By the time spring finally arrives—after a winter that has broken records for cold temperatures and snowfall around the country—you’ll definitely need to go on vacation. The good news is that there are plenty of budget-friendly destinations right here at home, as well as in nearby locales in Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Without breaking the bank, you can still celebrate the new season by exploring a new city or island enclave. Check out our suggestions—many of which are on Fodor’s Go List 2014—and start planning your spring getaway today.
By Andrea M. Rotondo
Andrea M. Rotondo is a freelance writer based in New York City. She covers cruise news and luxury travel trends for Fodors.com, Condé Nast Traveler, Cruise Critic, and other websites and magazines. Her latest book is Tom Petty: Rock ‘n’ Roll Guardian. Follow her on Twitter: @luxtravelmavens.
Sunny Los Cabos—located at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, where the Sea of Cortés greets the Pacific Ocean—offers many springtime diversions. You can practice your golf game or get out on the water to scuba dive, snorkel, and kayak. On land, you can explore the hills by bike, horseback, or ATV, or simply hang out at the beach. Make sure to look for the best-priced hotels, inns, and condos in San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.
Insider Tip: June brings turtle-nesting season to the beaches of Los Cabos. From June through December, watch for Leatherback and Oliver Ridley turtles nesting in the sand.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Los Cabos Guide
WHERE: Lesser Antilles, Caribbean
There is so much more to St. Lucia than the gold sand beaches and coral reef that ring the island. Here, you can hike the Pitons Mountains, explore the lush rainforest, drive through a volcano, and experience Soufrière’s Sulphur Springs. While the island is known for its all-inclusive resorts, you’ll also find small hotels, guesthouses, and apartments that cater to couples and families.
Insider Tip: Musicians from around the globe will descend on St. Lucia from April 30 to May 11, for the annual St. Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s St. Lucia Guide
The state of Colorado is on this year’s Fodor’s Go List 2014, and there are tons of reasons to visit Denver in particular. Major attractions incluide the Denver Art Museum, Denver Zoo, and the Denver Botanic Gardens, plus free tours of the U.S. Mint and Coors Brewery. Be sure to spend an afternoon strolling along the I.M. Pei-designed granite pathway of the 16th Street Mall, which is lined with hundreds of budding red oaks and thousands of flowers.
Insider Tip: Denver’s new “marijuana excursions” give a new meaning to the city’s Mile-High nickname. This new breed of tour takes you to several pot dispensaries and a growing facility or two.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Denver Guide
WHERE: Costa Rica
This is the new “it” spot on the North Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Major hotels like Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica and the brand new Andaz Peninsula Papagayo hold court along a gorgeous stretch of soft beaches that are punctuated by swaying palm trees. The area is growing fast, so you’ll find resorts with high-end spas and pro golf courses that also offer eco-tours to nearby nature reserves and villages.
Insider Tip: Bring your hiking boots and head to Rincón de la Vieja National Park, which envelops an active volcano and hot springs. It's home to birds like long-tailed manakins, as well as deer, monkeys, and coyotes.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Costa Rica North Pacific Coast Guide
Seattle’s recognizable skyline has the iconic Space Needle, but the first stop on your visit should actually be the vibrant Pike Place Market where you can buy fresh seafood, veggies and fruit, flowers, and crafts from local artists. In the afternoon, circle back to the Space Needle and take the elevator up 520 feet to the observation deck for a bird’s-eye view of the city. No visit to Seattle is complete without a sunset dinner cruise along Puget Sound.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Seattle Guide
WHERE: British Columbia, Canada
Vancouver may be a bustling metropolis, but it also affords nearby access to outdoor adventures like fishing and sailing, biking and hiking, golfing, and—in the springtime—whale watching. Sail around Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands in search of grey whales and southern resident orcas. Another main attraction is Stanley Park, where you’ll find hiking trails, beaches, gardens, and even an aquarium.
Insider Tip: Don’t miss the gourmet food trucks serving up everything from Japanese-style hotdogs to Indian cuisine and designer grilled cheese sandwiches. Many trucks hang out in front of Canada Place near the convention center.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Vancouver Guide
Yosemite National Park
You might think that Yosemite Valley is strictly a summertime getaway, but that’s not so. It’s worth a visit while the snow melts and the ground thaws to take in natural wonders like Yosemite Falls. At nearly 2,500 feet, the three waterfalls here are a sight to behold. The area offers opportunities for biking, bird-watching, fishing, horseback riding, and more—just a few reasons why Yosemite National Park is on the Fodor’s Go List 2014.
Insider Tip: Located right inside the national park, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls is your ideal home base if you plan to visit the falls. Tours depart from the hotel lobby.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Yosemite National Park Guide
As spring unfurls its warmer temperatures, Sanibel Island's snowbirds leave the Gulf Coast of Florida and return to their homes up north. That’s when the island is quietest, allowing year-round residents and a few tourists to enjoy deserted beaches that are strewn with thousands of multi-colored shells, nature preserve hiking trails that are shared only with marsh rabbits and birds, and a paved bike path that runs the length of the island.
Insider Tip: Easter, which lands on April 20 this year, is a magical holiday on Sanibel Island. Book an Easter egg hunt and dolphin cruise with Adventures in Paradise.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Florida Lower Gulf Coast Guide
There's something otherworldly about Sedona’s massive red sandstone buttes set against fields of delicate wildflowers, which blossom each spring. That contrast might be one of the reasons why this area has become a center for spirituality and the metaphysical. Visitors come to hike Red Rock Country, go fishing or swimming in Oak Creek Canyon, alight on a hot air balloon tour, or survey the area via the Verde Canyon Railroad.
Insider Tip: The lack of light pollution makes Sedona an ideal spot for stargazing. Various resorts offer “tours” of the night sky, such as Evening Sky Tours.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s North-Central Arizona Guide
Even though Austin is the capital of Texas, it's always had a small town feel. And yet the city is home to artists, musicians, and chefs whose work helps give the city a cosmopolitan nature. Start with a walking tour of the capitol complex and then check out spots like the O. Henry Museum and Austin Children’s Museum. At night, indulge in the music club scene, where world-class musicians are almost always performing.
Insider Tip: If you’re in the city from April 25 to 27, check out the Austin Food & Wine Festival, which features celebrity chefs, a five-course Feast Under the Stars, Taste of Texas (pairing food and wine with music), and a Rock Your Taco competition.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Austin Guide
There’s never a bad time to wander through the romantic French Quarter of New Orleans, with its cobblestone streets and historic buildings studded with wrought-iron balconies, but it's particularly nice after the Mardi Gras crowds have disappeared but before the weather turns unpleasant. The Garden District—a neighborhood of antebellum mansions and impressive gardens—isn’t too shabby either. The city may be large, but it’s easy to explore via taxi, streetcar, and your own two feet.
Insider Tip: The 45th annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell takes place from April 25 through May 4. Headliners include the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Eric Clapton.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New Orleans Guide
Pull on your cowboy boots, grab your tooled-leather handbag and head to Nashville, a Fodor’s Go List 2014 destination. A trip to Music City isn’t complete unless you spend some time at the Grand Ole Opry, which honors country musicians of the past and celebrates the genre's future. If you don't want to see a concert, you can still take a backstage tour.
Insider Tip: Make sure to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Johnny Cash Museum this spring. Examine his handwritten lyrics, gold and platinum records, and more. Even casual fans will find the experience a poignant one.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Nashville Guide
WHERE: District of Columbia
You can visit Washington, D.C. a hundred times and never get bored. Go on a White House tour, bike around the Capitol, explore the Smithsonian's world-class exhibits, or spend a quieter afternoon reflecting at monuments like the Lincoln Memorial and the National World War II Memorial. If shopping’s on your mind, head to Georgetown, where there are plenty of antique shops and boutiques near upscale restaurants and bars.
Insider Tip: After surviving a punishing winter, this spring you’ll marvel over thousands of cherry tree blossoms during the city's National Cherry Blossom Festival, from March 20 to April 14. Events include tours through the trees, which Japan originally gifted to our nation’s capital, plus Japanese tea ceremonies and film screenings.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Washington, D.C. Guide
The Jersey Shore
WHERE: New Jersey
If you've kept up with the news since 2012's Hurricane Sandy, you've also heard the comeback stories that are heralding a new-and-improved Jersey Shore. Now it’s time to go see it for yourself. Beach Haven on Long Beach Island offers Thundering Surf Water Park plus shopping at Schooner’s Wharf. Go to Belmar for the marina, beach, and boardwalk. Point Pleasant, with its amusement park-style rides, is always a hit with families. There are numerous seaside towns that will show you a good time this spring.
Insider Tip: Although all of the Jersey Shore is on this year’s Fodor's Go List 2014, Cape May—known as America’s first seaside resort—is of special note. Visit this small town for its beautiful B&Bs, award-winning restaurants, outdoor activities like whale watching, and Victorian roots.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New Jersey Shore Guide
Playa del Carmen
In the heart of Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen is ideally located on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula along the Caribbean Sea. It’s an easy flight to nearby Cancún and a quick drive to the resorts that line the beach. Budget hotels, all-inclusive resorts, and luxury inns welcome guests who come for the sun and surf as well as the tours to Mayan ruins, which are within driving distance.
Insider Tip: Hotel rates at many high-end properties like Rosewood Mayakoba drop in the springtime. Treat yourself to a suite with a private plunge pool and rooftop sundeck.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Mexico Caribbean Coast Guide