“Dekha Eik Khawab To Ye Silsilay Hoay,
Door Tak Nigahon Mein Hain Gul Khilay Hoay”
This happened because I saw a dream,
Flowers flow infront of me like an endless stream.
These famous verses from the movie “Silsila“, are engraved in the mind of any 80s child exposed to Bollywood. The young handsome Amitabh Bachchan walking through a field of tulips towards the beautiful dusky Rekha, who clutches her flowing dupatta with one hand and her hair with the other, as the song plays on . Now this image might have inspired some to wish for a spouse as tall as Amitabh or a lover as desirable as Rekha, but it planted in me a desire to see those endless fields of tulips someday (and maybe run through them dupatta/hair flowing and all, but that’s for later!).
It’s generally believed that the song from “Silsila” was shot in Holland during the famous dutch tulip festival but there are many tulip fields around the world. Back in May 2001 I was visiting London with my parents and we were told that if we took a ferry to Amsterdam we would be really lucky to catch the annual tulip festival in Holland. We decided not to make the trip but I didn’t realize till later how lucky we were to be so close at the right time. As I learnt later, the window for tulip festivals is very short and unpredictable because it depends on when the flowers bloom. The sliding window can be anywhere from three to six weeks. The Keukenhof festival is the largest in the world and runs over six weeks. Other festivals are much small and usually run 2 – 3 weeks. The time of bloom varies every year and avid visitors keep a close eye on news coming out of the growers fields to find out when to plan the trip.
I learnt all of this through experience. Last year I came across some beautiful pictures of tulip fields in bloom and was really surprised to realize that they were from the Skagit Valley, an hour away from Seattle and ten hours away from us in Calgary. My brother has lived in Seattle since 2004 but I had never visited him in March/April, the general time when the tulips bloom. I had not met my one and only niece since she was born nine months ago so I was planning a trip to Seattle anyways. I realized that when I visit Seattle to spend quality time with family I could go see the tulip fields too. The universe was aligning to make this happen. I’m a firm believer of experience gifts over material ones and convinced my husband that this trip would be the perfect experience gift for me for this year and a couple more to go. Getting to meet my niece and watch the tulip fields, what else could a girl ask for!
The universe was smiling at me, till I realized that the tulips were already in bloom and I had only two more weeks to visit before they were chopped off. I scrambled to check the availability of all parties involved, plan the trip and book the tickets. We got tickets to fly ten days later. Our probability to view the tulip fields depended on the weather over the next ten days. Hotter weather or a severe storm would mean that the tulip fields would not be there by the time we reached the valley. I checked the weather every single day and said a dozen prayers. And when I finally saw the tulip fields just two days before they were chopped off it was nothing short of a beautiful miracle.
The tulips bloom in Skagit Valley anywhere from mid March to mid April and last three weeks. The two main growers in the area are Tulip Town and Roozengaarde who have their own fields of tulips along with beautifully landscaped display gardens. Both charge a small admission to get in and we were lucky to have time to visit both. We visited towards the end of bloom season so tulips were only available within the grower’s property. I have heard if you go early in the season many tulip fields are available along the roads throughout the valley. By the time we visited they had been chopped off. Please don’t stop your car on the road for photo ops, these fields are only to be enjoyed from the car while driving. If you wish to stop and take pictures, go to Tulip Town or Roozengaarde.
The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival runs in April but might not coincide with bloom days. Their website has a helpful bloom map and dates for many fun events in the Skagit Valley during festival days. We had a lovely time in the Skagit Valley and I would highly recommend visiting the tulips if you’re nearby. Here are some tips for a successful trip:
- Don’t follow the GPS to get to the valley. Instead follow these instructions on the festival website. You will beat the crowd.
- Try going on a weekday to avoid the crowds (and a touristy head in all of your pictures). We went first on friday morning and had an amazing experience. If you have to go on a weekend, either go really early morning or late in the afternoon (sunsets are beautiful). We went with my brother’s family on Saturday close to when the fields were closing and had another crowd-free experience and some memorable family photos. Do check admission timings for Tulip Town and Roozengaarde before you plan your arrival time.
- Although the Skagit Valley is one hour from Seattle and two hours from Vancouver, you can stay overnight in the valley to have a beautiful early morning experience. The festival website has recommendations for local accommodations. Seattle’s Premier Outlet Mall is nearby too and if you have an Alberta ID, you don’t pay tax, so that’s 10% off right away.
- Remember you are visiting a family-run farm. So show respect and be prepared. Wear boots (no heels ladies). Take US cash with you and if you don’t like the idea of porta-potties, keep the water intake down. Yes, there will be no change table for your kids. Be prepared to change diapers in the car. You’re at the farm, it’s all part of the experience.
- If you have the time it’s recommended to visit both Tulip Town and Roozengarde. Tulip Town has beautiful rows and rows of colorful tulips and a tractor ride around the field. It’s also smaller so better suited for kids. Mine really enjoyed the tractor ride. Roozengarde has a more extensive and well-spread display garden. Their fields are huge and go over rolling hills. A beautiful site but be prepared to carry tired kids. We took a carrier for our baby. As the fields are muddy, most prams with smaller wheels will struggle.
- If you miss the bloom in the fields, the display gardens are maintained for longer, so call the two growers and check your luck!
- Both Tulip Town and Roozengarde have some snacks and drinks available, so you will be OK for a light lunch. If you have dietary restrictions, pack your own lunch or buy from the city.
- Don’t step within the rows of tulips to take pictures. I know you have seen pictures of others doing this and you’re tempted also but it’s not allowed. Respect the rules. When we visited on Saturday evening, the tulips were to be topped (chopped) off the next day. It was the end of the day and the last day of bloom. We were given the go ahead by the farm employees to step within the rows for pictures. While we delightfully took the opportunity, now I look at those pictures and wish I hadn’t taken those. Because someone might look at those pictures and without realizing the context try and take a similar shot.
- Take a change of clothes for the kids. Even if the day is sunny, the fields might be wet.
- If you wish to take baby shots infront of the flowers bring a blanket, so that baby can sit on that.
- Make sure your camera is charged and has space. You will be taking lots of pictures.
- But do stop and take in the beauty through your eyes.
- You can take some of the beauty of the valley home with you by ordering the bulbs that will be posted to you in the fall.
It’s April again, a year has passed since our visit to the beautiful Skagit Valley in April 2015 and the Tulips are in bloom again. While I have enjoyed sharing my memories, I hope I can visit again soon. Have you been to the festival or plan to go? Do share your experience.