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Showing winter the door

Courtesy Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Outside your window, a thick layer of snow covers the ground. You may have spent your morning scraping ice off the sidewalk beneath the tepid gray of the winter sky. Although winter seems to last forever, fear not — spring is coming.

Each of America’s four seasons brings its characteristic beauty, but none is more anticipated than spring, when sunshine and warming air welcome songbirds, flowers and wildlife back from their winter exile. Horses give birth to their foals, and baseball players begin to warm up their swings and stretch out their gloves. Soon, the ground is covered with blankets of floral color, and everyone hurries to get outdoors.

For travelers, spring marks the reawakening of wanderlust. The climate is perfect for travel, and so is the market: With schools still in session, spring offers less-crowded destinations and lower-priced accommodations. Many spring festivals and special occasions give groups great reasons to get up and go.

The beauty of spring travel yields some essential tour experiences. Here’s a look at six great ways for your group to enjoy spring, from Ottawa to Phoenix, bluegrass to bluebonnets.

Texas Wildflowers
Austin, Texas
Throughout the Hill Country of central Texas, spring brings a wash of colorful wildflowers that blanket the ground. Many visitors enjoy the sight of bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush and other vibrant flowers they’ll find on a drive from Austin to San Antonio or Fredericksburg, where flowers crop up in the expansive fields along roadsides.

But for a closer look at these beautiful plants, the best place to go is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

“We have about 6,000 native species of Texas plants on site, and most of them bloom,” said Barbra Rodriguez, media manager at the wildflower center. “There’s a lot to see here in the spring. We have all kinds of flowers, like sunflowers, Indian blanket, black-eyed Susans and pink evening primrose.”

Many visitors enjoy seeing the center’s field of Texas bluebonnets, which were Lady Bird Johnson’s favorite flowers. Groups can take special guided or audio tours that give them information about the varieties of flowers that are currently blooming. Themes can include plants that attract birds and wildlife, historic wildflowers or flowers found in specific regions of the state.

Spring also brings a series of special events at the center. Wildflower Days starts March 12 and runs through May 31, and includes arts and sculpture exhibits throughout the gardens. Several anniversaries make this year’s events extra special.

“We’re celebrating our 30th anniversary and the centennial of Lady Bird Johnson’s birth,” Rodriguez said. “There’s going to be an outdoor sculpture exhibit that will include wildflower sculptures. It’s going to be called ‘A Bouquet for Mrs. J.’”

The center will also open a new 16-acre arboretum this spring.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.