Their vibrant colors were almost as bright as my smile as the Raleigh sunflowers basked in the North Carolina sun. We visited on a Sunday afternoon, which admittedly, was probably a peak time to see the premiere sunflower field in NC.
But we couldn’t worry about the crowds when we approached the beautiful expanse of summer blooms; they were there to see the same beauty we came to soak in. Having gone for two years and planning to go again in the future, I have a few tips for a successful visit. I plan to continue updating this post each year.
Here’s all you need to know about the best flower field in the state’s capital city.
Note: It is unfortunate, but understandable, that the City of Raleigh has made the decision to not proceed with planting the sunflowers in 2020 due to the pandemic. Their statement reveals how difficult it would be to ensure visitors socially distance. However, we feel the information in this article will both inspire you to keep it on your radar for future years and perhaps even inspire you to plant your own garden at home!
We look forward to visiting the sunflower field in Raleigh in 2021 (hopefully!) and beyond!
Location, Hours and Cost of the Raleigh Sunflowers
The sunflowers are in Dorothea Dix Park, near the Raleigh Farmers Market just outside downtown Raleigh. They’re open daily from dawn to dusk, including holidays. (Please note, however, while the park is open daily all year, the sunflowers are a seasonal attraction. Read on for more information.)
There isn’t a cost to see this stunning, ever-so-popular for photos, sunflower field at all! It’s free to visit. (See “Things to Do Nearby” later in the post to shop local to support the community.)
GPS Address: Flowers Field at Dix Park, 2105 Umstead Drive, Raleigh, NC 27603
Parking and Walking to the Sunflower Field in Raleigh
We visited the sunflowers in 2019 once before peak and once afterwards (with sunflowers-a-plenty!) and have driven directly into the lot without issue. The busiest we’ve seen it during random weekdays was maybe ten other cars there. Back in 2018, we spontaneously decided to go on an absolutely gorgeous Sunday afternoon, July 8. It took about five minutes to sit in “traffic” to get to the parking lot. The dense car crowd had a lot to do with the influx of visitors when we went, who probably all had the same idea we did! “It’s gorgeous! There are sunflowers in bloom! Let’s go be outside amongst the flowers!”
The walk from the parking lot near the soccer field to the sunflowers was about 50 yards – not far at all. The further you park within the dirt lot, the closer you are to the flower field. Some people parked further away and walked over but I noticed signs that said those lots weren’t for the sunflowers. 😉
We also saw a fair amount of people who biked to the park, which we thought was a great idea.
**Please note you cannot park at Dorothea Dix Park during SunFest. See below for more information on that under “Special Events.”**
Time to Allot
It depends on what you want to accomplish. We saw a good amount of families taking photos with a professional photographer while some parents were taking iPhone photos of their children dressed in matching outfits. Then we saw couples taking selfies but even more teenage and college women dressed to the nines, having friends take Instagram-worthy pictures of them. They were probably there a bit longer than we were.
Our interest was simply in going to see the field, snap a few photos of the Raleigh sunflowers for ourselves, take a selfie or two, and be on our way. We asked someone to snap some photos of us with my camera as well. It probably took us about 30 minutes once we arrived to Dorothea Dix to:
- Navigate the congestion of cars and park
- Walk to the sunflowers from parking
- See the flower fields
- Walk through the rows of flowers a little
- Take some photos…
- …and be on our way
Pets at the Flower Fields
We saw a few people with their dogs, so yes, pets are welcome on a leash. Just be kind about curbing your pet’s waste if you bring Fido along.
How Long are the Raleigh Sunflowers in Bloom?
The estimated bloom time for 2019 was July 1st through 17th. It’s hard to say how long they’ll be in bloom for each year, though, since it’s nature.
In 2018, they were in full bloom on Sunday, July 8, and appeared to still be growing (like they would be in bloom at least another two weeks) until July 23.
Last year, as of July 29, 2019, some flowers had passed their prime while there were thousands more still in bloom! See below.
It’s still pretty cool to see the huge sunflowers that are past their prime. I’ve never seen the seeds dry and easily removed like they were on them! You could literally see how the seeds dried out, then take them out of the face of the sunflower.
For future reference here’s what the sunflowers looked like before peak, as of July 5, 2019. They were about three feet (or less) in height. They still needed time to grow! **Don’t forget that the incredible North Carolina State Farmer’s Market is only about a mile away and open daily, whether or not the sunflowers are in bloom. Support your local farmers!**
The photos below are from last year, the second week of July. Thus, as we mentioned, nature is unpredictable to 100% certainty. We do our best to keep you updated and keep past years in this post as a history of what’s occurred in the past since we update it yearly.
In general it seems the Raleigh sunflowers blooming schedule is in its peak during the first and second weeks of July.
- Last year, in 2019, the first week of July showed flowers not yet open and green stems about three feet or less.
- The third week of July 2019 was peak. The fourth week of July still showed plenty of sunflowers in bloom even though many were passed their prime.
- In 2018, the first week of July was ideal.
- In 2017, the end of June was the perfect time to see them.
As with any blooming schedule, like the Cherry Blossoms in Washington, DC, keep your expectations realistic. If you have gone in the past and they were towards the end of the line, be grateful you saw a glimpse of them! Also, notate “Raleigh Sunflowers” in your Google or iCal for the first or second week of July in 2021, so you’ll potentially be right on time in the future! And be sure to keep visiting our site, Sometimes Home, for updates.
Keep in mind flowers are seasonal – but that’s part of what makes us cherish them so much during summer. And for the last two years there was an additional small attractive flower field just next to the sunflowers. They kept us happy even past the prime of the sunflowers. They looked like the orange flowers below.
When to Go to this North Carolina Sunflower Field
Please note they are only in bloom June through August. And, within those three months, July is almost guaranteed but June and August are unpredictable. See “How Long are The Raleigh Sunflowers in Bloom?” above for more info.
Time of Day
The park is open from dawn to dusk (sunrise to sunset). The earlier you go, whether a weekday or weekend, the less busy it will be. The interesting thing about sunflowers is the way their giant heads track the sun. Sunflowers are MAGICAL. They possess “heliotropism“, which is an ability to track the sun. It’s also known as solar tracking.
This means the sunflowers will be facing towards the east during sunrise and the west towards sunset. (The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.) We went in the afternoon and they were facing towards the downtown Raleigh skyline. This means if you were standing with the skyline behind you, you saw the “back” of the sunflower heads and stems. They may only face east, though, once they mature. (Partially because heliotropism is a result of the way the flower is going through stem growth and once it’s mature it stops growing.)
If you want to get there when the Raleigh sunflowers are facing towards your back, when it’s the picture-perfect time to capture your face facing a camera and the sunflower heads facing towards it too, with downtown Raleigh’s skyline, go in the morning.
Day of the Week
We went on a weekend and it was crowded, but somewhat less so than I expected. Weekdays will be less crowded simply because most people work Monday through Friday. However, you never know!
SunFest is an annual event that typically takes place the second weekend Saturday in July. Saturday, July 13, 2019 from 2:00pm to 9:00pm. They had a Ferris wheel, inflatable slides and bounce houses, putt putt golf, live music and other special vendors. Food trucks were plentiful and there were fresh brews and cider for the adults like the year before.
SunFest has been canceled for 2020. We will continue to update this post with pertinent information for future years, as we have done the past three years.
Other very important things to note:
- **Dogs and pets were not allowed for this event.**
- **Parking and ride share pickup/drop off was available at NC State Centennial Campus with a free shuttle running to/from the park until 11:00pm.**
Things to do Nearby
We absolutely loved walking around the Raleigh Farmers Market after we had a lovely time with the Raleigh sunflowers. The time of year when sunflowers are at their peak happens to also be an amazing time to be at the farmers market. The tomatoes were divine, the blueberries and peaches in season, and the plant vendors fully stocked. We bought a good amount of produce and succulents to take home!
There’s also Boulted Bread just blocks away, an amazing view at Lonnie Poole golf course across the road at NC State campus (great place to grab a beer), and incredible museums, photo spots, and restaurants downtown.
If you have the time, and you’re in from out of town for these beauties staying more than a day, check out all there is to do in Durham as well. It’s just thirty minutes northwest of downtown Raleigh.
Bring Snacks, Water, Sunscreen and Sunglasses
There was one taco food truck nearby, just a pathway walk away, while we were there. However it was mostly there for the adult soccer playing engaged in a soccer game in the adjacent park field. While there may be a food truck while you’re there on a weekend, I wouldn’t count on it.
Bring water and sunscreen – both of which you’ll be grateful you have! There isn’t any relief from the sun (no trees overhead for shade) which is why I mentioned sunglasses too. A hat or visor may also be a great idea.
Bathrooms and Bees
We saw one portable “potty” when we were there. I wouldn’t really plan to use a restroom there – if you can go before or after your visit, do so.
I wanted to also include a note about the bees. If you can see from most of my photos, there are plenty of bees on the Raleigh sunflowers. If you have a bee phobia (melissophobia, as it’s called) this may not be the place for you.
However, if bees don’t bother you as long as they keep to themselves, you’ll be a-okay. They were way more interested in the sunflowers than humans. In fact, I didn’t see them flying around humans at all; they were cozy on the sunflowers and too busy pollinating them to notice there were people around!
For more to do in the Raleigh Durham area, check out:
- 10 Best Downtown Raleigh Photography Spots
- The Longleaf Hotel in Raleigh Has us Wanting to Check into 1960, Immediately
- Raleigh’s Morgan Street Food Hall