If you’ve ever wondered why keeping a vase of freshly cut flowers in your home makes you happier, you’re not alone. A Harvard Medical School behavioral study conducted by Nancy Etcoff found that spending time around fresh flowers reduces anxiety and depression and increases compassion — and it makes sense. The sight and smell of fragrant blooms can serve as a small but impactful reminder of nature’s infinite beauty. Taking it a step further than a bouquet of tulips on the kitchen counter, this season, why not plan an entire trip to see spring’s best blooms in some of the country’s most picturesque destinations?
There are a few ways you can plan a vacation centered around flowers. First, you can pick a location that’s renowned for its gardens and parks. Or, head somewhere that hosts an annual flower festival or bloom-themed event like a parade or workshop series. You can also adventure to a national park for a camping or hiking trip to fully immerse yourself with the region’s flora. Whatever route you take, remember a few useful tips before taking off: check to see when the flowers in question will be in peak bloom (each year’s weather patterns are different, after all), make sure you know of any rules regarding trails to stay on to protect the flowers, and be aware of any COVID 19-related restrictions as these are still fluctuating from state to state. Ahead, 11 ideas to get you one step closer to a happier version of you.
Antelope Valley, California
Sprawled out across a vast high desert landscape around 75 miles outside of Los Angeles lies one of the world’s most famous blooms. The Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is located in the Mojave Desert Grassland habitat and during years with particularly good weather (ex: sufficient rain in the winter), visitors can bask in eight miles of trails through rolling hills dotted with the golden state’s official flower. The bloom typically goes from late February to early May, but for an up-to-the-minute look at the fields, be sure to check the California State Parks live stream.
Hudson Valley, New York
New York’s Hudson Valley is a treasure trove for a wide array of seasonal blooms. From late April to early May, the Mohonk Mountain House Tulip Festival will showcase its 20,000 some-odd tulips alongside sculptures created by students from nearby SUNY Ulster’s sculpture program. In nearby Millbrook, you can pay a visit to Innisfree Garden to witness the daffodils on this striking 185-acre public garden. Or, if it’s cherry blossoms you seek, head quickly to Garrison to Boscobel House & Gardens to see their latest buds.
In Maui’s central valley located at the end of Kuehilani Highway, there’s a sustainable crop of radiant sunflowers. Planted on around 115 acres by Pacific Biodiesel, the eco initiative is expected to yield 100 gallons of bio-diesel fuel per acre — an incredible step toward the island’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2045. Aside from its innately beneficial qualities, this sunflower field also happens to be a breathtaking site and worth a visit if you’re a fan of this cheery bloom.
Mount Rainier, Washington
Aptly named, Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington is among the more notable places to witness breathtaking blooms. Come summer, its famous subalpine meadows become a medley of daisies, Avalanche lilies, calypso orchids, and countless others. There are hikes for all levels ranging from easy-to-reach lookouts to miles-long hikes — it’s a bucket list destination for all flower-loving outdoors enthusiasts.
Texas Hill Country
Have you ever basked in a Texas Hill Country bluebonnet bloom? It’s euphoric. Lasting until around late April, you can spot these saturated blue florals in areas like Sonora, Texas where the JL Bar Ranch, Resort & Spa celebrates the region’s natural splendor with cowboy cookouts for sunset dining, horseback riding, and even a spring sip inspired by the flower season called The JL Bar Bluebonnet (a signature cocktail with hints of indigo made with pineapple juice, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Empress Gin).
Designed in 1963, the Portland Japanese Garden was once proclaimed to be the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan. Naturally, its cherry blossoms are a popular attraction, but even if you don’t make it in time to see the last of their seasonal blooms, right next door is the International Rose Test Garden that houses over 610 different rose varieties and more than 10,000 individual rose bushes that bloom from late May through October.
Ojai Valley, California
Ojai has long been a respite for those in search of a quiet getaway in nature, and on June 25 the Ojai Valley Lavender Festival will celebrate the region’s fragrant blooms with over 100 vendors ranging from lavender plants to tasty lavender lemonade. Book a stay at Ojai Valley Inn to enjoy the property’s own gardens and lavender fields plus treats like cocktails made with property-harvested lavender and pixie tangerines and spa treatments like a lavender sugar body polish.
Situated off the coast of Cape Cod, Nantucket is a tiny island that’s known for many things — its cobblestone streets, historic properties, bay scallops, and their iconic Daffodil Festival. While flowers of many varieties bloom here (ahem, hydrangeas), the festival (April 22 to 24) has been going on since 1978 and is a cheery way to usher in the warmer weather and bright blooms with. While there, book a stay at the Jared Coffin House, one of the oldest hotels in Nantucket that nods to the island’s roots as a whaling town.
If a trip to the Netherlands isn’t in the cards this spring, you can still get your tulips fix by heading to Holland, Michigan. The city’s Dutch heritage festival called Tulip Time is taking place May 7 to 15 and visitors can enjoy 500,000 tulips ranging in varieties and vibrant colors. There are several bloom-themed activities on display, ranging from a tulip immersion garden to walking tours and a carnival. Stay up to date with the city’s very own tulip tracker live camera.
Crested Butte, Colorado
Crested Butte is considered Colorado’s wildflower capital and their bloom season begins in May and goes through July. If you’re a camper, incorporate your love of corn lilies and lupines with a rustic tent stay at one of the many camping sites in the upper Gunnison Valley. From July 8 to 17 the local Wildflower Festival will take place, offering over 200 workshops in wildflower expertise. Come to learn about pollination or photography and take part in activities like hikes amongst alpine wildflowers.
Death Valley, California
Among the more impressively dramatic blooms are those that occur in desert landscapes, like California’s Death Valley. However, only under perfect conditions can a superbloom occur here (recent ones happening in 2016, 2005, and 1998). Though the region’s autumn was dry and exceptionally hot, there were several rain events in December that helped the soil. The National Park Service predicts that this year it’s unlikely a superbloom will occur, but an average bloom is most realistic and will still be a beautiful site worth visiting.