We usually consider vacations a luxury, not a necessity, but as those who have braved the depths of winter can attest, there comes a time every year when you need an escape. It's not as melodramatic as it sounds; when vitamin D levels drop to an all-time low and seasonal affective disorder takes hold, booking a trip isn't hedonistic—it's about practicing self-care.
If you're looking to soothe your stress levels with a warm-weather vacation, now is the time to plan ahead. It might not be spring just yet, but a study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life suggests anticipating a vacation causes the same surge in happiness as actually taking the trip. Yes, the health and well-being benefits take effect the moment you start planning.
Need an instant mood boost? We've pinpointed seven stunning spring destinations that will help you relax, unwind, and marvel in the natural beauty of a new season. It's time to start planning your spring escape.
Why spring: Spring is the ultimate time to visit Aspen, Colorado, thanks to melting snow from the mountains, which forms mirror-like lakes and lush green hiking trails.
Top attraction: Trade your snowboard for hiking boots and head to Maroon Lake Scenic Trail. Wander the winding mile-long path past grazing mountain goats and bighorn sheep until you reach the famous Maroon Bells. It's the perfect antidote to city stress.
Why spring: The nation's capital turns blush pink in spring as 3000 cherry blossom trees bloom. The warmer weather brings hoards of tourists, so if you'd rather escape the crowds, visit in late spring when the delicate blossoms carpet the ground.
Top attraction: March 20 marks the start of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, a three-week citywide celebration that's seriously photogenic. Wander the picturesque Tidal Basin, spend a day at the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival, and relish the sweet-smelling spring air from one of the city's rooftop bars.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Why spring: Jackson Hole is best known for its powdery peaks and tough mountain courses, but spring is the ski town's best-kept secret. Crowds dissipate, the price of accommodation plummets, and wildlife is abundant.
Top attraction: Go on a spring safari to nearby Grand Teton National Park to glimpse moose, white-tailed deer, and pronghorn. Spring is also the perfect time for watersports, thanks to melting ice and increased runoff from the mountains. Try fly fishing, rafting, and kayaking, and then end your day at Wyoming Stargazing to marvel at the glittering galaxy above.
Why spring: Spring is one of the most popular times to visit Savannah, Georgia—and for good reason: The climate is warm and welcoming, and the trees are laden with fragrant blossoming flowers.
Top attraction: Spring is peak festival season, so plan your trip accordingly. Notable events include Savannah Music Festival, which spotlights over 100 artists; River Street Seafood Fest, a foodie's mecca; and the Savannah Tour of Homes and Gardens, wherein stunning private houses are opened to the public. Be sure to wander the parks and Bonaventure Cemetery to see azaleas, among other flowers, unfurl their petals.
Antelope Valley, California
Why spring: Thousands of golden poppies carpet the usually arid Mojave Desert, making March and April the perfect time to plan a road trip to see the beautiful yet surreal landscape.
Top attraction: The Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve boasts 17,600 acres of California state's flower. Drive to Antelope Butte Vista Point to see the sweeping desert panorama from above.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Why spring: Mardi Gras takes place on February 28, so visit in March or early April if you'd rather avoid the dizzying crowds and explore New Orleans at your own pace.
Top attraction: Wander the French Quarter and take a walking tour of the Garden District to see some of the city's most beautiful homes. Book a room at the newly reopened Ace Hotel, a 1928 Art Deco building, which recently received an $80 million makeover by design force Roman and Williams.
Yosemite National Park, California
Why spring: Late spring is the perfect time to see the stunning waterfalls at Yosemite National Park. As the snow melts at higher elevations, the streams fill, and water cascades down the mountainside.
Top attraction: Pack your hiking boots—Yosemite in spring is a nature lover's paradise. Challenge yourself by hiking the strenuous track to the upper falls. While they're less popular than the lower falls, those who make it to the top are rewarded with 360-degree views of the mountainous surrounds. Be sure to check the National Park Service website before you leave home; some entry points stay closed until May, and you'll need to bring tire chains in preparation for late snowstorms.
What are your favorite spring destinations? Share your travel tips below.