Planning a trip to Seattle? If your vacation coincides with any of Seattle’s annual events and festivals, be sure to check them out. Taking part in one of our favorite events will make your trip to Seattle extra special.
Here are our top Seattle events, organized by month, that you won’t want to miss!
March – UW Cherry Blossoms
In March, the cherry blossoms bloom on the main quad at the University of Washington. Peak bloom is typically in midMarch, but the trees are beautiful for a week or so before and after. Check the UW website for details about the bloom status. It gets very crowded, but the people watching is fun and the trees are stunning.
April – Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
During the month of April, the tulip fields in the Skagit Valley – about 65 miles north of Seattle, not far off of I-5 – light up in beautiful colors and you’ll fool your friends into thinking you took a trip to the Netherlands. For those visiting during the right time of year, the Tulip Festival makes our short list of “can’t miss” itinerary items.
The official dates of the festival are April 1-April 30, but peak bloom varies depending on the weather. If the tulips are a bit late one year, there are fields of daffodils that precede the tulip bloom. Although traffic can be considerable on peak weekends, it’s worth the trip – and Waze or Google Maps can help you navigate around the worst of it.
There are two companies that operate the fields – Roozengaarde and Tulip Town. Each charges about $7 per person and children under 5 are free. If you only want to pay once, we recommend going to Roozengaarde. They plant single colored fields and you’ll come across several of them in your drive. At the main sight, they have a beautiful display garden showing many varieties of tulips and other flowers. It’s also a good place for lunch since they have a large barbeque and sell a variety of snacks. We suggest allowing at least two hours for your visit.
If you’re up for it, include Tulip Town on your visit as well! They plant their fields with stripes of different colors. In addition, they offer a tractor ride and have both indoor and outdoor display gardens. You can also buy food at Tulip Town, but we prefer the offerings at Roozengaarde.
Don’t let rain or drizzle dissuade you from making the trip! The rain usually comes and goes and the weather could be different there than in Seattle. Regardless of weather, we recommend wearing rain boots or waterproof shoes as the fields are often muddy. Also, make sure you have plenty of space on your memory card – you’ll have a hard time putting your camera down!
Have a large group? Consider chartering a bus or van. You’ll be able to relax on the drive and avoid the hassle of parking. We recommend A&A Limo (see Directory of Vendors for contact information).
Side Trips from the Tulip Festival
There are several places you might enjoy visiting during your trip to the tulip festival.
La Conner is a small town located 10-15 minutes from Roozengaarde and Tulip Town. It’s a nice place to take a stroll, browse small shops and galleries, or have lunch along the water.
If you like oysters and shellfish, then a visit to Taylor Shellfish’s Samish Farm Market will be a worthwhile detour. The market is located about 15 miles north of the tulip fields. Purchase your shellfish and enjoy your oysters on the half shell or barbeque them on the grills outside. This is not a restaurant, but a rustic shop and picnic area overlooking the Samish Bay. They sell beer and wine, but bring your own soft drinks and picnic gear (though they will lend you a knife to open oysters). Their website notes: “Show up early, tables are first come, first serve and fill up fast on the weekends! Carpool if you can, parking is very limited! Please no outside food or alcohol, tents or gas grills.” The address is 2182 Chuckanut Dr., Bow, Washington. It will take about 25 minutes to drive to or from the tulip fields.
For our family, no visit to the tulip fields is complete without a trip to Snow Goose Produce for one of their ENORMOUS ice cream cones. Take our word for it – do not order a double scoop!
Those cones you see people carrying around are single size. The line can get very long, so be prepared to wait – or just stop on your way to the tulip fields and make it your lunch. We’d be lying if we told you we hadn’t done that once ourselves! In addition to ice cream, they sell a variety of fresh produce and plants. Bring cash for ice cream as credit cards are accepted only via a convoluted process that requires an additional purchase at the farm stand.
May – Opening Day of Boating
On the first Saturday of May, Seattle marks the opening day of the boating season with a big celebration at the Seattle Yacht Club that includes crew races and a parade of boats through the Montlake Cut. Pack a picnic, make your way through the Arboretum, and watch boats of all shapes and sizes (including police and fire boats) make their way through “the cut.”
May – Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF)
The Seattle International Film Festival takes place from mid-May through midJune. It is the largest and most highly-attended film festival in the U.S., screening more than 400 films from 80 countries and hosting about 155,000 attendees.
June – Fremont Solstice Fair
This quirky festival, the Fremont Solstice Fair, is timed to coincide with the longest day of the year (or whatever weekend is closest thereto). The highlight of the mid-to-late June event is the famed “Fremont Solstice Parade,” which is unofficially kicked off by hundreds of nude cyclists sporting creative body paint.
The fair also includes a large craft market, food and music. The neighborhood gets crowded, but if you’re in town, it’s worth a visit to this “only in Seattle” event.
July – July 4th and Seafair
While Seafair technically runs from mid-June through midAugust, the signature events (and what people commonly think of as “Seafair”) are scheduled in the last few days of July and first few days of August (varies by year).
These events include a torchlight parade, hydroplane racing on Lake Washington and an air show highlighted by the famous Blue Angles of the U.S. Navy. For days leading up to their official performance, you can see (and certainly hear!) the Blue Angels practicing all around the city. We’ve enjoyed amazing views from our decks in the past as the planes circle above our home in formation.
Seattle’s July 4th celebration is also considered part of Seafair. Fireworks are set off over Lake Union, with prime viewing spots located at Gas Works Park, as well as numerous sites around the lake. If you’re staying with us for July 4, we will provide an information sheet with our preferred viewing spots.
September – Bumbershoot
Taking place for nearly 50 years, Bumbershoot is a three-day festival over Labor Day Weekend. The festival is held on the grounds of Seattle Center and includes live music, comedy, theater, film, visual arts, dance performance, and more.
There are a variety of activities that take place during the holiday season in Seattle. Here are a few you might want to check out, particularly if you are visiting with children.
- Macy’s Holiday Parade. Taking place the day after Thanksgiving in downtown Seattle, the parade includes inflatable floats, local middle and high school marching bands, and more than 600 costumed characters, professional sports teams and community drill teams.
- Wildlights at the Woodland Park Zoo. From the day after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, more than 600,000 LED lights recreate wild animals and wild places in two and three dimensions along the zoo’s pathways and North Meadow. Purchase tickets online in advance to avoid lines.
- Christmas Ships. The Christmas Ships sail to different Puget Sound waterfront sites during the holiday season. The lead boat is run by Argosy Cruises and tickets can be purchased online. You can also experience the festivities from various points along the shore where you will hear a 20-minute performance of Christmas classics performed by local choirs.
- Bellevue’s Snowflake Lane. Nightly at 7p.m. from Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, the Bellevue Collection shopping mall hosts Snowflake Lane – a family-friendly performance of live toy soldier drummers, costumed characters, dancers, music, glittering lights and falling snow! The show takes place every night along Bellevue Way, between NE 8th Street and NE 4th Street. Be prepared for some traffic and a slow exit from the parking garages, but we always enjoy the show.
- New Year’s Eve. Seattle’s New Year’s Eve celebration takes place in Seattle Center, with fireworks blasting off from the Space Needle at midnight.