For just 2 months each year, a large swath of land in Carlsbad, California, bursts with color as thousands of ranunculus blossom at The Flower Fields. It’s a joy to see the flowers from the car while speeding along on Interstate 5, but the best way to enjoy them is to purchase tickets and roam the fields where they are planted.
85 years of cultivation has resulted in the many-layered ranunculus in 13 different colors that visitors see today. All of it was made possible thanks to a long-standing friendship and partnership of two flower farmers, Edwin Frazee and Paul Ecke. Over time they expanded a basic growing operation into a much-beloved spring destination for locals and tourists alike.
1. How To Get There
Located about 30 minutes north of San Diego and 90 minutes south of Los Angeles, The Flower Fields are best accessed by car since public transportation is limited in this area. The entrance is just a short distance off Interstate 5, next to the Carlsbad Premium Outlets.
2. Visit Between Late March And Early May
Ranunculus are in bloom for just 2 months each year – typically March and April – so if you want to see them, be sure to check the opening dates on The Flower Fields website and snag your tickets. If you’re looking for a really special way to celebrate Mother’s Day, consider visiting on the closing day and browse the many acres of flowers with mom.
Pro Tip: If you want to keep track of exactly when the flowers will bloom, head to the website and click on the “Bloom Status” button in the upper right-hand corner.
3. Buy Tickets In Advance
Tickets must be purchased in advance online. Those who have visited in past years will remember the many ticket booths at the entrance, but during the pandemic, The Flower Fields changed to online sales only to control the number of guests. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and tickets are sold for a specific time. Visitors should allow about 2 hours for a visit.
4. Avoid The Crowds
Fields of flowers in pink, orange, red, yellow, and white are sure to attract large numbers of visitors. In fact, over 100,000 people visit each year. Anyone wanting to avoid the busiest times should plan to come Monday through Thursday, preferably at opening time.
5. Be Prepared To Walk
Planted over 50 acres on a gentle slope, appreciating the flower fields will require walking. Come prepared with comfortable shoes and clothing. Walkers, strollers, and wheelchairs will have a difficult time navigating the uphill, dirt pathways.
If you have limited mobility, consider purchasing a ticket for the tractor wagon ride. The open-air wagon, pulled by a John Deere tractor, is a fun way to see the flowers from a slightly elevated vantage point. An audio recording tells the story of The Flower Fields. Boarding ramps are available for anyone needing assistance entering the wagon. Tickets can be purchased on site.
Pro Tip: Your walking will likely begin after parking. While there is no charge to park, the lot is large and on busy weekends you may have a 5 to 10-minute walk to the front gate.
6. Purchase Flowers At Armstrong Garden Center
While you can’t pick the flowers, you can purchase them after your visit at the adjacent Armstrong Garden Center. This popular Southern California gardening store sells small bouquets of ranunculus in all the available colors. They also have a large selection of plants, garden supplies, and home decor.
7. Look For The Photo Opportunities
One of the best reasons to visit The Flower Fields is for the photos. It’s hard to imagine a better backdrop than thousands of colorful and delicate ranunculus. Fortunately, dozens of sites have been set up for visitors to pose. Wait your turn in line and then strike a pose.
It’s important to know that walking through the fields is not allowed. Visitors must observe all roped-off areas in order to protect the flowers.
Pro Tip: If getting the perfect photo is important to you, be sure to arrive early. Lines for the photo sites can get long, especially on weekends.
8. Enjoy The Many Other Attractions
Don’t stop after exploring the fields of ranunculus, but be sure to stay for all the other attractions.
A great photo opportunity is the Fountain Garden, a collection of colorful blooms surrounding a circular water fountain. The Sweet Pea Maze is a one-of-a-kind floral labyrinth that surrounds participants with the aroma of flowers. If you’re visiting with children, be sure to explore Santa’s Playground, which is filled with whimsical playhouses. Among the newer attractions is a 5-acre patch of sunflowers in all colors. If you’re lucky, you may be able to pick a pint of blueberries; look for signage on-site if the berries are ready.
Poinsettia lovers won’t want to miss the Historic Poinsettia Display, a 1,500-square-foot greenhouse filled with the world-famous Paul Ecke poinsettias including 20 rare varieties.
9. Take A Snack Break
If you get hungry, choose from among several food vendors including Pizza Trolley, Sweet Swirls Ice Cream, Rollin’ Beans Coffee Company, and Kettle Kernels Popcorn.
For something extra special head to Strawberry Shack of Carlsbad for award-winning strawberry shakes, strawberry shortcake sundaes, and chocolate-dipped strawberries.
10. Attend An Event
Each year The Flower Fields hosts a variety of public events making it possible to experience the venue from a different perspective. This year will include Tea In The Garden, a flower crown workshop, a charcuterie workshop, Picnic and Flowers, a sunset wine tasting, and a meditation and sound healing workshop. Details about each offering are available on the website.
11. Explore Carlsbad Village
If you’ve driven a distance to visit The Flower Fields, why not extend your day and explore the nearby Carlsbad Village? This charming part of town borders the beach and offers boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants. It’s perfectly flat, making it easy to walk anywhere.
To relax on the sand or wade in the water head to South Ponto Beach or Carlsbad State Beach. Both are popular with surfers, so keep your eyes on the water to see who’s catching a wave.
For a hearty breakfast head to Beach Break Cafe. Locals have long raved about this place known for its generous portions and excellent coffee. If it’s comfort food you prefer, try Village Kitchen & Pie Shoppe, a Carlsbad institution since 1994. If you happen to be around for dinner and want something really special, try Campfire, recently recognized with a Michelin Bib Gourmand award.
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