The sun is shining! The polar vortex is (we hope!) just a distant memory. It's time to savor the delights of the spring season, including festivals, gardens, and botanical gardens that surround you with Technicolor gorgeousness. PLUS: See BT readers' favorite photos of gardens in bloom!
Tulip Time in Amsterdam
Step into a Technicolor wonderland! Keukenhof Gardens outside Amsterdam is one of the world's most spectacular flower gardens in April when the tulips are in bloom. Take a guided tour, or rent a bike to go exploring. Or if you really want to indulge, book one of Avalon Waterways' Tulip Time river cruises. The Netherlands is tulip-crazy all spring long, and Budget Travel loves Amsterdam for museums filled with Van Goghs and Vermeers, its charming canals, and the affordable Chic & Basic Hotel (from $150) Amsterdam is one of BT's 10 Most Family-Friendly Cities in Europe.
Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC
Washington DC decked out in cherry trees could melt the heart of even a politician! The trees were given to Washington in 1912 by the city of Tokyo and attract about a half-million visitors each spring to blossom hotspots like the Tidal Basin. The National Cherry Blossom Festival traditionally runs through mid-April, with a grand parade this year on Saturday April 11 (but that's an expensive weekend to book a hotel!). Your best bet for viewing the trees crowd-free is to visit before the parade weekend and hit the Mall before dawn to catch the blossoms as they're caressed by the dawn's early light. We love Kimpton's Hotel Helix (from $179). For more on what to do in Washington, read 20 Fabulously Free Things to Do in DC.
Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival in Orlando
Walt Disney World is not just for kids, and the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival will delight grownups! Now through May 17, you'll find gorgeous blooming gardens, topiaries featuring plants in the shape of Disney characters, and outdoor kitchens cooking up seasonal treats, plus live entertainment. Epcot admission if $97. Stay at the Hyatt Regency Orlando (from $143). To prep for Disney or other parks, read our Theme Park Survival Guide.
Rose Festival in Portland Oregon
The "Rose City" is heaven on earth for flower lovers this spring! The Portland Rose Festival includes not one but two parades: A Starlight Parade with twinkling floats on May 30 and the Grand Floral Parade on June 6. The festival also includes CityFair, with rides, concerts, and food along the waterfront. The festival also honors outstanding young women from local high schools with scholarships and mentoring from community leaders. Stay at Hotel Lucia (from $179). Portland is one of BT's 25 Most Beautiful Cities in America.
Paris and Versailles
Sure, museums like the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay insist on keeping world-famous paintings like the Mona Lisa indoors and that's where you've got to go to see them. But if you visit Paris in springtime, don't stay cooped up inside. The Louvre's collection includes not only paintings, drawings, and sculptures, but also the Carrousel gardens and Tuileries, which offer explosions of spring color, fragrant paths, and inviting landscaping. And for a real dose of spring flowers, don't miss the Luxembourg Gardens and a day trip to Versailles! Learn more with 7 Great Tips for Visiting Paris in Springtime.
One of our favorite quotes about flowers comes from Claude Monet: "I work at my garden all the time and with love. What I need most are flowers, always. My heart is forever in Giverny.". A trip to Giverny, about an hour outside Paris, will get you up close and personal with the ponds covered in water that inspired the artist, the tiny village where the important Impressionist lived and worked from 1883 to 1926. To see Giverny and other attractions in and around Paris, take a look at 9 Reasons Why Paris Is ALWAYS a Good Idea.
Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix
Ready for something a little different? Get succulent! That's right, the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix includes over 4,000 species of desert plants, including flowering cacti. Visitors to the Southwest during its flower season marvel at the beauty of these amazing prickly plants.The garden is one of the world's premier centers for the study of desert plants and aims to promote education, conservation, and protection of the plants of the Sonoran Desert as well as other desert plants around the world. Ready to get your fix of Southwestern beauty? Take a look at 29 Gorgeous Images of the American Southwest!
Hampton Court, London
We love the sometimes overlooked Hampton Court Palace, reachable by boat from central London and arguably the most beautiful of the U.K.'s royal palaces. When visiting this site, substantially redesigned and rebuilt by Christopher Wren in the 17th century and heavily associated in earlier times with Henry VIII (of the six wives), you may very well lose your head over the palace's flower gardens and garden maze. For its many public gardens and historic churches, palaces, and museums, London is one of BT's 30 Most Beautiful Cities in Europe.