The Best Spring Flower Festivals

Fill your Insta feed with gorgeous color and your belly with great eats at one of these world-class flower festivals in towns famous for their food.
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dallas texas jonsson color garden fried chicken sandwich

Dallas Blooms

Dallas
February 25–April 9

Dallas’s go-big-or-go-home attitude easily applies to its annual flower fest, the Southwest’s largest. More than 500,000 bulbs are planted at the 66-acre Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden each year, with tulips, daffodils, Dutch iris, pansies and hyacinths blooming in early March, cherry trees budding a couple of weeks later, and 3,000 azaleas showing their colors in late March and April. You can see almost all of them at the arboretum’s 6.5-acre Jonsson Color Garden, a popular spot for picnics. So bring a blanket, open a bottle of wine or a local craft beer, and stay awhile. $15, dallasarboretum.org

Eat Here

If you’re craving fried chicken, make the half-hour drive to Whistle Britches, a Southern comfort-food joint helmed by James Beard Award–nominated chef Omar Flores. Their bird is pickle-brined, crispy and totally addictive; buy it by the bucket or slathered in honey butter and pepper jelly and tucked into a buttermilk biscuit (above). whistlebritcheschicken.com

washington dc cherry trees tidal basin vegan ramen

National Cherry Blossom Festival

Washington, DC
March 20–April 16

Just over a century since the mayor of Tokyo shipped thousands of cherry trees to our nation’s capital, America’s most famous flower festival has blossomed into a four-week mega-celebration of parades, fireworks and millions of blossoms. It’s hard to predict when they’ll bloom, so hedge your bets and time your visit to the Sakura Matsuri–Japanese Street Festival (April 8). It’s the biggest one-day Japanese culture celebration in the U.S., and may be a pretty good bet for when the banks of the Tidal Basin will be awash in pink—and jubilant spectators. Check out the festival’s Culinary Arts Pavilion for chef-led cooking demos: Last year’s included a beef rice bowl tutorial and lessons on cooking with a Japanese clay pot. For prices, visit sakuramatsuri.org and nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

Eat Here

After seeing the sights, chances are you’ll be craving Japanese food. Daikaya, in D.C.’s Chinatown, is an authentic ramen shop with an izakaya (Japanese gastro pub) upstairs, offering festival-themed treats, like cherry-blossom-and-shiso rice balls. For something more classic, slurp up shio (salt) broth vegan ramen (above) or share plates of tuna poke and stuffed shishito peppers. daikaya.com

wilmington north carolina henrietta catfish

North Carolina Azalea Festival

Wilmington, NC
April 5–9

When Wilmington’s azalea bushes turn pink, purple and red, the town lays out the welcome mat, Southern style, to more than a million visitors. The 69-year-old festival kicks off with the coronation of Queen Azalea and continues with a street fair, art shows, historic-home tours and a variety of other events. One must-do: a walking tour through a dozen mostly private gardens, alongside local ladies dressed in antebellum-style gowns ($25 per person). The 67-acre historic Airlie Gardens is a highlight, with trails, a lake, more than 75,000 azalea bushes and a grand, roughly 470-year-old oak tree. Also on the lineup: big-name outdoor concerts. Past headliners include Snoop Dogg, Carrie Underwood and Nelly. For prices, visit ncazaleafestival.org

Eat Here

Two years ago, when Dean Neff opened PinPoint, his farm-to-table fare blew Wilmington’s food scene wide open. The still-popular riverfront restaurant is within walking distance of many festival events, making it easy to swing by for local oysters, cornmeal-crusted North Carolina catfish (above) or bucatini à la puttanesca with North Carolina softshell crab, clams and shrimp. Fill up, then stroll back along the Cape Fear River to the main events. pinpointrestaurant.com

holland michigan tulip time hummus sandwich

Tulip Time Festival

Holland, MI
May 6–14

The next best thing to visiting the Netherlands in the spring? Hitting Holland, MI, in May, when this 170-year-old lakeside town shows off its Dutch roots and millions—yes, millions!—of colorful tulips. Along with standard varieties, be on the lookout for more exotic ones, like 12-petal peony and ruffly parrot tulips, and pretty much anything else you’d expect to find in the picturesque Dutch countryside, like the authentic 250-year-old windmill imported from the Netherlands at Windmill Island Gardens. Watch hand-painted delft pottery being crafted at De Klomp (in the Veldheer tulip farm), the only factory in the U.S. making the blue-and-white-patterned dishware. (They also make those cute wooden shoes.) Be sure to catch some Dutch folk dancing, then stick around after the performances for lessons (on May 6 in Centennial Park and May 10 on 8th Street). For prices, visit, tuliptime.com

Eat Here

Award-winning craft brewer and distiller New Holland Brewing is based here, so hit its Pub on 8th to taste Dragon’s Milk bourbon-barrel stout and locally sourced comfort food, like the Tree Hugger, a black-bean-and-hummus sandwich (above), or the raised-in-Michigan burger. Don’t leave without trying the Tulip Time–themed beer. newhollandbrew.com

portland oregon floral parade custard soft serve

Portland Rose Festival

Portland, OR
May 26–June 11

With an insane food scene and a river of awesome Pinot Noir flowing in from the Willamette Valley wineries, the City of Roses is already one of the buzziest food destinations in the country. Visit during the Rose Festival and you can watch a dragon boat race on the Willamette River (June 10–11), scope out the 7,000-plus bushes blooming at Washington Park’s famous International Rose Test Garden, and stroll through the biggest rose show in the country at the Lloyd Center mall (June 8–9). Then there are the parades: The Grand Floral Parade (June 10), with 90 acts and 30 flower-covered floats, is the biggest; the nighttime, glow-in-the-dark Starlight Parade (June 3) is the quirkiest. For prices, visit rosefestival.org

Eat Here

Don’t limit yourself to one eatery—take your pick of nine at Pine Street Market, a food hall packed with Instagram-friendly grub. Try Korean bibimbap topped with meat smoked using Southern-style-BBQ techniques at Kim Jong Smokehouse. Hit Bless Your Heart Burgers for a classic cheeseburger-and-fry combo, then stop at Salt & Straw’s Wiz Bang Bar for hand-dipped vanilla custard soft-serve (above). pinestreetpdx.com