With almost a month to go until the vernal equinox (which marks the first day of spring), it’s time to once again anticipate strolling through fragrant flower-filled fields and gardens.
If you love flowers, these five cities are must-visits, thanks to their emphasis on springtime floral splendor. Plus, they’re great destinations for a long weekend or a quick European getaway. The best part? They won’t blow your budget.
Here are five affordable, flower-filled cities teeming with gardens, value-packed hotels, and more.
1. Charleston, South Carolina
April in Charleston is heavenly: temperatures have warmed (but not too much) and the city’s iconic gardens and plantations are blooming with azaleas, dogwoods, wisteria, and more. Visit in late-March if you love magnolias, Japanese flowering cherries, and rhododendrons. Here, spring is such a big deal that the city’s downtown receives a seasonal makeover, as flower boxes overflow with vibrant blooms and blossoms.
What to see: You’ll be able to enjoy plenty of free flower-gazing simply by strolling along The Battery historic district (especially along Church, King, and Meeting streets). If you're looking for even more floral-themed activities, be sure to visit during the annual Festival of Houses & Gardens from March 11 through April 18. The festival allows visitors to explore some of Charleston's most beautiful and historic homes and gardens. Another top spot is Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, a natural Romantic-style garden that first opened to the public in 1870, and has been owned by the same family for more than three centuries.
Where to stay: Charleston offers wonderful accommodations at any budget, but overall, rates tend to peak in April. Two mid-range (under $200 per night), well-located options include the Hampton Inn Charleston Historic District and Hyatt House Charleston Historic District.
2. Vancouver, British Columbia
Although it may be surprising, this mountains-meet-sea city in southern British Columbia is known for its spectacular gardens — and many of them are free to visit. Additionally, with the favorable exchange rate, other sights, dining, and even luxury lodging may be discounted up to 25 percent.
What to see: Rhododendrons, cherry blossoms, and more. Head to one of the city’s most-visited sights, Stanley Park, and stroll through its Ted and Mary Greig Rhododendron Garden, where 50 trees peak in April and May. While you're there, check out the park's Rose Garden. While the 3,500 rose bushes don’t bloom until June, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and other bulbs carpet the area from March through May. What’s more, if you love cherry blossoms, be sure to book your stay during the city’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival (April 2–26). For even more flower-spotting, head to Queen Elizabeth Park and VanDusen Botanical Garden, where you’ll also find magnolias, rhododendrons, camellias, and dogwood.
Where to stay: Learn more about Vancouver's cultural scene when you book a stay at The Listel Hotel Vancouver, where each of the 129 rooms are inspired by one of the city’s museums, from arts to indigenous culture (under $125 per night in the spring).
3. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Tulips by the millions attract visitors around the globe to The Netherlands each spring — a time when airfare from the U.S. is still affordable. Peak blooming time is mid-March through mid-May, when Amsterdam’s flower market springs to life with endless bundles of fresh-cut blooms, bags of bulbs, and other garden-themed paraphernalia. However, you’ll need to head outside the city to truly experience the wonder of tulip time in Holland (more on that below).
What to see: The magnificent Keukenhof Gardens, of course. Located about 30 minutes by bus from Amsterdam, the gardens are open from March 21 through May 10. During this time, more than seven million tulips (in a whopping 800 varieties) will bloom across 79 acres of well-manicured gardens and greenhouses. Also, don't miss the exceptional specialty tulips, which are kept indoors.
Where to stay: If you’re looking for luxe accommodations, consider booking a room at Kimpton De Witt Amsterdam, which offers contemporary style and thoughtful extras in a convenient location (rates start around $215 per night in the spring). A more budget-friendly stay awaits at the 15-room Hotel de Jonker, where rates in March and April range from $125 to $300 per night, depending on the day of the week.
4. Brussels, Belgium
The Belgians — like their Dutch neighbors to the north — love their tulips. As a result, patches of color begin to pop up all around the capital city each April. Additionally, the train ride between Amsterdam and Brussels is under two hours, so why not visit both cities in one trip? (Plus, delicious Belgian chocolate is a sweet bonus).
What to see: For the most impressive tulip-filled landscape, head to Floralia Brussels (an annual garden showcase) which takes place from April 4 through May 3 on the magnificent grounds of the Groot-Bijgaarden Castle. During this time, more than one million bulbs in about 400 varieties magically transform the property into a garden oasis.
Where to stay: NH Hotels has 10 hotels throughout Brussels, so be sure to browse each property's website and compare rates before you book (expect to pay under $125 per night). However, in terms of location, it’s hard to beat the NH Brussels Carrefour de l’Europe, which is a short walk to the historic Grand Place. Also, consider booking a room at the convenient NH Brussels Grand Sablon, which is right near the city center.
5. Washington, D.C.
Out nation’s capital might be full of rancor, but once a year — usually right on cue during the first week of April — the city transforms into a cherry blossom-filled oasis. These flowering trees with delicate pink-hued petals seem to float like botanical clouds. If you’ve never experienced cherry blossom time in Washington, D.C., consider planning a visit for this upcoming spring.
What to see: From March 20 through April 12, the city will celebrate the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, which commemorates the 3,000 cherry trees Japan gifted the U.S. back in 1912. As you take in the beauty of the cherry blossoms, stroll around the National Mall to visit the Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr. memorials.
Where to stay: Room rates in D.C. soar in late March and early April, so escape the crowds and head to Alexandria, Virginia, which is located just 15 minutes away via Metro. Here, two options await, and you can’t go wrong with either one. Hotel Indigo Old Town Alexandria offers a modern ambience amid the charm of Alexandria’s cobblestone streets (under $200 per night). Alternatively, the Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa, features modern décor and a complimentary wine hour (under $250 per night).