It’s that time of year again, where many of us “Spring ahead” with our clocks and notice the amount of daylight dramatically increase. Here in Seattle, it’s a big difference and I can begin to look forward to pleasant evenings of light until 9:30pm. Spring also offers an optimistic look at the year ahead, as Mother Nature is always right on time — proving that we are going to make it through this current crisis.
Although I focus on the Pacific Northwest, I invited three other travel bloggers to offer their own perspective of favorite parks in Spring from different locales. Meggie writes from a base in the Phoenix area, Jenny lives in Minneapolis, and Rebecca hails from Motor City. Follow along with their local recommendations for springing alive in nature — and may this inspire you to find a park nearby to bask in buds and blossoms.
Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix
Written by Jenny Javitch, Founder & Travel Planner, Global Game Plan
With over 50,000 plants spanning 55 cultivated acres, the Desert Botanical Garden is conveniently located in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona and consistently ranked among the top things to do in the city. If you’re not familiar with the American Southwest region, you may be surprised to find this garden doesn’t feature typical flowers, but instead focuses on desert plants around the world with an emphasis on those in the Sonoran Desert, including but not limited to cacti.
Their five themed loop trails are easy to navigate (even if you’re not great with maps) and you will have plenty of time during your visit to walk around all of them. As there is something for everyone, check out the garden by yourself, as a couple, with friends or as a family-friendly adventure. An award-winning restaurant is on-site too.
As a 501c(3) nonprofit, the Desert Botanical Garden offers programs such as music in the garden, private small group experiences, educational programs for students, family nature walks, guided field trip options for schools and desert landscape school online for adults.
This unique tourist attraction is open daily until 8pm but if you visit around sunset you can catch the end of the daylight hours and a beautiful sunset. Advanced ticket reservations are required.
Jenny is the Founder of Global Game Plan, a business specializing in travel planning research and advice, including vacation rental searches and virtual vacations. You can reach her on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Cranbrook Gardens — Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Written by Rebecca Gade Sawicki, Veggies Abroad
Nestled just off metro Detroit’s bustling iconic Woodward Ave., the Cranbrook Gardens sit quietly welcoming visitors to explore its 40 acres of beauty. During the Spring, the gardens are carefully planned and tended. Each bloom is like a little soldier, standing proudly at attention, creating a floral tapestry around the grounds. The wooded trails wind slowly intermingling with lakes and streams, offering paths to explore hidden alcoves and catch glimpses of baby ducks and turtles going about their day.
Over the past year, I have spent a fair amount of time strolling the gardens and wandering the trails. It has been a welcoming respite from the frustrations of the pandemic. Despite the many visits, the garden’s enchanting allure draws me in each time. My husband always asks, “I don’t get it, why do you love this place so much?” “I just do,” I always say.
I think it’s because the 1900’s Tudor-style mansions surrounded by beautiful blooms, marble fountains, and pools transports me to some of my favorite European spots. Just for a moment, I close my eyes and pretend I’m in England, exploring opulent palaces with immaculate gardens and rolling green hills. And during a year without travel, a bit of mental escape is needed and welcomed. Outside of the European style gardens, Cranbrook also features a harmonious Japanese Garden. I’ve not had the pleasure of visiting Japan, but I imagine outside the hustle and bustle of the city life these peaceful slices of nature offer a much-needed escape to breathe.
If you’re ever in the Detroit area, I recommend a visit to this beautiful spot. It is open year-round and is free, thanks to the many sponsors.
Rebecca Gade Sawicki is a blogger specializing in all things Vegan. Her site, Veggies Abroad, offers Vegan travel guides, tips, resources & inspiration to explore the world. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Springtime Awakening in the Desert — Phoenix, Arizona’s South Mountains
Written by Meggie Tran, Mindful Meggie
Most days in the American Southwest’s Sonoran Desert are quiet and unyielding. But during the springtime, I love to observe a rare buzz of activity in the South Mountains. This range is the sacred land of the Akimel O’odham and the Yavapai’s Kwevkepaya tribes. The city of Phoenix, Arizona, manages the range as public land, known as the South Mountain Park and Preserve, America’s largest municipal park.
Hikers of all ages and backgrounds take advantage of the pleasant springtime temperatures before the heat of summer forces them to hibernate inside their air-conditioned homes. When the hikers emerge, so do the thick, white flowers of Saguaro Cacti, sprouting at the ends of stems and arms. As they bloom between late April and early June, pollinators such as birds and insects nestle in the flowers to collect nectar.
After pollination, the flowers become red, plump fruit with as many as 2000 black seeds. The traditional Saguaro Cactus fruit harvest has lasted for thousands of years in the Tohono O’odham culture. Iconic desert animals, such as javelinas and coyotes, eat the fruit, too.
Before the sweltering summer comes, I can witness the convergence of animals, plants, and humans in the South Mountains. As desert dwellers, we’re not so different, after all!
For more reading on desert exploration read, Don’t make these 8 common mistakes while desert hiking.
Meggie Tran is a Vietnamese American travel blogger and mental health advocate with OCD and social anxiety at Mindful Meggie, where she destigmatizes mental illnesses through travel. Her site features raw and funny travel stories and practical resources to help people with a mental illness travel. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.
Volunteer Park comes alive with the best of Seattle
Written by Matthew Kessi of Kessi World.
My favorite Spring park in Seattle is Volunteer Park. The stately square plot of land commands the top of the Capitol Hill neighborhood with old world charm, designed by the prestigious Olmstead Brothers in the early 1900’s. The curved roadways seem to flow in concert with the numerous varieties of evergreen trees and deciduous varieties that slowly come alive beginning in March. Cherry blossoms pop along the roadway near the Volunteer Park Conservatory, and the Black Sun sculpture offers a unique setting of which to view the skyline of Seattle, including the iconic Space Needle.
Daphne bushes are the first to throw open their fragrant blooms followed by hellebores and cherry blossoms — then the show kicks into full gear with layers upon layers of rhododendron delight, azaleas and camellia bushes. When April is in full gear, something always seems to be in bloom — the large chestnut trees that line the main drive push out brilliant hues of green in May. The smell of freshly cut grass mixed with sweet pollen of the abundant new life is intoxicating. On a nicer day, pull up a picnic at one of the tables situated underneath the arbor — or try your luck with a blanket on the lawn.