In too many places across this continent, there's the actual arrival of spring, which, if you're lucky, starts right on time; if you're not, it can happen as late as three days somewhere in May, shortly before summer. For those not necessarily into letting nature take its course – really, who has the time! – there are plenty of indoor gardens where it's always spring, or something like it. Here are five of the best in the Northeast.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston
The galleries of this historic Venetian-style palace are filled with works from some of the most prominent painters in history, but the museum's interior courtyard is art in its own right, giving Gardner's other passion – horticulture – very nearly equal time. When the adjacent Back Bay Fens are still struggling their way out of the cold, step indoors to find spring in full swing.
Rawlings Conservatory, Baltimore
Tucked away inside Charm City's rambling Druid Hill Park, this glass-walled garden is nearly as impressive for its soaring design as for what's housed inside. At the heart of the experience are the original Palm House and Orchid Room, both built in 1888; travel around the world without leaving West Baltimore via the worth-a-visit Mediterranean, desert and tropical gardens also found here.
Wave Hill, The Bronx
A 28-acre estate perched above the Hudson River that Mark Twain once called home (Charles Darwin, Queen Victoria, and Theodore Roosevelt number among its many famous visitors) is now a pastoral public playground, featuring gardens, woodland trails, galleries, a performance space and – central to any visit at this time of year – a collection of cozy indoor spaces, showcasing an impressive variety of plant life. Yes, you're still in New York City, but it sure doesn't feel like it.
Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh
A vintage Victorian greenhouse dating back to the late 1800's is the centerpiece of this vibrant botanic garden. Today's visitors can wander through 19 indoor and outdoor gardens; be on the lookout for permanent works by glass artist Dale Chihuly. Don't miss the super-exotic Tropical Garden Conservatory, the last thing you were probably expecting to find in a place like Pittsburgh.
United States Botanic Garden, Washington, DC
In the shadow of the Capitol, the country's oldest continuously operating botanic garden (established in 1820) is notable for the upper walkway circling the Tropics room of the 1933 conservatory, allowing you to feel (sort of) like Tarzan swinging through the trees. No time to travel the fifty states – or the world? Step inside and experience everything from humid Hawaii to the bone-dry, Southwest desert. The conservatory is open 365 days a year and admission is always free.