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The Flower Fields in Carlsbad: A San Diego Spring Day Trip

December 4, 2023
Flower Fields in Carlsbad

Well-known for being a sun-drenched coastal getaway, San Diego also has a few surprises up its sleeve for visitors. Come springtime, that includes a multi-colored 55-acre bloom of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers, sometimes called Persian buttercups.

A beloved event each year among locals that marks the arrival of spring, The Flower Fields in North San Diego County are an off-the-beaten path treasure worth exploring — and not just for horticulturists. Between the tractor wagon rides, Sweet Pea Maze, Santa’s Playground, and even mining for polished gemstones, The Flower Fields are a family-friendly attraction that my son and I began visiting when he was just 4 years old and continue to return to regularly.

Here’s everything to see and do at The Flower Fields and tips to make the most of your visit.

The Flower Fields history

Flower Fields in Carlsbad

The star of the show at The Flower Fields is, of course, the flowers, which blanket a hillside overlooking the shimmering Pacific Ocean, making for countless memorable (and Instagram-worthy) photos. Visitors can explore the flowers on foot using the trails and paths that weave through and along the fields. Walking amongst the flowers provides plenty of time to snap photos and get an up-close look at the full spectrum of shades in bloom. 

When you’re ready for a rest, there are benches, chairs, and picnic tables scattered throughout and around the fields.

The ranunculus are just one of many sights to take in at The Flower Fields. Depending on your age and interests, there are more than a few other stops to consider.

Local tip: Visiting in the early morning can be a good way to beat the heat and the crowds as you explore the fields. Just before sunset is another spectacular time as well, especially for photographs. You can also avoid crowds by visiting on weekdays rather than weekends.

Artist Gardens and Bird Aviaries

The Artist Gardens and Bird Aviaries offer a peaceful corner of The Flower Fields to relax. The area is planted with spring flowers that artists masterfully use to replicate iconic works of art each spring. 

The area was created to educate visitors about how to implement the use of colorful flowers at home — whether inside or out. A nearby aviary provides a backdrop of chirping birds.

Demonstration Garden

Are you an aspiring raised bed gardener? Or one who loves to learn new tips and tricks when the opportunity arises? Don’t miss exploring the Demonstration Garden at The Flower Fields. 

Created by the Master Gardener Association of San Diego County, you’ll find raised planting beds here that are meant to illustrate gardening techniques for those who are gardening in smaller spaces. The plantings, which range from meadow grasses to native plants, pollinators, and vegetables, also showcase tips about earth-friendly planting approaches.

Orchids, poinsettias, and more

There are also many other attractions spread around the perimeter of the main ranunculus crop. That includes the orchid greenhouse, Mediterranean garden, poinsettia greenhouse, and the Pothead garden — each offering additional types of flowers, arrangements, or art installations. 

The poinsettia display, for instance, is a 1,500-square-foot greenhouse filled with 20 different varieties of the popular flowers, which have been grown locally for generations by the well-known Ecke family. 

The Pothead Garden, meanwhile, is an area decorated with more than a dozen concrete busts that are used as planters for flowers and greenery.

Visiting The Flower Fields with kids

At first blush, a hillside of ranunculus flowers may not seem like a natural draw for young children. But if it’s not already clear, walking among the flowers is only one of many activities at The Flower Fields. In fact, several attractions here have been expressly designed for young visitors.

Perhaps the most popular option for kiddos is the tractor wagon ride around the ranunculus field. During his youngest years, my son was a giant fan of big green tractors and the chance to ride in one at The Flower Fields was pure joy for him.

The wagon tour is an upgrade: $4 extra for kids ages 3-10 and $8 for adults. However, unlike the main entrance tickets, which have to be purchased online, wagon ride tickets can be purchased on-site using a debit or credit card.

Another favorite spot for my son during our visits was clambering around on the colorful and imaginative play structures at Santa’s Playground (yes, even in spring, Santa’s Playground is a hit). 

The structures here include playhouses that kids can explore, gigantic mushrooms, a dollhouse, and a crooked treehouse. This area also gives parents a chance to rest for a few minutes while kids get to play and burn off some energy.

When your little ones are ready to run, take them to the Sweet Pea Maze and have some fun finding your way through this vibrant display of sweet pea blossoms. 

And finally, don’t miss letting your kids mine for polished gemstones. This activity allows visitors to engage in the old-fashioned way of mining, sluicing water through boxes of sand to reveal hidden gemstones. The best part? Your children can bring home the gemstones they find as a souvenir.

Tips for visiting The Flower Fields near San Diego

The Flower Fields typically bloom for about 6-8 weeks from late March through May. However, these dates are also based on weather, which impacts the annual bloom — meaning the fields may bloom earlier or remain in bloom longer than expected. Check The Flower Fields website to ensure the fields are open for the season.

Beyond the many flower displays and children’s activities to choose from at The Flower Fields, there’s also a full calendar of special events each season. Examples include:

  • Flower Flow Yoga
  • Photography workshops
  • Sunset wine tasting
  • Meditation
  • Sound healing workshops
  • Live music events. 

These special events are often overlooked by out-of-town visitors, so be sure to check the activity calendar to see whether any are taking place.

Plan ahead: Tickets to visit The Flower Fields must be purchased in advance online and can’t be purchased anywhere onsite once you arrive at the fields.

Ready to visit San Diego’s nearby flower field?

The Flower Fields are truly an attraction for all ages and a place visitors can spend several fun-filled hours. 

And while the trip to Carlsbad is about 40 minutes from downtown San Diego, it’s well worth the trek to experience another side of San Diego and its natural environment and history. 

If you’re looking for other ways to explore San Diego’s natural beauty and the outdoors, be sure to check out our guide to Balboa Park or La Jolla’s Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.