Did you know that California is now the fifth-largest producer of sunflowers in the USA?
Why should the Midwest get all the fun when it comes to Sunflower fields? Whilst it’s true the vast majority of the sunflowers in North America do come from the Midwest, California’s sunflower production is nothing to be sneezed at, with well in excess of 70,000 acres planted annually.
Sunflower farms have hugely increased in popularity over even the last 5 years, not just as essentials crops but as tourist destinations in themselves! A fabulous addition to any family road trip this summer is stopping in at a sunflower farm of two on your road trip across the country.
You can catch more of our US sunflower road trip series here, including:
- Sensational Sunflower Fields in Minnesota
- Miami’s Magical Sunflower Season
- Best Sunflower Fields in New York for a Family Day Out
- New Jersey Sunflower Fields and U Pick Farms Not To Miss
But before we dive into where to find the best sunflower fields in California…
Best Time To See Sunflowers in California
To have the best opportunity of seeing sunflower fields, plan your northern California sunflower road trip from mid-June to mid-July. Some will bloom earlier, others a little later, but generally speaking, out west the sunflower season falls a little earlier than in the Midwest.
If you leave it further into August, most sunflowers in California have already been harvested but we’ll point out a few fields below that have historically had a later season, in an attempt to align visitors with corn and pumpkin harvest time in the fall.
You should note that a sunflower only blooms at its best for around 10 days, so you do need to plan your movements carefully if your primary reason for visiting Yolo County or any of the places we mention here is for the sunflower season.
Best Time of Day for Seeing Sunflowers in California
We know if you’re road tripping with kids a lot is going to revolve around nap times and stomachs! But if you can plan it, visit either early in the morning before the flies, bugs, and heat can become a nuisance (not to mention everyone squinting in the sun!).
Alternatively, save your sunflower fields exploring until the evening golden hour for the best photo opportunities.
What to Know Before Visiting California Sunflower Fields with Kids
There are a few things you should bear in mind when planning a sunflower road trip in California with your kids:
- You are still visiting someone’s working farm and private property; Come properly dressed for the occasion and explain the rules and etiquette (often repeatedly to the little ones!) so everyone knows what is expected of them
- Never trample on the flowers or pick any you are not supposed to
- Carefully follow any farm or field rule specifics, this can include sticking to designated paths and not climbing on any machinery
- Do expect even in summer the fields can be muddy as they’re kept well watered; we’d leave their best party frocks and white clothes at home, even if you think it’ll make for a cute photo
- Amenities on hand will vary by farm and field; some are still quite rustic (i.e., they may not have restrooms), and others will have cafes, playgrounds, and the full works to entertain the littles – we’ve tried to help you narrow this down
- If I sign says no trespassing, respect it. Not all sunflower fields are open to the public, you should never just assume a farmer will be happy for you to stop and pose with their flowers. Stick to designated farms that have opened their fields
- Avoid wearing perfumes or any strong fragrances – you want the bees focused on the flowers!
- Don’t swat at the bees! They will be hanging around but as long as you leave them alone, they’re there doing an important job
- If you are seeking more professional photos that cannot be achieved from the roadside and without trespassing, contact the farm owners in advance to arrange a visit
What to Pack for a Sunflower Road Trip
In addition to our road trip essentials, for a sunflower day trip or longer road trip, make sure you pack for all the family
- A camera!
- Bug Spray
- Benadryl – if your kids are prone to allergy
- Closed-toe shoes or even better boots are recommended
- Snacks (bearing in mind any farm rules about bringing your own food)
- Clippers (if self-picking is allowed)
Where to See Sunflowers in California
The best area in California to immerse yourself in a sea of sunflower fields is Yolo County in California’s Central Valley. Look for the towns of Davis, Dixon, Winters, and Woodland and you’re sure to spot around 70,000 acres of sunflowers, even from the freeway.
You’ll find most of the places we’ll mention below within 2 hours of San Francisco and the Bay Area.
We’ve also included a few sunflower farms in southern California if you want to get your fix without driving so far north, but trust us when we say it’s worth the scenic drive to northern California if you’re a big sunflower fan!
Let’s take a closer look at some of the best fields to explore with your family, and why you’ll love them.
Best Sunflower Fields in Northern California
1. Muller Joe & Sons Ranch, Woodland (M3 Ranches)
A gorgeous farm just outside of Sacramento with some of the most beautiful sunflowers to be found in northern Califonia, you’ll find the season here runs from mid-June to mid-July.
They do plenty more than just sunflowers here on this active ranch in Yolo County so it’s best to let them know you’re coming in advance and get the exact location where pictures are permitted.
There are no fancy facilities here, just incredible picturesque booms.
Location: 15810 Co Rd 95, Woodland, CA 95695
2. The Cloverleaf Farm, Davis
If you’re a northern California local you may well have spotted this field from the corner of your eye off the I-80. Peaking from mid-June to mid-July, no formal appointments are needed just for photos, or look out for U-Pick season dates where you can get permission to walk amongst the fields.
Cost: Free – pay for U-Pick only
Location: 9055, Olmo Lane, Davis, CA 95616
3. Andreotti Family Farms
Running a late season to coincide with the start of all things pumpkins, corn mazes, and Fall festivities, Andreotti Family Farms runs a reservation system for entering their incredible sunflower fields.
When in season, they open 7 days a week from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. They operate a U-Pick system, so bring your own clippers, don your old boots, and have a fabulous early Fall outing at Half Moon Bay on the coast
Cost: Ticketed – see when they go on sale here or follow their Instagram here:
Location: 800 Cabrillo Hwy N, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
4. Swank Farms
Running one of the best family farms for visiting in central California, Swank Farms is primarily a pumpkin patch but also offers sunflower fields in the town of Hollister, not far from San Jose and Monterey.
They offer You-Pick Sunflowers when in season, a corn maze, farm animals and feeding times, pedal karts, a jumping pillow, bouncy houses, even a cow train, along with photo opps in their pumpkin patch!
Their season normally starts in early fall (the last weekend in September to the first weekend in November), but you’ll need to stay tuned on their website or follow their Instagram here to learn the exact 2023 dates:
Location: 4751 Pacheco Hwy, Hollister, CA 95023
A Few More Northern California Sunflower Fields to Consider in 2022
Many sunflower fields are not open as hobby farms for your amusement; you have to make do with viewing from the roadside. If you’re happy with (safely) making some side-of-the-road stops, we’d recommend you try:
- Winters – Particularly at the junction of Roads 89 and 26 is a hot spot from sunflower spotting
- Park Winters is a wonderful spot in Yolo County to pick your own bunch of wildflowers
- Turkovich Wines in Winters lets customers combine a wine tasting with a tour of their sunflower fields (summer only)
- We’ve mentioned a few already along the I-80 you can head in for a closer view, but head out anywhere from Vacaville to Sacramento over early summer, and you’re bound to find the fields awash with yellow
- Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm – 850 Cabrillo Hwy, Half Moon Bay
- Pop into Sac-Town Bites every Friday to Sunday in June for tours and photo opportunities
- Field of Sunflowers – you’ll even find it marked on Google Maps, but this is private property, only roadside viewing, found at 8747 Currey Rd, Dixon
- Pedrick Produce, just off the I-80 is another good roadside stop in Dixon.
Southern California Sunflower Fields
The warm weather in southern California can extend the sunflower growing season. Although nowhere near the same prolific sways of golden fields field in Yolo County, there are farms with great sunflower fields to visit for those perfect moments.
5. Rancho Bernardo & Pumpkin Station
If you’re looking for a full family day out on a farm in southern California, Rancho Bernardo is where to head for everything from sunflowers to pumpkins this fall. The prime season here is very late compared to most US sunflowers, you can expect U-Pick flowers to be available in early October.
Not just boasting over 75,000 sunflowers, here you’ll also find pumpkins, hay-wagon rides, a train ride an 8′ tall corn maze, and a petting zoo. There’s a picnic area included too, so BYO lunch and bathroom facilities are on hand.
Located just 30 minutes out of San Diego, there’s also a second location Bonita Pumpkin Farm in Bonita with a very similar offering.
Cost: Admission and parking free; $2 per stem U-Pick
Location: 13421 Highland Valley Rd Escondido, CA 92025 & 5354 Sweetwater Rd, Bonita, CA 91902
6. Tanaka Farms
Another fun family outing in Irvine, Southern California, is Tanaka Farms. A lot going on throughout the year, but Tanaka Farms really shines come Fall. A wonderful addition to their pumpkin patch and Harvest Festival is their sunflowers at Hana Field.
Sunflowers should be expected from late September to early October. Do note, this is in a separate location from the main Tanka Farm in Irvine. You’ll find the sunflower fields in Costa Mesa, with the season opening on 30 September 2023 through to 29 October 2023.
Cost: General Admission $10; Keepsake U-Pick Flower Cup $15 with 15 Blooms
Location: 427 Anton Boulevard, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
More Places to Find Sunflowers in Southern California
- Try Murray Family Farm outside Bakersfield; late blooms have been spotted from September to November
- 1st Fruits Farm in Temecula Wine Country offers U-Pick from spring to early fall – call ahead to see if there are presently blooms
- Carlsbad Strawberry Company has in the past run a sunflower maze – stay tuned for 2023 dates
There are no doubt more destinations we can add to this list in 2023 and beyond! If there are any cool sunflower field spots in California you think we’ve missed or timings we have wrong, drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can include them next year.
More Fun Sunflower Facts!
A few more interesting facts our sunflower-lovers may want to know before you head off on a sunflower hunting road trip this summer:
- Sunflowers are actually a native North American species
- The biggest producer of sunflowers and sunflower oil in the world is Ukraine
- There are more than 70 different species of sunflowers! Some are even purple and red
- A sunflower takes 80 to 120 days to grow – growing 2 to 2.5 inches per day
- A sunflower is actually made up of thousands of mini flowers that make the full flower.
- The long petals on a sunflower are called ray florets
- Sunflowers can grow over 16 ft tall!
- Young sunflowers always face the sun. This means the direction they face will change throughout the day
- A mature flower will face east, attracting up to 5 times more pollinators
- Want sunflowers for your vase? The best time to clip them is early in the morning after the dew has dried.
- Sunflower seeds are loaded with nutrients and minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, fiber, and polyunsaturated fat
Looking for the ideal finish to your sunflower road trip in California? You’ll want to try one of our fun & witty sunflower Instagram captions to show off your sunny delights!
More on Road Tripping California
When planning your California road trip, there are a few things to be mindful of:
- Before you set our road-tripping in California, always check for the latest highway updates. Many of the most scenic drives in California are susceptible to both bushfires and landslides.
- So much more than just the sunflowers! Make sure you check out these 12 Scenic Drives in Northern California, or these unmissable majestic nature-spots in California.
- Many parts of California away from the big cities have poor to non-existent cell phone signal. Always have downloaded maps if using a phone app or take good old-fashioned paper maps.
- Summer means bushfire season for much of northern California. Stay alert to bushfire warnings with the National Weather Service and Cal Fire when planning your daily drives.
- Never forget an important item for your family again! Download our ultimate family road trip checklist before you set out.
Let’s get in the car and go for an unforgettable and utterly instagrammable California sunflower road trip adventure this summer and fall.
© Family Road Trip