"Tulip Mania!" La Conner by Jonathan_C

La Conner Travel Guide: 31 reviews and 209 photos

Our story begins in 1559 ...

It was in that year that the great naturalist Conrad Gesner first saw tulips in the Augsburg garden of a collector of rare plants. They had arrived in Augsburg from Constantinople where they had long been a favorite. It was Gesner's role in life to become the popularizer of tulips throughout Germany and Holland. (Actually, most of the rise in tulip popularity occured after his death -- he died of the plague in 1565.)

Soon after their introduction, tulips became a status symbol of the wealthy because of their beauty and rarity. During Holland's successful mercantilist phase, however, an increasingly wealthy middle class became interested in enjoying the better life including the ownership of tulips. Tulip cultivation began in the Netherlands in 1593. What happened next is a chapter out of the 'Madness of Crowds'. Tulip bulbs were first of interest to collectors but eventually became articles of speculation, increasing in value with gathering momentum. By 1636, Dutchmen were in the grips of a full blown mania where a single bulb could fetch more than a year's earnings. As with all manias, the crash was as painful as it was certain. Between December 1636 and February 1637 the price of tulips dropped essentially to zero and anyone left with bulbs was bankrupt. The entire economy was plunged into a deep recession all because of tulips.

So why are the Dutch still so fond of these fragile, odorless flowers? To answer this you'll have to come to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival next April to see a different kind of tulip mania for yourself. You'll be able to stroll through beautiful fields and even take home a few plants without worrying about which 'greater fool' you might sell them to.

Quaint Small Town

LaConner (and Mount Vernon) are the home towns for the Tulip Festival. LaConner is the quainter and smaller of the two although it can be packed to the gills on a sunny Saturday or Sunday. Even on such a day, however, you only need to stroll to one end of First St. to escape into the quiet, small town life that LaConner provides. You'll know where the tourist area stops when you see the coffee shop with "Nuke the Tulips!" T-shirts hanging in the window.

LaConner boasts the Skagit County historical museum as well as a quilt museum, victorian houses and many high-end art boutiques. It's such a nice looking place that I'm planning on going back again during the off season to get a sense of the town without the tulip tourists.

Farming Heritage

In local parlance "Skagit Valley" refers not to the entire valley of this still pristine river but to the delta and the mouths of the Skagit. It is here that rich soil, a mild climate and plentiful rain and sun create excellent growing conditions for various crops but especially tulips and daffodils. Farming began here in the late 1800s but it was the tulip embargo of 1926 (What is it with tulips?!!) that brought the first Dutchmen to the area.

As you tour the area, be sure to pay attention to the barns and houses. You'll see a blend of Dutch and American styles in the old and the new construction.

As an alternative to the Tulip Festival you might come a few weeks earlier for the height of daffodil season to avoid the crowds. It's just as beautiful, though monochromatic, and you stand a much better chance of seeing the huge flocks of snow geese that winter over in the Skagit Valley.

  • Last visit to La Conner: Apr 2004
  • Intro Updated Jul 21, 2005
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Reviews (2)

Comments (4)

  • KristaB's Profile Photo
    Nov 12, 2004 at 10:27 AM

    I just had to come back to see those gorgeous tulips again.

  • JetlagCity's Profile Photo
    Nov 1, 2004 at 1:51 PM

    Great write-up - unfortunately I like this town so much that my husband is now tired of it!

  • Jun 7, 2004 at 10:09 PM

    I have yet to make it to the tulip festival. The only time I was in La Conner, there was a strange Shriners/Nile parade that rolled through the main street. Lots of interestingly dressed men.

  • mtncorg's Profile Photo
    May 26, 2004 at 11:06 AM

    Great flowers in a glorious setting. And if you come later in the year, you can head upriver into some of the World's best mountains, too!


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