Leilani is just learning how to walk without holding on to anyone. She toddles down the uneven dirt between the bright, golden daffodils as I cheer her on. We’ve had a big day of walking along Puget Sound, watching Bald Eagles play along the shore, tasting gourmet food at local wineries (I learned Leilani likes Cardamom Shortbread) and now “walking” through vast fields of flowers. Skagit Valley is a beautiful place; we like it here.

My 1 year old daughter and I are visiting the state of Washington. Being famed for its natural beauty, I thought it might be a great place for a family trip, and so far I am right.

We are spending some time in the Skagit Valley at the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival which is every year from April 1st to April 30th and is quite an amazing sight. Bright fields of flowers and gorgeous cloudscapes stretch across the wide valley to the mountains. Spring comes late in the Pacific Northwest, so April is still a bit chilly in Washington. However, by Puget Sound the weather is milder than it is further inland (where it is still snowing). Early spring brings breathtaking blossoms and the wild-life of the area comes out to play.

In Skagit Valley we are staying in the town of La Conner. The drive to La Conner through Skagit Valley is lined with picturesque countryside dotted with bright flower fields, vineyards and apple orchards. La Conner, Washington is just about the cutest little town I’ve ever seen. Located on the Swinomish Channel about one hour north of Seattle, La Conner is a very family-friendly town with cute shops, impressive restaurants, breath-taking wildlife (for those of us not from the Northwest) and is the perfect place to stay for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival every April.

On this visit to La Conner we’re staying at the La Conner Channel Lodge, and I would gladly stay here again. Actually, I would move in permanently if I could. For breakfast they make a supper-yummy and filling home-made granola (just part of the complimentary Continental Breakfast) which is perfect to get the day going. The only waterfront hotel in town, every detail of the lodge is cozy, warm and inviting. The beds are SO comfortable. To be honest, any bed feels good after a long drive, but the Channel Lodge has such lovely linens and the beds just embrace you in such a way that you feel like you’ve returned home. All rooms have fireplaces, and the Channel Lodge makes such good use of space. Every corner of the room, of the hotel actually, is comfortable and utilized with cozy furniture and décor. Our room had a delightful, large Jacuzzi tub that was lots of fun for my daughter but would also be very nice on a romantic getaway. From my balcony, my daughter and I have been watching Bald Eagles dive and congregate on the shore of the Swinomish Channel. These birds are so beautiful and this is the first time I have seen them live, in nature instead of on the Nature Channel.

During the Tulip Festival, Skagit Valley shakes off the winter, welcomes spring and comes alive. Local wineries have tastings and live music, there are art shows and of course, all the flowers. A bit off the beaten path in Mt. Vernon, WA (right by La Conner, WA) is the Carpenter Creek Winery, which has a shockingly affordable selection of good wines, including a delightful Riesling that we had to pick up for my parents, and local gourmet food offerings.

When it is time for dinner, the Nell Thorn Restaurant is not a place to be missed. The atmosphere is quiet and cozy. Although it is not designed for children, the staff is very welcoming to children and of course they have high-chairs. The restaurant and Pub is similar to the Channel Lodge in that not a single detail in décor and food offerings is neglected and nothing is generic. Each detail, like the pink rose and pussy-willow mini-bouquets on each table or the assortment of all-natural hand lotions in the restroom, looks to be hand-selected and unique. The service is warm and personal, like the restaurant and the food. If you want to taste salmon the way it was created to be served, order it at Nell Thorn. The Pan Crisped Oysters are delicious and are the most satisfying, rich yet light, perfectly balanced dish. I am actually salivating while writing this, days later, just thinking of them. According to our server, almost all the seafood is local and about 85% of the produce used at Nell Thorn is Organic.

We’ve had a great time in La Conner and I am already thinking of when I’d like to visit again. When Leilani is older I’d like to take her whale watching and explore the shores of Puget Sound some more. I’d love to get annual pictures of her in the fields of tulips. There are so many quaint, historic little towns between Seattle and Vancouver that when coming to this area it may be hard to decide where to stay, but whether it is in spring for the Tulip Festival, summer for the Arts Festival, Winter for the return of Snow Geese and Trumpeter Swans or Autumn for the Classic Yacht and Car Show, La Conner is a great little town to stay in. Skagit Valley is a fun and interesting place to visit over and over again.

Carpenter Creek Winery
20376 E. Hickox Road
Mount Vernon, WA 98274
(360) 848-6673
www.carpentercreek.com

La Conner Channel Lodge
205 N. First Street
La Conner, WA 98257
(360) 466-1500
www.laconnerlodging.com

Nell Thorn Restaurant
205 Washington Street
La Conner, WA 98258
(360) 446-4261
www.nellthorn.com