Are you ready to put winter behind you? There’s no better place to get in the mood for spring than at a flower festival. Flower festivals range from wildflower blooms to Japanese cherry blossom fests to celebrations of spring flowers like tulips and lilacs. Most festivals have a variety of activities over several days or weeks including live music, farm tours, group planting, and kid-friendly programming. If you love a good flower show, we’ve found 7 U.S. festivals to look forward to, listed in chronological order below, plus you can use your NEA membership benefits to find deals on airfare, rental cars and hotels to help you get there.
Frolic in the flower fields at Carlsbad Ranch in Carlsbad, California (March 1– May 1)
From early March to early May, the rolling hills of North San Diego County put on a colorful display of giant Tecolote ranunculus flowers to signal the arrival of spring in Southern California. These flowers bloom for roughly six to eight weeks on the nearly 50-acre field at Carlsbad Ranch. Introduced by an early settler, the flowers are now considered part of the area's heritage.
Aside from the flowers, the ranch has a 1,500-square-foot greenhouse with Ecke poinsettias, a sweet pea maze, a cymbidium orchid greenhouse, American flag-themed flower bed and various other themed gardens. Don't miss the tractor-driven wagon rides ($8 for adults, $4 for kids 3–10 years old). Or, have a family picnic on-site and hike up the hills for incredible views of the coastline and Pacific Ocean.
The ranch hosts live entertainment and special events during the blooming season. Plus, fresh-cut flowers, bulbs, potted plants and more are sold in the Armstrong Garden Center Gift Shop. Admission to the fields is $23 for adults, $21 for seniors 60+ and $12 for children ages 3–10.
NEA members travel benefits: Through the NEA Travel Program, you can search for deals on flights to San Diego International Airport (35 miles from Carlsbad). Look for affordable lodging options such as Carlsbad by the Sea Hotel, which has spacious rooms with balconies, a heated outdoor pool and hot tub, fitness center, and free breakfast for an average of $120 per night. Or, splurge a little (and earn Hilton Honors points) at the Cassara Carlsbad, A Tapestry Collection by Hilton, a large resort that opened in 2019 with two pools, a Mediterranean restaurant and bar, rooms with chic California designs and complimentary shuttles to a nearby spa and golf course, for an average of $204 per night.
Cherish spring at the International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Georgia (March 17–26)
There are more than 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees in Macon, and they typically bloom for about two weeks beginning in the last weeks of March. The International Cherry Blossom Festival is held annually to celebrate this explosion of beauty. You can look forward to concerts, a parade, a fashion show and even a wiener dog race. Food trucks will set up along Third Street to satiate the appetites of cherry blossom viewers.
On the final day of the festival, the Macon Pops will perform live, and there will be an extravagant fireworks show. You can hop on a tethered hot air balloon for $10 per ride. And, if the festival has inspired your green thumb, you can purchase a Yoshino cherry tree at the Round Building in Carolyn Crayton Park.
NEA members travel benefits: You can fly to Middle Georgia Regional Airport (MCN) or Macon Downtown Airport (MAC) on Sun Country Airlines or fly into Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), which is just an hour’s drive from Macon. Check for discounted airfare using your NEA member benefits. You can also get a great deal on hotels, such as an average of $92 a night at the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson Macon North, GA, which has free breakfast and an indoor pool and gym, or for about $110 a night you can get a suite at SpringHill Suites by Marriott Macon, which has large suites with kitchenettes perfect for families and an indoor pool and gym, plus breakfast is included.
Bask in bluebonnets in Burnet, Texas (April 7–9)
2023 marks the 40th anniversary of this flower festival that always occurs the second weekend in April to celebrate the Texas Hill Country’s most famous flower, the bluebonnet. In 1981, the Texas State Legislature officially designated Burnet the “Bluebonnet Capital of Texas,” and soon the festival was born. The entire weekend is chock full of events, including live music, dancing, classic car displays, a demolition derby and plenty of kid-friendly activities.
NEA members travel benefits: Fly into Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), just an hour’s drive from Burnet, by buying airline tickets through NEA Travel: Airfare. And then look for hotel deals for rooms at Comfort Inn & Suites Burnet (at an average of $83/night) and Best Western Post Oak Inn (at an average of $99/night), which both have free breakfast and outdoor pools.
Tiptoe through the tulips in Skagit Valley, Washington (April 1–30)
You’ve probably seen photos of the tulip fields in Washington state’s Skagit Valley, which rival those from Amsterdam’s famous tulips. The vibrant colors are the centerpiece of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. Bring your camera for a self-driving tour of the tulip farms that stretch from Mount Vernon and Burlington to La Conner. Some favorites include Tulip Town, Roozengaarde, Tulip Valley Farms and Garden Roslyn. Admission prices typically range from $13 to $15 at most farms, with cheaper options for children.
NEA members travel benefits: Book your flight to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), just an hour’s drive from Skagit Valley, via NEA Travel: Airfare. And check for hotel deals to stay at accommodations such as Best Western Plus Skagit Valley Inn and Convention Center for an average of $113 a night, with amenities including free breakfast and WiFi, and a pool and fitness center. Or for an average of $138 a night the charming boutique Nantucket Inn in the town of Anacortes has a nautical design theme and is right by the ocean—and the tulip fields. For more space, the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Burlington has large suites and an indoor pool, gym and free breakfast for an average of $108 a night.
Count the flowers at Biltmore Blooms in Asheville, North Carolina (April 1–May 25)
American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted stretched spring into three months when he designed the gardens at Biltmore House in Asheville. In early spring, daffodils and forsythia illuminate the gardens with a bright yellow glow, while 1,000 blooming orchids decorate the conservatory. Next, 80,000 tulips show their vibrant hues before the blossoms of native azalea, rhododendron, roses, annuals and perennials complete the blooming cycle.
Biltmore Blooms offers a chance to see these gorgeous flowers along with complimentary wine tastings at the winery. Plus, there are outdoor activities and plenty of shops and restaurants to explore in the village. A daytime admission ticket includes a self-guided tour inside the Biltmore House mansion (but note that the Gardens & Grounds ticket does not), including access to the historic gardens and Antler Hill Village. There, children can have a blast petting baby goats, lambs, chicks and bunnies at the barnyard. At night, watch Antler Hill Village put on a dazzling display of festive lights. Tickets start at $65, kids 10 to 16 are charged half price, and children 9 and under are admitted for free. The Biltmore also offers $10 off the ticket price to military veterans and seniors. You can save up to $8 by purchasing tickets online.
NEA members travel benefits: Search for affordable flights to Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) at NEA Travel: Airfare and look for lodgings via NEA Travel: Hotels. You could stay at places like the Crowne Plaza Resort Asheville, an IHG Hotel, for an average of $118/night, which features a mid-century modern stylish design and amenities including an indoor and outdoor pool, tennis courts, a 9-hole golf course, an adventure park with a zipline, a spa and fitness center. Or save money and spend just $87/night at the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Asheville Westgate, NC, which includes free breakfast and a small indoor pool and gym.
Catch spring fever in the garden in Winter Garden, Florida (April 1–2)
Set in the historic downtown of Winter Garden in Orange County, Florida, Spring Fever in the Garden—a free event—turns 13 in 2023. Flowers and other plants will be on display and for sale. Whether you're taking home a new plant or not, don’t miss the Ask the Experts booth to get answers to your pressing landscaping, lawn, pest and garden-related issues.
The event is dog-friendly, but you'll also see owls and raptors at the Avian Reconditioning Center booth. Plus, a sidewalk chalk art contest will really inspire your creative spirit.
There will be a space for kids at the KIDZONE booth. Children will learn about nature and the environment, as well as have some fun with crafts, face painting, balloon animals and more.
You can grab food from on-site vendors and enjoy entertainment ranging from pop to jazz to folk music. Download the Winter Garden app to check out the event map, buy merchandise, discover deals and join a scavenger hunt contest.
NEA members travel benefits: Winter Garden is a half-hour drive from Orlando so book a flight via NEA Travel: Airfare to Orlando International Airport (MCO) and then pick from many affordable hotels in the area through NEA Travel: Hotels. There you’ll find deals like an average of $126 per night at SpringHill Suites Orlando at Flamingo Crossings and Home2Suites by Hilton Orlando at Flamingo Crossings for an average of $172 per night.
Celebrate history at the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival in Michigan (June 9–18)
For 10 days in June, lilacs are the stars on this car-free island in upper Michigan and this year marks the 75th anniversary of the fabulous festival. Stroll Mackinac’s streets and country lanes where some of North America’s oldest living lilacs scent the air with their heady fragrance. But there’s more to the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival besides touring purple-colored gardens. Join the festival’s 10K run/walk or enjoy free concerts, a dog and pony show and many more family friendly events. But whatever you do, don’t miss the horse-drawn carts and carriages, decorated with lilacs, of course, in the Lilac Festival Grand Parade on June 18.
NEA members travel benefits: Let NEA Travel help you book an inexpensive flight to Chippewa County International Airport (CIU). Then it’s just a rental car and ferry ride to the island. Check for member discounts on hotels such as an average of $171/night at Sunset Condominiums, which offers roomy condos with kitchenettes and balconies. If you can splurge, a room at the beachfront Mission Point Resort averages $307/night, complete with a golf course, tennis courts, lawn games, a pool, a kids club and acres of manicured gardens.