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Spring is one of the best times to visit my home town of San Diego, with its mild climate, fragrant flowers in Balboa Park and tons of nature activities. This year in particular the city and region feel fresh and renewed, now that the rains have washed away California's drought and brought about green hillsides and once-in-a-generation blooms.
If you'll be visiting or cruising from or to San Diego in the coming weeks, make sure you leave time for these top five springtime nature activities, detailed below and pictured at top.
The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch, just 30 minutes from downtown San Diego, are the perfect location for an afternoon stroll. The flowers blooming here are primarily buttercup ranunculus. You can see white, pink, orange, yellow and mixed-color blooms from mid-March to Mother’s Day weekend in May. The weekends are filled with local venders serving refreshing beverages and snacks, along with tractor rides through the gardens. The Flower Fields are open seven days a week — and they're perfect for smartphone cameras and social media!
Located in Escondido, 30 minutes from downtown San Diego, the San Diego Safari Park is featuring a fun Butterfly Jungle exhibit daily through April 23. Visitors can walk through a butterfly sanctuary filled with dozens of butterfly species. Have your cameras ready, these fast little creatures will swirl around at a moment’s notice! Butterfly food — watermelon soaked in nectar — is sold in the park for those who want a friendly close encounter. Tip: The brighter the color clothing you wear, the better chance a butterfly will land on you. Safari Park is a sister organization of the San Diego Zoo (see my feature, 10 photos that will make you want to visit San Diego Zoo).
While at the park, be sure to leave time to check out the Lorikeet Landing, an aviary filled with colorful birds that you can feed, as well as Cheetah Run, where you can watch a cheetah zoom across a grass field! (Cheetahs, you'll remember, are the fastest land animal, clocking in at speeds of 68 to 75 mph.) Here's a YouTube video of the Cheetah Run.
You can see our state flower, the golden poppy (aka the California poppy), growing in fields and grasslands throughout the state, but if you want a really spectacular display, head up the I-15 freeway for two hours from downtown San Diego to Lake Elsinore (sounds like something out of ‘‘Lord of the Rings,’’ right?). The hills there are now covered in poppies (the photos at top were taken in late March). Another unusual bloom, being described as the ‘‘Super Bloom’’ because of all that rain, can be found at Walker Canyon in Riverside Canyon, he perfect location to see the orange-covered hills and stunning scenery. These poppies won’t be around often, so take advantage while they’re here.
Located one hour from downtown, the Temecula Blueberry Farm opens up to visitors in May, where you can enjoy picking your own fresh berries. The blueberries are grown on a large farm in the hills of Temecula, a neighboring town of San Diego. This is the perfect trip for families, and you can even take a picnic up here. If you are here without kids, I recommend pairing this trip with Wilson Creek Winery to taste some local almond champagne.
With the increased amount of rain Southern California has received this past winter, you can also find a ‘‘Super Bloom’’ of wildflowers in the desert. After a 90-minute drive from downtown San Diego, you'll spot bright wildflowers throughout Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. While here, be sure to stop in Coyote Canyon to see the flowers, along with the flowers on Henderson Canyon Road. Environmentalists have been discussing how this Super Bloom could be a record-breaking once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon!
If you don’t want to drive roundtrip in one day, La Casa del Zorro, a small resort and spa I stumbled upon while day tripping, is the perfect location to stay at. Camping is also an option.
Hope you get to enjoy some of San Diego's natural beauty this year!
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