April Showers Bring May Flowers – Six Epic Spring Road Trips

If it's springtime, it's time to start exploring. From the desert to the heartland, here are 6 fantastic destinations you can tour on your next road trip.

Toyota Gr86 Summer Road Trips
Are you roadtrip ready? Photo: Chastity Velasquez

Are the Tulips in Bloom? Let’s Make a Road Trip Memory

Spring flowers, mild weather, and “Whoo hoo, it isn’t winter anymore!” are all great reasons to hit the road in the spring. Road trips are also usually much cheaper than flying, and they solve the problem of transportation when you get to your destination since you’ll already have your car.

Spring is often a less-crowded time to visit traditional summer destinations. More people are on the road when kids are out of school during the summer. Spring vacations are more staggered, so you’ll often enjoy exploring attractions and destinations with fewer humans.

If you can swing pulling your kids out of school for the year a little early, or if you’re seeking to plan a kid-free spring road trip, mid-to-late May can be an excellent time for Spring travel. The weather is warm but not too hot – this depends on where you go since many northern locations still have chilly temperatures well into the summer, but spring travel means beating the blazing heat you’ll find in summer.

Related: 9 of Our Favorite Travel Bags for Your Next Road Trip

Road Trip

Whether you are the driver or the passenger, this off-road experience near Moab is thrilling. Photo: Jill Robbins

Moab, Utah

 

Moab, Utah, has two scenic national parks, Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. The small, outdoor-focused city of Moab is a great base camp for exploring both parks. Spring is the best time to go to Moab weather-wise. Go too early in the year, and it will be too cold, and late snow and ice might make some of the hikes dangerous. Go during the summer and encounter fiery days and tons of crowds. A Spring road trip is just right. Arches is far more popular than Canyonlands, and current policy requires reservations for Arches, so plan for that in advance. Canyonlands is every bit as spectacular, and I recommend making time for both.

 

Pro-tip: The Moab Resort, a WorldMark by Wyndham Associate Resort, operates a hiking concierge program with former park ranger Ash Nudd. This is great for anyone wanting to save time on researching hikes or who needs help picking the appropriate hike for your skill level. I found some of the hikes in the Moab area to be daunting, and I loved having help choosing what hike was best for my fitness level, time, and level of adventure – there are a lot of trails to choose from.

 

For the ultimate thrilling drive experience in Moab, take a 4×4 tour of Hell’s Revenge trail. The trail is on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands just outside of town, and the tours start in downtown Moab. This one isn’t for the faint of heart, so make sure someone in your group is up for driving across the “Devil’s Backbone” at the beginning of the trail. It’s a narrow rock bridge that resembles a spine, and while it looks scarier than it is, this is definitely a high-adrenaline activity choice. The views and the remote vibes inside the BLM lands are worth it, though.

 

Road Trip

The Range Airstream and Vintage Trailer Resort. Photo: The Range

Ennis, Texas

Although the entire state of Texas celebrates bluebonnet season, a road trip to Ennis is the place to peep the state flower. Pick up a bluebonnet map from the Ennis Welcome Center, hit the road, and follow the famous Bluebonnet Trails, 40-odd miles of wildflower-laden scenery. Bluebonnet season is March and April, although this tends to vary by year, depending on how cold the preceding winter has been and rainfall. If you miss the bluebonnets, don’t despair. Texas has other spring wildflowers that are just as vibrant and photo-worthy: Drummond phlox, Indian paintbrushes, pink ladies, and Mexican hats. 

 

Pro tip: It’s super tempting to rush into that field of flowers to pose for the perfect picture, but check for snakes first! I keep a broom handle or hiking stick in my car when I’m doing bluebonnet pictures and riffle it through the blooms – carefully – to make sure there are no surprises. Making lots of noise to scare off anything hiding in the grass is also a good thing to do. Snakes generally feel the same way about us as we do about them and will take the opportunity to scurry away if they hear you coming. 

 

If you are into glamping or camping, Bristol, Texas, 16 miles from Ennis, has the cutest Airstream and vintage travel trailer campground. The Range has a variety of Airstreams and cozy vintage trailers for rent and they also have RV spots for rent, too. Amenities include a pool, fishing pond, and nature trails. Food and beverages are available on the weekends at The Range’s central gathering spot, The Barn. There’s even an adorable Airstream bar. 

Related: Find Yourself Pining for Adorable, Instagrammable Travel in an Airstream?

Road Trip

Public located in downtown Wichita sources local produce to craft unique seasonal menus. Photo: Jill Robbins

Wichita, Kansas

While Kansas might not seem like an exciting road trip destination at first blush, don’t write this one off as “Nah, I’m not interested in Wizard of Oz stuff.” There’s a lot more to Kansas in general, and a road trip to Wichita will surprise you. A friendly urban city with a decidedly hip and cool vibe and an eclectic and diverse food scene, it’s easy to build your own adventure in Wichita based on your interests.

One of the best things to do in Wichita is to view the Keeper of the Plains from the water. Self-service kayak rentals are available from mid-spring through the end of summer. The Keeper of the Plains is a 44-tall steel sculpture that guards the confluence of the Big Arkansas River and the Little Arkansas River.

If you’re not into kayaking, you can see the Keeper of the Plains from Wichita’s river walk. It’s a beautiful landmark any time of day but especially lovely at sunset or during the nightly Ring of Fire, where clay pots surrounding the sculpture are set aflame, illuminating the river area. The Ring of Fire happens at 9 p.m. during spring and summer, so this is a fun way to end the day.

If you are into museums, the Great Plains Transportation Museum is a great way to learn about Kansas’ railroad history. The Old Cowtown Museum is an open-air living history museum that brings the Old West to life. For foodies, there’s an endless supply of delicious places to eat in Wichita. My favorites are the Wine Dive and Kitchen, Doo Dah Diner, and Public. There’s also a great craft beer scene.

Related: The Greatest Road Trip Songs Ever

Road Trip

You can see seven states from the top of Rock City Gardens on a road trip to Chattanooga. Photo: Visit Chattanooga

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Chattanooga is a great road trip alternative to glitzier Nashville. This small city has lots of opportunities for outdoor adventure, and downtown Chatt has a cool urban vibe with fun places to grab coffee or a drink atop a rooftop bar. Chattanooga is a solid spot to visit year-round, but mild spring weather makes it a perfect April or May destination. If you’re taking a road trip and want to take a break from driving, downtown is safe and walkable. There are also free electric streetcars that help you get around or a citywide self-service bike rental service.

Pro-Tip: If you’ve got your heart set on exploring Nashville, Chattanooga is 130 miles to the South and an easy drive. Why not make it a two-city road trip?

You’ve probably heard of the Chattanooga Choo Choo, but what you might not know is that this refers to a place and not a train. The Choo Choo opened in 1909 as a train station and closed in 1970. Since 1973, the space has been operated as a hotel and vacation complex. Two places near the Choo Choo worth checking out are the restaurant STIR and American Draft, where you can enjoy a beer inside a vintage train car.

Road Trip

Can you believe Elvis was born in this tiny house? Photo: Jill Robbins

Tupelo, Mississippi

This small Mississippi town is most famous for being the birthplace of Elvis Presley, but there’s more to a road trip to Tupelo than just Elvis. There’s a walkable downtown shopping district and a cocktail trail sponsored by Visit Tupelo, with a prize at the end. Stay at the Hotel Tupelo, and all the stops on the cocktail trail, plus great places to eat and admire local art, are within walking distance – you can leave your car parked and have a safe and fun cocktail experience.

 

Tupelo is on the Natchez Trace Parkway if you’re all about scenic drives. This 444-mile scenic byway traverses three states and offers a fantastic opportunity to chillax and view rural scenery. The Natchez Trace Parkway offers something different for every season, and spring visitors will be treated to fields of wildflowers.

 

If you’re into shopping, save some room in your trunk when you’re planning your road trip to Tupelo. In addition to downtown boutiques, Tupelo has antique shops and two other dedicated shopping districts, Barnes Crossing and Midtown. And don’t forget to visit the Tupelo Hardware Co., where Elvis bought his first guitar. The store still sells guitars, hardware, and a sampling of other merchandise.

 

Pro-Tip: Don’t sleep on Elvis’ birthplace, even if you think you’re not a huge fan. This historical site is very well done, with high-tech interactions and exhibits that focus on Elvis’ formative years.

 

Road Trip

Spring flowers are gorgeous at the Green Bay Botanical Garden. Photo: Discover Green Bay

Green Bay, Wisconsin

In the fall, Green Bay is all about Packers football. Truth be told, Green Bay is all about Packers football 365 days a year, but spring road trip visitors can get a better sense of the city’s personality outside of football. And what better way to celebrate spring than to spend some time among the blooms?

Green Bay has a stunning 47-acre botanical garden filled with plants native to Wisconsin and worldwide. There’s a newly-opened children’s area that is so cool that it will make you long for your childhood. The good news is that many of the children’s garden attractions can be enjoyed by all ages, so whiz down that slide if the mood strikes you.

For more outdoor fun in Green Bay, check out Bay Beach Amusement Park, a retro-style park on the bay – see stunning views of the water from the top of the Ferris wheel. This attraction opens for the year in mid-May and is a very budget-friendly activity. Admission is free, and visitors purchase per-ride tickets for 25 cents, and rides are between one and four tickets each. Also, check out Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, which has an indoor interpretive center and outdoor animal habitats.

The center is currently home to a cougar wol,ves, and various migratory birds throughout the year. There are over five miles of trails to explore, and this is a completely free activity.

If you are looking for a fun activity on two wheels, check out the Green Bay Active Sports Organization, GBASO for short. This indoor skate park is designed for fun and features bikes, scooters, skates, and skateboards. Bring your own or use loaner equipment on site. This is a great way to meet people from the local community. And, although you won’t catch a Packers game on a spring trip to Green Bay if you’re a baseball fan, you can check out a Green Bay Rockers home game. The Rockers are a part of the Northwoods League, and you can get tickets for about $10.

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Jill is the oldest mom with the youngest kids pretty much everywhere she goes. She has a 29-year-old daughter... More about Jill Robbins

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