a great selection of gift items upstairs.
Snow gas products market: Known for “Humble Ice Cream Cones,” Snow Goose Market is a seasonal, family-run country market located in the Fir Island area. They offer incredible organic produce and local fare such as fresh and smoked seafood, baked bread, artisan cheeses and carefully selected wines. Be sure to say hi to owner Vico when you stop by! He is a very nice guy.
Donut House, Anacortes: A fun little stop before heading to the park or one of the San Juan Island ferries. This store has a great selection of freshly baked sweets at reasonable prices.
Taylor Shellfish: If you love oysters, you’ll love this place. Since the 1890s, Taylor Shellfish has been producing high-quality, sustainable shellfish. Feast on the waterfront promenade or grab your treats to go.
Slough Foods, Edison: Great for wine, savory meats and cheeses. Our good friend John owns it – tell him we sent you!
Breadfarm, Edison: Located just off scenic Chuckanut Drive in the small village of Edison, Washington. Breadfarm is an artisan bakery focusing on naturally leavened bread, rustic pastries and pantry supplies. Each item is beautifully handcrafted.
Tweets Cafe, Edison: Tweets have great food, especially breakfast and ice cream. Artisan cafe, organic coffee and farm-to-table Northwest cuisine. Cash or check only!
Revival Lounge is a great cocktail spot in the heart of historic downtown Mount Vernon with a fun, vintage vibe, delicious hot bagels and food, and live music. When the weather is warm, enjoy their outdoor seating on the Pine Square patio.
It belongs to the family Bertelsen Winery South Mount Vernon is a great place to enjoy affordable Washington wines. They play concerts throughout the spring and summer and make the best homemade pizzas. Suitable for children and pets.
2nd Street Deli and DogsLocated in downtown Mount Vernon, it’s a favorite stop for many locals and even our production crew from Oregon! The menu includes hot dogs, sandwiches, salads and more.
Fairhaven A local favorite in Burlington, serving delicious sandwiches, baked goods and amazing coffee using local ingredients and inspiration. They are also open for dinner and are famous for their take-out Fried Chicken Lunch.
Terramar Brewing and Distilling located in the lovely town of Bow on the historic property where the land meets the sea. Terramar focuses on sourcing hyper-local ingredients and offers delicious food, craft beer and spirits with a sense of place. We love their family atmosphere and the wood fired pizza is worth the trip alone!
As you enjoy the beauty of the Skagit Valley, I hope these ideas help you feel welcome and a little bit like a local.
If you’re from here and have other favorite places you’d like to share, please post them in the comments below!