The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, held each year from April 1-30, is one of the top events in Washington State. Each spring thousands of visitors enjoy the celebration as millions of tulips burst into bloom. The tulips help to showcase Skagit Valley agriculture.

Skagit Valley

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival was officially inaugurated in 1984 by the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce. Chamber directors saw that people were coming to view the tulips and decided to add events and festivities to enhance their trip. Today the festival has an assortment of events, including art shows, concerts, tours of local shellfish and cheese operations, and an open house at PACCAR Technical Center. Among the activities:

* Master Gardener Step-on Guides: Step up your group tour itinerary and learn about Skagit Valley history and agriculture with a WSU Skagit County Master Gardener as your guide. (MGTulipTours@aol.com)

Skagit Valley

* Orcas Island Eclipse: Naturalist-guided, fast and comfortable 56-foot vessel Orcas Express visits 172 islands abounding with whales and wildlife; also lighthouse tours. (orcasislandwhales.com)

* PACCAR Open House in Mount Vernon: See trucks and how they are tested. The 242-acre site provides test and development for all PACCAR divisions, including Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF trucks. The tour highlights test labs and trucks manufactured by PACCAR. (paccar.com)

* Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve: Padilla Bay, the only National Estuarine Research Reserve in Washington State. Breazeale Interpretive Center features new saltwater aquaria, interactive exhibits, gift shop, trails, bird-watching tips and a Heron-cam. (padillabay.gov)

Skagit Valley

Groups wanting to head straight out to the tulip area should take the Highway 20 exit (#230) off of I-5, then go west to Best and McLean roads. Head east on McLean and from McLean you can access Tulip Town on Bradshaw Road or RoozenGaarde on Beaver Marsh Road. Both gardens have tulip festival brochures available and people who can help you with additional directions. (tulipfestival.org)

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