Top Spots for Seeing Breathtaking Seas of Spring Blooms
From stunning fields of poppies to acres of tulips, whether they’re cultivated collections or those that run wild, here are some of the best places to soak up the season’s most colorful spectacles.
Photo By: BaileyNurseries.com
Cherry Trees Shower the Capital in Pink Petals
In late March through early April for more than a century, Washington DC’s iconic cherry trees have exploded into clouds of pink. The mayor of Tokyo gifted 3,000 cherry trees to the nation’s capital in 1912, and the beloved blooms become the backbone for landscaping across the city and into surrounding Fairfax County, Virginia. Visitors can take a dinner cruise along the Potomac River, get free tickets to tour local gardens, stroll the National Mall or the Tidal Basin and along East Potomac Park shore where blooms frame views of memorials. Additional events include a freedom walk, kite festival and Petalpalooza with fireworks and a Japanese street festival.
Where else to go: The 12-acre Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon blooms in March with weeping cherry trees, Sakura and camellias all with Mount Hood as the backdrop. In the South, check out the more than 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees that bloom, coinciding with the International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Ga.
Drive Bluebonnet Byways in Texas Hill Country
It’s Texas tradition to take photos among fields filled with bluebonnets — the state flower and part of the lupine species. A good place to start is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center — 12 miles southwest of Austin — before heading into the rolling rural Hill Country. Follow the Fredericksburg-to-Willow City loop using Highway 16 to catch some of the best fields, which also may be blooming in swaths of sunny coreopsis, red Indian paintbrush or hot-pink phlox, which are among the 2,700 species of wildflower in the Lone Star State. Another option is following Highway 16 south to Helotes on the outskirts of San Antonio. For a full-blown celebration, head into Burnet, which has 5,000 residents, but draws close to 30,000 for its annual Bluebonnet Festival the second weekend in April.
Where else to go: Tall, purple lupine dot the trails and meadows in the valleys of North Lake Tahoe, beginning in May. They complement the sapphire lakes, sandy beaches and scenic views.
Daffodils Brighten Rhode Island
A million sunny yellow daffodils herald spring along the coast of Rhode Island. Coinciding events include a bike ride, garden tours, vintage car parade, lecturers, and the light-hearted "paw-rade" of dogs dressed like daffodils.
Where else to go: Massachusetts’ Nantucket Island blooms with more than three million daffodils from early April to mid-May with a Daffodil Festival anchoring the event.
Stroll Beneath the Dogwoods
In April, fans of flowering dogwoods know to gather in Paducah, Kentucky, where the annual Dogwood Trail Celebration inspires many of the area’s artists. Visitors can stroll, bike, drive or ride a trolley along 10 designated miles of flowering trees through downtown, the Lower Town Arts District and other residential neighborhoods. The trail is lit for daytime or nighttime visits, and also includes colorful Japanese maples, redbuds, weeping cherry trees and gardens. Paducah, a designated United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Creative City, also offers art and photography exhibits during the celebration and month of April.
Enjoy California’s Riot of Ranunculus Color
The name of Carlsbad, California’s, most famous flower, giant Tecolote ranunculus, doesn’t roll off the tongue, but these densely petaled beauties do stop traffic. On close to 50 sloped acres near Interstate 5, swaths of pink and coral, ruby red, purple, yellow and orange, dazzle visitors from early March through early May at the Flower Fields of Carlsbad Ranch. Located in northern San Diego County, the attraction welcomes visitors to stroll the paths (or ride a tractor-pulled trailer) through the fields, bring in a picnic lunch, check out concerts or workshops and take photos with mountains and the Pacific shimmering on the horizon.
Celebrate Tulips in Washington’s Skagit Valley
Fields blanketed in tulips and a backdrop of mountains draw close to a million visitors to Washington state’s Skagit Valley throughout April. The bulbs explode into acres of reds, yellows, purples, pinks, peaches, cream and every variation of these beloved bulbs. Skagit Valley Tulip Festival runs all month with bike tours, quilt walks, art shows, street fairs, a farm-to-pint festival, salmon barbecue, and tours of display gardens. A Dutch windmill rises from the fields at Roozengaarde with a five-acre 250,000-bulb display garden a 25-acre tulip field and 22 acre-daffodil field.
Where else to go: With the name of Holland, it’s no surprise this coastal city in southwestern Michigan plays up its Dutch heritage. But for a small town, it celebrates big with more than five million tulips in the city and a 90-year-old Tulip Time Festival in mid-May with parades, Dutch dancing, Dutch cuisine, windmill and garden tours, and wooden shoe making.
Seek Wisteria and Wild Blooms Near Philly
Longwood Gardens’ 1,077-acre horticultural display in Greater Philadelphia’s Brandywine River Valley offers a wealth of fountains, formal gardens and spring bulbs in a riot of color, but each May, it also features fragrant cascades of white and purple in the Wisteria Gardens. Look for the blossoms waterfalling from vines, archways and historic buildings. Late March or April visitors who arrive before the trees of Peirce’s Woods leaf out, can see carpets of lacey white foam flowers and "Sherwood Purple" creeping phlox. The woods are home to Virginia bluebells, showy trillium and 10,000 wild plants rescued from North Carolina before highway construction.
California Fields Pop With Vivid Wild Poppies
When spring showers find their way into the heart of Antelope Valley, it bursts into an ocean of orange California poppies. The town of Lancaster, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, hosts The California Poppy Festival to celebrate the official state flower.
Inhale the Lilacs in Rochester, New York
The nation’s largest collection of lilacs — 500 varieties at Rochester, New York’s, Highland Park —inspires a deeper appreciation for one of spring’s most evocative flowers. The 10-day Lilac Festival in early May includes a mix of concerts, arts and crafts, a parade and beer, wine and even a bloody Mary expo. Garden Battles pit local media personalities against each other in a race to create the best landscaping project. Imagine chefs on Food Network’s "Chopped" with shovels, plants and dirt instead of food and knives. Spring visitors can also enjoy 700 varieties of azaleas and rhododendrons, tulips, pansies, mountain laurel, 35 varieties of magnolias, plus tree peonies and crabapples.
Where else to go: Lilacia Park in Lombard, Ill. (also known as "Lilac Village") boasts close to 700 cultivars of lilacs in bloom throughout most of May. Its annual Lilac Time includes heritage tours, plus beer and wine tastings, a Mutt Strut, The Lilac Ball and parade.
Iris Brings Travelers to Swan Lake at Sumter, SC
Wrapping up the spring season, South Carolina’s Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter brings together all eight species of swans — including Australian Black — and the ethereal beauty of a cypress swamp. A long time ago, a frustrated gardener, who couldn’t get his Japanese iris bulbs to grow, dumped them near the swamp where today they thrive in the moist conditions and bloom by the thousands in vibrant purples, blues, pinks and white. The town’s annual three-day Iris Festival runs over Memorial Day weekend with events such as Taste of the Gardens, Art in the Gardens, flower sales, concerts and a parade.