8 Places That Prove Spring is Here
Is there anything better than the smell of fresh cut grass and warm rain, or fields of tulips and poppies? At these 8 destinations, spring is an elevated art form.
Hill Country, Texas
Texas takes its flowers seriously, and April in Hill Country means peak wildflower bloom. Landscape architects work tirelessly to cultivate 800,00 acres of highway median blossoms, sowing new seeds and pruning existing buds. For the best wildflower vistas, follow the scenic, self-guided Texas Hill Country Wildflower Trail, where you'll spot the finest blooms Austin, San Antonio, Fredericksburg and San Marcos have to offer – we're talking miles of bluebonnets mingling with Texas paintbrushes, winecups and primrose. If somehow, you fail to stumble upon them yourself, you can always call the Wildflower Hotline for up-to-date advice on where to catch the brightest blossoms.
Skagit Valley, Washington State
The Pacific Northwest’s Skagit Valley knows that springtime celebrations run on the flowers’ schedule (and not the other way around), which is why the valley holds its fest for 30 whole days. Along with hundreds of acres of tulips, you’ll find art shows, bike tours, outdoor concerts and artisanal cheesemongers (ohh, yeah). There’s no one “it” spot to catch blooms; rather fields are sprinkled between La Conner and Mount Vernon, with gardens blossoming in rotation year to year (last year’s unimpressive fields could be this year’s prize-winning crops, and vice versa). This go-around, the main show gardens, RoozenGaarde and Tulip Town, are your best bets for a flawless photo op. As you make plans, keep an eye on the bloom map for prime tulip viewing.
RELATED: 13 Mind-Blowing Art Escapes
Provence is in a league of its own; blessed with year-round blooms, be it mimosas, irises, peonies, sunflowers or its famed lavender (which makes its anticipated appearance in June). But springtime in southern France is arguably the dreamiest season, as rosemary, wild thyme and bright red poppies blanket the Cote d’Azur. Get a better look at the region that inspired Van Gogh, Cezanne and Monet by visiting the diverse, ethnobotanical herb and medicinal gardens of Jardins des Salagon, the geometric box hedges and orangery at Le Clos de Villeneuve, or Sérignan-du-Comtat for the Rare Plants and Natural Gardens Festival (June 16th-17th). Beautiful blooms are never lost on the French, so no worries if you can't make it in time for spring; hold out for June when you can catch the three-day Rendez-Vous aux Jardins, which sees thousands of parks and garden being opened to the public.
Monet's Garden Giverny, France
It’s easy to see how Monet sourced inspiration from his gardens in Giverny, but did you know the conceptual grounds were of his own design? The artist’s garden was split in two: the colorful Clos Normand flower garden, and the Japanese water garden with its famed wisteria-covered bridge. In both, Monet mixed common plants like the poppy and daisy with rarer varieties, like Japanese maple – focusing primarily on color composition. The garden is now open to the public seven months each year – from March to November – and more than 500,000 make the pilgrimage to view Giverny's poppies, tulips, forget-me-nots, and daffodils through Monet's eyes.
Keukenhof Gardens Leiden, Holland
Holland is crazy about its tulips. So crazy, that Keukenhof hosts Tulpomania – a showcase featuring 7 million bulbs and 700 varieties. With gardens for every mood – there’s the Romantic-, Beach-, Sensory-, Vintage- and Historical gardens – visitors can relax among the tulips, learn how to expertly care for their own plant, or even christen a bulb themselves. Travelers are also encouraged to take a Whisper Boat through the gardens – a 45-minute tour in complete silence (in the name of solitude and floral admiration) – rent a tandem bike for an intimate partner outing, or take a guided tour for the ultimate tulip schooling. This year, the celebration’s theme is the Golden Age (in recognition of Holland’s success in world trade) and is marked by a 100,000-bulb strong mosaic on the Oranje Nassau Pavilion.
To cultivate a garden in Cornwall is no simple affair. The British isle takes so much pride in its blooms, that 12 of its most impressive teamed up to create the exclusive Great Gardens of Cornwall - a diverse, yet harmonious, collection of Cornish grounds. Each year, the group monitors blooms by the day, updating their count for the most accurate announcement of spring's arrival (determined by at least 50 blooms on each of their Champion Magnolia trees – this year February 10th was the fated day). The awe-inspiring feats of horticultural excellence include exotic plants, mazes of shrubbery, rhododendron-covered woodlands, and sub-tropical canopies that look like they bloomed on the wrong continent.
Tidal Basin, Washington D.C.
In 1912, Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo gifted the US government, and Washington D.C., with 3,000 cherry blossom trees in recognition of the cities’ brotherly bond. Then in 1981, after Japanese flooding destroyed many of the country’s delicate cherry blossom trees, the US re-payed the token of love, sending cuttings from the same trees to replenish their orchards. Since the initial planting at Tidal Basin by First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda (Ozaki’s wife), American first ladies have been quite involved in the annual proceedings. This year, April 16th marks parade day and the Japanese street festival. Other than taking to the event on foot, you can arrange a Potomac Riverboat cruise, a photo safari, culinary tour, or Blossoms by Bike ride. Check here for a detailed bloom breakdown or watch the trees in real time on the Blossom Cam.
RELATED: 34 Things to Do for Free in D.C.
Callaway Gardens Pine Mountain, Georgia
Azaleas, dogwoods, tulips, lilies, and magnolia blossoms lay claim to Callaway Gardens each spring. That said, you can imagine how much there is to be seen, but even on a day trip, you can fit in the 40-acre native azalea garden, the Holly Trail (with 25 Asian and American holly displays) through Meadowlark Garden, and nature sightings (ruby-throated hummingbirds, bluebirds, tiger swallowtail butterflies, and chickadees) if you’re lucky. If you’re planning an extended stay, you can hit the zipline course, take to one of the 7 moderate trail walks, try your luck geocaching, picnic on the grounds, or dine on Southern favorites at the Garden Restaurant overlooking Mountain Creek Lake.