Why not celebrate spring by going to the kind of festival that could be one of the most naturally colorful and enchanting of your life? We’re talking about the kind where you can rejoice in the full intensity of spring’s beauty and re-energize yourself in its radiant ribbons of floral color. We’re talking of course about going to a tulip festival, there to gambol knee-deep in heady rows of crimson, yellow, purple, orange, pink, and white tulips. Supplant (wink) those lingering winter doldrums with tulip mania!
In the Northern Hemisphere, armies of tulips are about to emerge from their dark, sleepy, frostbitten foxholes to reclaim large swaths of the world from winter’s grey grip with their massive, dazzling blooms.
With their elegant, spear-like shape and flaming flowers that come in a rainbow of colors, they are well-suited to this ever-recurring battle against winter. And you can enjoy all of the multi-hued, soul-stirring drama, plus a myriad of related activities, at any one of the following three tulip festivals in the United States.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest – Kickin’ Up Big Color in Dutch Clogs. Dates: March 23 – April 30
Each year the Iverson family hosts this charming tulip festival on their Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, which is located in Woodburn, Oregon. It’s their way of inviting people to “…enjoy all things that make spring in the northwest.”
“Bring your family (including the dog!) and enjoy 40 acres of tulips.” the Iversons say.”
Yep, you read that right – 40 acres of tulips! That’s a huge tulip party, especially when you consider that an acre is about the size of an NFL football field!
Beauty That Carries You Away
Clearly, the stunning tulip bloom on the Iverson farm is an important part of what makes spring in the Northwestern United States. Just put yourself in a pair of their Dutch clogs for a moment. Imagine you’re standing there, probably in cold mud, in the midst of 40 acres of blazing tulips.
Wherever you turn, you’re entranced by the brilliant bloom; you’re drunk on the crisp Woodburn air, honeyed as it is with the scent of tulips.
Fortunately, you can hang onto the sight of a nearby windmill, which anchors the dizzying, color-crazed landscape. And in the background, Mt. Hood sits big like Buddha, serene and reserved beyond the resplendent scene.
There are times in your travels when you happen upon a place where you just have to say “This is one of the loveliest areas on the planet.” It’s so beautiful that families return year after year.
Plenty of Activities to Fill Your Day
While taking in the tulips will be the highlight of your day, the Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest offers a variety of other activities as well. You can:
► Picnic in Wooden Shoe Gardens, which has plenty of flowers but no tulips.
► Sample their wine in the Wooden Shoe Vineyards tasting room.
► Take tram and hay wagon rides.
► Set your kids free in the play area.
► Pony up for pony rides for your kids (weekends only).
► See the wooden shoes being made (weekends only).
► Hop on the cow train.
► Shop for gifts.
► Float away in a hot air balloon.
See the list of admission prices on the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm website. Activities often have separate fees. Also, check their latest field report for the status of the bloom before you go.
Skagit Valley Tulip Festival – Bountiful Pacific Northwest Beauty. Dates: April 1 – 30
The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in the State of Washington has got to be on every tulip lover’s radar.
Like a lot of good things, it began as a kind of grass roots movement (wink).
Some time ago, a bunch of people started making pilgrimages each spring to the private working farms in Skagit Valley to see the spectacular blooms of daffodils and tulips. Noticing this, the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce decided to add entertainment and activities around the time of the tulip bloom, which were formalized as a tulip festival in 1984. Today, more than 300,000 people go to the farms and festival activities, bringing an estimated $65 million in revenue to Skagit County. 2018 marks the 35th anniversary of the festival.
The Tulip Farms
To get your fill of tulips and then some, there are two farms that you must visit. Go to Tulip Town, which is a farm owned by Tom De Goede, to view the display gardens. And also visit the big tulip garden at RoozenGaarde, which is owned by the Washington Bulb Company, the largest tulip bulb grower in the United States.
The display gardens at Tulip Town include: the Veterans Memorial Garden, the Tulip Summit Society Garden, which celebrates the tulip as the world’s peace flower, and the Windmill and Waterwheel Gardens. Tulip Town also hosts an indoor tulip show. After strolling the gardens, take a trolley ride through their nearby tulip fields. (Unfortunately, they don’t allow you to walk through the fields here.)
The RoozenGaarde display garden is huge, covering about 5 acres of farmland with the blooms of nearly a ½ million hand-planted tulip bulbs.
It boasts 150 varieties of tulips laid out in intricate designs, and you can wander among them along paths. It’s a garden fit for royalty. This farm also offers a 25-acre tulip field and a 22-acre daffodil field nearby its garden. (The daffodils bloom in March, before the tulips, but if you’re lucky you might catch a bit of bloom overlap.)
After taking in the garden, you can walk into the nearby fields; or, you can drive out to their many other fields in the valley. RoozenGaarde has about 1,000 acres of blooms in the valley, most of which are tulips. (The tulips are harvested twice each year: once in the spring for their flowers and then again in the fall for their bulbs.) Before driving out to the fields though, consult their bloom map, which indicates each field that’s in bloom with a colored tulip.
Events in the Valley
The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival organization schedules and coordinates a number of events and activities throughout the valley in April to celebrate the bloom. Many of them occur in the city of Mount Vernon where the festival organization also maintains its office, but others occur in Anacortes, Burlington, and La Conner. It’s all a bit decentralized. There is a tulip run, a quilt walk, a tulip charm fairy party, concerts, a wine tasting, arts and crafts, and a children’s art table. Popular ones include:
► The Kiwanis Salmon Barbecue.
► The Anacortes Quilt Walk.
► The Skagit Farm to Pint Festival.
► The Pickle Barn Art Show.
Consult the festival’s online brochure for the full event schedule.
Tulip Time Festival – A City Celebrates Its Dutch Heritage. Dates: May 5 – 13
The origin of the Tulip Time Festival in Holland, Michigan goes back as far as 1929 when the Dutch settlers of this city planted the first crop of about 100.000 tulip bulbs, which they brought from their native Netherlands. Currently in its 89th year, the festival, which spreads throughout this picturesque city on Lake Macatawa, has been named “America’s Best Small Town Festival” by Reader’s Digest.
6 Million Tulips Pop Up All Over the City
6 million tulips! That’s one big bloom! You’ll find tulips popping up in fields, parks, household gardens, and in tulip lanes along as many as six miles of Holland’s streets. Here’s a list of some of the most popular viewing spots in the area:
Nelis’ Dutch Village
This replica of a Netherlands village is run by the third generation of the Nelis’ family. You can stroll among its buildings of authentic Dutch architecture, canals, and splendid gardens. There’s shopping, dining, and many activities for children such as a petting zoo. About 25,000 tulip bulbs bloom here each spring. You’ll want to visit on a day when their park is open. See the price of admission on their website.
Window on the Waterfront
This is a peaceful, multi-use, 30-acre Municipal Park on the south edge of the Macatawa marsh that contributes about 100,000 tulips to Holland’s massive bloom. And you can tiptoe through them down to the paved pathway along the marsh where you can spot waterfowl. From here, you can also see the DeZwaan windmill, which is on Windmill Island Gardens, and take pictures through a window frame. Entry is free.
Veldheer’s Tulip Gardens
This is Holland’s only tulip farm perennial garden. It boasts about five million tulips and has many other flowers as well. Veldheer’s also breeds Bison and sells Bison meat. Delftware and Dutch clogs are also on sale. See the price of admission on their website.
Windmill Island Gardens
Visiting this island during Tulip Time gives you the feeling that you’re in the Netherlands. There’s a working windmill, organ, and a carousel here, all of which were transplanted from the Netherlands. The windmill is called DeZwaan (the swan), and you can take a guided tour of it. From the windmill’s balcony, you can look out over the beautiful gardens, fields of tulips, pretty little bridges and canals. About 100,000 tulips bloom here. See the price of admission on their website.
Events around the City
At Tulip Time, a whole host of activities go on all over the Holland in celebration of its Dutch heritage. There are concerts, carnivals, Dutch dancing, parades, art exhibits, tulip tours and painting parties, Dutch food, artisan markets, and much more. See the schedule of events for all of the details. You can also monitor the tulip bloom with the tulip tracker.
Some Other Places to Take in the Tulips
There are several other tulip festivals in the U.S. You might also consider visiting the Dallas Blooms Tulip Show at the Dallas Arboretum in Dallas, Texas which is going on now and runs until April 8, and also the Albany Tulip Festival in Albany, New York, which occurs May 12 and 13.
Tips for Attending a Tulip Festival
Here’s some of our sage (wink) advice for seeing a tulip festival:
Beat the Crowds: Visit on a weekday. Keep in mind though that while the viewing will be more peaceful, you will not be able to do certain activities that are only offered on weekends.
Sleep on It: Stay in a hotel for at least one night near the festival of your choice. This will give you a good chance to get into the fields early in the morning, an optimal time for viewing the lovely bloom.
Nature Calls the Bloom: Farmers manage the tulip farms; festival organizations determine the entertainment; but, only nature decides when the tulips will bloom. Generally speaking, tulips reach peak bloom in mid-April in some parts of North American and in early May in other parts.
Use the tulip tracking services of the festivals, or call them to keep on top of the bloom. If you miss the peak though, it’s not the end of the world as these festivals are packed with fun activities and are located in beautiful areas of the country where there are many other ways to get your fill of nature. So remember to include other nature outings in your plans.
Don’t Get Stuck in the Muck: Wear casual clothing and a good pair of boots. The fields and farms you’ll be visiting can be quite muddy.
What’s your favorite festival for bringing in spring? Let us know in the comments below.[Feature photo credit: Field of Dreams. A Hot Air Balloon Sails Over a Tulip Field at Wooden Shoe / Photo by Kirt Edblom via Flickr. Creative Commons License 2.0]