Sure, you know that showy little orange blossom is California’s state flower. But it’s also the star of an eye-popping and dazzling family festival. Head to the Antelope Valley, home to one of California’s most bountiful crops of desert flowers to soak up some sun, listen to the music and bask in the brilliance of the poppies.  It’s the last chance to catch these beauties until next year!

photo: Anita Ritenour via Flickr

Planning Your Visit
The first you need to that the festival takes place April 22 & 23 in the town of Lancaster. Afer several years of no rain and few poppies, this winter’s drenching means that the hills are alive with healthy poppies. According to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve: “The east end of the park is covered with poppies and patches are starting to fill in around other areas!  We do not expect a full carpet of poppies across the park, but many other flowers such as goldfields, lupine, and lacy phacelia are also creating a mosaic of color that changes daily.”  The blooms should last through April, making this a perfect time to head east, young family!

photo: Dianna M. via yelp

Though not as big—or ominous—as the Land of Oz (where Dorothy encountered the fields that put her to sleep), the Poppy Festival is spread out across 55 acres and features hundreds of exhibits, activities, presentations, performances, plus plenty of food n’ shopping ops. Don’t forget to wear plenty of sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and bring a sweatshirt. Sure, it’s the desert, but the weather can be unpredictably windy or stormy.

kids on ride

photo: California Poppy Festival

What to Do
Do bring the camera and gaze at the fields, snapping some stellar shots of the kids in the blooms. But then, head to the center of the festival—kiddos need action and luckily there’s plenty of that here, with enough variety to keep everyone happy. There are three stages: one for music, one for dancers and the final one is the Adventure Zone with an Exotic Animals of the Rainforest show multiple times each day.

poppy7photo: California Poppy Festival

But that’s not all. The festival takes their “Always Something New” motto seriously, and there are crafts, mural painting, reptiles, birds, and insects to meet, a car show on Sunday and an arts n’ crafts marketplace where you can find handmade wooden toys, soaps, hammocks, clothes, pottery and everything in between. Everywhere you look there’s something new to explore.

photo: Varint via flickr

The Antelope Valley is more than just poppies. It also happens to be known as “America’s Aerospace Valley” and is home to cutting edge leaders in aerospace technologies, who will also be swinging by the festival. So countdown and get ready to let your imagination take off at some way cool space and aviation presentations.

32218_419405369881_4952500_nphoto: California Poppy Festival

Where to Eat
With so much scrumptious chow to choose from, even your most finicky foodies will be happy. You’ll find the good old festival faves like funnel cakes, corn dogs, and kabobs; or hit the international market for exotic bites from far and wide. For more freshly picked, swing by the Farmers Market for juicy fruits and veggies, and while you’re there you can also pick up some gourmet snacks and spices. Oh, and of course, don’t forget the poppies!

poppy4photo: California Poppy Festival

Admission & Getting There
To save time and avoid the lines, buy tickets online before the festival. At the festival tickets are for sale for cash only (there are ATMs near the entrance). Kids under 6 are free, 6-12 year-olds, seniors and military personnel are $5 and adults are $10.

The Poppy Festival is located at Lancaster City Park, just off the 14 freeway, about 90 minutes from Los Angeles. Parking is free and complimentary trams shuttle regularly between the parking lot and festival entrance.

poppy6photo: California Poppy Festival

The California Poppy Festival
Sgt. Steve Owen Memorial Park
43011 N. 10th Street West

Have you been to the Poppy Festival? What is your favorite memory?

—Jennifer Wolfe