Toddler Palooza at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
You would think a preschool group had just invaded the parking lot. Kids were pouring out of cars all in a row. They gathered together, laughing and throwing rocks. Adults were herding the stragglers from behind. A rope was brought out and the kids lined up…sort of. In a strange square line they headed through the parking lot to the entrance.
Well this was not a preschool group. This was 3 of my girlfriends and our seven kids. Yes, seven. The oldest was almost 5, most were under 3 and there was even a 10 month old in the bunch. Plus, yours truly, the 9 month pregnant lady; it would turn out to be quite an adventure.
We were all out for one purpose, to see the tulips in bloom before this baby came out. It was the last thing on my spring outings list. I couldn’t miss it. Every other year we were either out of town, too busy or just not brave enough to tackle the crowds. This year I would head up on a weekday, in the morning, before the hundreds of families descended over the weekend. It was the first truly glorious week of tulip viewing. I was not going to miss this.
My friend Nic picked me up so I wouldn’t have to drive by myself, a smart idea since I was less than 3 weeks from my due date. After much wrangling we got 2 toddler car seats and a booster seat in her back seat. Dek was his usual terrible self in the car, while Nic’s kids, El and Lee, were angels for the hour drive up. Everyone enjoyed a snack and we were gazing across brilliant yellow fields of daffodils in no time.
We met up with our friend Jen and her kids Lily and Will at RoozenGaarde, one of the many tulip growers in the area that boasted a spectacular display garden. My friend Dena, who had driven up earlier that morning, was headed over with her two boys, Si and Ez, after checking out Tulip Town. As soon as Dena walked into RoozenGaarde she declared it was so much better than Tulip Town. Besides a small tractor ride through the fields, Tulip Town didn’t have much else to offer. I’ll have to take her word on this since we never made it over.
The kids dropped the rope we had been towing them on through the parking lot as soon as we got in the gardens. They spotted a tulip maze and ran straight for it. Toddler games ensued while the moms said hi and caught up with each other. Grandparents and other families with small children milled about, some joining in our kids fun, while others herded their children through the displays. We were in no hurry. We were busy enjoying the heavenly scent of fresh flowers and just basking in the colors lit up by the brilliant sun that had finally graced the Pacific Northwest with its presence.
After a game of tag with Nic, a tractor sighting and averting a few trampled flower disasters, we made our way around the display garden. The kids yelled out colors as they saw them and we talked about which was the prettiest. Heck, maybe we were our very own preschool group after all.
We made it through most of the display garden before the kids started to get rammy and anxious for food. Nic and Jen headed to the food stands to grab hot dogs and hamburgers for the kids. The prices were steep ($7.50 for a plain hamburger?) but Nic declared the food much better than she anticipated. I was grateful I had packed peanut butter sandwiches for me and Dek. I didn’t feel guilty at all splurging on a little homemade fudge. I tried to make my two chunks of Island Style and Mint Chocolate last, but it didn’t make it more than 24 hours in my house. I choose to believe Mike snuck a large bite at some point that evening.
With bellies full we headed into the tulip fields. Mud was everywhere. The ground was like clay, slightly springy and definitely squishy. Everyone had their rain boots on, parents included. We didn’t care if the kids ran through the puddles. We figured the boots would take most of the beating. We didn’t anticipate El and Lily taking a spill. El was soaked almost immediately after entering the fields. Lily at least waited to take a fall when we were heading back to the cars.
The growers request that you not walk between the rows of flowers but we were able to walk around the larger paths checking out what was in bloom. Not much had popped open yet, but the daffodils were in full bloom farther out in the field. One huge section of red tulips was in bloom creating a dazzling display of color across the landscape. Throw in the bright blue sky, a few puffy white clouds and some lingering snow on the mountains in the distance and I’m not sure we could have come across a more picturesque setting.
Our mini-preschool excursion had been a great success. Sure there was some chaos with that many kids, but everyone left happy. What was more exciting was that the moms had a great time too. I am always looking for activities we can do that both adults and toddlers can get something out of and this definitely proved to be a winner. Most important, I had a great spring adventure with Dek before we add another little one to our family. Now we will just sit tight and wait for our next adventure, but this time with 2 kids in tow.
Know Before You Go
- RoozenGaarde, 15867 Beaver Marsh Road, Mt. Vernon, Washington
- Hours: Monday-Saturday 9am to 6pm, Sundays 11am to 4pm
- $5 entrance fee for adults, kids 10 and under are free
- Free parking across the street
- Check out the Bloom map to see which fields are in bloom before your arrival
- Tulips and bulbs are available to purchase on sight
- Food is available on sight, but prices are high. You can bring a picnic into the garden with you. Bring a little money so you can splurge on a treat. The Island Style fudge and funnel cake should not be missed.
- Pack sunscreen. Even though it is spring the sun can still get you.
- Portable restrooms are available throughout the garden and in the parking lot. They are surprisingly nice.