Don't forget your camera!

By Lindsay Tigar
February 27, 2020
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After enduring the long, cold days of winter, spring feels like the ultimate ‘ahhh’ of relief. The seasons shift, fresh air rolls into your home, and the once black-and-white terrain starts to dot with color and life. All around the country, various cities celebrate the blooms of this special time of year, hosting garden and flower festivals like the picturesque cherry blossoms in Washington D.C., or mesmerizing purple Azaleas in North Carolina. Ideal for spring and summer getaways, a fun Saturday family day of exploration, or just a photo opportunity, now's the time to mark your calendars and check out one of these garden festivals near you.

Blooming cherry blossom trees on display in Washington, D.C.
| Credit: Courtesy of Washington.org

1. National Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, D.C.

Of all of the spring gathering, the Cherry Blossom Festival at the nation’s capital is one of the most beloved. For three fragrant and beautiful weeks, Washington D.C. welcomes upwards of 1.5 million visitors, all hoping to admire (and pose in front of) 3,000 perfectly pink trees. Of course, you’ll never be charged to stroll along the mall that stretches from the U.S. State House to the Lincoln Memorial, or for most of the other many events throughout the festival. These include celebrations of both American and Japanese cultures, the Pink Tie Party that raises money for charity, as well as The Opening Ceremony, held at the Warner Theater that showcases dance and song performances. And, you can’t miss the Blossom Kite Festival, the Cherry Blossom Parade, or the Pedalpalooza. For a full list of happenings, see their website.

When to Visit: March 20 to April 12

Price: Free 

Rows of colorful spring tulips blooming in Washington state.
| Credit: Courtesy of Pam Headridge/Skagit Tulip Festival

2. Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, Mount Vernon, WA

The state of Washington offers one of the most sought-after destination events in the Pacific Northwest every April. It’s during this month that tulips—in an array of colors, from yellow and purple to pink and more—make their annual debut. Depending on the timing of Mother Nature, the fields may be the most plentiful at the start or the end of the month, so it’s recommended to drive through the valley a few times. If you want to park and walk around to take photos, visit their website to find the best spots. 

When to Visit: April 1 to 30

Price: Free but $7 for parking.

The concert stage at the Azalea Festival in Wilmington, N.C.
| Credit: Courtesy of the North Carolina Azalea Festival

3. North Carolina Azalea Festival, Wilmington, NC

Also known as rhododendrons, you’ll find this dynamic purple and pink blooming tree dotted along the Appalachian Mountains, but it’s been celebrated on the coast of North Carolina since 1948. In addition to plenty of photo opportunities when the trees are at their peak bloom, expect to also find concerts, fairs, and special events throughout the five days. Every year, more than 200,000 people enjoy the two-day street fair, and 100,000 watch the parade. 

When to Visit: April 1 to 5 

Price: Free but some events require paid tickets.

Pink and white blooming dogwood trees.
| Credit: Courtesy of Loch & Key Video Productions/Dogwood Arts

4. Dogwood Arts Spring Featured Gardens, Knoxville, TN

While you’ll find this native tree to North America and northern Mexico blooming from Maine to Florida, the celebration happens in The Volunteer State. Every year, branches fill with white and pink flowers, prompting Tennessee residents and those from neighboring states to head to Knoxville. While the annual event is free, donations are always encouraged to maintain the programs. Since tours are self-guided, it’s recommended to bring comfortable walking shoes so you can explore far and wide. 

When to Visit: April 18 to 19

Price: Free, but donations suggested.

Signs at the annual California Poppy Festival.
| Credit: Courtesy of The City of Lancaster/California Poppy Festival

5. California Poppy Festival, Lancaster, CA

Though you may not recognize this California town, it’s well-known as the hub of bold and bright red poppies that—ahem—pop up every April. Since the spring of 1970, Antelope Valley has welcomed any and all who want to admire the Golden State’s flower, tallying as many as 200 million people from 141 countries. Always held around Earth Day, it’s a special yearly event full of food, performances, and local crafts, ideal for the whole family. 

When to Visit: April 18 to 19

Price: Adults, $10; children, seniors, and active military or veterans, $5; children under 5, free. 

One featured garden on display during Historic Garden Week.
| Credit: Courtesy of The Garden Club of Virginia

6. Historic Garden Week, Across the State of VA

It’s not one city that celebrates the arrival of spring in Virginia—it’s the whole state! While the official name is Historic Garden Week, it’s a bit misleading since ‘America’s Largest Open House’ is actually eight days long. During this time, visitors can drive and walk through a variety of various gardens and homes, all decked out with gorgeous flower arrangements. The price varies depending on location, but it all benefits the state’s historic public gardens and landscapes, a research fellowship program, and other initiatives.

When to Visit: April 18 to 25

Price: Varies depending on the tour, $25 to $55.

Colorful rows of tulips at the Tulip Time Festival.
| Credit: Courtesy of Tulip Time Festival

7. Tulip Time Festival, Holland, MI

While tulips are a beloved flower throughout the year, spring is their prime time—and this Michigan town overflows with them annually. It’s not just locals who flock here, since the festival has been able to attract big performance talent like Elton John, The Texas Tenors, and many others over the past 91 years (and counting). In addition to capturing a no-filter-needed Instagram photo, you'll also enjoy dance performances, artisan markets, and fireworks, all in celebration of the country of Michigan’s Dutch heritage. Though walking around the grounds is free, some concerts require a ticket purchase so make sure to book before you head out.

Dates: May 2 to 10

Price: Free, but donations suggested. Prices vary for tickets to concerts.

Attendees at the annual Rochester Lilac Festival.
| Credit: Courtesy Andy Buscemi Photography/Rochester Lilac Festival

8. Rochester Lilac Festival, Rochester, NY

You always know when you’re around lilacs since their scent is among the most recognizable and aromatic. That’s why walking through Rochester’s 1,200-lilac-bush strong display will have you leaving like you were doused in perfume. This celebration is home to more than 500 bushes, sourced from 22 acres, making it the largest of its kind. Since lilacs derive from foreign countries—including Mexico, India, China, and Germany—this festival also celebrates cultures and customs from around the world. Get ready to sniff, eat, and dance at this family-friendly party.

When to Visit: May 8 to 17

Price: Free

Roses on display in Portland, Oregon.
| Credit: Courtesy of The Portland Rose Festival Foundation

9. Spring Rose Show, Portland, Oregon

Iconic, romantic, and perfect for any moment, anniversary, or ‘just because’ opportunity, there’s a reason why roses are many people’s favorite flower of all. If you can’t get enough of these precious blooms, consider traveling to Llyod Center’s Annual Spring Rose Show, the largest and longest-running rose show in the country. Here, you can stroll and admire more than 4,000 blooms. Farmers and florists throughout the nation compete for the prettiest rose of all, so look out for gold trophies along the way. 

When to Visit: June 4 to 5

Price: Free 

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