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Cultivate Your Love of Spring with a Garden-centric Road Trip

What better time to jump in the car, roll down the windows and smell the roses? Spectacular gardens are the centerpieces of these 3 invigorating road trips.

After a long winter, there’s nothing like a spring road trip. The roads are clear, the days are long, and the air is sweet with fresh blooms. And nothing captures spring’s awakening better than a visit to one of our country’s most magnificent gardens. The explosion of vibrantly colored, richly scented flora will lift your spirits and buoy your mood for months to come.

So fill up the tank, pack your overnight bag and head out for a spring weekend with a delightful floral focus. You’ll be greeted by the scent and sight of magnificent blooming trees and a rainbow of flowers—and enjoy a few charming pit stops along the way.

LONGWOOD GARDENS
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
From Philadelphia down through the Brandywine Valley

Longwood Gardens is only 37 miles from Philly (take 1-95S to US 1S) but feels light-years away. Designed by Pierre S. du Pont (of the famous du Pont family), the gardens run the horticultural gamut, from forest thickets to highly manicured beds. But the pièce de résistance is the orchid house, which offers an ever-rotating, year-round display of 500 orchids (a fraction of their 7,500-orchid collection).

When you’ve gotten your fill of fragrant blooms, head 7 miles south on Old Kennett Road over the Delaware border to the Winterthur Museum, another du Pont family landmark that’s along the Brandywine River. The Winterthur, an estate so large it has its own ZIP code, is home to literary, horticultural and historical collections in its library, garden and museum.

You could spend a full day here, or you can head south on DE-52S to the Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway. Four miles later, you’ll find yourself at the Hagley Museum, yet another historical du Pont property. This is where patriarch E. I. du Pont founded the family’s gunpowder works in 1802. Besides a tour-worthy house and gardens, Hagley is dedicated to showing how business and technology have evolved in America in the past 200 years.

Finally, zip over on DE-48E for another 4 miles to Riverfront Wilmington, where you can explore an urban wildlife refuge, take a ride on the river taxi or choose from a variety of dining options.

CALLAWAY GARDENS
Pine Mountain, Georgia
From Atlanta to Warm Springs

An hour and a half from Atlanta on I-85S, Callaway Gardens claims that “the gardens are just the beginning,” and they mean it. You could spend days here and not run out of things to do.

From adrenaline-spiking treetop obstacle courses and water sports to the relaxing butterfly conservatory and golf courses, there’s something here to attract pretty much everyone, regardless of age or personality. But the main attraction remains those spectacular gardens—2,500 bucolic acres to explore by foot, bike and electric cart.

While there, indulge in a little “me” time at the Lodge and Spa, or add some fauna to your flora with a visit to Wild Animal Safari, only 8 miles away on US-27N (hang left on Oak Grove Road).

The next day, head south on GA-18W to GA-219S to Hamilton, where you can sample fried green beans and peanut butter pie at Hunter’s Pub and Steakhouse.

Then skip back up GA-116E for a half-hour ride to Warm Springs, Georgia, to visit Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s historic Little White House, which has been preserved in its 1930s glory, complete with an old-timey radio and hand-controlled convertible.

Once here, take your pick: You can pop into the boutique-lined village for a little spring shopping or head out for a quick hike in F.D. Roosevelt State Park—or both!—before circling back up to Atlanta on US-27 ALT N to I-85N.

MENDOCINO COAST BOTANICAL GARDENS
Fort Bragg, California
Up the California coast to Willits

A road trip along the coast in northern California? You pretty much have to take Highway 1, which boasts some of the most breathtaking views you can get anywhere. Start at the picturesque Gualala Point Regional Park and head north about 48 miles. Then pull over in Little River for the Wine Barn at Glendeven Inn, an out-of-the-way spot for a bit of wine tasting. (Make sure you’ve designated your driver!)

Continue up Highway 1 for about 10 miles north to Fort Bragg, where you can spend hours wandering the 47-acre Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Known for its collection of rhododendrons—more than 1,000 are on display throughout the spring—the garden is also filled with indigenous flowers, ferns and other plant life that thrive in the wetlands, canyons and bluffs that characterize the northern California coastline.

Speaking of coastline, swing by Fort Bragg’s sparkling Glass Beach later on, just a few miles north on Highway 1. At sunset, Glass Beach actually glistens. The next day, hang a right onto CA-20E for 35 miles so you can check out the much, much bigger plants in Willits, known as the gateway to the redwoods.

Once here, you can trade in your car for a few hours for the Skunk Train, a passenger railway whose dramatic course brings you up into the California Coast Range and then down into the Noyo River Canyon. Ocean views, wine, redwoods and camellias—you’ve just experienced the best of northern California in one lovely weekend.

What would make these spring road trips even better? Throwing open the top of a convertible and soaking up the sun! Rent one today and get special savings through NEA Member Benefits’ 5 rental car partners.

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