Bask in a giant field of blooms at the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch, which pops with color from March until May in the San Diego County town of Carlsbad, located 35 miles north of downtown. Beyond the irresistible photo ops, the San Diego flower fields offer family-friendly fun—like a springtime version of a pumpkin patch—with activities such as a maze, playground, and treats made with local strawberries.
History of the Carlsbad Flower Fields
The 50-acre field is lined with rows of ranunculus flowers, a buttercup that has its origins in Asia Minor. The San Diego County farm started during the early 1920s in nearby Oceanside, when vegetable farmer Frank Frazee got inspired by the flowers his neighbor was growing. Frazee and son Edwin began cultivating the flowers themselves, saving the seeds that produced interesting shades beyond the traditional red and yellow.
By the 1960s, son Edwin was running the farm, and moved it to Carlsbad. He bought land from another great San Diego County flower family: the Ecke Ranch folks, who are largely credited with introducing holiday-season poinsettias to the United States.
Things to See and Do at the Flower Fields
Today, the giant field of flowers reveals its rainbow of colors every March, while a side field often blooms in the pattern of the American flag. Walk the gently sloped paths that line the main field or relax on the hayride-style truck that slowly tours the perimeter. Check out the separate areas for sunflowers, a cymbidium orchid greenhouse, and the poinsettias that nod to the Ecke family. Kids can run around the Sweet Pea Maze, climb around on Santa’s playground, or pan for gems at the Carlsbad Mining Company stand. Later in the season, pick blueberries—check the website or the fields’ social media to see when the berries are ripe.
Refuel at the pizza and lemonade stands, and don’t miss the Strawberry Shack, featuring the local berries grown just a few blocks away, incorporated into strawberry shakes, strawberry shortcake sundaes, and chocolate-dipped berries.
The Flower Fields are tucked in the midst of Carlsbad’s other biggest attractions. LEGOLAND California is less than a mile away to the east, while the Carlsbad beaches, and the shops and restaurants of walkable Carlsbad Village, are about a mile to the west. For a convenient lunch or snack, grab some pizza, tacos, pho, or coffee at the Windmill Food Hall, a locally-driven food hall with picnic tables located across the street from the fields and the Carlsbad Premium Outlets.
9 More Places to See Flowers in San Diego
While the Flower Fields are only open for a few months of the year, San Diego is also home to plenty of year-round gardens.
A great place to start is in Encinitas, located just south of Carlsbad. Walk along the four miles of trails at the 37-acre San Diego Botanic Garden, which is home to 29 gardens, including a colorful South African garden and the Undersea Succulents Garden, which is designed to look like a coral reef. Closer to the beach, the free gardens behind the landmark Self-Realization Fellowship offer a tranquil place to enjoy nature and meditate. Kids and butterfly fans will love Butterfly Farms, a vivarium inhabited by Monarchs, Painted Ladies, and Anise Swallowtails, along with flowering plants that attract butterflies (open April through November).
Drive a few miles inland to Vista, where the Alta Vista Botanical Garden features 16 distinctive gardens—including one of rare fruits, a garden labyrinth, and several metal sculptures by acclaimed artist Ricardo Breceda.
Or head to San Diego’s Balboa Park, where blooms and plants abound in more than a dozen gardens, including the Spanish-style Alcazar Garden, the Japanese Friendship Garden, and the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden, which blooms from March through December, peaking in April and May. Plan a quick drive-by of Edna Harper’s Topiary Garden—an impressive residential front yard in the nearby Mission Hills neighborhood—featuring dinosaurs, surfers, whales, and more, all created by the so-dubbed “Edna Scissorhands.”
During the winter, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, east of the city, is known for its incredible desert wildflowers, typically peaking in February. Make it a stop during a road trip to go stargazing or to see cool desert oddities.