By Dawn McCaslin
Now that winter is almost over, most of us are ready to shake off the cold, bask in the longer days and take in the beauty of spring. As the flowers bloom and the weather warms, there are countless opportunities for weekend road trips and outdoor festivals. With help from our regional offices across the nation, we have compiled a list of local family favorites for you to enjoy.
Washington, DC and Fredericksburg, Virginia
Late March – early April: A spectacular two-week, city-wide festival full of activities, events and celebrations during the peak bloom of the cherry blossom trees that line the Tidal Basin. From national monuments to world-class museums, outdoor beauty and the endless entertainment opportunities offered by the festival, it's no wonder that the Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the most anticipated events each year.
Late March – early May: Follow the famous Appalachian Trail and take in the blooming wildflowers and emerging wildlife. Walk a small part of the famous hiking trail or enjoy the views from one of over 100 overlooks. Easily accessible from Rte. 66 near Front Royal or from Rte. 64 near Charlottesville, you can opt for a small trip through a few miles or traverse the entire 100-mile stretch. Vehicle passes are required and range from $10-$15 for a day pass.
March – early May: Drive down I-75 to Big Cypress National Preserve, or hop on Route 41 to see Everglades National Park – a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. A unique ecosystem, this rich historical area is full of swamps, marshes and unbelievable wildlife. If you enjoy a little adventure, don't miss an eco-tour via canoe or an exhilarating zip through the water on a jet airboat.
Cape Canaveral and Mosquito Lagoon
Entire season: The fantastic Florida climate means that there's fun to be had year-round. For a truly memorable getaway, swing out to Cape Canaveral to watch a space launch (visit http://www.nasa.gov for launch schedules). While you're in the area, it's worth a side trip to check out the lighthouse and the nearby Mosquito Lagoon full of manatees and other precious wildlife.
Late March – early April: Known as the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World, Macon invites you to take in over 300,000 blooming Cherry Blossom trees in its annual festival. Take historic tours, watch the hot-air balloons and fireworks and enjoy the spirit of the South in this celebration of Spring.
Mid–April: A tradition in Atlanta for over 70 years, the Dogwood Festival is a celebration of springtime and artistry. Food, music, art and spectacular views make this festival a family hit. Held in Piedmont Park near the I-75 and I-85 split.
San Diego, California
March 1st – early May: Enjoy the 50-acres of flower fields, just off Highway 5 about 30 miles north of downtown San Diego. A classic springtime activity for San Diegans and just down the road from Legoland, this is a must see for the entire family. It is also a great place to picnic or to take a few family portraits for the coming year.
Entire season: Whether you visit in March to see the daffodils and wildflowers blooming or in April to witness the gorgeous lilacs, Julian and Cuyamaca make a fantastic excuse to head away from the city. Don't forget to stop in Julian for some of their world famous apple pie. Take Highway 78 past Ramona into Julian. From there, if you'd like to continue on to Cuyamaca, head south on Highway 79. If camping is on the agenda, be sure to strictly follow fire regulations and safety protocol.
March – May: Drive the trails of Texas Hill Country and experience an area lined with wildflowers, wildlife and beauty. Perfect for a small day trip before the summer heat kicks in. Here, you can also see sprawling fields of the famous Texas wild bluebonnet - a must-see for any road tripper in the Lone Star state.
Early April: Every year, Traders Village off Highway 360 hosts the annual prairie dog chili cook-off event. It's a free festival full of food, games, contests and prizes. Don't miss the World Championship of Pickled Quail Egg Eating where contestants compete for a title to see who can consume the most jalapeno soaked quail eggs in one minute.
Spring break: The epitome of a spring break haven, enjoy a beautiful drive to the Arizona-California border and take in the original London Bridge. Filled with shops, restaurants and endless outdoor activities, it's a place to relax and socialize with a young crowd.
Mid-March – early April: From desert wildflowers to beautiful mountains with natural springs, this forest is not to be missed. Explore the "sky islands" for breathtaking views and a break from the arid desert. If you're a budding photographer, be sure to take your camera and try to catch one of the spectacular sunsets.
Woodbury, New York
Long Island State Parks
Entire season: Escape the madness of the city by driving east along Highway 27. You will pass through Napeague State Park, Hither Hills State Park and Montauk Point State Park. This scenic drive ends in beautiful bluffs and fantastic surf at the eastern tip of Long Island.
Early April: Not only are the Catskills a fantastic getaway, but you and the family can enjoy a hint of nostalgia by visiting one of the drive-in movie theaters tucked in the mountains. Take in a movie beneath the stars after a day of sightseeing, kayaking or hiking. The hands-on nature center in Highmount is another great way to teach the entire family about the environment and the magic of the Catskills. Just east of Highway 87, about 60 miles north of NYC.
Whether you decide to stick close to home or venture out for a few days, please remember to check weather conditions, camping and road regulations and local dangers prior to leaving. It is important that you are prepared for a variety of circumstances.
We hope that you enjoy the great outdoors this spring and if you have any suggestions for future road trips or festivals, please let us know at email@example.com.