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story.lead_photo.caption Carriage rides are part of the Charleston Dogwood-Azalea Festival, which runs April 21-23 this year in the small bootheel town.

With the end of cold and warmth beginning to break through, we find ourselves pondering where to find the best sights and sounds welcoming spring this year.

With that in mind, we have compiled a list of some of the best day-trip destinations from around Missouri to welcome the new season and bring travel back to life.

We start our journey this month with the jam-packed weekend of April 20-23. During this weekend, we have featured four locations around the state to suit your various needs for family fun and excitement, two of which are right here in Mid-Missouri. Following that, the rest of the spring season boasts several more flowerful activities statewide.

Dogwood Festival

Hosted by the Camdenton Chamber of Commerce, the Dogwood Festival will host thousands of visitors over the April 20-22 weekend, boasting a parade, pageants, an indoor craft show and numerous outdoor vendors.

The Chamber will also give out more than 700 dogwood saplings — the state tree of Missouri — during the celebration.

"We use the festival as an opportunity to celebrate the opening of spring," Sandy Gentry of the Camdenton Chamber of Commerce said. "We'll have the parade downtown on Saturday. The carnival and the DECA Arts & Crafts Show will be at the middle school on Friday and Saturday, and the Chamber provides free entertainment all day Saturday."

For more information about the Dogwood Festival, visit camdentonchamber.com This drive from Jefferson City takes about an hour each way.

Dogwood-Azalea Festival

On April 21-23, we move across the state to Charleston for the 2017 Dogwood-Azalea Festival, listed as one of America's 10 Best Spring Flower Festivals in Fodor guides.

How does a small town in the bootheel of Missouri seem to be the place to be in spring? Well, the highlight of a visit to Charleston is the 6-mile Dogwood-Azalea Trail, surrounded by third-generation and older dogwoods and azaleas.

"One thing that sets the Dogwood-Azalea festival apart, I think, as that it's a pretty small town — so you get this sense that the entire town is there," said Marcus Files, a Columbia resident originally from Southeast Missouri. "The whole town will be alive with vendors, entertainment and exhibits. The first time I took my girlfriend, she said it felt like stepping into Stars Hollow (the fictional town from the TV show 'Gilmore Girls')."

The Dogwood-Azalea Festival boasts dozens of activities including a 5K, arts and crafts bazaar, carriage rides, a candlelight tour and more.

For more details, visit charlestonmo.org This drive is about four hours each way from Jefferson City, so it may be best to stay overnight or for the weekend.

Earth Day Festival

Also on April 22-23, the St. Louis Earth Day Festival takes place at the Muny Opera grounds in Forest Park. This year's two-day event will feature live music, performance art, educational activities, and special areas dedicated to pet adoption and children's activities.

Admission is free, and the drive is about two hours each way, but the festival is open only 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, so plan your trip accordingly.

Daffodil Days

The final April destination requires much less travel. Right here in Mid-Missouri, Rocheport will be home to Daffodil Days from April 21-23.

Daffodil Days is Rocheport's annual spring open house, bringing guests to enjoy the merchants, sights and sounds of the quaint little town.

The Friends of Rocheport group hosts an annual plant and flower sale at the Community Hall. Serving less as a carnival and more as an open invitation, Daffodil Days may not have as much hustle and bustle as other events the same weekend in St. Louis or even Camdenton, but the festival exudes charm and tranquility.

Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival

The following weekend we travel to the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival, April 27-29 in Marshfield.

This annual three-day festival kicks off with a concert featuring The Isaacs on Wednesday evening. The festival itself begins Thursday with a pancake breakfast, ribbon cutting, presidential memorabilia collection and history, assorted guests and speakers, a cherry blossom tea service, and the annual fish fry that evening.

The festival continues Friday with more speakers, panels including the Legends of Television, the Missouri Walk of Fame Ceremony and the annual cherry pie contest. Saturday features the Cherry Blossom 5K, the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, the Cherry Blossom Parade, a croquet tournament and the Cherry Blossom Kite Contest, concluding with the 8th annual State Dinner.

Vendors will be present throughout the weekend as well.

This trip clocks in just under two hours each way.

Mushroom Festival

Our May travels offer another weekend chock full of choices, with the Richmond Mushroom Festival May 4-6.

Presented by the Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce, the event begins Thursday evening with a children's night at the carnival.

Beginning Friday morning, the town will be home to more than 200 vendors displaying crafts, food and other specialties. Friday also offers a Christian music concert and 5K FUNgus Run and Walk. Saturday will feature the one-of-a-kind "Martika's One Woman Danger Show" and the grand parade, as well as dozens of other events.

The drive for this trip is just over two hours, and if you don't plan on spending the weekend, Saturday is the day to visit.

Fredericktown Azalea Festival

Across the state in Southeast Missouri is the Fredericktown Azalea Festival May 5-7.

"This year we have an 'Under the Sea' theme — so we have a lot of decorations and characters in the park and streets that kids and families will recognize, like the Little Mermaid, SpongeBob, Nemo, Jaws, Shamu and the Beatles' 'Yellow Submarine,'" said Tara Hale, who sits on the board of directors for the Azalea Festival.

Saturday is the highlight of the festival if you're looking for events.

"We will have the 5K Fun Run, Diaper Derby, Super Farmer, pet show, Rotary breakfast, musical guests, lawn mower races, our annual car show, the arts and craft fair, and truck and tractor pulls," Hale said. "We'll also have our carnival rides, and there will be hundreds of visitors and vendors in town."

This trip is a three-hour drive each way, so plan to leave early and stay late or overnight.

Florissant Valley of Flowers Festival

Also on the first weekend of May, Florissant will host the Florissant Valley of Flowers Festival May 5-7.

The festival will host dozens of events, including Kid's World, a craft and vendor fair and flea market, a flower and plant sale, car show, carnival rides and more.

The festival opens at 4 p.m. Friday with a "Family Bargain Night." All rides will cost one ticket, and the Knights of Columbus will offer plenty of food including ribs, pork steaks, bratwursts, hot dogs and hamburgers.

This trip clocks in at just under two hours each way, leaving plenty of time to burn off the pork steak while walking around the flea market.

The Apple Blossom Parade

The town of St. Joseph plays host to the nation's third-oldest apple blossom festival at the Apple Blossom Parade May 6.

The annual celebration centers on a grand parade and pageant filled with floats, marching bands and more. This year's theme is "Miles of Smiles."

The drive for this event comes in just over three hours each way, which is a long trip for a parade alone — so consider planning stops along the way back, as the parade is one of the best in the state.

Kimmswick Strawberry Festival

Kimmswick's streets will be closed 8 a.m.-5 p.m. June 3-4 as the city ushers in hundreds of guests to celebrate the Kimmswick Strawberry Festival.

For two days, Kimmswick will be a sea of red as vendors and artisans flood the town with strawberries. If it is made with strawberries, made of strawberries, topped with strawberries or smells like strawberries, you will find it at this festival.

The streets will be lined with vendors and crafts and live performers will play throughout the day. Kimmswick's festival also hosts a carnival area for children.

At just over two hours each way, this is an ideal one-day destination.

Strawberry Festival in Millersburg

For a short trip close to home — and for a good cause — the first Strawberry Festival in Millersburg will be held June 6-10 at Serenity Valley Winery. The event will benefit Central Missouri Honor Flight.

The festival features more than 20 crafters and vendors, food trucks, live music and cornhole tournaments.

For more details visit facebook.com/firstannualstrawberryfestival. This trip only takes about 30 minutes each way.

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