The Flower Fields of Carlsbad, located in a Southern California beach community, offers activities for all members of the family.
I headed out for the internationally known Flower Fields of Carlsbad, California, with my timed ticket purchased online. On the drive above the field, I caught a glimpse of a kaleidoscope of colors. Since there was a city park gracing the road’s edge, I stopped, parked my car, and peered over the wall. What lay before me was just a tiny preview of what I would be experiencing the rest of the morning. Yet, I felt compelled to pull out my phone and start my marathon photo-taking experience.
Back in the car, and after a few turns with the help of Google Maps, I found myself at the well-marked entrance of The Flower Fields. With suntan lotion applied, my hat, and my water bottle in hand, my adventure began the minute I walked through the entryway. Here are highlights of what you can expect when you visit The Flower Fields of Carlsbad, California each spring.
Insider’s Tip: Go during the week when the crowds are smaller.
Exploring The Flower Fields
Once you check in, there are two ways to make the journey through the fields: Walk through the fields on your own or ride the wagon.
If you decide to walk on your own through the fields, you’ll find numerous cutouts in the fields, with benches. These benches offer the perfect place to sit and embrace the scene that spreads out before you.
If you prefer, you can ride the wagon for a small fee. A tractor pulls the wagon through the approximately 50 acres of flowers displaying their brilliance. There are stops so you can get off the wagon and get up close with this multi-layered petal ranunculus.
Wally, a long-time employee whose other career is playing Santa Claus, was my escort and provided me with a wealth of information, which I am honored to share.
A History of The Flower Fields
The nuggets for the development of The Flower Fields started more than a century ago when Luther Gage, an early settler and horticulturist, bought land in the Carlsbad area. He happened to buy land next door to Frank Frazee’s vegetable farm. Mr. Gage planted ranunculus seeds, a member of the buttercup family that originated in an Asian peninsula. It was a relatively unknown flower to the Western world, but soon Frazee was also growing ranunculus.
In 1965, Frazee bought land from the Ecke family in Encinitas who cultivated the modern-day poinsettia. Frazee relocated his ranunculus operation to those grounds and brought in his son Edwin Frazee. When Frazee retired, he stayed on as a consultant when the Ecke family took over the ranunculus business. They brought in Mellano and Company, a renowned flower-growing company, to handle the day-to-day operation, so they could turn their energies to tourism.
Now, every year, visitors flock to The Flower Fields in Carlsbad from March 1 through Mother’s Day weekend.
Instagram Scenes in the Flower Fields
After you tour the gardens, you can wander through the gardens. You soon come across a scene reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. Two gigantic chairs are set for you to climb aboard and have a spot of tea from the equally enormous cups sitting on the table between you. The apothecary animals act as frames for this unexpected setting, beckoning you to pull out your phone or camera.
Activities in The Flower Fields
Who needs a corn maze when you can have a sweet pea maze? Now really, can a maze made of sweet peas be that difficult? Yes, it isn’t effortless and is designed by the General Manager each year. Standing and watching on the sidelines and seeing the frustration of a dad trying to find the way out with his children is a source of amusement.
Set up like a village, Santa’s Playground offers a haven for younger children to burn off some of their energy. Adults will appreciate the architecture and the color palette used to create a happy place for all to enjoy.
Love music? On weekends, you will want to stop and rest under the covered area to hear local musicians sharing their talents with you as you pause to soak in your surroundings, which attack your senses in glorious ways.
Farther down the pathway, you can catch education seminars about agriculture. Listen as the experts describe their farming operations and how they propagate the plants. They also discuss how they find ways to enhance the soil while keeping in mind the fragility of our environment.
Finally, the greenhouses still house poinsettias but share their space with orchids, under the careful watch of the General Manager of The Flower Fields.
Back at the front, pass the entrance sign and walk under the arches laden with flowers. This area is assigned to Master Gardeners and takes on a life of its own each year. They are free to use their talent and imagination to plant flowers that will draw you in to take a closer look.
Time for a Snack
Hungry? The Flower Fields of Carlsbad offers several delicious options. Stop in for a piece of pizza from the food truck or stop at the big lemon to get lemonade aid just like grandma used to make to quench your thirst.
You might also want to stop at the Strawberry Shack. Go ahead and say yes to a dob of whipped cream. Fresh California strawberries, picked from nearby fields, provide a tasty treat. This is a day to relax and have fun.
Armstrong Garden Center
In 1999, The Flower Fields owners turned the retail operations over to the Armstrong organization so the Ecke family could concentrate on cultivating flowers, olive trees, and even coffee plants.
You can access the Garden Center today without going to the fields. If you have been looking for a rare plant, there is a 90% chance you can find it here. The wide, brightly lit aisles invite you to take your time and explore the variety of unique garden ornaments.
Yes, there are freshly picked ranunculus to buy in various colors. Make sure you check out the aisle with extraordinary gifts. It will be hard to resist their mugs with dazzling Flower Field designs.
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When You Visit the Flower Fields of Carlsbad
The Flower Fields exists because neighbors, the Frazees and the Eckes, took pride in introducing the ranunculus to Carlsbad and the United States. Today, this international attraction brings great joy to all who visit the area. In General Manager Fred Clarke’s words, you cannot be around flowers without them elevating your mood. Be sure to check out Wander for more to see when you visit California—and for more of our favorite gardens.