See more of the story

As Minnesota emerges from winter, and summer feels like the reward, spring shouldn't be merely endured. Proof that it offers its own joys lies in the flowers that pop up through brown grass and waterfalls that roar with snowmelt. Here are three of the best places to embrace the season.

Apple Blossom Scenic Byway

The Mississippi River town of La Crescent earned its nickname, the Apple Capital of Minnesota, after its first orchard was planted in the 1850s. Now, the bluffs and rolling farmlands that rise above the town are blanketed by orchards, and the 17-mile Apple Blossom Scenic Drive celebrates apple trees' pink and white blooms along Hwy. 29.

Top tip: Spend the night in La Crosse, Wis., at the boutique Charmant Hotel ( Loop home by following Shooting Star Scenic Byway, a designated wildflower route that passes Lake Louise State Park, where open meadows and hardwoods hold spring flowers.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Closer to home — but still, a delightful walk in the woods — the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum holds an array of ecosystems so a compact day-trip bursts with visual options.

Top tip: Visitors must make reservations online for a timed entry (

North Shore waterfalls

Even before you get to the legendary waterfalls of Minnesota's North Shore, pull off at Jay Cooke State Park, in Carlton, to see the St. Louis River's dramatic cascades from a swing bridge not far from the parking area. Beyond Duluth, more than a dozen waterfalls crash into Lake Superior. Your reward for making it all the way to the Canadian border: Minnesota's tallest waterfall in Grand Portage State Park.

Top tip: Lutsen Resort is offering a waterfall package through May 27 that includes three nights for the price of two (

Kerri Westenberg • 612-673-4282