In Carlsbad, California, Flowers Are on the Menu

Flower spotting in Carlsbad goes beyond ranunculus at the Flower Fields. In spring, petals are incorporated into entrées, spa treatments, and cocktails.

In Carlsbad, California, Flowers Are on the Menu

Carlsbad erupts into color at this time of the year.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Carlsbad

From chic eateries and coastal bike paths to incredible surfing and Legoland, Carlsbad has a lot going for it year round. But the more than 70 million ranunculus flowers that blanket the hillside at the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch are reason enough to visit the community located between San Diego and Los Angeles right now.

Each spring, from March through May, more than 300,000 people come to see the synchronized rows of picture-perfect red, yellow, orange, pink, and white flowers that stretch across the 55-acre property.

While the Flower Fields are undeniably popular, it’s not the only place in Carlsbad where flora flourishes—meaning it’s easy to have a flower-themed adventure this season.

Where to stay: The Cassara Carlsbad

Book now: Cassara Carlsbad

For those who want a bird’s-eye view of the blooms, the Cassara Carlsbad is one of the best options—the fields are visible from the balconies of the 90 guest rooms and 29 suites. The closest display is the 300- by 150-foot patch of red, white, and blue petunias in the shape of an American flag.

The hotel itself is one of the newest in the Hilton portfolio. It leans heavily on the coastal vibes with Mediterranean architectural designs and a sandy color palette. Amenities include a restaurant and bar, two heated pools (one with a splash pad for families and another designated the “Quiet Pool”), a spa and fitness center, complimentary shuttle transportation within a five-mile radius of the hotel, and a private entrance to Legoland.

At 20|Twenty bartenders play with floral garnishes.

At 20|Twenty bartenders play with floral garnishes.

Courtesy of Visit Carlsbad

Where to eat and drink in Carlsbad

Fuel up with a coffee among the aloes, hoyas, and snake plants on the patio at Succulent Cafe (and maybe pick up a terrarium to take home). Another option in Carlsbad Village is Naked Cafe, where you’ll find lattes charged with lilac and butterfly pea flowers as well as fortifying pancakes, breakfast burritos, and scrambles.

Veggie Grill offers plant-based salads and sandwiches for a quick and easy lunch. Windmill Food Hall has vendors slinging Thai, Mediterranean, Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese, and more options for those traveling with a group who can’t reach a consensus on a single cuisine.

Campfire, a buzzy, New American eatery downtown that focuses on playful dishes using open-flame cooking (including entirely housemade s’mores), is a solid spot for dinner. Many of the dishes and cocktails here are garnished with flowers and herbs.

And for a cheeky, botanical nightcap, consider Pacific Point, which has a trio of garden-inspired cocktails (the Spritz with vodka, Meyer lemon, lavender, Lillet blanc, sauvignon blanc, and soda is particularly good) or 20|Twenty Grill, where mixologists can whip up a Lavender Blossom Fiz or a Hibiscus Sour.

Things to do

Shoot photos at the Flower Fields

Beyond the riotously colorful ranunculus blooms, this season the Flower Fields also has a sunflower patch, orchid and poinsettia displays, a Sweet Pea Maze, a demonstration garden, and a U-Pick blueberries area. Tickets are $25 for adults, $23 for seniors age 60+ and military members, and $11 for children age 3–10. Throughout the season, Carlsbad Ranch also hosts special activities, like teatime in the gardens, outdoor concerts, and yoga classes.

Take a floral-inspired SUP yoga class

With Yoga Your Way, yogis can don flower crowns, mount paddleboards decorated with freshly cut blooms (including bird of paradise, the unofficial flower of Carlsbad), and find a spot in Agua Hedionda Lagoon, where they’ll work on their practice for an hour. Poppyseed muffins and hibiscus tea follow the class.

Get an herbaceous massage

Aviara Spa offers a Calendula & Orange Myrtle Scrub and Massage featuring sweet orange, petitgrain, lavender, rosemary, lemon peel, myrtle, and neroli essential oils, followed by its signature massage. Afterward, guests can unwind in one of the whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms, or the indoor solarium lounge. Similarly, Ocean Crest Spa has a Brown Sugar and Lavender Scrub and Massage on the menu.

Visit the State Street Farmers’ Market

Every Wednesday from 2:30 to 7 p.m., myriad vendors set up shop at this open-air market. Some of the goodies include fresh fruits, cheeses, kombucha, plant-based pasta, and jerky. Be sure to stop by the Carlsbad Cookie Company for ranunculus shortbread treats.

How to get to Carlsbad

Both of the two closest airports, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Diego International Airport (SAN), offer nonstop service to more than dozens of locations throughout the world. From Los Angeles, it’s a 90-mile drive, and from San Diego, the drive is 35 miles to Carlsbad.

>>Next: When and Where to See California Wildflowers, Even Without a Superbloom

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at AFAR. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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