Having gotten its start in 1962, the Anacortes Arts Festival is one of the longest running community arts festivals in the Pacific Northwest. It has taken several different forms over the years, but today is a typical street format where the main road into downtown (Commercial Street) is closed off, and covered with booths selling the products of local and regional artists. As this festival has become very well known, there are some very good works here. They range from the practical to the bizarre. There is also live music.
The information booth is usually at the center of the event. Note that Photo 2 is a map of the 2013 event.
The festival is fairly long in distance, so it takes a while to see everything. Leave enough time! - depending on how much time you usually spend at this type of thing.
Be sure to take a look at the map that is available at several of the entrance roads, that will show you where everything is.
There is a juried art show at the far north end. This is located in one of the Port of Anacortes buildings. No matter who you are, there will be things here that you don't like, but the variety is so extensive that chances are very good there will also be something you do like.
There are actually several communities surrounding the area where the big tulip festival happens every April. Anacortes is the city on the sign at the most logical Interstate 5 interchange, but the event takes place about halfway between Interstate 5 and Anacortes, and mostly on farms south of this highway between Interstate 5 and Anacortes.
The tulip festival takes place over a large area that is mostly spread westward from Interstate 5 and south of Highway 20. It is possible to take any of several exits from Interstate 5, but on high traffic days it is usually best to take highway 20 west to some extent, then go south. This avoids the congestion of the lower capacity highway interchanges.
Due to the large number of events and locations over which this festival is spread, it is not possible to give specific directions. Also, there are a number of events (both flower and non-flower related) that go along with this festival, including a parade, helicopter tours, and boat tours of nearby locations.
You will want to arrive early in the day, as traffic can be a pain during the peak season on weekends from mid-morning onward (see photo 4).
Visiting the Tulip Farms: You pay to park ($4 for the 2010 event), and do not pay a per-person entry fee. This fee gives you a ticket, where you can drive from one farm to another and visit several for one fee. (See photo 2 for an example of an official location sign). The "Display Garden" farms are locations where there is an entrance fee as they are more of an attraction in and of themselves rather than being a simple tulip farm.
There are sometmes nearby farms that do not have tulips and offer unofficial parking for a lesser fee than the standard fee (see photo 3 for an example of an unofficial parking sign), but there are two problems with these: 1. It is sometimes difficult to get to the nearby tulip farm due to heavy traffic on the narrow road between where you park and the actual tulip farm. (see photo 4 and photo 5 for a typical example of why you would not want to walk on these roads) 2. This does not give you an official ticket to get into other farms.
I suggest visiting a tulip farm that is close enogh to other tulip farms that you can walk through the field to an ajoining farm, without having to cross any roads. You will have to check the map carefully to decide where you want to start, but for the 2010 show we found that the set of farms surrounded by McLean Road (north side), Bradshaw Road (east side), Best Road (west side) and Calhoun Road (south side) worked quite well for this. We started at Christianson's Nursery on Best Road and simply followed the color from there.
Parking is NOT Allowed on the narrow rural roads here. The roads are narrow, and if you attempt to park along the roads you will be presenting a hazard to bike traffic, and also somewhat obstructing road traffic. This is why parking is not allowed on the side of most of these roads, and if you do you will probably find yourself getting a gift from the local sheriff's office.
You will find that a number of people bring their bikes, and bike between tulip farms rather than walk or drive.
Exceptions: The tulip show gardens (not farm fields) do charge a per person fee, as they are not considered "tulip farms" but an event location.
You should consider bringing shoes that are good in the mud, or at least you don't mind getting wet or muddy, as the tractor trails through the fields do tend to have some mud, even if it hasn't rained for a day or two (dry weather does not happen in this part of Washington during April!).
Other Events: You will find art shows, helicopter tours, and many other things. See the web site for the tulip festival for specific details.
NOTE: There is a map of the event on the web site (below), but if you do some searching you will also find a "Complete Event Brochure". If you are unfamiliar with the event, it is best to get your hands on the full, multi-page complete brochure, as it gives much more information than the rest of the web site. The complete brochure includes the map.
Even if the big festival isn't going on, if you visit in April it might be worth a trip up to the Skagit Valley to see what display gardens and other locations are open to the public outside the true festival, using the Tulip Festival Map on the web site as a guide. However, some places will be closed to the public.
In order to add photos to this tip, you will find that I have A Travelogue with some additional photos of a visit to the tulip festival from April 10, 2010.
If you come out to Anacortes, a visit to Deception Pass State Park is highly recommended. It has its own set of entries in the VirtualTourist database, so see the link below for more information.
The scenery there is wonderful, though it can be a bit crowded on good weather days.
There is camping, hiking, beaches, and a number of other activities there, and many people just stop at the Deception Pass Bridges of Highway 20 to take photos.
You may see my Deception Pass State Park Page (along with a few photos and tips) or visit VT's Deception Pass State Park section:
The VirtualTourist URL is:
The web site below is for the state of Washington state parks web site.
Some cities have monthly or annual art walks. Anacortes is more specific: every April, at the time of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, there is also an Anacortes Quilt Walk.
Various institutions in downtown Anacortes participate in exhibiting quilts on the walls of their restaurants or stores.
The various quilters that produce these works of art are members of the Fidalgo Island Quilters, whose web site is listed below.
Constructed in 1929, the W. T. Preston was placed into service by the Seattle District of the US Army Corps of Engineers to remove navigation hazards from the shallow waters of Puget Sound. In 1981, the boat was determined to not be needed any more, due to the changing needs of navigation around Puget Sound, and was retired. It was the last of the original stern-wheelers to operate on Puget Sound.
Anacortes put forth a plan to operate the boat as a museum, and this proposal resulted in the W. T. Preston being moved to Anacortes and placed on land as a museum and display.
Admission is $3, or $2 for seniors and $1 for youth. Children under 8 are free.
Here is the obligatory tulip field tip. The Skagit Valley produces more tulips than anywhere in the world, including the Netherlands (at least that's the claim). The Skagit valley is one of the more fertile places and grows pretty much everything, from flowers to veggies to trees. In addition to the tulips fields, the daffodils come into bloom right before the tulips.
Roozen Gaarde is one of the main producers and they have a great catalog in which you can purchase the bulbs. They'll ship anywhere in the world and I've bought from them whenever I buy bulbs.
It is very nice to walk in the main street of Anacortes.
Many buildings have been decorated with paitings representing early Anacortes residents.
You will enjoy the antiques shops and the numerous bokshops !
If you don't have access to a boat, then it's not quite as good, but even just the ferry ride is worth it. But don't take a car, just go on foot, and if you want to get off and wander around, wait until you get to Friday Harbor, that has the most going on
Rent a kayak and take in the area by boat. The Deception Pass area (though not the pass itself), Burrows Island, and Guemes Island are excellent.
This is the way to see the Northwest -- either from the water or from a mountain
If you can in the summer, get up before sunrise. There are several spots that are great to watch the sun come up over the cascades and the water. Nothing beats the summer in the area.
Fun, and if you want to go visit our friends in canada, this is the only way to go! You have to make reservations, so make sure to do that
So many antiques shops and bookstore for such a small city !
Walk along Main Street in the City Center...
Climb Mt. Erie, either by hiking or rock climbing. Great views! Bonus points for going up during a full moon and howling at it.