Like Claude Monet once said, "I must have flowers, always and always."
Whether you prefer to grow your own or just place a fresh farmer's market bouquet on your dining table, the Swan Island Dahlia farm is an amazing place to celebrate and relish in some of the biggest, boldest blooms you've probably never seen.
The Gitt family has been in the business of growing dahlias in Canby, Oregon, for over 96 years. Understandably, they are the leading growers and largest dahlia suppliers within the entire United States.
Every year, they open up all 40 acres of dahlia fields to the public to share their growing knowledge, sell the most unique blooms and bulbs, and bring the community together for a good time amidst their bountiful harvest.
So whether you're traveling the Pacific Northwest (PNW) on a national parks road trip, need an inexpensive date idea, or simply can't get enough of all the summer flower festivals, this is why you should visit Oregon's Swan Island Dahlia Festival.
Fun Facts About Dahlias
Before you say, "but they're just flowers," you have to understand something about dahlias.
- Dahlias generally do not have a scent.
- There are over 42 known dahlia varieties, all categorized within 14 groups, but places like Swan Island develop 5 to 15 new hybridized varieties every season in their fields!
- Mexico declared the dahlia as their national flower in 1963.
- Officially, there are 15 recognized dahlia colors, but so far blue cannot be achieved.
- Dahlias are a perennial plant, except for some colder regions where they've grown annually.
- Blooms peak long after most summer flowers, beginning August and often lasting before the first frost.
- The largest dahlia head ever recorded was over 14 inches wide!
- Dahlia tubers are edible. Supposedly, they were a common food for the Aztecs.
- Overall, they symbolize strength through adversity, and are beautiful and meaningful as wedding arrangements.
Swan Island Dahlia Festival
The Swan Island Dahlia Festival runs through August and September annually. They are open from 9 AM to 5:30 PM every day but Wednesday, when they are closed.
There are no admission or parking costs. But there is a gift shop, a fresh cut flower station, and food trucks available for various delicacies throughout the day. Although, outside food and drink (non-alcoholic, of course) are permitted on the premises.
When we went, we slurped a delicious iced caramel macchiato and honeydew bubble tea from Rock'N Latte. Chop Chop Chicken Sundaes was also serving up grub.
Visitors looking for a little, or a lot, extra fun should consider the on-site classes offered by the farm. Most classes are held Friday through Sunday, and feature DIY workshops like step-by-step painting, charcuterie boards, arranging flowers, caring for dahlias, and even macrame!
If you come on the weekend, expect live music from local bands set against the colorful, blooming fields. Canopies and tables are provided for families wishing to spend a while eating and singing along to familiar tunes.
Dogs are allowed at the Swan Island Dahlia Festival, with the exception of the gift shop. We pet many friendly, furry faces during our visit.
However, the family does urge guests to consider the crowds and the heat and whether your pet is capable of tolerating both before you pack your pup along.
If you're hoping for a specific music genre, class, or cuisine, I recommend perusing the event calendar to plan your day accordingly.
Can't make it in-person? Swan Island offers 10% off all online orders during the months of August and September. Get fresh flowers, tubers, or even a specialty gift item, at their online store here.
Best Time to Visit
You only have two months, or 52 days excluding all the Wednesdays, to fit in a visit to the dahlia festival. When should you go?
Well, here in the Willamette Valley, just about everything depends on the weather.
This past spring happened to be unseasonably wet and cold for well into May, meaning many gardens were planted much later than usual. Due to this delay, even the Swan Island Dahlia Festival was short on flowers when we visited the second Saturday of August.
Of course, this worked out in our favor, as they were selling mixed bundles of dahlias because they truly didn't have enough of each variety to sell alone. But the flower fields were scarce and not near as pretty to walk through as we hoped.
All that to say, do a little research into the harvest time. To be safe, best to go near the middle of the festival for peak blooms. If you'd rather avoid crowds, visit during the week soon after Labor Day when school has started back up.
Lunch & Coffee at Lux Sucre
Even if you grabbed a coffee or bite to eat at the Swan Island Dahlia Festival, a stop at Lux Sucre just a few miles away is a must when you're in the area.
Besides, who says you can only have one fancy coffee drink in a day?
Anyway, Lux Sucre is not just a cute cafe, it's an experience! Before you even walk through the door, you'll be greeted by adorable pink outdoor dining tables and a vintage pink phone booth decorated in colorful silk florals.
Talk about a photo op. I definitely couldn't resist!
If you love color as much as I do, the industrial style combined with eccentric, bright cafe furniture will have your mouth watering before you even behold the pastry display.
Good luck choosing a treat, by the way. From custard stuffed croissants to rainbow sherbet swiss rolls to your basic chocolate chip cookie (potato chip flakes optional), Lux Sucre has the gamut and they do it all well.
However, if you need something more than something sweet, they can cover you there, too.
For those who enjoy blending fruit with savory flavors, I highly recommend the ham and brie tartine, complete with marionberry jam and dijon drizzle. Andrew opted for the bruschetta chicken sandwich and declared it "divine," if that helps.
Good news for those with allergies: they can substitute most sandwiches with gluten free bread!
Lux Sucre offers both dine-in and takeout. If you choose the latter, you can pass the time in the (never thought I'd say this about a bathroom) adorable restroom and watch the bakers whip up their magic in the open kitchen.
A Weekend of Dahlias - Concluded
Keep in mind, if you get fresh cut dahlias from the festival before stopping elsewhere, those blooms need to be kept cool and in the shade.
This was exactly why we ordered our food to go at Lux Sucre instead of enjoying the overall ambiance at the restaurant.
Thankfully, there is an easy-to-follow process at the Swan Island Dahlia Festival's flower station showing you how to bag your stems, fill with water, and wrap them tight for the journey home.
Be sure to ask the farm's advice for keeping the blooms fresh and healthy so you and your family can enjoy them for as long as possible!