Spring is one of the best times of year to be in the South. Just ask the tens of thousands of visitors who flock to the area's abundance of flower festivals, hosted in small towns all over Dixie as well as in bigger cities such as Nashville and Atlanta. We're lucky — all it takes is a few hours in the car to impress Instagram followers with snaps of some of the region's best blooms.
Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival
Nashville, Tennessee (2 hours from Chattanooga)
For the past eight years, Nashville has planted 800 cherry trees throughout the city as part of a 10-year plan to add 1,000 of the trees in the Music City. Aside from the chance to bask in their blooms, the highlights of this free, family-friendly celebration of spring and Japanese culture include a "Pups in Pink" parade, Cherry Blossom Walk, children's activities, sumo-suit wrestling and a cosplay contest.
Atlanta, Georgia (2 hours from Chattanooga)
With the dogwoods in full bloom, Atlanta is hosting its 81st annual celebration of spring in Piedmont Park. The festival welcomes hundreds of artists of all mediums to its juried art market, as well as live music, a 5k run, food vendors and children's activities including inflatables and a 25-foot climbing wall. Attendees with kids in tow will love the first night of the festival, Family Friday, which is the only day you can purchase wristbands for unlimited rides and fun on the inflatables. Get a sampling of what Atlanta's best restaurants and breweries have to offer at one of several Backyard Bites & Brews tasting events throughout the weekend. The city's best brunch spots offer tastings on the last day, a great opportunity to soak up the sun and get some day drinking accomplished as you enjoy the live music.
Honaker Redbud Festival
Honaker, Virginia (4 hours, 15 minutes from Chattanooga)
When spring rolls around in Honaker, Virginia, the "Redbud Capital of the World" is awash in pink and ready to welcome visitors to its annual Redbud Festival. Now in its 36th year, the festival offers a host of activities including music, an auto show, canoe races, arts and crafts, and bird and wildflower walks. Aside from the natural beauty of the redbuds, the town's most attractive people and pets strut their stuff in pageants and a pet show.
Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (2 hours from Chattanooga)
In addition to all things wildflowers, this four-day event features professionally guided programs on wildlife, insects, photography, ecology, culture, natural history and more, while attendees take in the natural beauty of springtime in the nation's most visited national park. Several programs unique to 2017 involve walks examining the effects of the fire that devastated the area last November and burned 3 percent of the parkland.
Thomasville Rose Show & Festival
Thomasville, Georgia (5 1/2 hours from Chattanooga)
Driving down to my grandparents' in Tallahassee, I always loved passing through darling Thomasville, Georgia. The charming downtown has hosted the Thomasville Rose Show & Festival since the 1920s, and the event draws more than 25,000 visitors annually to see the rose and other flower shows, parades, live music, food, car show and arts and crafts. Experience unique festivities including a royal tea in the Thomasville Rose Garden and a family-oriented street dance. While you're in town, embark on a search for the "lost quail of downtown Thomasville," 12 bronze quail hidden all about town. Stop by the Thomasville Visitor's Center for clues to help you hunt them down.
Spring Jonquil Festival
Smyrna, Georgia (1 hour, 45 minutes from Chattanooga)
In late April, as blooming jonquils blanket the city of Smyrna, the town prepares to host its semiannual flower festival boasting 175 arts and crafts vendors, a rock climbing wall, inflatables and live entertainment. The pig races and puppet shows are highlights not to be missed.