Top 10 Places to Travel this Spring
By Elissa Richard
From chic new hotels to can't-miss art events, the season's top destinations are blossoming with fresh experiences. Whether you'd like to revel in the music at Prague's spring music festival, taste wines near the vines in Paso Robles, or mingle with Tuscan locals before the summer crowds arrive, these trips are sure to brighten your season.
1. New York City
Why Go Now: Baseball season openers rally Yankees (April 13) and Mets (April 5) fans, cherry blossoms set the Brooklyn Botanic Garden ablaze (April 21–29), and the reels turn at the Tribeca Film Festival (April 18–29). The new Steins’ exhibit Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde at the Met (February 28–June 3) and the Whitney Biennial (March 1–27) lead the season’s exhibition calendar.
Where to Stay: Buzzworthy spring openings include the LEED-certified 168-room NoMad Hotel near Madison Square Park (opening late March); the 105-room Out NYC in Hell’s Kitchen, billed as NYC's first gay hotel (opens March 1); and downtown’s 463-suite Conrad New York (opens March 20), touting views of the Hudson River and Statue of Liberty.
Insider Tip: Set out with Urban Oyster for expert guide-led glimpses of authentic NYC (Manhattan food carts, Brooklyn breweries, and more).
Why Go Now: Before summer’s tourist crowds pour in, rub elbows with the Tuscan locals for a slew of quirky, age-old spring festivals dedicated to everything from medieval-style crossbow competitions (several locations, dates vary) to luck-carrying crickets (Festa del Grillo in Florence, May 17) to cart explosions (Scoppio del Carro in Florence, April 8).
Where to Stay: While the highly anticipated opening of the 41-suite Castello di Casole, tucked into Tuscany’s rolling vineyards, may now be postponed till July, travelers can instead bed down in the 2011-debuted, 10-room Villa Armena, located in a converted 16th-century manse in the postcard-perfect countryside of Siena.
Insider Tip: Explore pastoral Tuscan landscapes via a self-guided weeklong cycling tour, customized with cooking classes or wine tastings, with Pure Adventures.
Why Go Now: Beach bums-cum-culture vultures can dance it up at ULTRA Music Festival's (March 23–25) techno bash; indulge their taste buds at the Miami Wine & Food Festival (April 18–21); or partake in the Miami Beach Gay Pride celebrations (April 13–15). Sports enthusiasts, meanwhile, are anticipating the new state-of-the-art Miami Marlins stadium (it opens April 4), complete with a duo of aquariums set behind home plate.
Where to Stay: Bunk down in one of the 140 hip Philippe Starck-designed rooms of the SLS Hotel South Beach, slated to be the new epicenter of Miami cool with a bevy of hip restaurants and lounges under one roof (opens mid-May). Or, opt for the 64-room Lord Balfour, set within the heart of the Art Deco district on Ocean Drive (debuts in April).
4. Paso Robles
Why Go Now: Tour the wine trails of this burgeoning California wine region in mid-May and catch the 30th annual Paso Robles Wine Festival (May 18–20), too, with 70 area wineries pouring in Downtown City Park, and a gaggle of local chefs showcasing their farm-fresh fare. Also worthwhile: the 20th annual Hospice du Rhone (April 26–28), celebrating all things Rhône.
Where to Stay: The 90-room, midrange Paso Robles Oaks Hotel will debut later this spring with a wine tasting room, pool, and spa; or, upgrade to the 16-room Hotel Cheval, which debuted in 2009 as the region’s top boutique luxury hotel (and so it remains).
Insider Tip: Build your preference-based wine tasting itinerary via the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance’s recently launched Interactive Trip Planner.
Why Go Now: Head to Spain’s most popular Mediterranean isle during the third week of May for the transporting medieval festival held at Capdepera Castle, or take in other traditional spring fetes, complete with processions, reenactments, and entertainment, like the Festa de l'Ángel at the Bellver Castle in Palma in mid-April, or Les Valentes Dones in Sóller in May.
Where to Stay: Try the new, 120-room Jumeirah Port Sóller Hotel & Spa, set on the isle’s rugged northwestern Mediterranean coastline (soft opening in March). Or, splurge for a room at the Orient-Express’s La Residencia, slated to debut one of Spain's largest permanent sculpture gardens on its grounds come March.
Insider Tip: Mallorca’s Serra de Tramuntana Mountains—recently designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site—are primed for hiking.
Why Go Now: Springtime sees Prague blossom in everything from its flowering magnolia trees to its cultural offerings. The world-class Prague Spring Music Festival (May 12–June 3) brings three weeks of symphony, opera, and chamber concerts to the city. Peruse the handcrafted goods and traditional foods of the Easter markets (March 24–April 15) in Old Town Square, or hit the stalls of the foodie-and-beer lover’s haven, Czech Beer Festival Prague (May 17–June 2).
Where to Stay: The funky Fusion Hotel debuts in mid-March, melding sleek design with a hip style, featuring both private and shared rooms, and a revolving carousel bar. For more in trendy digs, try the design-heavy, 31-room ICON Hotel & Lounge, one of Europe’s trendiest hotel.
Insider Tip: The generous blooms of Petrín Hill lend well to a springtime stroll.
Why Go Now: Sample autumn Down Under with Sydney's ramped-up cultural calendar, including the reopening of the Museum of Contemporary Art in late March, with a new rooftop café and sculpture terrace. Nab hot tickets like the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour (March 24–April 15), or catch Vivid Sydney’s "festival of music, light, and ideas" (May 25–June 11), featuring an illuminated Sydney Opera House.
Where to Stay: The 155-room Park Hyatt Sydney reopens its doors in mid-February following a 7-month renovation that saw the addition of three luxury rooftop suites and revamped guestrooms outfitted with floor-to-ceiling glass doors and private balconies for optimized harbor views.
Insider Tip: Get a local’s perspective of Sydney from the passenger seat of 1960s classic Australian vehicle, courtesy of My Sydney Detour’s bespoke tours.
Why Go Now: Catch the only American showing of the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective at the Denver Art Museum (March 25–July 8). The openings of Dale Chihuly Venetians glassworks exhibit at the Foothills Art Center (April 7 to June 30); the experiential, state-history dedicated History Colorado Center (opens April 28); and the 10-acre Toyota Elephant Passage at the Denver Zoo (opens June 1), ensure spring 2012 ranks tops in the Mile High City.
Where to Stay: Known for its signature evening wine hours and pet-friendly policies (they’ll even provide guests goldfish pets upon request), boutique Hotel Monaco Denver unveils its new Western-influenced lobby design scheme in March (its 189 guestrooms were updated in 2011).
Insider Tip: Denver’s popular bike-sharing program, B-Cycles, rolls out again in mid-March.
9. Saint Lucia
Why Go Now: While peak winter crowds and rates typically wind down after April, the annual Saint Lucia Jazz Festival (April 30–May 13), headlined by Lionel Richie this year, ensures that Saint Lucia remains on the Caribbean’s hot list well into spring (book ASAP for any chance of securing lodging).
Where to Stay: Seek out R&R at the 154-room The BodyHoliday, a luxury all-inclusive resort dedicated to guests’ health and well-being; it’s fresh from a $20 million renovation that refitted public areas, the wellness center, and guest rooms (including a new penthouse suite outfitted with its own personal hammam).
Insider Tip: Catch weekly jazz headlined by renowned local artist Carl Gustave at the Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa (Thursday nights through late spring).
Why Go Now: Pleasant temps and wildflowers abloom in the surrounding countryside make Austin a springtime delight. A mecca for film buffs, techies, and music fans, March’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival (March 9–18) brings more than 2,000 performers to 90 stages around downtown. Also catch the 75th anniversary of Rodeo Austin (March 9–24); the acoustic jazz, blues, and bluegrass of the Old Settler's Music Festival (April 19–22); or the gourmet food- and fine wine-fueled Austin Food & Wine Festival (April 27–29).
Where to Stay: The Omni Austin Hotel Downtown emerges from a multimillion dollar revamp of its top-floor suites in mid-April; or, try the 188-suite DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Austin, fresh from a fall renovation.
Insider Tip: Check out Like a Local blog for recommendations from notable Austinites on live music hot spots, trailer food must-haves, and more.
Photo Credits: New York City: Brooklyn Botanical Gardens no.1 by Attribution-NonCommercial License; Tuscany: Peter Zelei/iStockphoto; Miami: © Greater Miami CVB; Paso Robles: aspenrock/iStockphoto; Mallorca: Frank Ungrad/iStockphoto; Prague: Sergey Borisov/iStockphoto; Sydney: © Hamilton Lund-Destination NSW; Denver: © Visit Denver; St. Lucia: Wildroze/iStockphoto; Austin: © Austin CVB
Member Comments (4) Post a Comment
Paso Robles is a great place to visit but I would like to make my own clarifications and suggestions. First off, the hole from the earthquake in '03 was filled in fall of 2010. Secondly, I agree a recommendation for visiting in Spring during two huge wine events in Paso Robles would NOT be pleasant to someone visiting my hometown for the first time. My recommendation would be to come in the fall when the vineyards offer us our own "turning of the leaves" and accommodations are much more value oriented. But lastly my biggest issue is the recommendation for lodging at an establishment that has not even opened it's doors. We have many fine value oriented hotels that have proven themselves with a multitude of reviews for service and lodging excellence.
As a current Paso Robles local, and former San Luis Obispo local, I would like to resond to elisechi's comments on here. I, too, was surprised to find Paso #4 on this list, but I am delighted! This is truly a special place and a great place to visit, but If you can't see that then maybe you just weren't looking in the right places. Perhaps you are right that the festival weekend is very busy, but Paso Robles is certainly a rewarding destination and some people might just prefer the excitement of the festival as it is designed to give newcomers a glimpse of what Paso has to offer in a short amount of time.
I am surprised that you criticize downtown Paso Robles for drunken rowdiness and then say that San Luis Obispo is a better destination! San Luis is a college town with far more drunken rowdiness! Paso Robles has world-class wines with a small-town feel, and that makes it unique and deserving of it's placement on this list.
When I lived in San Luis Obispo and other places in the south of the county, I too was prejudiced against Paso Robles and the rest of the north county. The general sense is that it is full of hic's, aggie's, and such and that the weather is unbearable. The truth is that everyone I know up here LOVES it and we are glad that there is a prejudice because it keeps the population down.
I don't want Paso to turn into another Napa, but change is inevitable because the wines here are truly amazing. I think Paso's challenge is to welcome the increased popularity and traffic while struggling to hold on to that small town feel. Part of that is not turning the down town into another consumerist paradise like Santa Barbara, which is what San Luis Obispo has done in the last 10 years. So what if it smells like sulfur sometimes? The mineral hot springs here are a source of pride and are literally what this town is built on. They are why Paso is here in the first place. My wish is that they would open that hole up deeper and turn it into a public bath house!
As a former local of Paso Robles, I’m really surprised that the author has decided to throw this destination in among so many other worthy ones. I’m also surprised that the author is recommending taking the trip to Tuscany before the busy season but then recommends the busiest (I mean BUSIEST) weekend to visit Paso. If you’re thinking of going this year, good luck, most hotels have already filled up. The downtown area is not nearly as big as you would think. The locals know to stay far away because this town is a downright mess (not to mention the festival is a complete rip of your wallet) during that weekend. Oh, and the earthquake that rocked downtown in 2003 has still left a gaping hole in the library parking lot, and on hot days it absolutely REEKS of sulfur. Everyone knows that the city cares more about its touristy façade than their infrastructure – which badly needs some improvement. And if you really want to stay at the Hotel Cheval, be prepared for the drunken rowdiness that ensues directly across the street at the local bars/clubs.
For 15 years I watched Paso (as the locals call it) change slowly and all of a sudden, it just exploded into this ‘new Napa’. Every one I grew up with or went to high school with couldn’t wait to leave, and we did. However, many of us re-located to San Luis Obispo which is about 30 minutes south and honestly, a much better destination spot. If you still want to make a trip here, consider staying on the Coast and making a day trip to Paso, just not during this wine festival, you won’t get anything done.
Interesting list, thanks. I've been two a few of these places but never in Spring time.
I'd recommend visiting Edinburgh in Spring as the daffodil displays are impressive.