Over Easter weekend in early April, V and I went to the Festival of Spring at Burnside Farms in Nokesville, Virginia. Located less than 90 minutes from our home in Alexandria, the farm has planted 70 acres of tulips and daffodils every spring since 2012. Tickets can be difficult to come by, as peak bloom is unpredictable and most of the short three-week season’s tickets are snapped up as soon as they are announced. Other than a summer sunflower festival and Christmas tree farm sales in winter, Burnside Farms is more or less closed to the public.
I really wanted to go see the tulips last year, but didn’t hear about it until it was too late; we also lived in northern Virginia 2009-2015, but I don’t remember hearing about it back then, either. I even forgot to sign up for the email notifications alerting of ticket availability. But luckily, I was scrolling through social media one morning last month when I suddenly realized the festival was happening. Instead of missing it again, this time I lucked into day-of tickets and we got our chance to go. It kind of reminded me of tulip festivals we went to during our diplomatic assignment to Australia in 2017 (Floriade and Night Fest) and 2018 during my dad and stepmom’s visit (Floriade and Tulip Top Gardens).
Burnside Farms plants 150 varieties of tulips and 30 varieties of daffodils for visitors to enjoy. Tickets are a little steep at $31.00 per person (plus a $1.50 processing fee), but include five stems per person (as selected and plucked by you). If you want additional stems, tulips are $1.00 each and daffodils are 50 cents each. If you’d like to take tulip bulbs home, those are an extra dollar apiece. If you pick a stem and a bulb comes up too, and you don’t want it, you can leave it in the barrel at the exit. But obviously, you aren’t supposed to pick and then discard flowers; you only pick what you want. To my annoyance, I saw at least one unsupervised child who didn’t get this, but it didn’t seem to be a widespread issue.
In my mind, cash is always king. But in a sign of the times, the farm does not perform cash transactions; you’d be wise to bring a credit or debit card.
A very limited number of what the farm calls “annual passports” are also for sale for $70.00 apiece. The passport holder is permitted multiple visits both during the spring festival and the summer sunflower showings, along with stems on each visit and discounted merchandise. I assume the passports were sold out long before I happened upon our day-of tickets.
There are picnic tables and a kids’ play area near a large dairy barn. On the field report section of the farm’s website is an oft-updated list of food trucks present in case you aren’t inclined to pack your own picnic. There are porta-potties for bathroom facilities.
Apparently there’s also a short film to see in the barn, and activities like cornhole games and hop-on, hop-off wagons in the field, but this didn’t totally register with us while we were there.
The farm provides picking baskets to collect your stems and bulbs. The flowers cover a fairly large territory, as I mentioned, and the ground can be muddy and uneven. But it was easy for us to walk around and gape at all the gorgeous flowers. Harder was getting the perfect shots with my phone, and hardest of all was picking which five tulips I wanted!
I was a little worried initially that so many flowers would be picked before we got there that it would affect the views, but that did not seem to be the case. The farm is absolutely enormous with flowers as far as you can see. And as long as you enter within your timed ticket entry window, you are permitted to stay as long as you like until closing. For us, 75 minutes or so was enough, especially after we started picking flowers and wanted to get them home into water. But I could easily see staying there a couple hours, particularly for walkers and those with kids who want to play.
It was a little hard to try and get stems with a bulb attached, despite our best efforts. We soon gave up trying to select any particular bulbs and just bought the ones we ended up with.
This was a great little afternoon trip and I highly recommend it. Even if you aren’t a flower aficionado, seeing the whole farm and all the care and attention given to this beautiful place was calming and lovely. As a bonus, I unknowingly dropped one of my favorite discontinued lipsticks on the ground in the parking lot, and V spotted it laying in the gravel and pointed it out as we returned to the truck. It wasn’t even run over! Very lucky! All in all a great day and Virginia is a great place to live.