Photo Credit: Theophilos Papadopoulos

After one of the harshest winters in decades, it's FINALLY that time of the year again. The temperatures are rising, the flowers are coming into bloom, and the days are getting longer, letting us know that summer is just around the corner. For travel, spring can mean taking that long-awaited vacation to a tropical locale or even a cross-country road trip with the music up and windows down.

If you can't get away, here are some fun ways around your own town to welcome the first official day of spring on March 20.

Learn which fruits and vegetables are in season and try a new recipe

Springtime is a great season for growing and there are tons of fruits and vegetables that can be purchased at your local market that aren't available any other time of the year. Strawberries, cherries, and apricots begin to come into season in the spring and vegetable lovers will delight in fresh peas, beets, asparagus, and artichokes. It's the perfect time of the year to indulge in a seasonal salad or fresh-baked pie. Nearly every food website offers seasonal recipes, but try Recipe4Living to see a list of 111 recipes divided into categories by springtime ingredient. Better yet, make a day trip out of it and head to a neighboring city's farmer's market to pick up your fresh goods.

Plant a garden

While some regions of the country may still have frost on the ground in the spring, that doesn't mean that all hope is lost for gardening. In fact, some flowers and vegetables experience better growth in the cooler months. Start the growing season off right by filling your garden with a vivid perennial Primrose or a bright Petunia. Both actually do their best blooming in cool temperatures and there are many different varieties to choose from. For those who want some fresh, homegrown eats, there are also a number of vegetables that thrive in the cooler spring temperatures. Try putting in multiple crops of peas and lettuce or get a start on your perennial vegetables, like asparagus and rhubarb. If you don't feel like braving the cold, plant an indoor herb garden with basil, thyme, and rosemary and simply transfer the pot outdoors when things start to warm up.

Go for a scenic hike or bicycle tour

Spring is the perfect time to break out your best hiking gear and hit the trails. If you live in a region where the spring temperatures are moderate, a morning or afternoon hike can be a great way to get some exercise and experience the great outdoors as flowers are beginning to bloom again. Use a site like, which features over 49,000 professional trail guides for all over the U.S., to find the best hiking trails near you. Hike the 10-mile-loop of

the Breakneck Ridge Trail in Hudson Highlands State Park for breathtaking views of the Hudson River, or head to Glacier Gorge in Rocky Mountain National Park to take in the beautiful alpine lakes and surrounding miles of wildflower-covered terrain.

Plan a backyard party

Rid your mind of months of winter seclusion by gathering friends and family for a fun springtime backyard party. Uncover all the patio furniture, throw on a tablecloth, and set up an array of delicious buffet-style food for your guests. Uncover the grill for the first time in months and delight your guests with freshly prepared chicken, steaks, or hamburgers, or impress with a seafood spread that includes seasonal fish selections and summery sides like pasta salad or grilled corn on the cob. You can check seafood availability on sites like Gourmet Sleuth or better yet, head to a nearby lake and catch your own. Fishing seasons change based on location, so head to your state's fisheries and wildlife website to find what's in season in your area. Springtime parties are also the perfect time to dust off your outdoor games, like washers or croquet, which are a great way to liven up a party.

Get a jump start on spring cleaning

Although cleaning may not sound like the most exciting past time, it will get you in the springtime mood and give you a clean palette for all of your upcoming summer get-togethers. Head over to the experts at Martha Stewart to get a printable checklist, cleaning product reviews, and tips for getting the most out of your spring cleaning session. Feeling crafty? Go eco-friendly and create your own cleaning products. Nearly every type of cleaner can be made at home with products you can find at your local stores, including things like dust remover and carpet cleaner. Try for product recipes and more tips on how to keep your house clean while being environmentally conscious.

Learn how other cultures celebrate spring

From daylong festivals to intimate cultural rituals, spring is welcomed differently all over the world. Here are a few of the more unique ways other countries celebrate spring.

North India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka: Spring is celebrated with the Hindu Festival of Colors or Holi, which kicks off on March 20th and can last up to sixteen days. The main day is known as Dhuli Vandana and is celebrated by people throwing colored powder and water at each other. In Uttar Pradesh, India, the first day of Holi is also celebrated in a unique way with women beating men with sticks in a ritual called Lath mar Holi.

Japan: The Japanese celebrate the arrival of spring with a Buddhist holiday called Higan. They visit their family tombs to pay their respects to their ancestors by leaving flowers, incense and Ohagi (sweet rice balls covered with red bean paste). Festivals are held in individual villages and traditional songs are sung to ring in the warmer weather.

Iran: Iranians celebrate the New Year on their first day of spring. A cannon is sounded in each village to start the celebrations, which are planned several weeks in advance. They grow grains of wheat, barley or lentils to use as decorations for their houses, as a symbol for growth and prosperity. According to tradition, the decorations must be kept in the house for thirteen days and then disposed of in the river.

How are you going to celebrate?