Each spring, Washington’s Skagit Valley bursts into life. The snow subsides and sunshine beats down on the lowlands. The grey skies finally turn blue and muddy fields become painted in colours of yellow, pink, red and orange as daffodils and tulips bloom as far as the eye can see.
The region’s unique spring colours and flavours are best experienced via a weekend in nearby town La Conner.
So to help you take advantage, I’ve put together the ultimate weekend guide to La Conner.
While living in Washington State, I’ve visited La Conner at least a dozen times. After all, this little town packed with character, art galleries, waterfront views and awesome dining options is just a 20 minute drive from my home base in Anacortes. I’ve experienced the town in all seasons: blooming with flowers, basking in sunlight, covered in fall leaves, and dusted with snow.
Suffice it to say, La Conner and I are well acquainted.
About La Conner
The small waterfront township of La Conner, an old mill town, has a population of just 1,000.
Located right on the Swinomish Channel, it has been home to the Swinomish tribe for thousands of years. La Conner was “established” back in the 1870s, and is the oldest community in the Skagit Valley. This time warp can be experienced just by wandering down the main street, lined with brightly painted Victorian buildings.
These days it’s probably best known for the nearby daffodil and tulip festivals, but even without the draw of flowers La Conner is a beautiful weekend destination in its own right.
La Conner is packed with classic Washington small town charm. It has an easily walkable downtown, lovely water views, a fantastic dining scene, and plenty of activities for all ages. And in true Washington style, even its own brewery.
Visit the many galleries and cafes, explore Magnus Anderson’s hand split-log cabin (built in 1869), or take a self guided walking tour of historic sites.
No wonder La Conner has been voted one of Washington’s best tiny towns.
Where to see the flowers
Up until last year I naively thought tulip fields were only found in Europe. How wrong I was! Because as it turn out, the Skagit Valley offers Van Gogh vibes in real life.
The area was recently named America’s most beautiful farmland, and it really is even more spectacular come spring time. The region’s two floral festivals – the La Conner Daffodil Festival in March and the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in April – are gaining in popularity. Tens of thousands of visitors now journey from across the USA and even internationally to see it.
However, this year’s colder than usual winter means that the daffodils have only just bloomed, and tulips are expected in mid-April. Aka now is the perfect time to use this weekend guide to La Conner!
The festivals are such a beautiful symbol of spring’s arrival. I love taking photographs of the fields against the backdrop of mountains, rustic barns and old farmhouses.
Official Details about the festival can be found here, along with a bloom map to guide your visit.
Where to find art
La Conner has a thriving art scene. Renowned artists settled here in the 1940s, inspired by the areas landscapes and colours (I’m not surprised!). To this day, La Conner is largely a community of artists and art lovers.
Its pinnacle is the Museum of Northwest Art in the heart of downtown. The museum showcases northwest artists through both permanent and rotating exhibitions, which I always find thought provoking. MoNA is free to enter, and it’s perfectly located right next to La Conner’s brewery.
There are many other independent galleries in town – and most are located along First Street. Check out Blackfish Gallery, Pier 7 Glaswerks, Artist’s Remarque, Caravan Gallery, Cygnus, The Wood Merchant and Courtyard Gallery.
You’ll also find plenty of public art and sculptures as you wander around town!
For those more fond of textile art, there’s even a quilt museum.
Where to enjoy the water
Stroll along the waterfront boardwalk to enjoy the best views of the Swinomish Channel. On my visits I’ve spotted blue heron, bald eagles, seals and otters enjoying the water. Watch the fishing boats and tugs come in and out, and find the many sculptures and public artworks that line the walkway.
La Conner is one of Washington’s premier kayaking destinations due to the abundance of wildlife in the Skagit River delta. So if you prefer to get more active, rent a kayak or take a guided tour.
Pioneer Park is another great place to explore: walk out onto Rainbow Bridge for a great view of the entire town, channel and surrounding farmland.
Where to shop: antiques and boutiques
Skip the mall, as La Conner’s shopping hub is right where the food, art and beautiful small town charm is. Wander First St and Morris St for fun window shopping and unique finds.
Nasty Jack’s Antiques is my favourite super-kitsch spot. It’s also the first stop every time I bring visitors to La Conner. From old coins and curiosities to records, posters and furniture, this place has it all. There’s something for everyone here, even if its just having your fortune read by the Zoltar who guards the entrance. I once found an autographed photo of Leonardo DiCaprio circa Romeo and Juliet era, and not buying it has been my life’s biggest regret.
Nearby Nasty Jack’s you’ll also find Vintage La Conner, Morris St Antiques and ReHab Station – an antiques and vintage store with an espresso counter inside.
Venture back along First St to find gift stores, clothing boutiques, a bookstore and unique local finds like Handmade La Conner and Pelindaba Lavender goods. Reclamation Candles is another of my favourites due to its range of ‘mandles’ with scents like Cup o Joe, Bacon, and Pipe Tabacco. I bought ‘Skinny Dip’ which reminds me of coconut, tropical fruit and sunscreen – it makes my house smell like Australia!
Where to find coffee and treats
My go to coffee shop has been Caffé Jubilee, as they source coffee beans from Seattle’s Caffé Ladro. On Morris St you’ll find great coffee inside antique store ReHab Station as well as at Bamboo Coffee.
Indulge your sweet tooth at La Conner Ice Cream tower or the Sweet Shoppe, or stop in for coffee and cake at Calico Cupboard – I love the almond croissants! Ruby Sue’s Tea and Treasures is a great place to sip tea or buy some for home.
Where to eat
For a small town, La Conner has a huge offering of dining options: choose from cute and cosy pubs, fine dining or waterfront cafes. Eat northwest cuisine, seafood, French, Italian, Polish, Asian or American BBQ.
Here are a few La Conner restaurants that I love:
Nell Thorn: waterfront, farm to table dining. In true northwest style there is a lot of seafood on the menu, and it’s all delicious!
Oyster & Thistle: lovely pub atmosphere with French influenced cuisine. It has a cosy pub vibe downstairs or a more fine dining setting upstairs.
La Terrazza: proper authentic Italian food. Delicious Italian wines, great seafood pasta, and home to honestly the best pizza I have found in America.
Seeds Bistro: a charming bistro that sources its produce from Skagit Valley farmers, and a patio perfect for warm evenings!
Anelia’s Kitchen & Stage: authentic polish food for lunch, dinner or weekend brunch. Regular live music gigs too!
Whitey’s BBQ: If smoked ribs and brisket gets your stomach growling, come here!
Calico Cupboard: classic cafe-style breakfast and lunch, with many gluten free options. The pancakes, french toast and waffles are fantastic, as are the soup and sandwich combos. If it’s sunny try to grab one of the tables on the boardwalk!
Where to drink
My favourite watering hole is La Conner Brewing Company. It’s got an awesome range of beer, along with wood fire pizza and pub fare.
If you prefer wine, check out Hellam’s Vineyard. Located in a historic warehouse right on the water, they have a huge selection of wines. Or get arty at La Conner Sips, which holds regular wine and painting parties.
Where to stay in La Conner
As I live so close to La Conner I have never booked accommodation there. However my pal Lara from Small Town Washington recently stayed at La Conner Channel Lodge and raved about it! The lodge is located right on the waterfront – seems the perfect way to spend the weekend to me!
Activities outside La Conner
Brewery lovers and beer aficionados should discover the Skagit Farm to Pint Passport Tour, one of Washington’s newest ale trails. I’ve been able to visit all the breweries on the passport (not at the one time, mind you!). Some of my favourites are Bastion’s experimental IPAs and the barrel-aged double brown ale from North Sound Brewing. It’s worth checking out at least one – if not a few – of the ten awesome local breweries.
Many of Skagit Valley’s local farm stores reopen for business in spring. I highly recommend you stop on your drive through the flower fields to buy some fresh produce and goodies. Many of them also sell ice cream, which is always a win for me! U Pick Berries open in late spring/summer too!
Hiking near La Conner
La Conner is surrounded by beautiful nature preserves and recreation areas.
The Padilla Bay Trail is great for casual walks, especially if birdwatching is your thing. It’s a 4.5 mile out and back, and is stroller/wheelchair friendly.
Those happy to take a scenic drive a little further north should direct the GPS up Chuckanut Drive. The beautiful views from the car can only be outdone when you park and hike the trail up Oyster Dome. Reach the summit on a clear day and be treated to views across the bay and San Juan Islands. Refuel afterwards at The Oyster Bar, Chuckanut Manor or pick up farm fresh oysters at Taylor Shellfish Farm.
So there you have it, my ultimate weekend guide to La Conner!
When are you coming to visit? The food, art and small town charm is waiting.
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