After the grey winters of the Pacific Northwest, there’s no better way to usher in springtime than visiting the many colorful flower festivals across Oregon. From the first buds of spring, to the frost in the fall, the state boasts a wide variety of floral celebrations that blanket the countryside with a kaleidoscope of colors. Due to the state’s temperate climate, there’s no extreme summer heat or wintertime cold, creating the perfect conditions for flower growing. With over 300 commercial flower farms, Oregon’s flower industry has made the state a blossoming agritourism destination; attracting millions of visitors from around the country.
Starting in late March, flower festivals will begin popping up around the state and the sights and smells are magical. If the idea of strolling through fields of colorful flowers sounds enticing, put the petal to the metal and tour these five breathtaking flower celebrations in Oregon.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival
March 20-May 3
You don’t have to fly across the pond to enjoy rows upon rows of rainbow lined tulips. Just outside of Portland in the small town of Woodburn is the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm and it holds one of Oregon’s most popular festivals. From March until early May, the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival offers visitors the chance to walk through over 40 acres of tulips, while Mt. Hood provides the perfect backdrop for photographers.
This isn’t a garden-variety festival, in fact, there’s an abundance of fun activities to enjoy while visiting the farm. There are hayrides, bounce houses, cow trams, and climbing walls for the kiddos along with craft vendors and demonstrations, wine tasting, food trucks, and a tulip market where you can purchase fresh cut flowers and bulbs. On the weekend, take a ride in a hot air balloon and view the fields from above.
Tips: Don’t forget to bring your furry buds, leashed pets are allowed in the fields of all of Oregon’s flower festivals. Individual passes are $5 and include parking. Go mid week or arrive early; this is a very popular festival close to Portland. Lastly, check the field reports for bloom updates and prepare for muddy conditions if it’s been raining.
Portland Rose Festival
May 22- June 7th
It’s no surprise that Portland’s nicknamed the City of Roses. Oregon’s oldest flower celebration is Portland’s Rose festival. Stemming back to 1907, this annual celebration is not only Oregon’s largest spectator event, it’s also home to North America’s second biggest all-floral parade (after Pasadena’s). The 100 year old festival kicks off Memorial Day weekend with a massive firework display and throughout the festivities you’ll find carnival rides, dragon boat races, costume contests, treasure hunts, and live music. The two biggest events are the Starlight Parade which features impressive illuminated floats after dark and the festival’s famous centerpiece, the Grand Floral Parade. Speaking of floats, another major attraction to the festival is Fleet Week when visiting ships and submarines make their way to Portland’s waterfront, offering on-board tours and an up-close view of Naval ships.
For the flower lovers, you don’t want to miss the Portland Rose Society’s annual spring rose show, the nation’s largest and longest running rose exhibition. Afterwards, take a trip to the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park, which features over 10,000 rose bushes of 650 varieties. Dating back to 1917, the rose test garden was created during World War 1 to preserve the species of European roses that could get destroyed by the bombings.
Tips: Though most of the events are free to the public, entrance to the City Fair and Carnival costs $8. Plan for heavy traffic and longer waiting times for rail service when the parades are over and avoid taking bulky items like coolers due to limited space.
Keizer Iris Festival and Schreiner Iris Gardens
April showers bring May flowers and this is certainly true for Schreiner’s Iris Gardens in the Willamette Valley. During the month of May, flower lovers congregate at this 10 acre technicolor garden featuring over 500 iris varieties and countless other perennials. Since 1925, Schreiners Iris Gardens has been the nation’s largest retail grower of irises, with more than 200 acres of planted fields adjacent to the garden.
Located in the town of Keizer just north of Salem, Keizer’s Iris festival teams up with Schreiner’s Iris Gardens who supply hundreds of fresh cut flowers for the parade’s floats. The festival also features a 3k and 5k race, live entertainment, carnival rides, vendor fair, and food trucks.
Tips: Admission to the gardens is free, but parking costs $5/car. To avoid the crowds, visit during the week.
Southern Oregon Lavender Festival
June 19-21 and July 10-12th
Nestled among the vineyards of Applegate Valley is Southern Oregon’s Lavender Trail. Every summer when the lavender is in full bloom, the five lavender farms in the region offer visitors the chance to experience these fragrant purple flowers with the backdrop of the stunning Siskiyou range. One of the unique aspects about this flower festival is that you can enjoy the sight, smell, and taste of lavender. During the festival, you can drink wine and relax in the gardens, pick your own bouquets, distill your own essential oil, and learn how to make wreaths. Special events include live music, craft vendors, workshops, and painting classes. In the gift shops, you’ll find products like homemade lavender sorbet, lavender chocolates, infused teas, soaps, and lotions.
Tips: Allow yourself at least one whole day to visit all five farms or make it a weekend-long affair which gives you time to check out some of the great wineries in the valley as well as the historic town of Jacksonville.
Swan Island Dahlia Festival
August 29-30th and September 5-7th
Last bud not least, is Oregon’s final flower festival of the year. Every Labor Day weekend, visitors flock to Canby, Oregon’s Swan Island Dahlia Farm to experience the country’s largest dahlia grower in all of its colorful glory. Stroll through nearly 40 acres of dahlia fields featuring over 370 varieties. During this free festival, visit their indoor display room which holds over 400 floral arrangements and over 15,000 cut dahlia blooms, which is the largest floral display put on by any one grower in the United States. While visiting the farm, also take advantage of the several food trucks, beer and wine tents, live music, and floral arrangement demonstrations.
Tips: Visit the farm in the early hours to avoid the crowds. While there, you can order dahlia tubers at a discounted price.
Author, photographer and artist Cate Battles travels the country full time with her husband, Chad, in their renovated, mural-painted 1976 Airstream Argosy. The couple’s travel blog, Argosy Odyssey, chronicles their adventures as they tour North America with their pet goat and dog. You can read more of Cate’s dispatches for Trailer Life here and follow the Battles on Instagram and Facebook.