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Tulip time
Skagit flower fields come alive with color
Nothing will get you in the mood for spring  1faster than the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. Skagit Valley is in Northwest Washington, about an hour north of Seattle and this region comes alive each spring with the vibrant colors of tulips and daffodils – and more than a million people will stop by to take it all in.

Officially the festival gets under way on April 1, but Mother Nature has a say in the matter. It’s possible that tulips will bloom even sooner. Visitors come for the day or turn this adventure into a weekend stay in places like nearby La Conner, a charming waterfront village close to the tulip fields and a popular tourist attraction in its own right.

Flower-viewing begins with yellow daffodils in mid- to late-March and is followed by the tulips in April.

The tourists bloom in April although the busiest weeks can vary because the best colors are dependent on Mother Nature. Throughout the month of April there are street fairs, art shows, a salmon barbecue, tastings at local wineries and breweries and sporting events.

The festival is designed as a driving tour for the visitor as there is no one "site" that you go to for your visit. The fields of tulips are scattered throughout the Skagit Valley.

When you drive up for the festival, you’ll be amazed at the beauty of the tulip fields, which are the crops of two longtime local growers, RoozenGaarde and Tulip Town. The fields are different each year due to crop rotation. Both RoozenGaarde and Tulip Town also have displays of tulips in gardens for visitors to view and photograph.

The festival has been held for decades and, in recent years, there have been visitors from all 50 states and 85 foreign countries.

They come up for a day, or if they’re coming from farther away they find great accommodations in La Conner, Mt. Vernon and other area cities. La Conner, one of the most scenic towns in Washington, is a popular getaway throughout the year. It’s a tiny enclave built along the Swinomish.

The channel gives La Conner much of its color and atmosphere, a distinct seaside ambiance that comes from watching the fishing boats and pleasure craft navigating the channel toward Anacortes. The Rainbow Bridge is the Golden Gate of La Conner, standing like a sentinel over the town and a must-inclusion in any respectable photograph of the city.

La Conner also is a good base of operations for seeing nearby attractions. For example, about 15 miles to the west is Deception Pass State Park, which has a considerable amount of shoreline.

Just to the southeast of La Conner is the 13,000-acre Skagit Wildlife Area, where visitors can view 180 species of birds. This natural habitat also is quite scenic.

Larrabee State Park, in the Bellingham area, is an easy drive north from La Conner and features 2,683 acres with a scenic saltwater shoreline on Samish Bay.

For more information on the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, go to www.tulipfestival.org or phone 360-428-5959.
PHOTOS: Roozengarde features a Tulip Garden that is on display for visitors
RECOMMENDED LODGING: La Conner Lodging
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