Ahhhh, sunflowers. There is something about sunflowers that just makes you smile, right? Maybe it is their bright, happy yellow-orange faces preening in the sunshine. Maybe it’s the fat bumble bees getting drunk on the nectar. Perhaps it is because sunflowers represent the transition from the sunny, lazy days of summer to the crisp, mellow harvest time of the year. Regardless, sunflowers are just so happy. Of course, it is always helpful to know where and when to see sunflowers at peak bloom. I have researched this topic thoroughly and below are your 6 best bets for enjoying these glorious yellow smiley faces this year! These are the 6 best places to see sunflowers in Maryland and Northern Virginia.
Note for 2016: There are many reports that the typical blooming season is about 2-3 later than normal due to the cold spring temperatures and rain. If you want to get updated to peak bloom dates, watch each venue’s facebook page or instagram account.
1. McKee Beshers Wildlife Management Area
These sunflowers are planted in seven fields and cover an area of over 40 acres. The sunflower fields are primarily planted to attract birds for hunting purposes, but apparently there is no danger from hunters during peak bloom. Here are some more details:
- Peak bloom in 2016 is projected to be early to mid-July. Based on bloom reports from previous years, your best bet to see sunflowers in peak bloom would be the week after the 4th of July.
- I could not find any information about whether or not you can pick these sunflowers. I would imagine you are not allowed to pick them though since this is a nature preserve.
- The address/directions for the fields is: Sycamore Landing Rd., Poolesville, MD 20837. This isn’t exactly an address you can plug into GPS, so here are better directions:
- (copied from the website) “From the Capital Beltway, take Exit 39 (River Road) west toward Potomac. Proceed for approximately 11 miles to the intersection of River Road and MD 112, Seneca Road. Turn left and continue on River Road for about 2 1/2 miles. McKee-Beshers will be on your left as you head west on River Road.”
- There are multiple sunflower fields, so if the field you see isn’t in full bloom yet, drive down River Road towards DC. One of the other fields could be in full bloom already.
- A few warnings:
- There are lots of bees. As in, lots of bees. The good news is that they are the lazy, happy bumble bees that are really only concerned with the sunflowers. The bad news is there are lots of bees.
- Bring insect repellent. This is the great outdoors, which means great potential for lots of mosquitoes too.
- If it has been raining, the fields will likely be wet.
- Many photographers bring a step-stool because some of the sunflowers stand 6′ tall!
- I have read a few reviews and most photographers say sunrise or late afternoon/early evening are the best times to photograph the sunflowers.
2. Maryland Agricultural Resource Council
The Maryland Agricultural Resource Council (MARC) in Cockeysville, MD started planting sunflower fields a few years ago, and they celebrate the occasion with lovely pick your own fields and a Sunflower Soiree. Here is what you need to know if you decide to go:
- Peak bloom last year was the last week of July, with sunflowers still being quite pretty the first week on August.
- The pick your own cost is $1 per stem and $10 for a dozen stems. Payment is on the honor system.
- Fresh cut sunflowers will be available for purchase.
- If you forget your shears, you can pick up a pair in the MARC office. You should bring your own bucket and water for cut sunflower stems though.
- This year, the Sunflower Soiree will take place July 28th from 5-8pm. It features live music, cooking demonstrations, and wine.
- The address for MARC is: 1114 Shawan Road, Cockeysville, MD 21030
- Bees. Be careful of the bees.
3. The Sunflower Garden
The Sunflower Garden in Westminster, MD is just about the perfect place for picking your dose of happy, as well as awesome photo opportunities. Here are some of the reasons why folks love visiting year after year:
- At peak bloom sunflowers line both sides of the long driveway to the gardens. Based on photos from last year, peak bloom seems to be the first few weeks of August. However, the gardens open for picking July 1st and picking season lasts until mid-September.
- A bunch of sunflowers will set you back $8, which apparently is the same price as it was 18 years ago when the Sunflower Garden opened its fields for picking.
- The owners have a reputation for being the nicest people around. They are very helpful and find cute photo props to enhance your sunflower photo taking experience.
- You can feed chickens, pet the bunny rabbit, and buy fresh veggies from the veggie stand while you are there.
- The Sunflower Garden is located at: 2390 Manchester Rd, Westminster, MD 21157
4. Rocky Point Creamery
Yep, you read that right. Sunflowers and ice cream. I think I might just die and go to heaven with that combination! Every July and August, the Rocky Point Creamery, located just outside Frederick, MD, hosts a pick-your-own sunflower field, with all the proceeds from the sunflower sales going to the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. How cool is that? If you want to pick your happy and make your mouth happy too, check out these details:
- Based on last year’s photos, peak bloom runs from the last week of July through mid-August.
- I didn’t see information on the website for how much it will set you back to pick sunflowers, but after a little digging I discovered a price quote of $1 per stem. This information is a little dated, but I can’t imagine it has changed much.
- Um, did I mention that the sunflowers are not the star of the show? Nope– you better plan on stopping for some of that ice cream! Rocky Point Creamery is part of the Maryland Ice Cream Trail. So, you know this is the good stuff.
- I am not sure if they are out all season, but apparently you can visit the Holstein cows, whose milk is used to make the ice cream. Talk about farm to table (or whatever that is called).
- Here is their address: 4323A Tuscarora Road; Tuscarora, MD 21790
- They are open from 1130AM-830PM every day except Mondays. They are closed on Mondays.
5. Burnside Farms
The one Virginia-based sunflower field on this list is completely amazing. Burnside Farms really knows how to do pick-your-own flowers. In the spring, they are famous for their tulips and daffodils. However, come mid-July, Burnside Farms transforms into one of the most happy places in the region. Their Summer of Sunflowers is a fantastic place to pick up some sunflowers, and take amazing photos.
We visited last year and you can read my in-depth review of their sunflower fields by clicking here (or on the photo below).
6. Clear Meadow Farms
The last sunflower field on this list may also be one of the nicest. Clear Meadow Farms in Jarrettsville, MD is easily accessible from the road, and perfect for gorgeous photos of endless sunflower fields. This is not a pick-your-own field. Sunflowers will eventually be harvested for their seeds. However, there are two things that make this sunflower field unique:
- Peak bloom is much later than the other sunflower fields in Maryland and Virginia. Last year, peak bloom was the 2nd and 3rd weeks in September.
- These sunflowers are much shorter than some of the other varieties you will encounter (most notably at McKee Beshers WMA). The nice thing about that is you can easily get great photos with your kids.
If you would like to read my in-depth review of Clear Meadow Farms, along with a surprising sweet side trip idea, click here (or click on the photo below).
So, there you have it! The 6 best places to get your end of summer dose of happy! I hope you enjoy the sunflowers and capture some lovely photos!
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