Weird Wanderings: From a young age, Pacific Northwest native Sam Coulter was drawn to the weird and wonderful in life. In the occasional column “Weird Wanderings” she shares her quirky adventures.
By Sam Coulter
In the Pacific Northwest, we’re graced with dynamic and majestic natural beauty all around us. The diverse biomes offer a wide variety of life and landscapes. The annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in northwest Washington is a grandiose collaboration between humanity and nature.
During the month of April, Skagit Valley tulip farms put their crops on display for thousands of people from around the world. My best gal pal and I took a three-day trip to check out this fabulous flower festival. The tulips did not disappoint. There were miles of fields filled with vibrant colors, as well as elaborate displays and collections of diverse tulip breeds. The valley’s tulip fields are definitely a sight to behold.
You can visit a couple farms with very inexpensive admission, usually under $10, to marvel at artful arrangements, purchase bulbs of breeds on display and more. However, expect to pay a pretty penny for everything else. It’s a huge festival, so pricey tchotchkes and souvenirs are all over the place. Local artists also show off their tulip-themed wares, so there’s a variety of things to check out along with the flowers.
One of the benefits of a large festival at the center of an agricultural community means local farms in the area take advantage of wandering tourists by offering homegrown foods and baked goods. My friend and I had arguably the best mixed-berry pie in our lives at one of these little farms (we liked it so much we ate pie there every day, also taking a full one home to share). We also had locally made cheese and bought growlers of Skagit River Brewery cranberry cider. Keep in mind that the festival takes place over sprawling farm land, but if you’re like me, some meandering away from the throngs of tourists is a welcome change of pace. If you’re willing to drive around some beautiful countryside for a while, you’re likely to find lots of roadside stands offering tasty foods and goods.
You can also buy tulips essentially anywhere in the area, as well as put in orders for flower bulbs to be delivered at the optimal planting time. On our way out of town, we bought bouquets for our mums from a small roadside stand pedaling petals for significantly less than the bolstered tourist prices. I also ordered flower bulbs for my aunts that were delivered right on time for fall planting. For visitors outside the U.S. and Canada, the flowers can only be enjoyed in person or in photos, due to customs regulations. You can visit tulips.com for more info regarding the transportation of fresh cut flowers and bulbs, along with planting tips.
The tulip festival is fun for all ages and people from all walks of life. But as with many things (in my opinion), people can ruin it. Though we expected crowds, we weren’t expecting the complete lack of civility that accompanied them. My bestie and I visited near the end of April, when both the festivities and flowers dwindle. This did not deter festival patrons in the slightest. The tulips are fragile, and there are signs everywhere instructing people to stay out of the rows. That didn’t stop sightseers from wandering out in the fields for selfies or letting their children run amok. There were even farm employees monitoring the crowds and herding them out of the fields, to no avail. The flowers were beautiful, but the pervasive mob behavior soured much of the experience for us. If you go, be prepared to deal with crowds and be respectful of all the farms’ efforts to keep their crops intact so that everyone can enjoy the tides of tulips.
Sam Coulter is a neurotic traveler and creative who likes exploring the bizarre and surreal aspects of cultures near and far. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.