Forget about Punxsutawney Phil. The surest sign that spring is on its way around these parts is the annual return of the Philadelphia Flower Show. The 188th iteration of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's famed bloom festival pops up Saturday, and runs until March 13.
This year's theme is "Explore America," celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service with floral displays re-creating many of the 408 diverse parks it operates.
Beginning at a rustic welcome center called Big Timber Lodge, guests can explore 10 acres of trails that lead to, for instance, a lava flow of orchids representing Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. A selection of sea grass and other nautical accoutrements indigenous to the New England coast bring to life Cape Cod National Seashore. Philadelphia's own Independence National Historical Park gets a nod, too, with a 12-foot-diameter Liberty Bell made out of red, white, and blue petals and moss.
The Flower Show can be much more than a tiptoe through all those tulips. A team of PHS event planners has been hustling to not only organize the show _ by far their biggest project of the year _ but also to coordinate accompanying attractions and events (most are free with Flower Show admission, unless otherwise stated).
We've put together this full-fledged guide to help you tackle the spectacle and make it your own.
Here's what to do if:
You bring an appetite
The Convention Center's Grand Hall will be transformed into a bustling outdoor-living and lifestyle area called Base Camp. In addition to a shopping area where you can browse 180 craft booths, flower shops, and gardening centers, the PHS Pop Up Beer Garden will be open all day every day serving drinks -- alcoholic and otherwise -- and camp-inspired nibbles such as s'mores.
As you meander toward the exhibition hall, you'll pass a handful of other dining options. Grab a quick snack from the Trail Mix Bar or wolf down a free-range bison burger at the Smokey Mountain Cafe. Garden Tea offers a reprieve from the hectic Flower Show main floor. Duck in for a caffeine boost and menu of pastries, sandwiches, and other dainty bites.
Open during regular Flower Show hours, Saturday to March 13.
You need to break in those cowboy boots
During the first weekend, Base Camp will host a honky-tonk called Cabin Fever Country Hoedown, where you can grab a partner and do-si-do to the sounds of Philadelphia folk group the Wallace Brothers Band. The PHS Pop Up Beer Garden will be within spittin' distance for cider, craft beers, and other forms of liquid courage; if you're looking for moonshine, you'll need to swig that at home.
4 to 7 p.m. Saturday.
Your Instagram needs updating
One of this year's exhibits pays homage to Depression-era photographer Ansel Adams with -- what else? -- a display of black and white flowers. Learn to capture natural settings the way he did -- or at least snap a great selfie -- during a series of Early Morning Photography Tours. Along the private tour, professionals will dole out some tips and techniques of the trade before letting you do some shooting of your own. This is ideal for folks who want to get in before the crowds. If you're not into photography, ask about the general early-morning tours that run at the same time.
8 to 10 a.m. Monday to next Friday, $100 to $125.
You're a woman and you feel like roaring
International Women's Day is Tuesday, and the Flower Show is celebrating with a day that highlights female accomplishments in gardening, horticulture, and national parks. A roster of ladies is scheduled for appearances throughout the day, including the nation's oldest park ranger, 94-year-old Betty Reid Soskin, who will appear via Skype. As an added perk, a thousand free bouquets will be handed out to women who visit that day.
10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday.
You're hearing wedding bells
Let your inner bridezilla go nuts at Wedding Wednesday, where industry gurus will be on hand with advice and ideas to plan your big day. Ogle gown samples, chat with travel agents for honeymoon inspiration, and make a beeline for the caterers who will be happy to stuff cake samples in your face. The $50 ticket grants you Flower Show access and a swag bag from event host Philadelphia Wedding magazine.
6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday; $50.
You can't find a dog-sitter
Chief of shows and events Sam Lemheney says there's a statistical correlation between pet lovers and gardening, so it's only natural for the Flower Show to team up with the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) for an event that lets dogs take in the flora and fauna, too. Fido Friday features a Yappy Hour at the PHS Pop Up Beer Garden; at Bark Park, pooches can get all their sniffing out of the way before venturing into the show. All dogs must have proof of updated rabies vaccination before they'll be allowed to enter. Don't have a mutt? PAWS will be on hand with information about how you can adopt one.
6 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 11.
You want to learn something
The green-thumbed can hone their skills at a range of presentations planned throughout the week to school gardeners on ways to master whatever they call a garden. Dahlias: Successfully Growing, Storing, and Dividing the Most Endearing Blooms of the Year and Flowering Trees for the Home Landscape, for example, offer tips and tricks about how to incorporate and maintain a plethora of plant species in your flower beds. Need a break from the blooms? Joshua Homacki, executive chef at New Hope's Inn at Barley Sheaf Farm, will lead a cooking class to enlighten guests about how to whip up tasty meals with seasonal ingredients they may have growing at home.
Various times, Saturday to March 13.
You want to know more about a bug's life
Running in conjunction with the Butterflies Live! exhibit -- a petting zoo of sorts, where guests can get up close and personal with a variety of butterfly species -- author and Butterfly Rescue International president Rick Mikula will host Butterflies: What You Know That Just Ain't So, which promises to dispel myths about these fascinating flutterers. Professional beekeeper Jim Bobb -- who has worked with hives at Longwood Gardens and Morris Arboretum -- will be in the Gardener's Studio on Saturday for a discussion about honeybees and his work to help folks set up their own apiaries.
Various times, Saturday to March 13.
You're bringing the whole family
The last day of the show is all about the little ones. At the Flower Show Jamboree, family-friendly activities such as a Teddy Bear Tea party and a meet-and-greet with National Park Service mascot Buddy the Bison are designed to entertain future gardeners. Thomas and Friends will make an appearance in the Railway Garden, an exhibition of model trains that chug past adorable miniature versions of Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore. There also will be a presentation ceremony throughout the day where eager beavers can snag a junior park ranger badge.
8 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 13.