California's Best Wine Counties for 2023
California is the nation’s wine garden and wine cellar, but which counties produce the most award-winning reds and whites, host the most wine tours, and are most popular and affordable for wine connoisseurs to visit? Dr. Qun (Kristy) Sun, an assistant professor in the department of viticulture and enology at Fresno State University explains how location influences the wine produced: "The California wine region can be divided into the North Coast, Central Coast, South Coast, and Central Valley. Each region has its unique climate. For example, Napa Valley has a temperate climate with a long growing season. It has warm days to accumulate sugar, color, and aroma in grapes and the cool evening to preserve the acidity. The Central Valley is the largest wine region and produces three-quarters of the state’s grapes. It has a very different climate with hot summers and less rainfall. The vineyards are heavily dependent on irrigation techniques. "
In order to find the best wine counties in California, LawnStarter pored over the data. They compared all 58 counties based on five categories broken down into 18 key metrics. See which Golden State counties earned a gold star in the rankings below. You’ll also find highlights, lowlights, and expert insights on what makes California wines stand out.
An Old Favorite
Step back in time at the oldest wine region in California. Fifth-ranked San Diego’s viticultural history stretches all the way back to the 1700s. A stop at Bernardo Winery, the oldest winery in the region established in 1889, is a must. For a more modern setting, check out Carruth Cellars Wine Garden, where locals can join a wine club while first-time visitors enjoy a flight of five 1-ounce pours to taste for only $20.
Central Coast Stand-outs
Third-ranked San Luis Obispo, the wine region colloquially known as “SLO,” is as popular for its laid-back Pacific Coast lifestyle as it is for its Rhône blends. In Paso Robles, sip on not one but two of the highest-ranking California gold medalists in 2022 — the Red Cuvee and the Majesty — both from the same producer, Silver Hawk Vineyards. There’s plenty to see and do throughout the county, but Hearst Castle is perhaps the area’s most famous landmark.
A magnet for celebrities like Oprah, Jeff Bridges, and, more recently, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Santa Barbara County (No. 4) was named 2021 Wine Region of the Year by “Wine Enthusiast.” The region is also famous for its pinot noir, featured in the cult film “Sideways.” Take a “Sideways” tour of the region’s wineries highlighted in the movie, starting with Sanford and ending with Firestone.
On Cloud Wine in the North Coast
Napa is the Best California Wine County again this year, a foregone conclusion considering Napa Valley is the most recognized U.S. wine region both domestically and internationally.
You won’t go thirsty at the home of the three-Michelin-starred The French Laundry. Napa outnumbers all other California counties in vintners, with nearly 270 more than Sonoma (No. 2) and 840 more than San Luis Obispo (No. 3). What’s more, Napa wines earned the most gold medals over the past four years, and the county’s wineries are the most reviewed (aka the most popular) by consumers.
In St. Helena, enjoy a glass of Hibou Pinot Noir, the highest-scoring 2022 USA Wine Ratings gold medalist from Napa Valley. Stay at Auberge du Soleil, the ultimate wine lover’s retreat featuring vineyard vistas and a spa that treats you to a Cabernet mud body masque. When you’re not sipping on award-winning wine, cycle through the 12.5-mile Vine Trail offering scenic views of wine country.
It’s hard to reference Napa without pairing it with Sonoma, the next most recognizable name in California wine and unsurprisingly our silver medalist. Previously in third place, Sonoma overtook Stanislaus County in our ranking this year, thanks to Sonoma’s unmatched access to wine, numerous awards, and the most events celebrating the county’s amore for vino. Napa might have struck gold for its pinot noir in 2022, but Sonoma County is best known for this style of red — the county is the Golden State’s largest grower of pinot noir. Reds won’t be hard to find here, but if your palate prefers white, try Rodney Strong’s Upshot White Blend. This refreshing 2022 gold medal winner features notes of white peach, apricot, and jasmine. You can check out Sonoma’s many outstanding wineries by bike, by foot, or on horseback — or even via hot-air balloon.
The counties at the bottom of our ranking should come as no surprise — viticulture isn’t a big industry here. Kings County finished last overall, bested by Merced, Colusa, Modoc, and Alpine counties (in that order).
Although these counties ranked poorly across all categories, there are a few bright spots in individual metrics. Modoc’s wineries, for one, earned an above-average consumer rating at No. 22. Merced offers five wine bars for casual sippers not interested in big winery tours. Meanwhile, Alpine County boasts a high number of affordable accommodations for all visitors, oenophiles or otherwise.
These counties might lack their own famous wines, but close proximity to California’s top wine regions is a huge advantage. Merced, for example, lies just south of Stanislaus County (No. 6). Kings shares a border with both Central Region counties Monterey (No. 10) and Fresno (No. 30). Colusa is a short drive — or Uber ride, depending on how much you drink — to Napa, Sonoma, and Lake (No. 12).
The Grape Escape
One day is not enough to explore all of California’s amazing wines — let alone a single county saturated with wineries. If you can swing it, plan at least a three-day tour of clustered counties, and make sure your itinerary includes counties that balance both high-quality wine and (inebriated) visitor-friendliness.
The most tour-friendly counties include some of our top five, such as Sonoma (No. 2) and San Luis Obispo (No. 3), but don’t overlook counties outside of that elite group.
Riverside (No. 7), for example, ranks decently in taste and placed first in Accommodations. Mendocino (No. 8) is another excellent choice, with high marks in Access and Accolades, as well as top-15 rankings in both Entertainment and Accommodations. Placer (No. 21) is a third great option, with top-30 rankings across all categories.
In Case You Also Love Queso
Is there a better companion to wine than cheese? If you’re an oenophile and a turophile, Sonoma (No. 2) and Los Angeles (No. 9) counties can satisfy both cravings at once.
Santa Rosa, in Sonoma County, is our No. 8 Best City for Cheese Lovers. Los Angeles ranks No. 4 while its suburbs, such as Long Beach (No. 12) and Pasadena (No. 23), aren’t far behind.
Don’t go sniffing out cheese in Salinas, though. Although this city is located in Monterey County, our 10th placer and the birthplace of Monterey Jack, it offers jack to queso aficionados. Salinas came in last among the 200 biggest U.S. cities in cheese lover-friendliness.
— For more details on this year's rankings of the Best California Wine Counties, head to LawnStarter.
3 Spring Destinations for Outdoor Adventurists
With the weather warming up and spring just around the corner, many travelers are eager to get back outside. If you're looking for a place to spend spring break, a family-friendly vacation, or just somewhere to take in the beautiful natural landscape, here are three great destinations with outdoor activities for any age and type of adventure-seeker.For a surreal desert escape - Palm Springs, California Palm Mountain Resort - courtesy of Palm Mountain Resort There’s so much for budget-conscious travelers to see and do in Palm Springs. Visitors can take in the gorgeous desert landscape with a ride up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for walking and hiking in the nearby San Jacinto Mountains. Less than an hour's drive away is Joshua Tree National Park, where two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together. A fascinating variety of plants and animals make their homes in a land sculpted by strong winds and occasional torrents of rain. Dark night skies, a rich cultural history, and surreal geologic features add to the wonder of this vast wilderness in southern California. Families with kids will appreciate a visit to The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, which features rhino encounters, behind-the-scenes shuttle tours, and private safari tours, as well as a petting area, an interactive discovery center, nature trails, a wildlife hospital and conservation center, and an assortment of animal species from all over the world. Visitors will also want to take a stroll down Palm Canyon Drive, to enjoy the shopping, restaurants, and more in town, and take a peak at the Palm Springs Art Museum. For accommodations, Palm Mountain Resort is a beautiful Palm Springs resort nestled in the base of the San Jacinto Mountains. It's the ultimate desert escape for all ages of traveler, and all budgets. Just steps away from the famed Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Mountain is the ideal walkable location for exploration. Soak up the sun at their family-friendly pool deck before walking to town, or stay on property and head to the newly refreshed spa. Palm Mountain loves dogs and offers pet-friendly rooms so you can bring along the whole crew! It’s also less than 10 minutes from the Palm Springs Airport, with direct flights from over twenty major hubs nationwide. For a classic beachside getaway - Panama City Beach, Florida Hyatt Place PCB Beachfront - courtesy of hyatt.com Panama City Beach is the perfect getaway for families, couples, and adventurist travelers looking to make memories that last a lifetime. Enjoy everything from live entertainment, kid-friendly programming, lazy rivers and on-site dining while staying on the beachfront at family-friendly resorts including the Holiday Inn Resort and the new Hyatt Place Panama City Beach.Those who live for adventure and excitement can choose between activities on land, at sea and in the air, including swimming with dolphins off Shell Island, skidding through inland marshland on an airboat or flying across the ocean on a jet ski. A “Shell Island” adventure with Panhandle Helicopter takes guests above the area’s emerald coast water where they can spot some of the destination’s beautiful sea-life from the sky. PCB is also known for some of the best shipwreck diving on the Gulf Coast, and is a premier diving destination for both beginner and advanced divers. For deep sea game fishing, the crystal-clear depths of Panama City Beach’s sandy shores are home to a vast array of wildlife for adrenaline pumping offshore fishing for both novice and experienced anglers. Families can snorkel and paddleboard through the destination’s crystal-clear waters, embark on a thrilling airboat adventure, or beat the heat at Shipwreck Island voted as one of "America’s Best Water Parks" by TripAdvisor two years in a row. Take in amazing views at SkyWheel, with 360-degree panoramic views of the Emerald Coast from 180 feet up. For a romantic night out, Island Time Dolphin Sunset Cruise takes tourists through the Grand Lagoon past the marinas, state parks and stately beachside homes. After that, guests sail right into the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico where they can get a 365-degree view of the stellar Florida sunset. For snowy sports and slopeside fun - South Tahoe, California South Lake Tahoe - courtesy of rnrvr.com South Tahoe resorts provide some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world—and recent Sierra storms have laid the groundwork for an extended snow season, which includes cross country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and more. Then there’s the wildly popular concept of après-ski, a French term made popular in the Alps during the 1950s rise of commercial skiing. It means “after ski,” or as stated in the Oxford dictionary, “the social activities and entertainment following a day’s skiing.” In Tahoe, après-ski is an umbrella term for popular post-ski activities. It can refer to a Champagne toast on slope-side terraces, craft beers around ski lodge fire pits or a soak in a hot tub at one of RnR’s coveted vacation homes. There’s no official time frame for après ski, although it usually begins around 4 pm, following the “last run” of the day. (By the way, never call it your last run, it’s bad luck). In Tahoe, après ski can last well into the night given South Shore’s unique lineup of casinos, nightclubs, and bars. RnR Vacation Rentals has a number of great accommodations available—whether you want a home with a private beach on the lake, a boat dock in the Keys, access to hiking trails in your backyard, or a short walk to the ski lift. A short walk out the door of your vacation rental reveals the natural splendor that makes Tahoe one of the most coveted destinations in the world. Hit the hiking trails, visit the rushing waterfalls, head up the Heavenly gondola or take a boat ride along the crystal-clear waters of the deep-water lake that is the jewel of the Sierra. There is literally something for everyone at South Tahoe, a destination that has redefined the idea of spring break.
Where to Stay for This Year's Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC
One of the world’s greatest celebrations of spring blooms again March 20 through April 16 as the National Cherry Blossom Festival returns to Washington, D.C., coinciding with the white and pink floral blossoms bursting to life on more than 3,700 cherry trees found around the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, Hains Point of East Potomac Park and the Washington Monument grounds. Since receiving 3,000 cherry trees from the Mayor of Tokyo in 1912, the District of Colombia’s beautiful spring has become a draw to travelers eager to say goodbye to winter and stand beneath the shade of thousands of pink and white petals. The month-long festival features a plethora of petal-celebrating events, including the Blossom Kite Festival, the Pink Tie Party, fireworks, and the perennial National Cherry Blossom Parade, which runs along Constitution Avenue with colorful helium balloons, elaborate floats, celebrity entertainers and marching bands from around the country. Here's where to stay this year: Most Festively Decorated Accommodations Hilton Washington DC National Mall The Wharf room - courtesy of hilton.comThe brand-new Waldorf Astoria Washington DC welcomes guests with its Cherry Blossom Suite Package from March 1 through April 30. The package includes one-night accommodations in a signature suite, cherry blossom-dedicated welcome amenities, custom-embroidered pillowcases (for guests to take home), and a personalized Cherry Blossom Afternoon Tea in the iconic Peacock Alley, set in a soaring grand atrium.Stay just steps from the Tidal Basin and the iconic cherry trees in a cherry blossom-themed deluxe one- or two-king-bedded guest room at Hilton Washington DC National Mall The Wharf, where you’ll be surrounded by the pink blooms, even when you’re inside. The Cherry Blossom package includes accommodations, a Cherry Blossom Beverage Basket filled with two cherry blossom sparkling waters and two black cherry sodas, and locally baked cherry blossom madeleines and dried cherry trail mix.Hotel Zena's Downtown DC location keeps you close to the city's most notable landmarks and activities, including the blooms in Tidal Basin, a 20-minute walk from the hotel. The "Suiten Your Cherry Blossom" package includes a stay in the Gia Suite, an art- and sculpture-filled sanctuary with a picturesque view of the District. Enjoy an elevated take on in-room dining with a three-course Cherry Blossom-themed dinner and a bottle of Japanese whiskey. Stays with Unique "Tree Hugger" Specials The Morrow Hotel - courtesy of hilton.comDon’t just enjoy the cherry blossoms, adopt one with The Morrow’s "Adopt a Tree" overnight package. Located minutes from Union Station and D.C.’s top attractions, The Morrow is donating 10% of each package booked to the Trust for the National Mall’s “Adopt a Cherry Tree” campaign to help support Washington’s beautiful cherry trees.When you book a stay at Hilton Arlington National Landing during the festival, you'll receive one Flowering Dogwood Tree Grow Kit. This hotel is conveniently located five miles from downtown and less than five minutes from Regan National Airport. Guests booking the hotel’s special package will also receive two “Compliments of Us” coupons to use at whim at the hotel, overnight parking and complimentary breakfast and Wi-Fi.You’ll find YOTEL in the thick of the action next to Capitol Hill. For their "YOTEL in Bloom" special, guests can create their own sustainable Cherry Blossom with a take-home kit and a virtual workshop by local botanical artist and founder of Revery Paper Flora, Emily Paluska. Guests will also enjoy a $20 Food & Beverage credit to Art and Soul, featuring seasonal Cherry Blossom menu items as well as High Tea every Friday and Saturday. Budget-friendly Options DoubleTree Crystal City - courtesy of hilton.comJust a half mile from The Pentagon and providing free shuttle service to Regan National Airport awaits DoubleTree by Hilton Washington DC – Crystal City. Its Cherry Blossom Premium Package features accommodations with spectacular views of Washington, D.C., monuments, complimentary breakfast and self-parking for one vehicle.Hampton Inn and Suites Arlington Crystal City DCA is a pet-friendly, fully renovated hotel featuring in-room microwaves and fridges, complimentary hot breakfast with delicious fresh-made waffles, Peloton bikes and free Wi-Fi. Guests can enjoy 10% off its best available rates during the Cherry Blossom Festival.citizenM is conveniently located just 6 minutes from Union Station and a Reagan International Airport. This chain of hotels also emphasizes sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices with third-party green building certifications, no single-use plastics policies and water refill stations, and involvement in local community and charity activities.Tourists that don't mind a drive to the blooms can get excellent rates at the Holiday Inn Express Lorton. Book a stay and enjoy a complimentary breakfast, refreshing outdoor pool, and on-site parking. This recently renovated hotel is conveniently located next to I-95 on exit 163 and minutes away from the Lorton Amtrak Auto Train. Upgraded Stays with Cherry Blossom-Inspired Menus Enjoy a special tea salon at Viceroy - courtesy of viceroyhotelsandresorts.comA historic hotel in the heart of the nation’s capital, Capital Hilton is offering its Cherry Blossom Package from March 19 through May 21. Guests receive a bento box filled with Japanese candies and snacks, experience a Japanese whisky tasting and enjoy special menu items at its North Gate Grill and Statler Lounge, which celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2023. Additional experiences include specially themed menu items and “petal peeping” maps for guests to head to the best spots to view the cherry blossoms.The only Hilton property with rooms and suites affording direct views of the United States Capitol, Hilton Washington DC Capitol Hill is located within steps of the Capitol and welcomes festival-goers with its Cherry Blossom Package. Guests receive accommodations, complimentary parking and two Cherry Blossom Petal Pour Cocktails made with pickled cherry blossoms and Japanese saké at the hotel’s Federal City Bar & Lounge, located in the hotel lobby and serving a variety of spirits, dinner and light fare. Guests can grab a bike or electric scooter through Capital Bikeshare right outside the hotel or find easy transportation at nearby Union Square and Judiciary Square and take along a hotel-prepared picnic to enjoy under the cherry trees.Stay in the heart of D.C., steps away from the most buzzin’ attractions, with a stay at Motto. Its Spring to the District offer allows guests to indulge a little more with overnight accommodations in thoughtfully appointed guest rooms and a $30 food and beverage credit, which can be used at Motto’s Crimson café, diner, rooftop bar or whiskey bar. The hotel’s culinary team at Crimson has prepared a Cherry Blossom-themed menu, inclusive of handcrafted cocktails, appetizers and desserts for all to enjoy throughout the event.Book a stay at Viceroy to enjoy an exclusive tea service in celebration of the city's time-honored occasion. The hotel's salon space will transform into a tea salon where guests can craft personalized tea blends including cherry blossom, sencha, matcha, and genmaicha. Japanese-inspired flavors that nod to the origin of the Cherry Blossoms come alive at our restaurant, Dovetail. Enjoy brunch and dinner prix fixe menus featuring miso-broiled salmon, matcha tiramisu, A5 Kobe beef, and more. Step outside and enjoy the proximity to the blooms in Tidal Basin, a 25-minute walk from the hotel
5 Fun Things to Do in the South this March
If you're searching for something fun to do this spring break or the typical beach trip just isn't quite your style, take a look at these Southern towns where you can experience good food, drinks, entertainment, and history—and at least one unique event dedicated to a fish.See a movie at the Oxford Film Festival - Oxford, Mississippi Throughout the year non-profit film organization OxFilm works to encourage filmmaking through screenings, workshops and educational programs. This appreciation for cinema comes to life in the annual Oxford Film Festival, where from March 1st to 5th over 200 films from across the globe are exhibited. Named a Top 50 Film Festival worth the entry fee over several years by MovieMaker magazine, the 20th year of this festival will host panels on William Faulkner, editing documentaries, stunt acting, movie writing, distribution, post-production audio, sound sync, and set dressing.Hop aboard a Beer Trail Trolley Tour - Athens, Georgia Athens trolley - courtesy of athenstrolleytours.com In Georgia, the brand-new Athens Trolley Tours from TJ Stephens provides public transportation to the destination’s six local breweries: Akademia Brewing Company, Athentic Brewing Company, Creature Comforts Brewing Co., Southern Brewing Company, Terrapin Beer Co., and Normaltown Brewing Company. Tours run every Thursday and Friday from 3-9pm, with more routes and days to be added in the future. While in town, be sure to make another stop at the Georgia Museum of Art, celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2023. In honor of this milestone, museum goers and art aficionados can enjoy a special vinyl timeline in the lobby, interactive visitor response wall, “March Madness” social media voting for favorite works of art, and much more. Step back into the 19th century - Natchez, Mississippi Historic Stanton Hall in Natchez - courtesy of natchezpilgrimage.com In a tradition dating back to 1932, Natchez opens the doors to its exquisite historic homes to welcome travelers from across the world. The annual Spring Pilgrimage Tours are led by costumed hosts in 19th-century characters, theater performances, unique presentations and live music, all focused on the city's stunning historic homes. Learn the fascinating history behind each home, see one of a kind antiques, and beautiful original furnishings. Celebrations take place from March 11th until April 11th. Attendees can also save money by purchasing a 3-house package, which includes a tour of three historic homes. Rosalie, a magnificent example of the Federal Style, played a significant role in American History as the Union Headquarters during the Civil War. Rosalie’s John Henry Belter parlor furniture, twenty-one pieces in all, are among the finest examples of his work still in existence.Stanton Hall, a beautiful Palatial Greek Revival mansion, occupies an entire city block in downtown Natchez, MS. This home stands 5 stories tall and was originally 14,000 square feet. Stanton Hall boasts many original furnishings, beautiful antiques, and one of a kind arched millwork.The largest octagonal home remaining in America, Longwood is a superb example of the mid-nineteenth century “villa in the oriental style”. Construction halted when the Civil War began, causing artisans to leave behind their tools, paint brushes, and lovely Longwood, never to be brought to completion. Attend the Paddlefish Festival - Shreveport, Louisiana Shreveport Aquarium - courtesy of bossierpress.com The Shreveport Aquarium is bringing back the Paddlefish Festival on March 4, 2023. Come celebrate and learn all about these extraordinary creatures and how we can all help them survive. Shreveport Aquarium, in partnership with Caddo Lake Institute is rearing and releasing this threatened species to help repopulate Caddo Lake. Help them send-off the paddlefish to their new home at Mooringsport City Boat Ramp at 2:15pm. The event also includes educational displays, animal feedings, recycled art contest with prizes, crafts, and games. Also at the aquarium, guests can view over 300 species and 1,000 animals while hand-feeding stingrays and touching jellyfish. The Fossil Mining Experience allows for dirt digging as guests search for buried treasure such as gemstones, fossils, and shark teeth. Try local flavors at the Hattiesburg Craft Beer Festival - Hattiesburg, Mississippi Hattiesburg, Mississippi - courtesy of expedia.com The Hattiesburg Craft Beer Festival on March 4th pays tribute to the local Mississippi breweries with this annual showcase. More than 10 years ago, there was a monumental shift in how Mississippians enjoyed craft beer. In 2012, a small change in beer laws brought about a huge economic and cultural impact that is still being felt. Hattiesburg is excited to celebrate nine years of industry growth with all of the breweries from around the nation who have made Mississippi their market. During the festival, attendees have an opportunity to not only taste a variety of beers but meet the people behind the beer while sampling food pairings from local restaurants. The event also serves as an opportunity for local tourism, where representatives from fellow beer cities throughout Mississippi attend.
Follow the Flowers Along this New Campgrounds Trail
The new 13-stop Spacious Skies Campgrounds Spring Bloom Trail highlights the very best of springtime color, as the bloom of wildflowers progresses from the South to the North. The trail, which travels from campground to campground from Tennessee to Maine, encourages springtime travelers to celebrate the explosion of spring wildflower color with ideas for where and when to experience the bloom. The trail begins in central Tennessee, where the wildflowers can be viewed as early as late March. The last stop on the trail is in the Maine Highlands, where wildflowers begin emerging in the region’s vast wilderness areas in early May. The Spring Bloom Trail highlights a sampling of the wildflower species visitors to each location might see as well as the best spring-season activities such as festivals, fishing and farmers markets. “Spring is a time of renewal, and when the first wildflowers begin popping up through sometimes still-frosty ground, we know that the warmth, sunshine and adventures of the season have finally arrived,” said Ali Rasmussen, CEO and creative director of Spacious Skies Campgrounds. “Our mission as a growing company is to not only offer fun and authentic campground experiences, but to also support local attractions, artists and other makers, and the Spring Bloom Trail is another way we encourage our guests to explore each region by day and relax and ‘camp on’ at night.” Each campground features different offerings, such as catch-and-release ponds, UTV trails and other on-site recreation. In addition to RV sites, many campgrounds offer glamping options like retro campers and yurts. Additionally, Spacious Skies Campgrounds has partnered with RV Share, with options for delivery of RVs and trailers to campgrounds as well as for self-driving. Below, find the stops along the new Spring Blooms Trail. 1. Spacious Skies Belle Ridge - Monterey, Tennessee Burgess Falls - courtesy of tn.gov Located in the Cumberland Plateau in middle Tennessee, between Nashville and Knoxville, this campground is open year-round. More than 40 miles long, the Cumberland Plateau is the world’s longest plateau of hardwood forest. The plateau is home to nearly 60 threatened or endangered species. Wildflowers begin blooming in late March and include: Endangered Virginia Spirea, Purple Phacelia, Spring Beauty, Oxeye Daisy, Sweet White Trillium, ChicoryWhere to spot them: Cummins Falls State Park, Burgess Falls State Park, Spacious Skies Belle Ridge UTV and hiking trails, Tennessee Central Heritage Rail Trail.What else to do: Celebrate the season at the Blooms, Bluegrass & BBQ Festival in early May. Learn about the region’s history at the Monterey Depot Museum.Where to next: Spacious Skies Hidden Creek. Drive time: 3 hours 40 minutes, 240 miles. 2. Spacious Skies Hidden Creek - Marion, North Carolina Craggy Gardens - courtesy of Jim Ruff photo This campground is open-year round and located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, about 40 minutes from Asheville, in Buncombe county near the confluence of the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers. Since elevations along the Blue Ridge Mountains vary widely, visitors will find a huge array of wildflower species and a months-long, ever-changing wildflower bloom. The National Park Service reports that of all of the 1,600 plant species along the Blue Ridge Parkway to the north of the campground, 80 percent are wildflowers. Wildflowers begin blooming in late March and include: Rhododendron, Mountain Ash, Daisies, DogwoodWhere to spot them: Craggy Gardens Pinnacle Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Max Patch Summit in Pisgah National Forest, Lake James State Park, Biltmore Estate, North Carolina Arboretum.What else to do: Explore Asheville’s River Arts District. Visit Biltmore Blooms at the Biltmore Estate. Hike to Daffodil Flats in the Linville Gorge, a “ghost garden” that was planted by a homesteader long ago.Where to next: Spacious Skies Peach Haven. Drive time: 1 hour 12 minutes, 56 miles. 3. Spacious Skies Peach Haven - Gaffney, South Carolina Next up, is an all-year campground in the upstate of South Carolina in the midst of farmland and rolling hills not far from Greenville. More than 680 species of wildflowers bloom in the state of South Carolina. The rare Oconee Bell is only found in a few places in the Southern Appalachians, and it only blooms for two or three weeks, from mid-March to early April. The wildflower even has its own festival – the Oconee Bell Fest at Devils Fork State Park. The poinsettia appeared for the first time in the United States in Greenville when Joel Roberts Poinsett, a minister and amateur botanist who kept greenhouses on his Greenville plantation, found the poinsettia plant on a trip to Mexico in 1828 and sent cuttings home. Wildflowers begin blooming in late February and include: Oconee Bell, Trillium, Balloon Vine, White Baneberry, Bulbous Buttercup, Bloodroot, Eastern Red Columbine, Butterflyweed, Narrowleaf Evening-PrimroseWhere to spot them: Devils Fork State Park, Table Rock State Park.What else to do: Visit the famous Peachoid Water Tower. Tour Cowpens National Battlefield. Walk along the Trillium Trail at Nine Times Preserve. Celebrate the season at the Piedmont Plant & Flower Festival in late April.Where to next: Spacious Skies Sandy Run. Drive time: 3 hours 29 minutes, 191 miles. 4. Spacious Skies Sandy Run - Fayetteville, North Carolina The next stop on the trail takes tourists to the Carolina Sandhills in the heart of Cumberland County. The North Carolina Department of Transportation features a wildflower program that seeds roadside wildflowers, ensuring that any spring road-trip in the state will be a colorful one. The department offers a free booklet to help visitors identify the flowers. The Siberian Wall Flower is one of the first blooms to appear. Wildflowers begin blooming in late March and include: Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Creeping Phlox, Ironweed, Cardinal Flower, Flowering Dogwood, Siberian Wall FlowerWhere to spot them: Cape Fear Botanical Garden, J. Bayard Park & Nature Center.What else to do: Experience the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival in late April. Spend a relaxing day fishing at the catch-and-release fishing pond at the campground.Where to next: Spacious Skies Shenandoah Views. Drive time: 5 hours 29 minutes, 331 miles. 5. Spacious Skies Shenandoah Views - Luray, Virginia The 5th stop on the Spring Blooms Trail opens up in mid-March in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, near Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive. There are more than 850 species of flowering plants in Shenandoah Valley, and the destination is considered one of the best places in the country to observe wildflowers. The region’s wildflower bloom lasts well into October (and the campground doesn't close until November, so visitors have the entire season to enjoy the flowers). If you're here in mid-May, you'll want to participate in a Wildflower Weekend walk in the national park. Wildflowers begin blooming in early April and include: Hepatica, Aster, Turk’s Cap Lily, Spiderwort, Anemones, Wild AzaleasWhere to spot them: Along Skyline Drive, hiking trails in Shenandoah National Park.What else to do: Explore the Shenandoah Heritage Village – Luray Caverns at Luray Caverns. Get into the local spirit at the River Hill Distillery.Where to next: Spacious Skies Country Oaks. Drive time: 4 hours 52 minutes, 243 miles. 6. Spacious Skies Country Oaks - Dorothy, New Jersey In mid-April, the Country Oaks campground opens up for the season in southern New Jersey, within an easy drive of Philadelphia and Atlantic City. Here, a wildflower called "Sea Rocket" grows in sand dunes along the Jersey shoreline. Wildflowers begin to bloom in mid-April and include: Sea Rocket, Sea Lavender, Black-Eyed Susan, Purple Loosestrife, Crimson Eyed Rose Mallow.Where to spot them: Warren E. Fox Nature Center, New Jersey shoreline.What else to do: Sample wines from Balic Winery, where vineyards have been in operation since the early 1900s. Visit the Funny Farm Rescue and Sanctuary.Where to next: Spacious Skies Woodland Hills. Drive time: 4 hours 59 minutes, 259 miles. 7. Spacious Skies Woodland Hills - Austerlitz, New York Located in the Taconic and Berkshire mountain ranges of upstate New York near the Massachusetts border, and close to Boston, New York City, Providence and Albany, this campground opens for the season in early May. One of the local flowers here, Wild Carrot—also known as Queen Anne’s Lace—is a medicinal herb that can be eaten when the plant is young. Wildflowers begin blooming in early April and include: Red Trillium, Wild Blue Phlox, Northern Wood Sorrel, Queen Anne’s Lace, Bee Balm, Goldenrod.Where to spot them: Berkshire Botanical Garden, Vanderbilt Mansion.What else to do: Visit the Norman Rockwell Museum. Drive to the summit of Mount Greylock.Where to next: Spacious Skies Adirondack Peaks. Drive Time: 2 hours 7 minutes; 133 miles. 8. Spacious Skies Adirondack Peaks - North Hudson, New York Purple trillium in the Adirondacks - courtesy of adirondackcouncil.org Located in the Adirondack Mountains, near Lake Champlain and the northern reaches of the Hudson River, this site opens up in mid-May. Wildflowers in heavily forested areas like the Adirondack Mountains emerge before the trees of the forests leaf out, and they provide an important food source for insects. Spring wildflower season coincides with mud season in the Adirondacks, and one of the great ways to avoid the mud – and enjoy wildflowers along the shoreline – is by paddling one of the region’s many ponds, lakes and rivers. Wildflowers begin blooming in early April and include: Blue Flag, Cardinal Flower, Cottongrass, Pickerelweed, Northern Pipewort.Where to spot them: Along walking trails at the campground, Hammond Pond Wild Forest.What else to do: Rent a pedal bike. Visit the Adirondack Buffalo Company, a working buffalo farm. Explore Fort Ticonderoga on the edge of Lake Champlain. Learn about climate solutions at The Wild Center.Where to next: Spacious Skies Minute Man. Drive time: 4 hours 9 minutes, 202 miles. 9. Spacious Skies Minute Man - Littleton, Massachusetts The Trail of Flowers - courtesy of trailofflowers.com In eastern Massachusetts, close to the heart of Boson, this campground in Littleton opens to visitors in early May. This historic town was first settled in 1686 and nearly a century later, the minutemen and militia of the town fought at Concord. Be sure to check out the Trail of Flowers, where volunteers plant thousands of flowering bulbs along the Assabet River Rail Trail every spring. Wildflowers begin blooming in late April and include: Wild Orchid, Foxglove, Rosebay Willowherb, Meadowsweet.Where to spot them: Nashua River Rail Trail, hiking and biking trails at Oak Hill Park.What else to do: Rent a canoe and paddle the Nashua River. Pick early season berries at Doe Orchards. Where to next: Spacious Skies Seven Maples. Drive time: 1 hour 14 minutes, 44 miles. 10. Spacious Skies Seven Maples - Hancock, New Hampshire Location: Located in southwestern New Hampshire in the Monadnock Region, known for hilly terrain and abundant outdoor recreational activities, this campground opens in early May. Some of the most incredible flowers of the region are the wild lupin, which feature purplish pea-like flowers on stems as much as two feet high. Wildflowers begin blooming in mid-May and include: Golden Alexanders, Wild Columbine, Sundial Lupine, Ohio Spiderwort.Where to spot them: Monadnock State Park, dePierrefeu-Willard Pond Wildlife Sanctuary.What else to do: Rent a kayak and paddle the campground pond. Check out the home of the 14th U.S. President, Franklin Pierce.Where to next: Spacious Skies French Pond. Drive time: 31 minutes, 22 miles. 11. Spacious Skies French Pond - Henniker, New Hampshire The French Pond campground is open year-round, except for a brief period in February, and happens to be conveniently located right by the previous Spring Blooms Trail stop, also in southern New Hampshire. Henniker is situated between the Merrimack Valley and Dartmouth regions. Here, visitors can spot the pink lady’s slipper, the official state wildflower of New Hampshire. Wildflowers begin blooming in early May: Lupine, Bluets, Pink Lady’s Slipper, Fringed Polygala, Blue Violets.Where to spot them: Clough State Park, Mount Sunapee State Park, wooded areas and creek beds.What else to do: Take a spring selfie at the Henniker Covered Bridge.Where to next: Spacious Skies Walnut Grove. Drive time: 1 hour 36 minutes, 75 miles. 12. Spacious Skies Walnut Grove - Alfred, Maine Walnut Grove campground - courtesy of spaciousskiescampgrounds.com Located in central southern Maine, with easy access to coastal cities like Portland, Old Orchard Beach and Kennebunkport, this campground opens in early May and closes in late October. Purple violets bloom in early spring, and they can be found in meadows, woodlands and along the roadside. Wildflowers begin blooming in late April and include: Purple Violets, Yellow Violets, Sweet White Violets, White Trillium.Where to spot them: Wells Reserve. Marginal Way Coastal Walkway.What else to do: The Maine coastal region celebrates spring with festivals like the May Day Festival in Kennebunk. Farmers markets open in May and sell early spring produce like strawberries. Lobsters come into season in spring too. Check out the historic Old Orchard Beach pier.Where to next: Spacious Skies Balsam Woods. Drive time: 3 hours, 162 miles. 13. Spacious Skies Balsam Woods - Abbot, Maine The final stop on the Spring Blooms Trail takes tourists to the heart of the Maine Highlands near Moosehead Lake and vast, unspoiled wilderness areas. This campground opens in mid-May, about when flowers first start blooming. The trout lily is one of the earliest wildflowers to bloom, and it can be found in ditches along the roads as soon as the ground thaws. Wildflowers begin to bloom in mid-May and include: Painted Trillium, Blue Violets, Trout Lily, Trailing Arbutus.Where to spot them: Low’s Bridge and the banks of the Piscataquis River, Moosehead Lake, Piper Pond.What else to do: Springtime fishing is a thing, and “ice out” begins in April. Farmers Markets in the Maine Highlands open in May.
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