By Brian Jewell
From the riverfront in the south to the lakeshore in the north and the rolling hills in between, spring brings a burst of color and activity to Ohio.
The Buckeye State shakes off the cold and snow of winter with a wide array of attractions and activities that take place in March, April and May. Flowers bloom, spring birds return and locals find plenty of ways to celebrate.
Groups that travel to Ohio in the springtime can get in on the celebration as well. The warm weather brings thousands of tulips out to bloom at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden and even more rhododendrons and azaleas at Holden Arboretum in Lake County.
Outdoor lovers will enjoy springtime visits to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, one of the most popular parks in the country. In central Ohio, Hocking Hills Adventure Trek combines nature and history in an off-the-beaten-path hiking experience. And on the western end of the Lake Erie coast, springtime brings one of the country’s best bird-watching opportunities.
A Zoo in Bloom
Although most people visit zoos to get glimpses of exotic animals, flora eclipses fauna each spring at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, which boasts one of only two accredited botanical gardens in the state. In March and April, the Zoo Blooms event paints the premises with bright swaths of spring color.
At the center of the celebration is the garden’s Tulip Mania display, which features more than 100,000 blooming tulips. Additionally, the garden has more than 1 million other plants blooming in springtime, including daffodils, hyacinths, flowering trees and bushes and other spring bulbs.
The zoo complements the bloom celebration with a series of free Thursday night concerts throughout the month. Other related events include the Southwest Ohio Daffodil Society Daffodil Show and the Tip-Toe Through the Tulips Luncheon. Visitors should also be sure to check out some of the other 3,000 plant varieties in the garden and the 580 animal species on display at the 75-acre zoo.
East of Cleveland, Lake County, Ohio, has made a name for itself as a nature-based tourism destination. Part of its appeal is Holden Arboretum. With 3,600 acres and 120,000 plants, this arboretum is one of the largest of its type in the United States.
Holden preserves a wide area of native Ohio woodlands with carefully planned display gardens scattered throughout. Visitors can hike trails that lead through large stands of ponderosa pines, cypress and other types of trees or relax in gardens full of lilacs, wildflowers or butterflies. Groups can arrange for guided tours that highlight particular garden areas or that go off road into some of the arboretum’s unspoiled landscapes.
In May, the arboretum will open its new four-and-a-half-acre Rhododendron Exploration Garden, which will highlight rhododendrons and azaleas. The exploration garden will be adjacent to the formal Helen S. Layer Rhododendron Display Garden. Together, these two areas will make up one of the largest rhododendron exhibits in the country.