By: Maryellen Kennedy Duckett
Vibrant spring blooms in the northern hemisphere and dazzling autumn displays in the southern make this the perfect season to get outside and walk, hike, or take a scenic drive. Use our editors' list of 10 best spring trip destinations as the launching pad for an active--and colorful--spring getaway. --Maryellen Kennedy Duckett
Asheville, North Carolina
Photograph by Lynne Harty Photography/Alamy
Asheville is carpeted in color by early April, when acres of gardens bloom at the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate, the North Carolina Arboretum, and the Botanical Gardens at Asheville. A gateway to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville is also a destination in its own right, especially for the winter-weary eager to celebrate spring.
When to Go: Biltmore Blooms, March 20-May 23; Easter Egg Hunt on the Biltmore House front lawn, April 20 (Easter Sunday); Moogfest, dedicated to the synthesis of technology, art, music, and the legacy of Bob Moog, April 23-27; the 55th Annual Rhododendron & Azalea Flower Show, North Carolina Arboretum, May 3-4; Mountain Sports Festival, May 23-25
How to Get Around: It's easy to walk around downtown Asheville, but you'll need a car to visit the Biltmore Estate and the North Carolina Arboretum. For a good overview of the city's top attractions, park at the Asheville Visitor's Center and buy a two-day Asheville Trolley Tours hop on-hop off pass. The 90-minute narrated loop includes stops in Biltmore Village, the Grove Park Inn, and the River Arts District.
Where to Stay: The Montford Area Historic District is home to Asheville's highest concentration of bed-and-breakfasts and is within easy walking distance of downtown. At the homey yet luxurious Applewood Manor, the daily three-course breakfast is served by candlelight and always includes one of innkeeper Nancy Merrill's homemade breads (like Ghirardelli chocolate banana walnut, Pumpkin Blooper, and lemon). The 1912 red colonial manor house has five spacious guest rooms (three with private balconies), plus a separate, pet-friendly cottage.
Where to Eat: Reserve a seat or more for the Family Meal at Rhubarb, the first restaurant owned by James Beard Award finalist and North Carolina native John Fleer. The weekly, early evening Family Meal set-menu is designed to encourage conversation by seating 22 diners at three eight-top communal tables. If you'd like more privacy, there's also a regular menu and individual tables. Menus change regularly based on what's in season but typically include a sampling of southern-with-a-twist dishes like Turkey Pot Pie and Fried Chop Shop Bologna and Farm Egg.
What to Buy: Support local artisans by purchasing one-of-a-kind clay, wood, metal, and fiber items at the new Southern Highland Craft Gallery, located in historic Biltmore Village. In the River Arts District, sign up for a half-hour beginner's glassblowing session at Asheville Glass Center to make your own paperweight.
What to Read Before You Go: Thomas Wolfe's 1929 coming-of-age classic Look Homeward, Angel (Scribner, 2006) is set in his mother's Asheville boardinghouse, where the writer spent his childhood years.
Helpful Links: Explore Asheville and Biltmore
Fun Fact: The Basilica of Saint Lawrence in downtown Asheville was built in the 1900s using an ancient Spanish tile-and-mortar building technique. There's no wood or steel in the entire structure, making the centerpiece 58-by-82-foot ceiling one of the largest freestanding elliptical domes in North America.
Staff Tip: For more adventurous diversions, rent a "bellyak"--a new boat designed in Asheville for paddling on your stomach while using webbed gloves to paddle--and explore one of the rivers of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Alternatively, guided whitewater trips are available on the French Broad River. The Blue Ridge Hiking Company, run by long distance hiker (and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year) Jennifer Pharr Davis, offers guided day and overnight hikes in the scenic Pisgah National Forest. --Susan O'Keefe, Associate Editor, National Geographic Traveler