Spring brings warmer weather, crisp air, colorful flowers, and the welcome return to nature. It's time to get out and play. Exploria Resorts offers some of the country's best destinations for appreciating nature, and springtime is one of our favorite times to explore new places. Daytona's beaches and state parks, Gatlinburg's Smoky Mountain majesty and the Pocono Mountains' outdoor adventures are reason enough to welcome spring. Daytona Beach The sun, sand and great waves are what make Daytona Beach the perfect spring vacation spot. But that's not all it offers. There are plenty of ways to explore the area's other wonders as well. Discover the “natural side” of Florida and take a relaxing break from the action this spring. Bird Watching & Wildlife Spotting Daytona Beach is just a hop, skip, and jump from the Great Florida Birdwatching and Wildlife Trail, a network of premier wildlife viewing sites across the state. When you want to see native birds, butterflies, and more, this conservation trail is your road to adventure. Imagine being able to introduce the kids to their first bald eagle as you explore the marshes and rivers along Florida's coastline. All this, and more, is within easy reach. Start by driving south along U.S. Route 1 for just 20 minutes to Port Orange Causeway Park, which provides a rewarding glimpse into the 1,000-acre Port Orange Wildlife Sanctuary - a four-mile stretch of islands in the Intracoastal Waterway. The park offers a great vantage point for scoping Rookery Island and mudflats at low tide. If the timing is right, you can sight bald eagles, black skimmers and roseate spoonbill. There are several more excellent viewing locations within an hour's drive of Daytona Beach at both Ponce Preserve and Lighthouse Point Park in Ponce Inlet, plus Smyrna Dunes Park and Canaveral National Seashore Apollo Beach in New Smyrna Beach. Some offer guided nature walks. Additional birds commonly seen in these preserves include wood stork, sandhill crane, Florida scrub-jay and magnificent frigatebird. State Park Adventures Another option for taking in the great outdoors lies just 45 minutes west of Daytona Beach at the popular De Leon Springs State Park. In addition to being located along the Great Florida Birdwatching and Wildlife Trail, this state park offers a place to swim and cool off in clear spring waters, and roam nature trails through a lush, subtropical forest that features a massive old-growth bald cypress tree. Wildlife is plentiful there and can easily be observed from the walkway that runs across the spring. Otters, alligators, manatees, osprey, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, and even a swimming black bear have been spotted. Surprises on the nature trail and Wild Persimmon Hiking Trail have included bear, wild hogs, turkeys, deer and bobcats! You'll also enjoy a glimpse into Old Florida and its rich history. The spring run was once used to power a sugar cane mill and later a grist mill to turn corn into flour during the Civil War. The visitor center features several displays that tell a story of the park's 6,000-year-old history, starting with the Native American inhabitants called the Mayaca. With eco/history boat tours, birding, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, snorkeling, picnicking and more offered at the state park, there's enough going on to make this a full-day outing. And if time allows, check out the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant. Located in a 100-year-old replica of the original 1830s sugar mill, the restaurant features cook-your-own-pancakes at the griddle-top tables, and freshly made bread and cookies. It's a memory you won't soon forget. Gatlinburg Wildflowers, waterfalls, and wondrous vistas are the hallmark of springtime in the Smoky Mountains. And Gatlinburg is the place to be when nature puts on its best show of the year. With average temperatures in the 70s and fewer cars on the road, spring is a great time to visit. Wildflower Extravaganza It's springtime and the wildflowers are in bloom! This is a show you don't want to miss. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a world-renowned preserve of wildflower diversity with over 1,500 kinds of flowering plants blooming throughout the year - more than in any other North American national park. (In fact, the park's nickname is “Wildflower National Park.”) A remarkable group of flowers known as spring ephemerals begins the yearly show, emerging from February through April and going dormant by May or June when full sunlight is blocked as the trees begin to leaf out. Peak time for “wildflower walks” is usually mid- to late-April at lower elevations in the park, and a few weeks later at higher levels. You'll be dazzled by nature's display, which includes 10 different species of trillium, lady slipper orchids, crested dwarf iris, fire pink, columbine, bleeding heart, jack-in-the-pulpit, little brown jugs, and violets - to name a few. Flame azaleas join the party in April and May, blooming at the low and mid-elevations. And this is just a small part of what you can expect. It's truly spectacular. It just so happens that two of the park's best wildflower walks are close to downtown Gatlinburg. The first 1.5 miles of Porters Creek Trail offer a spectacular show of the park's most colorful flora from late March through April. This trailhead is located in the Greenbriar area off of Highway US-321, about six miles east of town. West of downtown, the first two miles of Little River Trail provide great viewing through the end of April as well. This trail runs alongside a peaceful stream and is relatively wide and level, beginning just before the Elkmont Campground entrance. These are just two examples of can't-miss spring wildflower shows that continue throughout the season. Waterfall Wonderland Taking a scenic drive along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is another great way to enjoy the beauty of spring in the Smokies. Beginning just three minutes from downtown Gatlinburg, this narrow, winding road is one of the area's most popular driving tours. Not only will you get to see two of the park's favorite waterfalls, it's also a good preview of what to expect when you tour the greater park. Plus, if you're unable to go hiking, this is a fantastic way to enjoy the beauty of spring in the Smokies. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail gets its name from one of the fastest-flowing mountain streams within the park. The one-way, 5.5-mile-long loop road allows visitors to slow down and take in the stunning views of the forest, rushing streams, and historic buildings including preserved log cabins and grist mills. You'll get several opportunities to stop along the way. Highlights of the drive include two of the most popular waterfalls in the national park. The moderate, 5.4-mile roundtrip hike to Rainbow Falls is well worth it. This massive, 80-foot-tall waterfall is the highest single-drop falls in the park. The Trillium Gap Trail leads to the 25-foot-high Grotto Falls, where you can actually walk behind the waterfall. It's the only place in the Smokies where you can do this. Scenic Vistas The beauty of the park only gets better as you climb. A drive along U.S. 441/Newfound Gap Road offers some of the most incredible views of the Great Smoky Mountains. And it's not even a full-day affair. The furthest stop along the route, Clingman's Dome, is less than an hour's drive. Be sure you're prepared for the possibility of cooler weather, though. Temperatures can vary by 20 degrees from the base to the mountaintops. Chimney Tops Overlook (8.1 miles from the center of town) - From this overlook you get a clear view of the Chimney Tops, which are actually rock outcrops that rise over 2,000 feet above the river below. Expect some of the most majestic views in the Smokies. Carlos Campbell Overlook (4.9 miles further) - This scenic spot honors an early promoter of the park, Carlos Campbell. From here you'll find great views of Mt. LeConte and two smaller peaks, Balsam Point and Bullhead. Morton's Overlook (another 14.9 miles) - The view of the mountains as they gradually drop off into the Tennessee Valley are stunning from atop Morton's Overlook, which sits at 5,048 feet above sea level. Newfound Gap (15.6 miles more) - This scenic overlook is one of the park's finest, with incredible views of both Tennessee and North Carolina. The spot is home to the Rockefeller Memorial where President Franklin D. Roosevelt commissioned the park in 1940. Clingman's Dome (6.7 miles to the visitor center) - The highest point in the park, this overlook offers amazing views of the Smokies and beyond. The parking area is the best way to take in the North Carolina side of the mountains, while the observation tower offers some of the best views of the Smoky Mountains you'll find in the entire park. The Poconos Spring in the Poconos is all about getting back outdoors after a long, cold winter. And Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains provide the ideal setting for an action-packed spring break. There are so many ways to enjoy the natural beauty and historic landscape of the river valley - from woodland trails and free-flowing rivers to gorgeous scenic drives. The area's bounty of natural and manmade attractions creates an outdoor playground for all ages. And there are so many ways to play! Hiking, Biking & Horseback Riding You can explore the Pocono Mountains on foot, bike or even horseback. This region boasts hundreds of miles of trails to wander, along with beautiful natural wonders to discover. Often, the destination is even better than the journey. Many of the trails can lead to anything from scenic overlooks and majestic waterfalls to historic villages from the valley's colonial past. You'll find a wide variety of mountain paths for both casual climbers and seasoned trekkers. In all, there are more than 126 hiking trails covering 261 miles of Pocono Mountain beauty. And with trails ranging in level of difficulty, there's a hike for everyone. Sometimes, you'll discover a special bonus somewhere along the path - one of the 19 waterfalls scattered throughout the region's hiking trails. Biking is extremely popular in the Poconos. Two of the area's national parks and nine state parks provide biking experiences in the spring months, so you can choose from more than 30 miles of trails throughout the region. Plus, with bike rentals and shuttle services available, biking is easily accessible. Another great way to see the natural wonders of the Pocono region is on horseback. For beginners, Bushkill Riding Stables offers scenic trail rides around beautiful wooded forests, where you can reconnect with nature and an earlier time. Rides of 30 to 45 minutes wind along the border of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DWGNRA). Whitewater Rafting & Waterfalls With the recent precipitation, the Pocono Mountains' rivers are flowing just in time to start off the whitewater rafting season. Pocono Whitewater in Jim Thorpe opens May 1, and their guides are some of the most highly trained and experienced in the industry. They offer everything from family-style whitewater rafting trips to dam release whitewater rafting and moonlight rafting. In addition to running the rapids, the Poconos offer lots of more laid-back ways to explore. For example, there are hundreds of breathtaking waterfalls in Pennsylvania, and the Poconos are the epicenter of the action. One of the most popular destinations is Bushkill Falls, nicknamed “The Niagara of Pennsylvania.” It's a group of eight natural waterfalls inside a 300-acre, privately owned park neighboring the DWGNRA. After paying an entrance fee, you'll explore the park's two scenic miles of trails, boardwalks, and bridges. The Main Falls cascades down 100 feet into a gorge below surrounded by ferns, moss, and wildflowers. (Bushkill Falls' trails do require some stair climbs due to the 300-foot drop from the first falls to the lower group.) At Exploria Resorts, we offer a wide variety of luxurious suites in Daytona Beach, Gatlinburg, the Pocono Mountains and several other highly desirable destinations. So, pick a spot for your next family adventure and start planning your spring break vacation with us today. Explore our great Vacation Packages here!