It's time for tulips in Skagit Valley

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival officially starts tomorrow and continues through April 30 with the disclaimer "bloom dates according to Mother Nature." Being unpredictable is part of Mother Nature's considerable charm, and with the mild winter this year, the tulip fields didn't wait for the festival and are already in bloom. Early-bird visitors last weekend were treated to daffodil fields in full bloom with at least some tulips in bloom at all fields.
To see the tulips at their peak, plan your visit during the next few weeks. An online bloom map is updated regularly, or call the festival office for the latest updates.

To drive down public roads and look at colorful tulip fields costs nothing, but stopping and parking is regulated during tulip time; locals earn a few dollars charging for parking in their fields or yards.
Beyond the fields where bulbs are cultivated for harvest, show gardens are also a lure. Roozengaarde and Tulip Town are the two largest venues, both offering gift shops, cut flowers and early ordering of bulbs for your own garden. Tulip Town's fields feature 60 varieties of tulips and a windmill, built using the blueprints of a windmill in the Dutch hometown of Tulip Town owner Tom De Goede's family. Tulip Town is open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily in April at 15002 Bradshaw Road, Mount Vernon; admission is $4, free for ages 16 and younger. For more information, call 360-424-8152 or see .

Roozengaarde's 3-acre show garden is planted with more than 200,000 spring-flowering bulbs in colorful displays. The garden, at 15867 Beaver Marsh Road, Mount Vernon, is open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily in April, with admission of $2. For more information, call 360-424-0419 or see .

A variety of farm activities, art events and other attractions in Mount Vernon, La Conner and the surrounding area continue through April, no matter what the blooms or the weather. The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival office at 100 E. Montgomery St., Mount Vernon, is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily through April, with festival brochures full of information to plan your visit. The brochures are available during office hours, or at the Mount Vernon Visitor Center next door on evenings and weekends. For more information, call the festival office at 360-428-5959 or see .

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