Daffodils. Song birds. The promise of long summer days ahead. Spring is in the air, and you know what that means: It’s time to get out and explore. I asked our in-house experts where they love to learn in the spring both near and far. From Central Park to the plains of the Serengeti, these are Road Scholar’s top 7 picks for spring travel, learning and adventure.
1 | The Netherlands Tulips, tulips and more tulips! Need we say more? Ok, just a bit. The Netherlands is fascinating to explore any time of year, but nothing beats the sight of Holland’s tulips in full bloom. Fields and fields of colorful petals can make the Netherlands look like a rainbow from above. Add in the idyllic windmills, charming cafes and plenty of opportunities to explore on leisurely walks, bike rides and boat rides. Seeking more beauty? Head to the museums. A springtime journey to the Netherlands is never complete without admiring the works of Dutch masters. When you’re done snapping photos of tulips, tulips and more tulips, move on to Vermeer, Rembrandt and van Gogh!
2 | New York CityThe “City that Never Sleeps” is as vibrant as ever in spring, when thawing temperatures make a stroll through Central Park or people watching in Times Square even more enticing. You can never run out of enriching ways to experience Manhattan no matter the season, but we sure are suckers for daffodils, lilacs and the stunning wildflower meadow in Strawberry Fields. After you stop to smell the roses, learn about history at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, check out Radio City Musical Hall and take in the view from the roof deck of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Spring is also the season of festivals and food fairs. The food trucks are out of this world, and even the simple hot dogs in New York somehow taste better than all others.
3 | TanzaniaThis may not be one you’ve considered, but Tanzania is a fantastic country to visit in spring. My colleague Natasha Palmroth, Road Scholar’s Director of International Program Management, puts Tanzania on the top of her spring destination list. Why? Because early spring means calving season, which runs from January to April. This is the time you can watch all sorts of animal babies being born each day. Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! The spring also presents extraordinary opportunities to witness big game, like lions and leopards, whose predatory action increases. Just make sure to bring your rain gear (and/or a great attitude about not-so-perfect weather). Spring is also the wet season. The bright side is the scenery is lush, there are fewer travelers and migratory birds make spring in Tanzania a must for bird lovers. Go solo, as a couple or with the whole family!
4 | The Swiss Alps Springtime in the Swiss Alps means the hills are alive with the sight of wildflowers. Think majestic snow-capped peaks in the background and grassy meadows adorned with bright blooms in the foreground. Cherry and apple trees start to bloom, fog dissipates and wildflowers like narcissi begin to awaken and poke through the ground. Spring is also still a great time for skiing because you get both the warmer temperatures from the sun and alpine regions are still covered in snow. May in particular is a nice time to take advantage of smaller crowds while witnessing the first flowers of spring. If you want to see the full floral alpine show, consider June, when wildflowers are at their peak.
5 | Yellowstone National Park No spring travel list is complete without mentioning Yellowstone. My colleague, Carmela Cavanaugh, Road Scholar’s director of North America programs, puts this natural wonderland at the top of her list. Here are her exact words: “I actually saw a mama bear and her cubs in Yellowstone last April — it was amazing!” Thanks for the tip, Carmela. This is the time of year when newborn bears, bison, wolves, elk and more make their debut. Get your camera ready because you’ll also want to take home memories of the breathtaking scenery, from Old Faithful to geothermal hot springs.
6 | Washington, D.C.When it comes to learning about history and politics, D.C. is the place to be. But this is spring, so we’re focusing on the real stars of the show: cherry blossoms. If you’ve seen the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., you already know why our capital makes this list. And if you haven’t, take a look at the picture above and ask yourself, “What am I waiting for?” The National Cherry Blossom Festival runs from mid-March to mid-April every year. The average peak bloom, when 70 percent of the flowers on the cherry blossom trees are open, is typically around April 4th, but it all depends on the conditions and weather. Known as “sakura” in Japan, the cherry blossom is beloved both for its beauty and scent. The festival dates back to March 27, 1912, when Tokyo’s mayor gifted the Japanese cherry trees to the city of Washington, D.C. Friendship, learning, flowers — good stuff!
7 | Los Angeles This great suggestion comes from long-time staffer Elaine Chu, who develops Road Scholar’s International programs, including all of our learning adventures in Cuba. To be honest, we were expecting her to say, “Well, Cuba.” Nope. Her favorite place to be in spring is Los Angeles. Says Elaine: “The weather is beautiful, the flowers are in bloom and there has usually been enough rain that there is very little smog. Everything is green!” Check out the Walk of Fame and LaBrea Tar Pits or explore the Descanso Gardens.
That was fun — thanks for coming along! Of course, there is so much more to explore in the spring! We’d love your suggestions, too. What would you add to this list?
JoAnn Bell, Senior Vice President of Program Development, develops and manages more than 5,500 learning adventures in 150 countries and 50 states.