Remember when Dorothy dozes off among scarlet poppies in The Wizard of Oz? Well, those vivid flowers weren't just a figment of Hollywood magic. Similar poppies set California's Antelope Valley ablaze in spring, luring road-trippers from L.A. and beyond.
The arrival of spring inspires us to break out from winter's hibernation and embrace the fresh outdoors. A road trip naturally satisfies that spontaneous travel urge, and we've mapped America's best spring drives-routes that bring you up-close to nature's finest floral displays, from a California poppy tour to Texas Hill Country's bluebonnets.
Of course, flowers in bloom aren't the only draw for these American road trips, many of which meander by woodlands, lakes, small quaint towns, even historic mansions and museums. Consider Colorado's 232-mile San Juan Skyway, which takes visitors up melting snowcapped mountains, past natural hot springs, and through restored ghost towns. It's an officially designated American Byway, one of nine we've featured, among them, Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway in South Carolina.
Road trips are an American pastime, and you don't need to travel far to enjoy some of spring's loveliest drives-these routes start at 25 miles-and free smartphone apps like GasBuddy can point you to the cheapest nearby fuel options. Some of T+L's other favorite gas-saving tips include: pack light (less weight in your vehicle means better gas mileage); charge it (many credit cards give cash back on gas purchases); and drive steady (conserve fuel by going easy on the pedals).
No matter what route you travel and no matter how many detours you take, spring into action this season by road-tripping through America's most awe-inspiring floral landscapes.
Texas Hill Country Bluebonnet Tour
The Route: 87 miles.
Lady Bird Johnson led a campaign to beautify American cities, and in her native Texas, vast gardens of bluebonnets were planted across Texas Hill Country. While there are countless nature trails, first-timers should start in Austin and take U.S. 290 west to Johnson City's lovely Wildflower Loop. Then hightail it along U.S. 281 N to the town of Burnet, the official bluebonnet capital of Texas.
Where to Stop: Tour the colorful grounds at Austin's Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. A toll-free Texas wildflower hotline (800-452-9292) provides blooming reports, and tune in to KLBJ News Radio 590, which airs the "Wildflower Hour" featuring expert gardening tips from Mr. Smarty Plants at 8 a.m. on Saturdays.
Acadia All American Road, Maine
The Route: 40 miles.
Pack your binoculars for this coastal drive that skirts the woodlands of Acadia National Park, a prime spot for spying bald eagles and nesting peregrine. The 27-mile Park Loop Road segment follows the high ridges of Bar Harbor down to Sand Beach and Otter Cliff and loops inland along Jordan Pond. It's the centerpiece of the drive, which starts in Trenton, takes Route 3 south, turns on the Loop Road, then rejoins Route 3.
Where to Stop: Local small towns begin buzzing in late spring. For homemade ice cream and popovers, pull over at the historic Jordan Pond House (open for the season as of May). Then put that energy to work hiking Acadia's Cadillac Mountain, whose 1,532-foot peak overlooks the Atlantic.
George Washington Memorial Parkway, Maryland and Virginia
The Route: 25 miles.
This green parkway reveals one floral show after another-591 wildflower species, from large-flowered valerians to Virginia bluebells-as you drive from the Great Falls of the Potomac through D.C. and south to Mount Vernon. The most famous are the cherry trees that bloom around the Tidal Basin in D.C.
Where to Stop: Hike the many trails that crisscross the 700-acre Turkey Run Park (just seven miles north of D.C.), which is carpeted in bluebells come late April.