9 Tips for Visiting Carlsbad’s Beautiful Flower Fields This Spring

For just 2 months each year, a vast swath of land in Carlsbad, California bursts with color as thousands of buttercups bloom at The Flower Fields. It’s a joy to see the flowers from the car while speeding down Interstate 5, but the best way to enjoy them is to buy tickets and walk through the fields where they’re planted.

85 years of cultivation have resulted in the multi-layered buttercup of 13 different colors that visitors see today. This was all made possible through a long-standing friendship and partnership between two flower growers, Edwin Frazee and Paul Ecke. Over time, they developed a grassroots growing operation into a popular springtime destination for locals and tourists alike.

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1. Go to the Flower Fields

Located about 30 minutes north of San Diego and 90 minutes south of Los Angeles, the Flower Fields are best accessed by car as public transportation is limited in this area. The entrance is a short distance off Interstate 5, next to the Carlsbad Premium Outlets.

Open for only two months

Buttercups only bloom 2 months a year – usually March and April – so if you want to see them, be sure to check the opening dates on The Flower Fields website and grab your tickets. If you’re looking for a really special way to celebrate Mother’s Day, consider visiting on Closing Day and browse the many acres of flowers with Mom.

Pro tip: If you want to know exactly when the flowers will bloom, go to the website and click the “Bloom Status” button in the upper right corner.

Flowers in the Flower Fields of Carlsbad, California
photo credit: Wendy Lee

2. Buy your tickets in advance

Tickets must be purchased in advance online. Those who have visited in recent years will remember the many ticket booths at the entrance, but during the pandemic The Flower Fields switched to selling online 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 approximately 2 hours for a visit.

Aerial view of flower fields in Carlsbad, California
bonandbon / Shutterstock.com

3. Be ready to walk

Planted on 50 gently sloping acres, appreciating the flower fields will require some walking. Come prepared with comfortable shoes and clothes. Walkers, strollers, and wheelchairs will struggle to navigate the uphill dirt roads.

If you have limited mobility, consider purchasing a ticket for the tractor cart ride. The open top 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 who needs help entering the car. Tickets can be purchased on site.

Pro tip: Your walk will likely start after parking. Although there is no charge for parking, the lot is large and on busy weekends you can walk 5-10 minutes to the front door.

Flowers in the Flower Fields of Carlsbad, California
photo credit: Wendy Lee

4. How to avoid crowds

Fields of pink, orange, red, yellow and white flowers are sure to attract a large number of visitors. In fact, over 100,000 people visit each year. If you want to avoid the busiest hours, plan to come Monday through Thursday, preferably during business hours.

Bring home flowers

Although you cannot pick the flowers, you can purchase them after your visit to the adjacent Armstrong Garden Center. This popular Southern California garden store sells small bouquets of ranunculus in every color available. They also have a great selection of plants, garden supplies, and home decor.

The author in one of The Flower Fields' stunning photo locations
The author in one of The Flower Fields’ stunning photo locations (Photo credit: Wendy Lee)

5. Look for 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 buttercups. Fortunately, dozens of sites have been set up for visitors to pose. Wait your turn in line, then strike a pose.

It is important to know that it is forbidden to walk in the fields. Visitors should observe all demarcated areas to protect the flowers.

Pro tip: If getting the perfect photo is important to you, be sure to arrive early. Queues for photo sites can be long, especially on weekends.

Pointsettias at Flower Fields in Carlsbad, California
McKayla Kreutzkamp / Shutterstock.com

6. So much to see after the flower fields

Don’t stop after exploring the buttercup fields, but be sure to stick around for all the other attractions.

A great photo opportunity is the Fountain Garden, a collection of colorful flowers surrounding a circular water fountain. The Sweet Pea Maze is a one-of-a-kind floral maze that surrounds participants with the scent of flowers. If you’re bringing kids, be sure to explore Santa’s Playground, which is full of whimsical playhouses. New this year is a 5 acre patch of sunflowers of all colors.

Poinsettia lovers won’t want to miss the Historic Poinsettia Display, a 1,500-square-foot greenhouse filled with world-famous Paul Ecke poinsettias, including 20 rare varieties.

7. Take a snack break

If you get hungry, choose from several food vendors, including Pizza Trolley, Sweet Swirls Ice Cream, Rollin’ Beans Coffee Company, and Kettle Kernels Popcorn.

For something extra special, head to Carlsbad’s Strawberry Shack for award-winning strawberry milkshakes, strawberry sundaes and chocolate covered strawberries.

Flowers in the Flower Fields of Carlsbad, California
photo credit: Wendy Lee

8. Attend an event

Each year, The Flower Fields hosts a variety of public events allowing you to experience the place from a different perspective. This year will include Tea In The Garden, Flower Flow Yoga, Sunset Wine Tasting & Music, Kid’s Day and Girl Scout Day. Details of each offer are available on the website.

The city of Carlsbad, California
Simone Hogan / Shutterstock.com

9. Explore Carlsbad Village

If you’ve driven a distance to visit The Flower Fields, why not extend your day and explore the nearby village of Carlsbad. This charming part of town borders the beach and offers shops, cafes and restaurants. It is perfectly flat, making it easy to walk anywhere.

To relax on the sand or splash around 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 the Beach Break Cafe. Locals have long adored this place known for its generous portions and great coffee. If comfort food is your thing, try Village Kitchen & Pie Shoppe, a Carlsbad institution since 1994. If you’re in the area for dinner and want something really special, try Campfire, recently awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand.

For more on exploring California, see the following articles:

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