Spring might be the best time of year to go on vacation. Why? The weather is usually ideal for outdoor activities, crowds tend to be smaller, and prices tend to be lower, too. Plan your next vacation to one of these outstanding locations in the U.S. and experience some unique events that happen only in spring.
Experience the thrill of peak whitewater on the Gauley River in West Virginia.
A whitewater river hits its peak
Where to go: Gauley River, West Virginia
What to know: Rollercoaster-style waves, frothing rapids, and stunning scenery — this is what the Gauley area offers beginning in April. Famous for its whitewater rafting, the Gauley River draws adventure enthusiasts and thrill seekers looking to test their skills against some of the world's most formidable-but-runnable whitewater. May 1 through Memorial Day is best for the Gauley; the nearby New River offers a less-intense experience and boasts high water April through June. Most trips have age restrictions, but the Upper New River is good for all ages. Not up for the raft? The Greenbrier offers activities ranging from amazing golf to tours of a declassified government bunker.
Highlights: The Lower New River is best for beginners or for honing your skills before tackling the Gauley. Outfitters offer full-day packages that include meals and camping, as well as two-day trips that cover more than 60 rapids.
Learn more: New & Gauley River Adventures
Enjoy breathtaking views of Wyoming during this hands-on ranch vacation.
A ranch makes the most of the range
Where to go: Shell Valley, Wyoming
What to know: Ranches typically ramp up their work in spring. Baby calves are born, cows are moved out onto the range, and branding season begins. You can experience that and more at the Hideout Lodge and Guest Ranch, which is part luxury retreat, part working ranch, all situated on 650,000 stunning acres in Wyoming. Here guests can ride horses; learn how to handle livestock; participate in moving the 1,000 head of cattle; go fly fishing; and experience trap shooting, archery, and hiking adventures.
Highlights: Elevation ranging from 4,200 to 13,200 feet means you'll catch sweeping vistas while you're heading to the Shell Valley looking for stray livestock. Early spring is the least crowded time to visit, although guest occupancy is limited to around 25 per week at all times.
Learn more: The Hideout
Admire stunning floral displays at the Portland Rose Festival.
A city fills with roses
Where to go: Portland, Oregon
What to know: Portland is known as the "City of Roses," and, starting in April every year, the city fills with their scent as the flowers bloom in dozens of parks and gardens. The climate produces such an abundance that the city hosts an annual festival from late May through mid-June, which provides a month of flower shows, parades, fireworks, and other rose-related celebrations.
Highlights: The Spirit Mountain Casino Grand Floral Parade, held on the final weekend of the festival: Floats decked out in roses and other flowers, along with marching bands, make their way through a 4.2-mile route through the city. Also make time for a stop at the International Rose Test Garden, one of the city's gems, which boasts 7,000 rosebushes.
Learn more: Rose Festival
Connect with nature at Olympic National Park in Washington.
A park gets 30-ton visitors
Where to go: Olympic National Park, Washington
What to know: May is when many campgrounds, roads, and visitor centers reopen for the season at this stunning national park on the Olympic Peninsula. Late spring is also when you're most likely to spot gray whales on their way to their summer feeding grounds in the Bering Sea. Between 50 and 60 feet long and weighing around 30 tons, they're a spectacular sight, often hovering just a half mile from shore. Some might stay for days in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which borders the park.
Highlights: In addition to whale spotting, spring is a fantastic time for hiking. Experience amazing views, thanks to melting snowpack that builds the streams, rivers, and waterfalls to thundering torrents. Also, wildlife sightings increase as animals emerge from hibernation.
Learn more: Olympic National Park