Sunflower Fields Forever at Dix Park

Get ready for Raleigh’s best photo op. Sunflowers are blooming at Dorothea Dix Park.


Published:

Photo courtesy of Lauren Bell Isaacs

Arguably one of Raleigh's best photo ops, it's sunflower time at Dorothea Dix Park!

The Dix Park sunflower field is a City of Raleigh inter-departmental effort between Public Utilities; the Office of Sustainability; and Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources. It's a great partnership project for these departments because it not only created a stunning garden feature at the park, but it also provides a safe area for people to get up close and personal with sunflowers the city plants each year. In previous years, the "secret" Neuse River Greenway sunflowers, also planted by City of Raleigh Public Utilities Department, would pop up on various parts of the trail. Due to increased traffic, selfie sunflower chasers trespassing on the wastewater treatment plant's private property, concerns about snakes and other issues resulted in the City of Raleigh not replanting the flowers along the greenway in 2018. 

Beginning last summer, the City of Raleigh's Public Utilities department partnered with the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources department and Office of Sustainability to plant 5 acres of flowers at Dorothea Dix Park to allow the community to safely access and enjoy the amazing blooms up close. On May 15, 2019, 5 acres of sunflowers were again planted at Dix Park, with peak bloom planned for mid-July in time for the city's Destination SunFest event July 13.

After the blooms fade, Public Utilities harvest the Dix Park sunflowers to process biodiesel for educational programs and demonstrations. These include the North Carolina Farm Show, the Got to Be NC Festival and a bioenergy conference that takes place in Raleigh and Asheville. The benefits of sunflowers not only include their ability to become biofuel, but also their role as excellent pollinators. The Dix Park sunflower field serves as a massive pollinator habitat for bees and other species. 

Here's what the fields looked like last summer (photo courtesy of Beaumonde Arts Agency):

Destination SunFest

The city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department will host Destination SunFest 2019 on Saturday, July 13, 2-7 p.m. This family-friendly festival features a variety of performances, lawn games, summer-themed vendors and, of course, walks through the sunflower field during peak bloom. Register for a free ticket through dixpark.org. The rain date for SunFest is Sunday, July 15. Destination SunFest is one of our top picks for family fun this month!


Know Before You Go:

  • UPDATE: Weather conditions have caused the sunflowers to grow slower than expected. Fingers crossed they will be blooming in time for our Destination SunFest event on July 13. We will continue to update the community on their progress. 
  • The sunflower field at Dix Park is located off Hunt Drive near the soccer fields and historic cemetery.
  • Please stay on the paths in the field and keep children and pets from straying into the sunflowers.
  • The sunflower field is open to the public seven days-a-week, from dawn until dusk.
  • Weekday parking is available in the soccer field parking area off Hunt Drive. Please follow the signs and see map below. 
  • Over 2,000 North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services employees work on the Dix Park campus each day. Please be respectful of their working environment and avoid all buildings and DHHS parking areas during business hours.
  • You can walk or bike to the park. Dix Park is located on the Rocky Branch Greenway.
  • Walking up hills, in grass and on uneven surfaces will be necessary. We recommend closed-toe shoes!
  • Please do not pick the flowers or eat the sunflower seeds. Public Utilities will be harvesting them for use after they have bloomed.
  • Remember you are outside, and so are bugs and other critters. Be prepared!
  • Please keep your pup (or kitty) on-leash and pick up after them.
  • There are only port-a-johns in the park and no drinkable water, so please plan accordingly.
  • Professional photographers are welcome to have sessions at the sunflower field; however, all commercial film or photography taking place in a City of Raleigh Park requires a permit. This one year permit covers all City of Raleigh Parks. To apply for the permit, please contact Kathryn Gebhardt with the Parks Department at 919-996-4510 or kathryn.gebhardt@raleighnc.gov.

What to Bring:

  • Friends and family.
  • Your kiddos.
  • Your pet on a leash.
  • Sunscreen, insect repellent, a hat and water to stay hydrated.
  • A picnic with food and nonalcoholic drinks.
  • Camp chairs or blankets to sit a spell. Some picnic tables will be available under nearby trees.
  • Drones or other aerial devices are welcome on the Big Field only.
  • Your camera! Tag Dorothea Dix Park in your photos on social media: @dixpark and #DixPark ... and enjoy the beautiful blooms!

What is Not Allowed:

  • Picking the flowers or eating the sunflower seeds.
  • Outside alcoholic beverages.
  • Smoking.

Accessibility:

  • Dorothea Dix Park continues to work to be accessible and welcoming for visitors with disabilities and limited mobility. Accessible parking with reserved spaces are available in all lots on campus. Handicap accessible port-a-johns are located at the Big Field and Flowers Field. Portions of Dorothea Dix Park have uneven surfaces are not American With Disabilities act-accessible at this time. 
  • Planning a visit to Dix Park and have questions about accessibility? Contact Programs and Operations Supervisor Joseph Voska at 919-996-6688 or joseph.voska@raleighnc.gov.

Where to Park When You Visit the Sunflower Field:

parking directions for Sunflower Field at Dix Park

Image courtesy of Dorothea Dix Park website

 

About the City of Raleigh and Dorothea Dix Park Conservancy: The City of Raleigh owns and operates Dorothea Dix Park. The Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that exists to support the City in its efforts, serve as its philanthropic partner, and help ensure the creation and long-term success of Dorothea Dix Park. If you have any questions, please email events@dixpark.org or call 919-996-6688

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