Springtime is a wonderful time to travel: nature starts to wake up from its winter hibernation, many cities become more walkable as the weather improves, and for many destinations, spring is still shoulder season, so you’ll beat the summer vacation crowds. Here is our list of the best places to travel in the U.S. this spring:
The Superbloom in the Anza-Borrego Desert, California
The wild weather that California has experienced this past year is very likely to produce some spectacular results in the form of a desert superbloom. Unfortunately, predicting the exact dates these may occur is tougher than you’d think, so you have to be ready to go on a moment’s notice. We were lucky enough to get to experience one of these rare occurrences in 2019, while on a spontaneous road trip with our dogs.
If you go, you’ll find the desert floor carpeted with small, colorful flowers.
Plan to arrive early, because crowds are inevitable and parking may become difficult as the day wears on. Heat is another factor, being in the desert, so an earlier arrival could provide more comfortable temperatures, especially if you want to enjoy one of the wonderful hikes in this incredible state park.
How To Visit Responsibly: It’s tempting to take a souvenir, but please don’t pick the flowers. Stick to paths and avoid trampling the flora just to get that superbloom selfie. As you can see in the photo above, many poppies were trampled before we got there (we only walked along the edges and whwere trampling had already occurred, both for the safety of the poppies AND of our dogs).
Don’t Miss This: If you’re driving to Anza-Borrego from points north, like Los Angeles, be sure to plan a stop near Lake Elsinore, where there’s likely to be an impressive poppy bloom, as well! Just please be respectful of the fields when getting those social media posts.
For More Information: California State Parks site
Cumberland Falls, Kentucky: The Western Hemisphere’s Only MOONBOW
You read that right. It’s a rainbow that appears by moonlight, and the only place you’ll see this phenomenon in the Western Hemisphere is at Cumberland Falls in Kentucky. The catch is that you need a clear night, and it only occurs up to 2 days before and after the full moon. So check a lunar calendar before planning this trip!
While in the Bluegrass State, you can also visit impressive Mammoth Cave National Park, which boasts the world’s longest known cave system. And if you fancy a tipple, Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail is a great way to taste the history of this beautiful state.
Don’t Miss This: We discovered one of our favorite snacks while in Kentucky: fried banana pepper rings! If you’re in the Lexington area, try them with your lunch at Windy Corner Market.
San Juan Island, Washington
In recent years, we have come to decide that the Pacific Northwest coastline is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Nowhere is this more true than in the San Juan Islands in Washington. A pleasant ferry ride from Anacortes, less than 2 hours from Seattle, will get you to the main island: San Juan Island. Here you can enjoy strolls along the rocky beach, waves crashing into the shore beside you, or a hike in the woods. Keep your eyes peeled for foxes and bald eagles.
Enjoy water sports? You’ll find orcas off the coast of Washington year-round. But their main food source, salmon, are most active from May to September, so late spring is an ideal time for kayaking with the “killer whales.”
If biking is more your speed, the San Juan Islands Scenic Byway circles the island. The smooth path is an easy ride, so even the less athletic of us can enjoy just a few miles of the tour.
After working up an appetite, enjoy the local seafood at one of the island’s many restaurants. You can even watch the oyster farmers on the beach! Then spend the rest of your day taking in the galleries and shops in town.
Holland, Michigan Does Its Namesake Proud
Holland, Michigan was founded by Dutch settlers in the 1800s, and like its namesake, it attracts thousands of tulip enthusiasts each spring. The floral frenzy culminates in the annual Tulip Time Festival, which takes place in early May.
The festival includes tulip sales, an immersion garden, and performances from local and national recording artists. More info can be found at the festival’s official site.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Spring is an ideal time to visit Santa Fe, NM. Not only is it one of the United States’ greatest food cities, but it’s also been designated a UNESCO Creative City. Whether you’re interested in art, history, wellness, or cuisine, The City Different has something for everyone.
Travel at the start of the month to enjoy one of Downtown Santa Fe’s First Friday Art Walks. Occurring every month on the first Friday, galleries and art museums open their doors to enthusiasts and the curious alike.
Want to learn more about the cultures of the first people? Eight of New Mexico’s 19 Pueblos are located just north of Santa Fe, and the first week of May features two Feast Days that you may be able to observe and/or participate in.
What to pack: Bring layers. Spring in Santa Fe can mean crisp comfortable days – anything from the 50s to the low 70s, depending when you go – but temperatures may drop to freezing at night in March and April.
Don’t Miss This: Art collective Meow Wolf has been creating fantastical, immersive art installations in major cities in the U.S. west. As its home, Santa Fe is the location of one of four permanent installations: House of Eternal Return. According to their website, the exhibit takes participants through the story of a “mysterious Victorian house which broke time and space, creating a winding maze of secret passages leading to cosmic vistas, and unexpected immersive environments.”
Sun Valley, Idaho: For Those Not Ready to Part With Winter
Idaho is home to some of the best Spring skiing in the United States. And you’d be surprised to discover just how NOT crowded the Bald Mountain ski area is. With short wait times and long runs, blue skies and bright sun, springtime skiing (or snowboarding) in this scenic paradise is as good as it gets.
If you can splurge, we recommend a stay at famous Sun Valley Lodge, which has hosted celebrities from Ernest Hemingway and Louis Armstrong to Garth Brooks and Tom Hanks. Then dine in town at Sun Valley’s oldest restaurant, The Ram.
Hot Tip: Check the Sun Valley Mountain Safety site before and during your visit. We recently saw a warning about mountain lion activity in the area!
Cherry Blossoms Aren’t Just in Washington, D.C.
It’s a special thing to catch the peak of Japanese cherry blossom season. Can’t make it to Tokyo this year? Lucky for us in the U.S., there are many places where you can view cherry blossoms, from Oregon to Pennsylvania! In fact, there are so many options, we have a whole article dedicated to the various locations. Click here to see which U.S. cities have cherry blossoms – you may be surprised to find one near you!
Please remember to practice Leave No Trace
It’s up to all of us to preserve the places we visit, whether cities or nature. By following the seven principles of Leave No Trace, we can protect destinations from the impacts of trash, overuse, and threats to wildlife:
- Plan and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly*
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of others
It’s always so discouraging when we’re enjoying a beautiful beach or National Park (or even city street) and we come up on someone’s coffee cup or snack bag just tossed on the landscape. Cigarette butts are litter, as well, when not disposed of properly. And even food scraps can be problematic. Yes, they may be biodegradable, but if they contain seeds of a fruit or vegetable that is not endemic to a location, it may grow where it shouldn’t be and become invasive. Or if an animal picks it up, it may be toxic or otherwise unhealthy for it. Please take everything you bring with you back out again.
For more information on Leave NoTrace, visit the official website at https://lnt.org/.